R.A.P. Interview: Scott Statham

R.A.P.: Do you know exactly what that means?
Scott: Really, I don't. I've talked to a lot of people about it. I've talked to salespeople about it who have been selling for quite some time, and they're all saying, "Look. If we charge for production, they're going to go across town and get somebody else to do it." And I say, "Yeah, but if we get every station in the market, or at least the three powerhouses in town to do it, then we can force everyone else to do it."

There are basically three stations who make all the dubs in this town -- ourselves, the rock station, and the huge country station. They make dubs, we make dubs, and we trade back and forth. The other stations get them, and once in awhile the other stations will send one to us. But, for the most part, it's us three stations doing the dubs. I've talked to the production people at the other two stations, and they say, "You're right, but it will never happen."

Most of the people who are really surprised by this are people who have come from other places. Our Program Directors here are a little bit surprised. The new Sales Manager was a little bit surprised. We had a situation here where I produced a spot for a strip joint, and the GM decided that we weren't going to run a spot for a strip joint. That pissed the client off to begin with. Then another station called and said, "I need a dub of that Diversion spot." Without even asking, I said, "Okay, but that's going to be 35 bucks because that's what I charge when I send stuff out on my own." And she says, "What?" I said, "It's going to be 35 dollars," and I thought I could certainly charge that in this instance because we are not running the spot. This is something I've done that the station is not making money on. The client said to the other station's salesperson, "Well, to hell with them. You guys produce the spot." So, the spot I cut is sitting on my shelf collecting dust. It was a pretty good commercial, but it's never going to air anywhere.

I don't really know how to get it started. I've talked to some of the people, like I said, and they just say, "You're right, but it will never happen." That's the statement that's always been made.

R.A.P.: This is a situation we've never discussed in the pages of RAP, and this is a good opportunity to throw this out there and ask the readers if anyone has some ideas on how to get things turned around in Lexington and other markets where this occurs, if there are that many other markets. In every market where fees are charged, it had to start at some point. The fees didn't just appear one day. Maybe someone out there has some ideas.
Scott: Yeah, I agree. We as a group of Production Directors would almost have to meet with the Lexington Ad Club and say, "Hey, we as a group feel like this is something that should be done," and let them mull it over because, essentially, they're the decision makers of the market. We have a Truth in Advertising plan in Lexington now. It's just a few months old, but it was developed by them as a group, and everyone is cooperating. Everyone is running spots -- every TV and radio station, even the newspapers -- talking about our attempt as the media to be honest. I really don't know what the response has been, but as a group, they made that decision and they went forward with it. So, if they could do something like that, I think we could certainly work something out to where we could get compensated for our efforts.

I feel that station managers should make this decision and go with it because it gives their people the opportunity to make money from the clients. It's not money that's going to come out of the station's pocket. So, you're keeping your people happy without giving them any more money yourself. You know what I'm saying?

R.A.P.: Yes. There are a lot of GMs who are very happy to tell their production people, "Yes, you may use the studio after hours for freelance work," because they know that's money the production people won't be asking them for.
Scott: Right. It's more money in their pocket and more satisfied workers. That's always been my opinion.

R.A.P.: Well, what would happen if your station just told the client to have the other station produce the spot themselves? I mean, that's what they don't say, right?
Scott: That's what they don't and won't say. Their opinion is that -- and I agree with this -- if you can control the production of a client, you have more control of the client overall. You're going to get a majority of their money. So, their feeling is that if you start charging them for dubs, they're going to go to somebody else for production which means I'm not going to have the control I did. But the fact is, I'm the one who's helping them have control of that client, and this is my opportunity to be rewarded for that.

R.A.P.: And the station figures they are rewarding you with a salary.
Scott: Yes. And that's exactly the salesperson's statement. And I've explained that I work for this station and not for the other station.

R.A.P.: Correct. And if you hand the other station a tape, their Production Director does not have to produce for that client, but that Production Director is still "getting rewarded" with his salary. That's why the salary comment from the salesperson doesn't hold water.
Scott: Right. Oh, if I could have dubs all day...I'd be bored to tears.

We have a radio station in town that's been blackballed by another station. They won't make dubs for this station, and they won't accept dubs from this station. They want nothing to do with the other radio station. If a client brings them a dub from that station, they tell their clients, "We'll produce it ourselves, or get someone else to produce it and we'll run it." The agency for this client came out here and said, "Can you make these dubs for me because so and so cut the spot, but this station won't run it since it came from that other station. Can you just make the dubs for me?" I made the dubs for him...no problem...no charge.

R.A.P.: Well, it sounds like a situation where the clients are taking advantage of the radio stations. They can get a spot cut from any of half a dozen radio stations they may be buying, in fact, by all six stations, and then they pick the station that has the best commercial and say, "I want that one on all the other stations." Is that basically what's happening?
Scott: Yeah, that's basically it. Some of them are regular, though. I get dubs from the same station for the same client every week. Once the client realizes who does the best production for them, then they just keep going to that station. But, in the beginning, the client probably fishes around and determines who has the best production for his needs. There were a couple of clients who were going between us and someone else for months, and then they finally stopped. Now we do just about all their production and send out the dubs.

I've asked a lot of people about this. Other stations that are owned by our company, Trumper Communications, are charging for dubs. Some are charging pretty good bucks, and I've brought that up. But it's still..."this market won't support it."

R.A.P.: Are you pretty happy there in Lexington?
Scott: I really like it here. I like the town, and I like the sunsets. I like living here, and you've got to live before you can work. There have been some openings at other stations here in Lexington, and I don't care how ugly I get because I'm overworked and overstressed, there's no other place in this market that I'd like to go to. However, I would consider Australia. I also have aspirations to do things on my own -- freelance. I'm finding those articles about freelancing from John Dodge very interesting. They've all hit the copy machine and have been highlighted and scribbled on. I've got a lot of ideas in my head. It's just a matter of coming up with the money and the clients. There are a couple, I think, who would probably hire me if I were to do something on my own, and that's the direction I want to go.

R.A.P.: Do you think it would be hard to make freelance money in a market where all the clients are used to getting everything for free?
Scott: That's a very good point.

R.A.P.: What would you say your forte in the business is? Is it writing or producing or voice-over?
Scott: Producing. I would give a portion of my anatomy to have no other responsibilities but to sit in the studio and produce all day long. I think I'm getting pretty good at writing. But if I could sit in there and have my voices stand in a line and cut their stuff then put it together, that would make me very happy.

R.A.P.: Are there any tips you would like to share with other Production Directors who are over-loaded with work in the smaller markets?
Scott: Use the people that you have on staff to help you get your work done. Don't do it all yourself. That's what I've learned, only recently. Delegate. You're a Production Director. Be a director, not just the production person. I've been told by my GM that I'm a little too much of a perfectionist, but he says that's okay. That was my whole problem with not wanting to give up some of the responsibilities that I gave up. I'm sure that it will be done right if I do it myself. But that's not helping anybody, because if I don't depend on somebody else to do something that maybe they're not sure of, then they're never going to be sure of it. You give it to them, even if they have to call you twice in the evening and ask, "Now, how do you do this again?" The next time they won't have to call you because they'll know how to do it. Then you don't have to do it anymore, and you can do more important things.

R.A.P.: Any advice for a Production Director about to have a second or third station added to their duties?
Scott: Know what you're getting into. Know that it's going to be an awful lot of work. If I had known how much work it was going to be back then, I would have forced myself to give some things up right from the beginning, and I would have been on top of things a lot earlier. But just because you know it's going to be a lot of work, that doesn't mean you want to give up everything. I took on some additional responsibilities. The General Manager told me I would be the person training the air staff in the new studio because I jumped in there and said, "Hey, I want to know how to do this." If there's something new coming in, and you can be a part of it, be a part of it. If you can do four or five different things when before you could only do one, then you're that much more of an asset to the station. That's kind of what put me into this position of being overworked, but things are better now. Be prepared for what you're going to get and you'll come out of it a lot better.

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