Production 212: Own Your Job or Just Start Flipping Burgers

Prod212-Logo 2014 webby Dave Foxx

As I’m sure most of you know, we just went through a programming change here at Z100/New York, with Sharon Dastur moving up to a corporate position and Mark Medina from Washington, DC rolling into her old office. I can say with some certainty that a lot of you know this, based on the sheer number of emails I’ve gotten. Most of them are a little curious about Mark, a few are concerned about further shakeups, but every one of them wants to know about the future of Z100. To all of you I say, “Relax. It’s going to be just fine.”

Unless you’re relatively new to the business, you know that a change in management can often strike fear into the hearts of the rank and file. Deejays and producers all start prepping new demos and reaching out to friends in the business in case they get blown out. It happens. It happens all the time. A new PD comes to town and the entire radio station can get blown up so he or she can build a new station in its place, one that can actually generate ratings and make money. But, that only happens when the station has ratings and revenue somewhere near the bottom of the market. If you’re in a situation like that, you should already have T&R ready anyway. You really don’t want to be there.

What happens a lot more often is the PD brings in a few key people that he or she knows can be trusted to do things right. That’s not so much a reflection on you as it is just being expedient. It’s a whole lot easier to throw someone you know into a position than it is to get to know the existing jock or producer. That’s one area the new PD doesn’t have to think about while he or she is getting everything else under control. It really sucks if you’re the one left outside the door, holding your headphones and wondering where you are going to get your next paycheck. Ideally, you will be the one your PD brings in when he or she heads out to a new gig. If you can reach a state of synchronicity with your PD, so he or she can simply point you in the right direction and not worry about it being done and done right, the odds of having the opportunity to join your PD at the new gig will go WAY up.

Z100/New York is one of those rare stations that is at the top of the market in both ratings and revenue, so Mark doesn’t have to blow anything up at all. The phrase, “It ain’t broke, so don’t ‘fix’ it” comes to mind. He has the luxury of walking into a situation that allows him to take his time with everything. He has a staff that is experienced and highly capable. He can afford to get to know the people here, to discover what they can do and how he can best interact with them to achieve his goals. So, don’t expect a bunch of big changes anytime soon in New York.

But what happens, when you’re in one of those situations where it’s tempting for the PD to blow some things up and bring in hired gunslingers? The station is not awful, but it needs tweaking to get it on a positive trajectory. Well first, you’ve got time, but not a ton of it. Basically, you have to prove how invaluable you are to the operation and you need to do it quickly. The PD needs to know you’re someone that can get the job done and done right. You need to OWN your job.

It seems kind of funny to me that anyone should need this kind of advice, but I run into people all the time who really don’t own their jobs. They mosey along, thinking everything is good in their world. Week in and week out, they produce whatever is handed to them. Often, they do it well, but all TOO often, they have to be told to do it. What. Are. You. Thinking? There isn’t a manager in ANY business that really wants to hold your hand through a whole process. They want to set it and forget it. You need to be a heat-seeking missile. Once your PD points you at the target, it should be up to you to zero in and score a direct hit.

To be that missile, there are a few things you need to do. Your first step is to sit down with your new PD and have a heart to heart. When you leave that office, there are a few things you should know and incorporate into your mode of thinking. Does your PD like humor? What kind of humor? Does your PD like clean production, or is he or she partial to heavy compression? What about beatmixing and VO processing? Does he or she like to place elements into the log manually? Perhaps an auto-rotator is preferred to assure even play. You probably won’t get all the answers right out of the box, but you will at least have some ideas about your new program director’s philosophies. You are also laying a foundation for a future relationship, so build carefully. Everything that follows will color your future in that radio station and perhaps the next one or two.

If you can write, make sure your new PD knows it. If you can voice, even if only as an “extra” voice, lay that out there. If you have some skills as a musical performer, advertise it. Don’t oversell any of your skills, but don’t get modest and sell yourself short either. It’s important that your PD sees you as much more than another dub-monkey. Dub-monkeys are a dime-a-dozen. A multi-talented, highly skilled producer is a whole ‘nother story. What’s that you say? You don’t have all those skills? Well… maybe you just started reading this column.

One last step you need to invest some time in is pushing the envelope. Ah yes, the old “above and beyond” routine! Do you have some other skills that could be useful? Maybe you have some experience creating Power Point presentations, or know how to create PDF forms. Do you know your way around a video editor? Are you a real wizard with social media? Any one of these skills, while not having a lot of bearing in production, could prove to be very helpful. Don’t get carried away and start volunteering to do everything, but make sure your new PD knows how many other dimensions you have and that you’re not just some high school radio geek/nerd who never grew up.

Now, let’s put on the brakes for a moment. Don’t become some kind of zombie sycophant, assistant principal type, willing to do anything and everything just to hang on to your job. Be thoughtful in how you advertise your skills. Be confident, be courteous and most of all, be ready to follow through with any offers of assistance. Your new PD needs to see how valuable you can be. I doubt that he or she needs someone to fix a car transmission or walk the dogs. Once you have outlined your skills, go back to your studio and get to work. Don’t even think about running to his or her office every time you have a question. Make your own executive decisions based on what you’ve learned about the desired outcome. When you start making those kinds of decisions, you will begin to own your job. If you make a mistake, for crying out loud, DON’T start pointing fingers at someone or something else. Accept the blame, say that you’re sorry and make sure it won’t happen again… ever. When that happens, you will absolutely own your job.

The value of an employee who owns his or her job is incalculable. That person becomes self-directing, self-correcting and self-starting, which is the ultimate kind of employee. You never have to be hand-held through any process. You become almost bulletproof. Think about it this way: If you fail to own your job and ARE let go, you will be replaced by someone who DOES own their job.

Somewhere out there, some dim bulb is saying, “Well, I’m sure glad I don’t have to deal with a new PD.” Guess what? The advice I’ve given here today works equally well with your current PD. If you don’t own your job, if you don’t show your many dimensions to the PD you already have, if you don’t have some kind of synchronicity, you are just a few days away from being replaced anyway. Do yourself a favor, and sit down and have a heart to heart with your PD… get to know about his or her philosophies… well, just refer to the first step, outlined above and follow along.

For my audio this month, I present a piece I designed and wrote, but did NOT voice… well, mostly. The VO from the ladies of 5th Harmony was pulled from an Artist Takeover we recorded more than a month previous, long before we’d even conceived this promotion. I combed through the ATO session carefully, looking for clips that might work. After isolating a number of good clips, I started writing the promo to fit what I had. Mo came in and did his lines and I started building. The final piece is a touch self-deprecating, which I love doing. We say Z100 SO often, sometimes several times in one sentence. And I think it sounds odd when a group like One Direction speaks a line in unison. To be able hit both of those quirks in one line is just too good to pass up.

Dave Foxx is the Director of Creative Services for Clear Channel New York. He welcomes your comments and questions at davefoxx@iheartmedia.com.

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