R.A.P. Interview: Jason Garrett

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R.A.P.: With those kinds of numbers, it seems you might be one of the few that could become an old and RICH disk jockey?
Jason: I don't know. I'm at a fork in the road right now in my career. I know I'm talented on the air, but it's just more luck of the draw when you're on the air. You're more expendable. I feel a little more secure as a Production Director because I can use that position to fall back on. If the station ever changes format or Program Directors, which many of the stations I've worked at have, my chances of staying in the building seem a little bit better as a Production Director than as a jock. You know, a lot of PDs like to clean house. But I don't know. I'm going on ten years in the business and who knows? I could go back into it full-time on the air if I got the right offer. It just depends.

R.A.P.: How's your relationship with the sales department?
Jason: That has come along very well. Usually in every sales department in every radio station there's always one Account Executive who gets on your nerves, and I'm not going to name names because that person could be anybody. But what I'm saying is you just kind of have to learn to rise above that. My relationship with our sales department is great. I mean, they have actively gone out on the streets and sold my seventies show, so I'm usually never without a sponsor for that. In return, I make sure that all their campaigns are done professionally, and with the DSE-7000, it makes it a lot easier for me to redo spec spots and to update copy and keep running files on certain nightclub accounts and spots of that nature that are updated constantly. It has made it a lot easier for me. In that regard I think equipment can improve relationships between the Production Director and the sales department.

R.A.P.: You used the word "campaigns" instead of spots or commercials. It sounds like there's a sense of respect for the commercials--more than just another spot sold, another spot to cut.
Jason: The sales department has a consumer approach to advertising, and their main focus is, obviously, on the buyer, and not just on getting a message out on a commercial and then collecting a check for it. So it was important when I took the position that I understood that. And they understood I was also coming from that angle, so it was a perfect match. That's how I approach every account. I see it as an advertising campaign and not necessarily as a sixty-second commercial that's going to be here today and gone tomorrow.

R.A.P.: How many commercials do you produce a week?
Jason: I usually do at least ten, if not more, plus promo work for both the regular format and for the seventies show.

R.A.P.: Are you writing all the promos?
Jason: A lot of the copywriting for our station promos is shared between me and the Program Director. I'll put in my two cents as far as the actual copy goes, and he will write a lot of that stuff too. I do all the writing for the seventies promos.

R.A.P.: Are you writing the commercials?
Jason: I write about fifty percent of that stuff. The other half is done by our corporate Creative Director. I think he's in North Carolina. He writes a lot of commercial copy for Nationwide stations. The sales staff will go to him for ideas. He's very good at writing generic-type stuff. When it comes to more localized Phoenix things, I'll do most of that.

R.A.P.: What are some ways you get creative with commercials?
Jason: Take something as simple as a tag for a McDonald's spot. Every other station in the market will simply read a thirty-second tag highlighting a ninety-nine cent double cheeseburger. I will take either the agency-produced music or music of our own, and I'll turn that announcer read into a sixteen-year-old kid or a cowboy or somebody else. The result is that even the national spots on our station stand out from the other thirty-five or forty stations in the market that are running the same spot, the same copy, because we deliver the tag copy differently. This makes our production different from every other station in the market. It cuts through with character voices that are not necessarily intended to be funny or dorky, but just something that sounds different and that maybe an average person could relate to because the spot sounds more natural than if it was just an announcer type voice doing the tag.

I did a lot of Snapple tags in a New York accent to coincide with their campaign, "It's a Real Eastern Thing." So I try and differentiate everything from the other stations in this way, everything from a five-second tag to a fully produced spot.

R.A.P.: How do you find the time to get creative on tags and everything else with the night shift and the seventies show to do as well?
Jason: I get into the office between one and two in the afternoon and I usually get off the air about twelve, so it's a full day. It's almost twelve hours. Sometimes I put in more. The seventies show requires at least four hours of show prep before I go on the air, and with this summer shift right now, I have to be at the radio station on Saturday afternoon around four o'clock to prep and get that rolling for Saturday night. So, I find the time. It's very challenging, very invigorating, and I kind of thrive on it.

R.A.P.: What are some timesaving tips you can offer? You must do some things to shave minutes here and there throughout the course of a day.
Jason: Don't become too neurotic or focused on one specific project. You're never going to achieve perfection. So, if it comes from your gut and it sounds good, then move on. Obviously there are some things that require extra attention, but in order to get everything done, you can't spend hours and hours on one specific thing. You've got to give equal time to everything, but in moderation.

R.A.P.: What production libraries are you using?
Jason: We're using Attitude from TA&A, Toby Arnold & Associates. We have Synergy, and we've got some stuff from TM Century.

R.A.P.: If you had every salesperson out there listening to you, what would you say to them?
Jason: I would say be nice to your Production Director and get your copy in before four-thirty on Friday afternoon.

R.A.P.: Do you have deadlines for the sales department?
Jason: We try and establish deadlines. Deadlines rarely hold up in any sales department in terms of getting things in early, but the earlier something comes in, obviously the more time can be paid to it. And it just puts a lot of stress on production people when things come in late that have to go on the next day because you can't spend as much time perfecting it. So for the betterment of the product and the client, get things in as early as possible.

R.A.P.: What about a tip for someone in the small markets trying to get into major market production?
Jason: If you want to go to a large market, don't try and break in through production. Maybe go to a larger market as a jock and then move up through the ranks into production like I did. I never had to start in a small market, but if I had started in a small market, I probably would have gone to a larger market as a jock and done the same thing that I've done now. And gain a real understanding of the market you're going to go to. Get to know who your audience is going to be. That helps.

R.A.P.: What tip would you give to programmers who are looking for a creative Production Director?
Jason: I would say try to find a Production Director who doesn't agree with you all the time. The worst thing for a Program Director these days is to have people in there creative departments, especially the Production Director, who constantly agree with what they say all the time for fear of upsetting that person or losing their job. I think a little bit of dissent is healthy and it helps the creative process. Find a Production Director with ideas of his or her own and somebody who is willing to take more risks with production. Taking a risk in production is not like taking a risk on the air because you can obviously listen back to what you've done in production before it ever airs. So it gives you a lot more leeway to take risks in that respect and have fun and not be so serious all the time. After all, it is a fun business and you should have fun with it.

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