R.A.P.: When did you start doing sweepers for stations?
Sandy: Like I said, I started with the idea back in 1986, but it was about two and a half months ago when I said, "OK, I'm gonna start doing this. I'm going to get a logo, and I'm going to really go after this." The first station I sent my demo to was the first station I got a call from. That was WDVE in Pittsburgh. I've been getting a lot of response to the demo. I've just recently expanded it. I was doing just AOR, but I've expanded the demo to include CHR and A/C format presentations as well. There's a different approach to each format as far as your attitude and inflections go. It's an art. It really is an art. That's why there are only so many guys doing it.
R.A.P.: Two months into the sweeper business, what markets have you landed?
Sandy: I'm on WZEW in Mobile, Alabama. I'm in Muncie, Indiana, and I'm going to be doing a station in Austin, Texas. After this week I'll have about seven stations. I mailed out to 41 stations, and I've had a lot of stations call me back saying they wanted to use me but couldn't do it right now because of budgets. I approached a guy in Canada that wanted to use me, but I'm going to have to wait until later in the fall to do it.
R.A.P.: That's a remarkable ratio considering the number of demos you mailed out! The demo itself is short, sweet, and to the point. Was that your intention?
Sandy: Yes. I don't think you should put all of a one minute commercial on a demo. You should build a collage of just five or ten seconds of each spot. Let 'em want a little more -- That's the way I feel.
Also, I think you've got to pull yourself away from your demo a bit when you're producing it. You get sick of your demo. After hearing it a hundred times, you start to get picky -- that inflection isn't right or this sounded too forced. I played the demo for a guy over the phone yesterday and pretty much sold the package over the phone. I listened as I played it and said to myself, "This thing is starting to sound like shit." After it was done, the guy loved it! He said, "Man, that was great. Send me a rate card. We're going to be working together!" That's when you've got to set yourself away from the demo and say, "Hey, this guy's hearing this for the first time; I've heard it a hundred times." If you don't pull yourself away, you might change the demo when it's just fine as it is.
R.A.P.: What have you learned about being a Production Director in these first few years of your career?
Sandy: Nowadays, I don't think Production Directors can limit themselves to just worrying about the copy and producing a good commercial. Production is now such an integral part of the radio station that the Production Director has to be able to think like a programmer, too. We play too big of a part in the programming and the sound of the radio station. I think there should be a really tight bond between the Production Director and the Program Director, maybe lunch once a week or whatever.
I also believe the Production Director's position is one of the most stressful jobs at a station. Think about it. As the Production Director, you touch every department. In a way, you're almost the nucleus of the radio station. You extend to more departments than any other department. The Production Director is responsible for the jocks, making sure the jocks do their production. He's responsible to the Program Director, making sure the promos are done. He's responsible to the General Manager -- why is there a discrepancy on the log? He's responsible to the account executives, each and every one of them. What I really think is that each radio station should have a therapist for the Production Director!
R.A.P.: What do you contribute your early success to?
Sandy: I feel natural in the studio. I feel like I've always belonged there. I have such a love and a passion for it. I believe that is where success is.
Some of the jocks at the station hate production. They hate it! I'd give them a spot, they'd do it, drop it on my desk, and it would be a half ass job. I'd go into the PD's office and she'd say, "Well, you've got to motivate them." I just looked in her eyes and said, "Listen. You can't put passion in a man's heart if it's not there to begin with. If it's not there, it's not there." I think it's the same with jocking, sports, or anything else you do. If it's from your heart and there's a passion there, and you have a little bit of talent and want to do it, you're going to be successful. I've got a deep, deep passion that has never once left since I took that class in college. I've been at my work for five years now, and the passion is still the same. The fire is still burning... it roars.
Our thanks to Sandy for this month's interview and best wishes to him and Sandy Thomas Productions for a prosperous future!