Algebra for an 8 hour day in Production
by Jerry Vigil
As production continues to become a more vital part of a radio station's success, the demands upon the Production Department continue to increase as well. To meet these demands, more and more stations are taking their Production Directors off the air and putting them in the production rooms all day long. Stations that already have one full time production person are hiring a second one, particularly in the larger markets. The increased demands for quality promos, sweepers, and commercials, and more of them, has placed a new pressure on Production Departments across the country. This pressure is most felt in the "one man" departments, wherein one person is filling 90% or more of the production orders that cross his desk. The formula "8 HOUR DAY = QUALITY X QUANTITY" applies most to this kind of department. It applies if you want to turn 10 hours of work into 8. "8 HOUR DAY" represents the number of hours you wish to work. If you like 12 hour days, let it be 12. If an 8 hour day is your objective, let the value be 8 and make that a constant in the formula. Now, if 8 hours is to remain a constant, you can't increase the Quality of work without decreasing the Quantity. Likewise, if you increase the Quantity of work, the Quality must suffer to keep the 8 hour day a constant.
The person frequently meeting the challenge of cramming 10 hours of work into 8, is forced to make some sacrifices if he is to get the work done in 8 hours. The trick is to decrease the Quality variable in areas where it will be least noticed by the listener. An example of this is a situation where you have 5 spots to cut and several jocks available to voice them. Ideally, you would determine which announcer would be best for each spot, then schedule sessions to get those voice tracks. The morning jock gets off at 10 and comes in to lay his tracks. He has to stop off at the PD's office for a minute, then he gets a call. Meanwhile, you're waiting, set and ready to get his voice tracks. The afternoon jock may roll in around 1 o'clock and you get a couple of voice tracks from him. He's in no hurry because he has a couple of hours to kill before air time, so the two of you talk about an upcoming promotion or last night's date. Eventually you get his tracks. The mid-day jock gets off at 3pm and is scheduled to stop in to give you 2 more reads. You wait. Five or 10 minutes later than you expected, he shows and gives you the tracks. While it is great to have a variety of voices on the spots and cast them properly, time is wasted waiting for each announcer to come in and voice his or her spot. If you're under the gun to get it done, get all 5 voice tracks from one announcer. Select the announcer with the most "generic" voice or the one you know will give you the reads quickly. If you have 5 more spots to cut tomorrow and need to do the same thing again, pick on a different announcer for those spots. In a multi-track situation, lay all five voice-tracks down to one track. Have the music beds already on the multi-track if these are simple voice-over-music spots. Otherwise, add music and sound effects later, then mix them all in one session. Another announcer might have sounded better on a particular spot, but the listener will never know (decreased Quality). The time you've saved will let you handle a little more work (increased Quantity).
Let your Sales Department and Programming Department know that Quality is inversely proportionate to Quantity; The more work you have with little time to do it in, the less Quality it will have. Let them know how much work you have if things get backed up frequently. You are locked in that room all day cutting spots and promos. Nobody sees you unless they come in to your little room, and if they do, they're probably there to give you more work. Generally speaking, there is nobody on staff who knows all of what you do unless they have filled in for you for a week or two or held the position themselves. The PD may know how many promos and sweepers you've cut, but he probably has no idea how many spots you've written and produced. The salesperson, on the other hand, has no idea how many promos you've cut, and to him, there is no other order more important than his anyway. If you make Sales and Programming aware of your heavy work load, and do it in a way as to not sound like you are complaining, they will more likely understand your situation and may even be helpful at times. If you need help in your department, this is good preparation towards getting that help.
Aside from the talent you have, the other characteristic about you that makes your work as good as it is, is your pride in your work. This is usually the most difficult thing to set a aside for the sake of keeping your day down to 8 hours, but consider this: You know you are your own worst critic. How many times have you done a so so job on something, only to have someone comment on what a great job you did? Your work may well be better than you think it is. If you can accept the fact that some of your work won't be your best, it will be easier to make a sacrifice in Quality for the sake of Quantity. Also, if you've already established how good you are, you don't need to prove that point with every order. Do your best on work you are given time to do. When you are complimented on the job, let the person know it was the time you were given that enabled you to do so well. If you do less than your best on a rush job and the client, PD, or salesperson notices it, tell him it was because you weren't given the time to do a better job.
If everyone concerned, including yourself, realizes that you are doing the best you can do, with the tools and help you have, in the time you have, life in the production room can be a little easier. Educate those around you. Let them know what you do everyday if they have no idea. If it takes you 12 hours a day to do your work, and you don't make anyone aware of the overload, they will think everything is OK in your department. If you need help or better tools to work with, you've got to tell someone, and you might have to tell them several times. If the wheel doesn't squeak, it won't get any grease.
Few people want the job of Production Director. It is rarely a glorious position to have, and it takes a special breed of person to want to take on the many responsibilities that come with the position. Making it a better gig starts with you. If you're good, your talents will be noticed and you will be wanted. You will have some clout, and you will be listened to if you voice your thoughts and opinions in a professional manner.
For the sake of your station, everything you do should be the best it can be. You don't win by doing mediocre work. Many production people love long hours in the studio, but many of these people just don't have the time to give. There's the family at home, the lawn needs to be cut, or there's freelance work that needs to be done.
If you're the ring master in a one man show, remember the formula for an 8 hour day, and let others know it, too. Stick a piece of paper on the wall in your studio. On it write: "MY DAY = QUANTITY X QUALITY." When people ask you what it means, tell them; and when everybody hits you with orders that start not now, but right now, glance at the formula, determine what value you want "MY DAY" to have, then go to work.