Marc Chase, Operations Manager, WFLZ-FM, The Power Pig, Tampa, FL
This month, the RAP Interview checks in, for the first time, with an Operations Manager to get a side of production we haven't looked at before. And what better OM to talk to than the Power Pig's Marc Chase, a man who has managed to get his hands on two of America's great voice talents and producers, Brian James and Bumper Morgan.
Get those copy machines warmed up. This interview is one for your PD, OM, and GM to read as well.
R.A.P.: What's the lowdown on your background?
Marc: I started in a small town in Alabama, my home town, Alexander City. Then I worked at WJHO in Auburn while I was going to school. That's where I met Louis Caplan who's the PD at Y107. He was going to school at Auburn. I worked at about every radio station that would hire me there. Most of them would hire me then fire me because the things I thought were funny on the radio weren't that funny to them. After that, I went to WSGF in Savannah, Georgia. Then I went to WMJJ Magic 96 in Birmingham. I spent almost three years there. Then I moved to KIX-106 in Birmingham which was owned, at the time, by the same people who owned Y107 in Nashville. I then transferred up within the company for a better shift at Y107.
R.A.P.: Were you jocking at all these stations?
Marc: Yes, I did a lot of jocking, and I was a jock when I went to Y107. I later became the Assistant PD there, then the Program Director, and finally the Operations Manager. I was at Y107 for about five years, then I came to the Power Pig in Tampa. With the exception of WSGF in Savannah and KIX in Birmingham, I spent anywhere from two to five years at each station.
R.A.P.: How long have you been in the business?
Marc: About eleven years.
R.A.P.: You moved up the ladder rather fast!
Marc: I was simply in the right place at the right time and always around good people.
R.A.P.: Were you at WFLZ before it became the Power Pig?
Marc: No. I went to Tampa to turn it into the Power Pig, but I didn't do it by myself. I had a lot of help. I probably get too much credit for it.
R.A.P.: How much credit should you get for the Outrageous FM in Nashville?
Marc: Again, it goes back to being at the right place at the right time. There are a lot of Program Directors, I'm sure, who are better at it than I am. There's no doubt about that. The thing that I always try to do at any radio station that I have any kind of control over is make it a fun place to work, a place where people don't think they're going to work but going to have fun. If you can keep that image and keep the people in the building happy, you're going to get better performance from people. It stops being a job, and it starts becoming part of your life.
R.A.P.: That's a great way to psychologically lead a group of people as opposed to "here's a set of rules. Follow them."
Marc: Yea, I hated that. Every PD I worked for had some really positive attributes, but I tried to make sure I didn't pick up the negative ones along the way.
R.A.P.: At Y107, were you the one that came up with the "Outrageous FM," concept?
Marc: Oh yea. I was the PD when it kicked in. Tony Galluzo was the Operations Manager at the time. I've had opportunities to learn from some of the most brilliantly warped minds in radio -- Frank Wood, Randy Michaels, Tom Owens at WEBN. It's been great.
Personally, if I had my choice, I'd rather be around a bunch of people that make me feel real stupid. It's a shame, but you don't see a whole lot of sharing of ideas among PD's and radio people in general, unless it's through a consultant. I guess people want to make money from it. I thought one time about just putting pages of ideas and stuff out there for free -- "Here. Have at it!" I mean, people get it anyway; they just gotta pay for it the other way.
R.A.P.: When you were jocking, did you do a lot of production?
Marc: I am the worst production person in the world. I'm dangerous in a production room. I'm a klutz around blades and all that stuff, and I bleed when I come out of there. Plus, I've got the worst voice, and subsequently, when I had to do spots, if I just read my copy over a bed, it sucked so bad I was embarrassed to give it to anybody. So, I always tried to overdo it. I'd use drops out of movies, clips from TV shows, hooks of songs, and I'd change the music bed every few seconds. I started doing all this when I first discovered 4-track and realized you could do this. Up until then, it was 2-track production, and I was really bad. I mean, I was the dub guy at the radio station because they didn't want my voice on spots. When I ran into multi-track production it was, "Hey, even if you don't have a voice, you can do things to make yourself sound pretty good!" My voice wasn't great, but there was always some idea, something creative in the spot -- not just once, but a couple of times -that gave it the hook. Basically, that's the same kind of philosophy I have on promos and produced elements of the radio station.
R.A.P.: Lots of music changes, hooks, and that kind of stuff to keep the promo busy?
Marc: Well, just make it entertaining. One of the things you'll see with guys, typically, is that they have one style of production. Pick a big name voice and listen to fifty pieces of their work. Forty-five of them sound about the same. One of the things I really liked about Bumper when I first started working with him at Y107 was that he was always open. He never felt that any one way was the right way. Basically, it's about not making production generic. Every so often, every three weeks or every month, try to do different styles of promos. Don't just rely on your big voice, fancy production elements, and music. Use those things, but mix it up. On the next promo use a theatre of the mind approach. The next time, use clever copy as the main hook.
I don't do sixty second promos if I can help it. I like to keep them as short as possible. I usually run fifteen and thirty second promos, give or take a few seconds; and I try to use all the different aspects of production, and there's so many. I can remember just sitting down listening to a new sound effects library or a new production library and getting ideas -- "Hey, we can do this with this music," or "We can take this sound effect and do this with it." Just make sure you use every possible aspect of production and don't get stuck doing the same style.
When sampling came out, everybody was sampler happy. "Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-107-7-7-7-7-7. Every every every every every promo promo promo promo. All across cross cross the country country country country." I like to do different things. I like to involve real people in the promos or use voices that aren't station voices to say certain key phrases and make them stand out. It has to be some-body that sounds good, but you can work with almost anybody. I like to use people from different age groups. You'd really be surprised how effective it is to have an eighty year old lady saying something in your promo. It sounds great! Same thing if you have a five year old kid or a two year old kid saying the line. It doesn't necessarily mean you're targeting that age group; it just adds to the creativity of the promo. Try to make each promo a three ring circus with something going on in all three rings at the same time. You do have to keep in mind that you have a message you're trying to convey, and you don't want to lose the message in the techniques, the creativity, or the copy. But you use each one of these to highlight your message and drive it home.
R.A.P.: Did you hire Bumper at Y107?
Marc: Tony and I hired Bumper. One of the guys at the radio station brought me this demo of a guy that was doing the sweepers for a station in Indiana. I heard the demo and thought it was great. He used his big voice, and he used theatre of the mind stuff. He used two or three different kinds of production techniques. We needed a Production Director, so I called him. At the time, Bumper was doing ten till two at night at KTFM in San Antonio and wasn't doing their promos. I'm thinking, "I don't know who the Program Director of this radio station is, but you have a voice like that at your station, and he's not the promo guy? Who IS the promo guy? He must be VERY intimidating." At the time, I guess KTFM was doing a more AC approach and thought Bumper was a little too strong for them. I don't know that for a fact, but, as it turned out, that's about the story I got from Bumper. Bumper came down and met us, we hit it off pretty well, and he came to Nashville.
I've been so lucky. I've programmed two radio stations, and I've had Bumper Morgan as my production guy at one - I mean the in-house production guy, not the guy you fax things to -- and I've got Brian James at the Power Pig. It seems like every fifteen or twenty minutes though, somebody is offering Brian a job in LA, New York, or Chicago. I guess that scores one for making the radio station a fun place to work because I managed to keep both of them, and I think if you ask them, they'd both tell you they really had and have a good time coming to play.
Where are the future Ernie Andersons? Where are the Joe Kellys of tomorrow? The Charlie Van Dykes? Well, they're the Brian James and the Bumper Morgans. A lot of people have a big voice, but they don't know how to use it. There's a guy at the Pig right now working with Brian. His name is Marty Shannon, and working with Brian has made an incredible difference in Marty. He's learned to use his voice. If all you do is say (big voice imitation), "I have a big voice," it becomes very monotonous. You've got to learn how to use it. Marty came here from Y107, and he's come a long way. He's got potential with his voice to do wonderful things. When he came down I said, "Marty, here's Brian. Brian, here's Marty. Brian, show Marty. He needs to learn from you." That's just part of the "share" atmosphere of the radio station.
We had a guy blow through the radio station for a while that is an incredible voice talent. His name is Paul Turner. He was at WAVE doing commercials over there, and I really didn't have a place for him, but he had huge pipes. So we brought him in as a Continuity Director. I knew that wasn't going to last, but I hoped that something might bust in the station so I could give him more money before he found a job. Well, it didn't take long for him to find a job. He was at the Pig for a while, then I think the Fox in Detroit hired him. Now I think he's doing a lot of the Infinity stuff. Paul's got a huge voice, and he's young -- twenty, maybe twenty-two. I'm amazed when I look at the voices I've had, and it's probably because I have such a bad one. I try to surround myself with enough good ones so I don't have to have a good voice.
R.A.P.: How do you get your production people to provide the sound you're looking for?
Marc: It's almost impossible to convey exactly what you want to somebody. You've got to give them a general idea and turn them loose. I actually watched a Program Director make a guy redo a promo for two hours. The promo ran maybe twelve times over a two day period. "Nope. That buzzer wasn't quite right. The inflection on that word wasn't quite what I was looking for." That drives talent nuts. A lot of getting what you want is management by objective. Tell people what their objectives are. You have to trust them and know that they're going to do their best. Then turn them loose. Get out of their way.
With Bumper, we always called it Bumper-izing a promo. I'd just give him the facts and he'd do it. If he got to a point where he was doing the same kind of stuff for two or three weeks, I'd say, "Bumper. New stuff. Let's don't do this anymore. Forget the sampler. Let's do some other tricks for a couple of weeks." It's the same way with Brian. Guys like that, that do so much stuff for other stations and are responsible for doing your radio station too, can get into a rut. If Friday comes around and you need something, and they're doing the voice work for stations all over the country, they'll go to what they know. You constantly have to challenge them to get them to do more. And you can make people feel shitty about that, or you can say, "Hey, didn't that promo sound a little too much like the other one?" Another thing you can do is have them put together a composite of all the promos they've done for the last month. If they all sound alike, it's time to change the style.
R.A.P.: You must be keeping Brian and his popular voice pretty busy.
Marc: He does two stations. He does my FM, and he does our AM, Newsradio 970, WFLA. And you gotta think, a guy who has a voice that can do a news/talk radio station and the Power Pig has a pretty versatile voice. I think Brian would sound good on a country station. His voice is mature enough and not so bold that it would even sound good for a TV station. There's a big future for Brian as well as Bumper. I've got to try and work out some sort of lifetime agreement with these guys so they don't kill me when they start making the millions. They both have that big-name voice potential.
R.A.P.: Do you prefer having more than one voice for your station?
Marc: Yes. In Nashville, when Bumper was there, he did the promos and Ernie Anderson did the positioning statements. Here, I have Brian doing promos, and Bumper and Ernie doing positioning statements, depending upon what the positioning statements are and whether my thirteen weeks with Ernie are up or not and whether I can afford him for thirteen more.
R.A.P.: Brian James handles your promos and ID's. You must have somebody else doing the commercials.
Marc: Right. Brian doesn't do commercials. I won't let him do commercials, and that drives the salespeople nuts -"We've got this big voice, and the client want this guy." I say, "I'm sorry." Of course, Brian loves that. He doesn't have to deal with salespeople. However, Brad James, my other production guy, has to deal with all of them. Brad has a great set of hands in the production room. He's an excellent producer and handles the production department very efficiently. We have a really nice creative edge on the commercial end of things thanks to Brad.
R.A.P.: Why do so many stations have the same person doing their promos and commercials?
Marc: It's probably for budgetary reasons that they do that. I don't think there's a Program Director that wouldn't have three or four guys doing production if he had the money. Although, some people say, "for continuity, we should have the same voice doing everything." I just don't subscribe to that particular philosophy. It goes back to that variety thing. And these are probably the same guys whose idea of creative is, "And now, back to a better mix of music on so and so's number one hit music station."
In Nashville, Bumper handled production and did a couple of commercials for some key clients, but that was one radio station. Here, it's two radio stations. So instead of having one guy do everything for each station, we've got one guy doing commercials for both and another doing promos for both. And, all the jocks help out with production, too, and not just dubs and tags. We've got three or four guys that can do production. Dave Mann has an outside business doing spots in the market. Brad James, our Production Director, has his free-lance business. Mark Larson, our midday guy on the AM, also has a commercial production business. And when there's eighty to a hundred people in the building, you can find voices, and really good ones.
R.A.P.: You obviously have a lot of people on staff who can do production. Is that something you set out to get?
Marc: Yes, big time. Think about it. Right off the bat, your commercials are going to be up to twenty percent of your programming, depending upon where you are. The commercials on the air are a big part of your station. Then there are the elements you add, which are the station's signature. If these elements don't sound good, you give people reason to tune out. There's maybe one client on the FM that can get their spot done without music on it. Even our live spots have something going on in the background. Spots have to be produced, but not necessarily with music. They can be produced with effects. I just don't want somebody going, "Hi. My name is Maynard P. Schmerbody. Come buy a car from me." Those become irritants and tune-outs, especially if the client buys a lot of time on your station. Listeners will go, "God, not that commercial again." Granted, they may remember the commercial, but after they know it, they're gone when they hear it again.
R.A.P.: How do you feel about jocks voicing promos?
Marc: Again, that just depends on the situation. If you've got the money, and you don't have to have them do it, that's great.
R.A.P.: Are Brad and Brian both under your direction, or is Brad under the direction of the sales department?
Marc: They're both on my payroll, but they're under their own direction. If there's a problem in production, and the Sales Manager comes to me, I'll point him right to Brad. That's Brad's department. He's the ultimate authority in production as far as what goes on the air on either radio station.
Pointing fingers is something I can't stand. That's why I like to set things up so that, for instance, Brad's in control of production. That way, he can't blame anybody. Of course, I'll support him a hundred percent. If he comes to me and says, "Hey, I can't get this done" or "We need a new production library" or "We need this piece of equipment," I'll get it for him. I've never, ever been told by Jacor that we can't have a piece of equipment that we really need to keep us in the game competitively. Never. Zero. They understand. They're radio people. They're not insurance people.
Brian has a 16-track. Why are we installing a 16-track in Brian James' room? When we put that appeal in for capital expenditures, a lot of people in this economy would have said, "eight tracks are enough." The Jacor response was, "With a talent like Brian, can you imagine what he can do with sixteen tracks?" You don't find that everywhere. As a result, I've been able to keep Brian from going to LA or New York, and I kept Bumper from going to bigger markets. You've got to give them the things they need. Plus, when you give your people the tools they need, you make it fun for them to do the work.
R.A.P.: It sounds like the Production Department is treated as a separate department at the station.
Marc: Yes, and whether or not you can do that depends upon what kind of guys you've got running it. I trust all of those guys. They get the job done, and they don't let you down. There are human mistakes that are going to happen. Someone will put a cart in and will forget to pull the old one with the same number or they'll get numbers mixed up, but you can't crucify somebody for something like that.
I guess I learned that lesson when I was working in Savannah. I was the overnight guy, and the Program Director was Doug Weldon who was also doing mornings. I did my production when I got off the air, which is probably a rare time for jocks. You know, jocks try to do their production while they're on the air -- maximize your time! But, for some reason, I did my production that day after I got off the air. The spot was sixty seconds long, and it was spot number fifty-nine. I labeled it fifty-nine seconds long and made it spot number sixty. I put it in, went home, and went to bed. The PD called me at seven-thirty in the morning because he couldn't find the spot. He finally found it, realized what I had done, and made me come back down there to fix it. I thought this guy was the biggest asshole for calling me, at what was two o'clock in the morning for me, to make me come down there and change a label on a spot. That's when I decided I was not going to handle people that way. People are going to make mistakes.
R.A.P.: What are your thoughts on how the sales and production departments should deal with each other?
Marc: The idea is for neither side to take shit off the other. The idea is to respect each other. If somebody's wrong, and the salesman comes in and says, "Dammit! What the hell do you mean messing up my spot like that?!!" That's the first way to get a "we don't care" attitude. "Do you want him to treat you like that when you forget to turn in your copy?" It's better if everybody helps everybody else out.
Understand that nobody is ever going to be completely happy. If you're at a radio station that has a ten share, basically, that means out of a hundred people, ninety of them don't listen to you. So there's no way you're going to please everybody. People just have to understand that you're doing your best. And you have to try to do your best. If you're not trying, and you're screwing up because you've got a bad attitude, that's about the only way you can get fired by me. If you like what you're doing and you're bustin' your ass, you can screw up, because if you're not screwin' up, you're not trying hard enough.
Sometimes, people are going to have a bad day. If Brad is having a bad day, for whatever reason, and he blows a couple of things, that doesn't mean the salesperson ought to come down and give him a bunch of grief, because they're going to have a bad day too, and they don't want any grief from Brad when it's their turn. So, the idea is mutual respect, and it's real hard to do. It's very hard.
Now, let's say you're going to be a bad-ass. You tell the sales guy, "Okay, listen. If you don't turn in your order in time, we're not going to do the commercial." Well, explain that to the General Manager and the owner when they miss a few thousand dollars' worth of spots that can't be made up because this guy in production with the attitude didn't have his number in the right line. That's not going to work, and that's why you've got to be friends. To do that, people have got to understand what your position is and what you do. You still find, in this business of communications, communication, or lack of it, is our biggest enemy.
But if people like each other, then you've got the basis for a good relationship. That's the whole thing, just putting together a series of relationships that work together in harmony. And understand that there are going to be squabbles, and there are going to be problems.
R.A.P.: Do you ever step into the middle of a sales and production problem?
Marc: I'm the middle man here if things get out of hand. If I see people squabbling about something, I'll let them settle it on their own. But if they can't get to terms nicely, where they don't wind up hating each other, then they both have to do what I make them do. And I like to make them do stupid things, so next time they'll solve it on their own.
You just gotta make people understand each other. That's half the battle. It's called "team." You can't get people to understand each other all the time, but you try. You just stay on people. You talk to people. You do things together. You try to make one person understand what the other one is doing, and that people are going to screw up.
Brad will come to me occasionally and say, "We can't put this spot on the air. It is so bad!" I'll go listen to it, and he's right. We can't. So we've got to go down to sales and say, "Listen. We either have to redo this spot, or you're going to have to turn down the money because we're not going to put it on the air."
You can't control salespeople because you're not their boss. Their boss has to understand the system, and if he or she doesn't, then the salespeople aren't going to. In the same sense, if I don't have respect for the sales department myself, my people won't either. That doesn't mean I love everything they do. That just means I understand. If the General Manager says, "Hey, we're going to have to cut our promotions budget in half for the fall," you can get pissed. But if you understand the big picture -- the economy is not good, revenues are off, people are cancelling fourth-quarter buys -- you understand why he's doing it.
When I first became a PD, I learned something else about conflicts between sales and production. I'd have one person run in and say, "Can you believe they did this? That's stupid! They should have done that!" And I'd go to the other person all mad because I couldn't believe they'd do this, and they'd say, "Yea, well that's because...." Then you get the other side of the story and you're like, "Wait a minute...." You've got to get both sides of the story before you react to any problem because sales guys are out on the streets trying to claw for dollars, and production guys are in the room, locked in there by themselves, trying to be creative, trying to be organized, trying to keep up with everybody's bullshit. You've got to have some way of directing traffic in there. If you put everybody on the streets and set no rules, there would be wrecks all over the place. So you set up basic guidelines. If you see a red thing, you stop. Look both ways before you cross the street. Just little common sense guidelines. Set them up, and all this stuff can be worked out, especially if people like each other.
R.A.P.: You seem to have your head together quite well when it comes to dealing with your people.
Marc: It's so simple. When was the last time you heard the saying, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link?" That's true. You've just got to get a team together and get everybody thinking in the same direction. One PD can't run a radio station. You just can't do everything by yourself. Okay, I may have the knowledge of how to work an 8-track, and how to run a music computer, and how to get spots on the log, and how to talk over intros, and how to dub things, but you don't have time to do it. And you can't make people do it the way you would do it yourself because they're not you. You've got to spend a little bit of time with them first, trying to explain guidelines to them on what you want done and how you want it done, then turn them loose. Then, every once in a while, when you see them drive off the road you say, "Wait a second. Hold on. Let's think about this for a second." And it matters how you point things out to people. If you walk into somebody and say, "That sucks. That's the worst thing I've ever heard." How are they going to react? But if you say, "Yea, that's pretty good, but next time you ought to try...." I'm a real big fan of addressing negatives with positives.
R.A.P.: One topic we bat around from time to time is the movement of production people into programming. What thoughts do you have on this?
Marc: Brian James would be an excellent Program Director, if he were willing to take a cut in pay! It doesn't matter where you come from, whether you're the late night jock, the production guy, or the programming secretary. If you basically grasp the day to day programming of a radio station -- the music, all the produced values of the radio station, and the talent -- and how to deal with all that while marketing your radio station, while being promotionally aggressive and making sure you don't miss a trick, anybody can program a radio station. Radio is really five or six things, but they take a lot of time and a lot of people to do them correctly.
The Production Director gets shit from everybody. They get it from sales if a disk jockey screws up. They get it from disk jockeys if the disk jockeys have to do something they don't like, like commercials. It's a very thankless position, and people will bitch at you at the drop of a hat. As a result, some of the guys that do production that I've worked with -- no slam against them; they're all friends - are usually pretty introverted and may not want to fool with the hassles of being a Program Director. I've never run into a Production Director that has ever told me they wanted to be a PD. If they did, I'd show them what I know. My door is open.
R.A.P.: Are you a big fan of the open door policy?
Marc: Yes. I always hated working at stations where the doors were closed. "Okay, we had a bad book. Let's go in and shut the door and scare the shit out of everybody." What's that going to do? "The General Manager is in there with the Program Director. His door is shut, and we're all in trouble. It's double top secret. Who's getting fired now?" If you're going to plan, do it at home one night so you don't have the whole station freakin' out. If you've got to get people together, don't shut the doors. There are stations out there that even lock things up. "Nobody knows what the processing is on this station. It's a secret."
The Pig is different. Everybody knows what everybody does. Everybody knows what everybody's responsibilities are because if somebody is not there one day, somebody else is going to have to cover for them, and somebody is going to have to cover for that person.
R.A.P.: What's your perception of Production Directors and the job they do?
Marc: I feel for Production Directors. I would be the worst. You've got to be organized, but you've got to be creative; so find somebody that's left brain and right brain. You've got to be a nice guy because you've got to take shit from sales and programming; but you've also got to be an authoritative person because you've got to be able to get people to do stuff for you. Right there, immediately, with those things, you're setting yourself up to take a boatload of grief from a boatload of people. There's the traffic people you're going to have to deal with, if you're not doing the traffic job too, which in most places you are.
I have a ton of respect for production guys, and I guess that's why I've been pretty good friends with all of mine. It's a job there's no way in hell I'd want to have to do, and I want to make my production guys so happy that they don't even think about leaving and making me do their job for a minute. I couldn't do it. I'd rather sit at a board meeting or have some consultant who thinks he knows what's going on come in and try to tell me, "Well, you're station needs to do this," after they've been in the market for all of TWO HOURS! I mean, I'd rather go through that than have to sit and deal with the sales department. I'd rather have to deal with the General Manager because the ratings weren't what they expected and they based the budgets off this, or we're going to have to cut promotion's budget, or we're getting a new competitor, or we're going to have to add a unit to the clock.... Give me all that stuff, man, but keep me out of the production room!
R.A.P.: How much time do you give Brian to do a promo after you give him a fact sheet?
Marc: Anywhere from a week to two minutes. (laughs) This is radio. It's immediacy. If we've got to have it, he knows it.
R.A.P.: Tell us a little bit about how you deal with promos on the air.
Marc: I run a promo intensive radio station. We have several types. We have "Promo A's" and mini-promos that we call "Spot Shots" -- one of them runs into a spot set, the other runs out of a spot set. If we're sold out, a Spot Shot might run between music. We always run some promo every hour. It might be one fifteen-second promo, and that's it. The jocks have seven or eight different ways to make the hour "happen," and I give them the freedom to put it together. We have what we call Level One, Level Two, and Level Three promotions. We may have a promo and a Spot Shot for the Level One promotion. And if Level One is supposed to get mentioned once an hour, and the jock talks about it, he doesn't have to play the promo for the Level One promotion that hour. He can either play a Level Two promo, hit a jingle, or not talk about the Level One promotion and play one of the promos. There are five or six ways to skin a cat, and the jock can pick the way to suit whatever he's doing. He may have a bit going, and he really can't stop the bit because he'd lose the flow by stopping to say, "Oh, by the way, we've gotten together with Toyota to bring you fireworks!" If that's the case, we've got recorded promos in there for whatever we're doing.
Brian probably does FM promos four of the five days a week he's there. He may update the long promos on Monday, the short ones on Tuesday, and he's always doing something for the jocks. If you bring in something for Brian to produce, he'll do it, whether it's a morning show bit, a parody song, an intro, or a fake spot. But he stays pretty busy doing promos, sometimes all five days of the week. We've got to keep them fresh. If we're just doing one thing and only have one promo running, and it's going to run all week, I'd want that promo to be updated every day. But if we've got three different promos running, and each one only runs six times a day, he can update them every two days. But they've got to be fresh, have a new hook, end differently, begin differently. He stays pretty busy, especially when you add what he does for our news/talk station.
R.A.P.: What's your philosophy on programming the stop sets?
Marc: Outside of morning drive, we don't talk dry into spot sets. There's a bed under the jock for forward motion. We code our spots so that the best spot runs first. And the good spot has to start good, too. If it gets good ten seconds into it, that doesn't matter. You just take the best of what's available and run it first.
Here's something we do with concert commercials. Right on the front of the commercial we put "Power 93 Concert Information," and the jock can come straight out of music right into that. The intro is something Brian voices, and anybody that dubs a concert spot puts the intro in front of the spot right to cart. You can come straight out of a song into it, and it makes it sound like it's not a commercial.
Some of our promos are designed to come directly out of music and into spots, and they don't end with call letters. Then, the promos that we have that come at the end of the spot set have the call letters or a jingle at the end.
I'm not a big fan of saying, "We're the number one music station. Coming up you'll hear music from..." or "We play the most music, the best music, a better variety of music. For music, music, music, it's Power 93" right into a commercial.
R.A.P.: It sounds like your jocks have to be pretty good on-air producers.
Marc: It's their show. They have to put it together. There are idiot cards in front of them if they want to take advantage of them. If not, there's pre-recorded material they can use if they don't want to talk about a single thing the radio station is doing that day. They just need to plug in this pre-recorded material, and it will cover everything we promised any client.
We stopped having the jocks do live plugs for the other jocks' appearances. We just have the jock himself, on cart, saying, "Hi, I'm so and so. I'll be at such and such place Thursday night with free fun for everybody from nine till midnight. Come see me." We'll run that in the middle of a spot set. It covers a mention, and it's where it belongs in a commercial setting. It's not long enough to add that much more clutter to the station, and it's not over the top of a record. So you won't have listeners thinking it's a commercial over their favorite song.
I subscribe to the theory that if somebody complains that you talk too much, you're not saying what they want to hear. If you're saying what people want to hear, they'll listen to you. But if you start beating your chest or saying something they don't give a shit about, they'll say, "Hey, he talks too much!" You just have to know who your audience is and try to relate to them.
R.A.P.: Let's get your thoughts on production libraries. Is this something you leave up to Brian and Brad?
Marc: As a matter of fact, we're looking for a production library right now. Basically, I told Brian and Brad that we've got this much money in the budget. If we need more, I can probably get it, but we ought to be able to get a good deal with the money we've got because it's a pretty good chunk of change. I said, "Get together and listen to as many demos as you can. Let's don't sign a stupid deal where you pay $300 a month for three years and you still don't own it. Tell me what you want, and we'll get it."
They're going to use it. They've got to like it and be happy with it. It's one of their biggest tools. You've got to trust your people. If you don't, then you haven't spent enough time with them to know them. And if you're working with somebody you don't trust, you either need to leave, or get somebody you can trust if you want to be successful because you can't be everywhere at once.
That doesn't mean you should blow out a person because he doesn't know what you want. I've found that it takes longer to explain to somebody what you want the first time. The second time, maybe you just have to talk with them for a minute. The third time, if they have any clue, they'll do it all by themselves. And that frees you up to go on to other things, to stir up more trouble elsewhere and have more fun. If they ever have a complaint or a problem and can't solve it, I'll help them. But Brian and Brad can figure out what production library we need. They'll probably get a better deal on one than I would. We'll probably end up getting two for the price of one.
I don't have a strong love of most of the production libraries I've heard in the past. Everything sounds too generic. However, I do love Mike Lee's stuff at Brown Bag, though that's not a production library per se. As far as jingles go, I've hated them up until recently. I finally got a custom package that Larry Mangiamelli made for me [Toby Arnold & Associates, Dallas, TX]. It fits the Power Pig perfectly. We're a dance CHR, and the jingles are not that sound that you hear on every jingle demo. And I will say that the Thompson Creative people, for me, have an urban package that I can clean up a little bit and use as well.
R.A.P.: Is there any other advice you would give PD's about dealing with their production people, or even all their people in general?
Marc: If you're a PD, don't keep your people in the dark, whether it's the Production Director or the guy driving the van. Let them in the door, man. Tell them what's going on. Turn the light on. Show them the way down the road. It all works if everybody knows what's happening. Share. Work together. You don't know everything. I learn so much from everybody every day. All those wild, creative promotional ideas that people credit to me when I was at Y107 and while I've been here at the Pig...I didn't come up with every one of those. Nobody is going to do that. We've done so much stuff, it's impossible for one person to do all that. What I can do is make sure the atmosphere is conducive to a good time, and good feelings. And if you're having fun, the station is going to sound fun; and people will have fun, enjoy their work, and perform better.
One thing I don't like about some PD's is that they're in it until they get their next move, and they'll abuse whomever is there to get to their next step. Sooner or later, that stuff catches you. Again, from the old saying department, you never know who you're stepping on, on your way up, that's going to be there when you're falling down. You might need a hand. I've done it to a couple of people. I'm not perfect. It's going to happen, and you just can't go around like a loose cannon. Probably the first five years I was in the business, I knew so much. Now I realize that I don't know shit. If you know too much, you're a dangerous person.
R.A.P.: What advice would you have for young Production Directors with hopes to one day work at a station like the Pig for a guy like you?
Marc: Bug the piss out of people, but don't be a pain in the ass about it. If there's a place you want to go, bug the piss out of the PD. Ask for an honest critique and not the form letter rejection.
Another thing you can do is network. It's very important to know people at other radio stations. Give them some of your good ideas and swap ideas. Let people see your potential. They may recommend you when they leave. I think good production people are hard to find. I looked forever to find Brian.
Always keep your best stuff handy. Steal great ideas from anybody. The best idea is one that is stolen. You don't have to work as hard for it, and you can probably improve on what the other person did, or at least you ought to try.
But one of the main things is to find out what aspect of production you're really good at, and make sure you're excellent at it. But don't sacrifice the other things. Never be a dick to people. That Sales Manager that just pissed you off may be the next General Manager of Z100 in New York. That PD you thought was a jerk may wind up working at KIIS. And that disk jockey that never does his spots on time may become a jock for MTV and they might need a voice-over guy.
We are our inventory in radio. Your voice, the way you treat people, the way you look. You are your inventory. Manage it well.