R.A.P. Interview: Jim Cook

JV: How many studios are there for all these producers?
Jim: We currently have seven multi-track studios, and we are expanding to have nine multi-track studios. We do work, not only for Atlanta, but we’re also exporting a lot of work for a lot of other radio stations around the country. I also manage the Clear Channel Noise Site, which I think you’ve talked about in past interviews in RAP. It’s a production resource site for those on the Clear Channel wide area network. It’s primarily focused at the news/talks but also provides access for anybody on the wide area network to production pieces and elements and ideas that they can download and/or upload in a variety of formats. I’m just so incredibly lucky to have the staff that I have and the resources that I have at hand.

I travel around the country as directed by Tom Owens or Randy or Sean Compton at our corporate headquarters and go into various markets to take a look at the production departments in those markets and see what we can do to help them in terms of resources. I work a lot with the Program Directors and then with the Production Directors in those markets, and I certainly realize that the kinds of resources we have here aren’t available in a lot of the other markets out there. And that’s where Noise comes in very handy. They can use it to help take some of the load off individuals who end up getting burdened with trying to do everything for three or four or five stations in their markets.

JV: Is the Noise Site how you export audio to these other stations?
Jim: It’s one way. We have a number of ways because technology has not come around to a single way for us to get audio to all our radio stations. We’ve grown so fast as a company that there are still many people who aren’t even on our wide area network yet. But the Noise Site is one of the methods we use.

JV: The Prophet System, which you mentioned is in place there at your facility now, is that system on a network hooked up to other Prophet Systems in other markets?
Jim: That’s correct. It’s hooked up on our wide area network and we can export production carts as well as voice tracks for jocks to live assist in other markets, and we do quite a bit of that with Prophet.

JV: Is Prophet a standard system throughout the Clear Channel chain?
Jim: It has been adopted as the platform of choice for most of the Clear Channel chain. We are still in the process of deploying it in a number of markets. We’ve grown so fast that trying to get a large complicated computer system out to every one of our markets is daunting, and I work a lot with our CCIT, which is our department at Clear Channel that handles the deployment of those systems. We work not only on ways to make it user friendly as we deploy it, but I’m also working with them on developing new technologies that will help us in the future. And the future holds a lot of things that I think are going to make the life of a production person even better. Much as a digital editor lets you do a lot of things more efficiently, there are new technologies coming that will do the same thing in other areas of production.

JV: Your travels around the country to all these other production departments must have given you a pretty good overview of production facilities. What have you learned about some of the common shortcomings of these facilities?
Jim: Again, technology is a key issue, and because there is no standard platform, it makes it difficult many times to share resources across competing platforms. But I think technology will come around eventually, and no matter what kind of digital editor you’re using or what automation system you have installed, we’ll be able to accomplish a cross-platform talk of some kind. Once we get that happening, I think things will become even easier for us.

On the people level, which is far more difficult sometimes than the technical level, I see people who are challenged with doing more with the same resources they had when they were only one radio station. And to have to change and rethink what is expected of them and how they can accomplish it is the most difficult thing I see when I go market to market—people having to change. Change is by human nature very, very difficult.

JV: Is increasing the staff something that is typically done at these facilities once you’ve had a chance to visit them and make your recommendations?
Jim: Sometimes, but not necessarily. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking some very talented people who are there and reorganizing what it is that’s expected of them. And sometimes there are no changes necessary at all. I don’t necessarily go into a market to facilitate change. Many times, I’m going in just to see what additional resources we have as a company as large as Clear Channel that we can offer to that person to help him do that job more efficiently. I really work more as an advocate for the production department by my ability to interface with everybody from the programming level through the engineering level to management. And as that advocate, I’m putting focus on the guy who sits in that room that they don’t really understand sometimes, to put some light on them and to give them the things they may want or need. That’s generally what I’m doing.

JV: Getting back to the studios there in Atlanta, what multi-track system is the standard?
Jim: We’re using Audicy here. We actually have nine Audicys which are networked on a Novell network so that if a producer is working in one studio and for whatever reason has to get out of that room, he or she can simply stop working and go to another multi-track room and call up their session there and continue working. Projects can be stored on the server, and they can be stored on the internal hard drive of each Audicy as well. The network also enables us to take individual sessions and upload them to an FTP site or a secure site where they can be downloaded in another market. The Audicy version 3.0 can export entire productions as a single zipped file, which allows us to upload that production. We’ve done that in a number of cases where I’ve taken a full multi-track session and put it up on an FTP site for download anywhere around the country that has Audicy.

JV: That must be nice.
Jim: It is. It’s fantastic. As a matter of fact, just a few weeks ago, I was working in the studio at home, where I have an Audicy, and I hadn’t finished the session and needed to come in to work. So, I uploaded the session to the FTP site, and while it was uploading, I got into my car, drove down here to the station, and by the time I got here, it was finished uploading. Then I just downloaded it and began working on it.

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