by Dennis Daniel
I have a letter to answer. In last month's issue, our editor, Jerry Vigil, received the following words from a Mr. Bill Byrne from The Production Group in Spokane WA:
I just received the May issue of R.A.P. and couldn't help poking a little fun at Dennis Daniel's "Tales of the Tape" column with this letter to the editor:
Gee whiz golly wowee far out and jeepers, Dennis Daniel! I wish I'da known really swell "Quincy Jones" type of guys like you could make nifty little jingles (with real players, singers, creative time, studio costs, and sales commissions of course!) for three hundred bucks, before I went out and invested $500,000 in building, staffing, and running a recording studio (not to mention years of engineering sixteen-hour a day sessions, playing session and live dates, and college).
What I shoulda done was bought the jingles from you for $300 each, and then turned around and sold them for "$1,500 to $5,000" each and put all those extra REALLY BIG GREEN DOLLARS right in my pocket! Well, Hi Howdy I Do Declare!
Of course then I guess if jingles should go for $300 each 'cause "this stuff is a cake walk," then voice-over talent should go for fifty cents a spot and Production Managers for two dollars an hour. After all, anyone can talk and push a button or two!
Fittingly enough, I was on the crapper the first time I beheld these words. My first reaction was anger (which is probably just what Mr. Byrne wanted). Yeah, I know... he said he was "poking a little fun." Seems to me he was poking a lot of fun. A preface like that is akin to someone saying "I'm only kidding." What a lame way of covering your ass. We've all done it and experienced it. "You're a dick...(pause) ONLY KIDDING!" If I learned anything at college, it was "communication is irreversible." In other words, once it's been written or said, it's kinda hard to take it back. (I know what you really meant by your cute little letter Mr. Byrne!) So, with this in mind, let me address Mr. Byrne and his oh so childlike condescending approach.
First off, it isn't my fault that you spent half a million bucks on your studio Mr. Byrne. If that's what it takes to impress clients to pay you the big bucks for something I can do for $300, tough titties. Second, I'm a Production Director at a radio station dealing with retail clients, not Coca Cola. These people have limited funds. I'm not out on the street with a full staff hustling for work. It's apples and oranges Mr. Byrne. I'm at a RADIO STATION, not a PRODUCTION HOUSE. Thirdly, what difference does it make whether a client pays $3000 or $300, as long as he's happy with the end result?
This column exists for one reason, to chronicle the trials and creative tribulations of one Production Director (namely me) in one market and what I go through to try and remain creative, challenged and happy. My word is not God. No one's is. These are my opinions and mine alone. If my fellow production brethren and sistren can relate and get something out of it, fine. If not, fine too. The fact is, radio station production people hear and produce more commercials in one year than a production house does in five. We have to bang it out faster and have less time to think about it. Yet it has to stand up with all the other work we receive from outside sources (people like you with your $500,000 mega studio complex). Tough job. Now I'm not saying you don't have to bang things out fast too, Mr. Byrne, but you're not in the same hot seat. And, if I read the tone of your letter correctly, you're being paid well. (Why else would you hoot and holler about the price I ask for?) The reason why "this stuff is a cake walk" is because we Production Directors have heard it all! We can assimilate. We have no choice. The medium is limited to some degree. There's only so many ways to do commercials. We have to reinvent the wheel everyday for all those clods who say, "I want this to sound different."
I meant no disrespect to people like yourself who have obviously put a lot of time and effort into their art and career...God Bless You! BUT, it doesn't mean that you're the only one that can do it. Sure, there are a lot of lowlifes out there getting away with creative murder -- nature of the beast. Just because I'm cheap doesn't mean I suck. (I'm no flash in the pan at this -- twelve years and counting.) And even if I did blow dead dogs, so what? In the end, who gives a damn? There just commercials, man. The only person I have to prove anything to is the client who's shelling out the bucks. Period. You, nor anyone else, has the exclusive right to set a price or market standard. (By the way, if I want to feel like Quincy Jones, that's my business.) Besides, my "nifty little jingles" have been working well and my business thrives...in a very competitive market. Point of fact, I have won three major accounts where my work was up against Production Houses. In all three cases, price was not even discussed before a choice was made. The work was submitted to be compared.
In closing, let me make something clear. I am not trying to start a war in the pages of R.A.P. between radio station Production Directors and production houses. To me, they are two separate entities with two different agendas. Mr. Byrne was reading something into my column that was not intentionally there. I was speaking to radio station production people to let them know that alternative creative sources can be found and explored. I was not trying to take food out of production house owners' mouths, HOWEVER...it doesn't matter who is doing what work for whom, or what amount they're being paid. The only thing that matters is the work itself. Are you proud of it? Is it the best you can do? Did you learn anything new? Are you being challenged? THESE ARE THE KINDS OF QUESTIONS THAT KEEP US CREATIVE PEOPLE FRESH AND ALIVE.
And "Gee whiz golly wowee far out and jeepers" Mr. Bill Byrne, that's what it's really all about.
My... I seemed to have spent too much time on this reply. Next issue, I'll finish my discussion about teaching. Oh, and Mr. Byrne... thanks for the letter!