R.A.P.: Was it pretty easy for you to leave KILT and go out on your own, or did you have your fair share of fears like most people who leave a job to open their own business?
Bill: Even though most of my income at that time was from outside commercial work, it was still scary. I had never had to do my own withholding tax, my own hospitalization insurance, and I was not nor do I still consider myself much of a business mind. Those were scary things about stepping out on my own.

While working for yourself certainly has its rewards, you give up a lot of freedom that you have when you work for someone else. You don't really own the company, the company owns you. Imagine sitting for twelve hours a day with earphones going full blast, and that's just to service what you have to to meet your payroll. And at night you have to do the creative parts of developing the new business. That's seven days a week, and it goes on year in and year out. While it's certainly an independent feeling, it's not for the weak hearted, I assure you. It's more demanding than any job I've ever had in my life.

R.A.P.: How many producers do you employ?
Bill: Audio only, we have six. Then we have six video producers.

R.A.P.: Who are some of the producers in the audio rooms?
Bill: Steve Kelley is in one of our rooms. Again, all of these people came out of radio. All of them were Production Directors, and in some cases, Program Directors. Steve Kelley was a Program Director for many years, and he also had the benefit of being a record promotion man for many years. Steve Kelley is very strong in many areas, and is a big part of our sound. All of us have strong music backgrounds. And in that sense, that's why I'm glad I also had the programming experience because I think I understand that a sixty second commercial needs to flow musically the same way as a radio station would flow or a good, balanced hour would flow. It needs to have its dynamics -- its up and downs.

John Williard is in one of the rooms as a voice talent and producer. John is the newest member of our staff. Like Steve, John is a very strong, world class voice talent and is doing a variety of projects for us.

Harry Schluderberg is in another room. Harry was with a number of stations in Kansas City for years as Production Director. He's very good at our theatrical work like the Broadway tours, but he also has strengths in many of our R&B tours.

There's Rusty Ford who was with 93Q here and a variety of stations around the country. Rusty is very good in the alternative/new music area.

Eric Young, my youngest son, builds music tracks for us. He also voices some tours. He voiced the last two REM tours because they wanted that college radio sound, but Eric mainly builds tracks for us. He works on the AudioFile digital disk recorder and is very fast and very musically oriented. And then I work in another room. Each one of us has a variety of projects going at any one time.

R.A.P.: What did you personally do today?
Bill: Today, I probably did four or five Van Halen markets. I think there were two Tom Petty markets that I did. There were four Paula Abdul markets. I did three Natalie Cole markets. I did a Six Flags Great America Chicago commercial. There were many others, but I can't remember them.

I also did some TV spots today. I did a George Michael spot for Houston, and I did some Van Halen markets. What I'm doing are the audio tracks. The video department takes the audio tracks and marries them to the pre-built video tracks, adds local information, and makes the dubs.

R.A.P.: Are you actually cutting up the music beds for the spots you do?
Bill: I do some, yes. All of the producers do some.

R.A.P.: I had this image of you spending your day in a voice-booth laying tracks for a couple of hours then calling it a day.
Bill: Oh, God, no. As a matter of fact, I can't even do that kind of voice work. I can't walk into a room, put on some headphones, and just voice something.

I can't even write copy unless I've got a music track. I have to go cut a music track and make the integrity of the music track right, make it flow, make it stand up as a sixty-second piece of music with no copy. Then copy tends to write itself, for me anyway. All I'm doing is filling holes, writing copy one line at a time. That's easy for me. I find that with a redirection of thinking, most of the people that go to work for us, once we talk that concept through, find it very simple because that music track is everything. And I'm not talking about just music related spots. We do the same thing when we do a bank commercial. We work around the music because that is the essence of the spot. That is what really makes it work.

I love sound effects work, too. That has been one of the most thrilling discoveries for me, doing sound for video. I remember a situation where we had to get a sound of steak sizzling on a char-broiler for a commercial we were doing for a supermarket chain a few years ago. We could never get the airiness that we needed for the sound the fire makes when it flames up around the steak on the grill, which was the scene we were looking at. We finally discovered the openness and the dimensionality by taking a particular brand of cereal and pouring it dry into a bowl. That gave us that "pshhhh" sound.

When I worked at KOIL in Omaha, I worked with a young man, Steve Brown, who was the national Program Director of that chain. He was brilliant in the production room because he had no personal boundaries on his ability to do things. I remember he was looking for a particular explosion, but not a true percussive explosion. He just wanted that kind of impact sound, but the explosions from the sound effects libraries would not work. He reached over and wrapped Scotch tape around the needle on the tone arm, set the turntable to 78 rpm, and dropped the needle onto that rotating platter with the reverb unit wide open. The sound that came out of the speakers was just mind boggling. I thought, "What a free mind it is that can invent these sounds!" That moment, my whole perspective of sound design changed, and that's one of the areas I thoroughly enjoy today.

R.A.P.: How many spots would you say Bill Young Productions is producing every year?
Bill: I haven't really done an estimate in the last year or so, but two or three years ago we did a count, and a pretty educated estimate is that we ship about fifty thousand commercials a year. We've had people come to work for us who in the first week walked in and said, "I really don't want to work this hard." That has happened on two occasions.

R.A.P.: We heard a rumor that you have an outrageous FedEx bill. What is it?
Bill: Well, because we're such a large shipper, we've been able to get volume discounts. Even with those discounts, it is well into six figures annually.

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  • The R.A.P. Cassette - October 1991

     We open up side A with excerpts from FM100's Fantasy Concert in McCarthy Park as discussed on this month's Promo Page. Cuts 2 and 3 are samples of...