Jeff Berman, Owner/Creative Director, SoundHound, Inc., New York, NY
by Jerry Vigil
Jeff's career spans over thirty years with a most unusual beginning at a real "pirate" radio station. He was the Production Engineering Supervisor for the Mark Century Corporation, a leading radio syndication and production service. He won numerous awards during a stay at WABC as Director of Production and Community Services. He later joined the highly respected producer of movie trailers and radio spots, Floyd L. Peterson, Inc., where he wrote and produced for such accounts as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, Avco-Embassy and others. He founded SoundHound in 1972 and has steadily built it into one of New York's leading and most honored audio post production services. He also runs a voice casting service called Voice Box International and has himself served as voice talent for HBO, Taylor Wine, Lifetime Television, Dime Savings Bank, Clairol, Merrill Lynch, and many others. Join us for an enjoyable and very informative chat with Jeff Berman.
R.A.P.: How did you get started in the business?
Jeff: At about age thirteen I became a vintage record collector. I'm talking about records that went back to about 1899 -- Emile Berliner records, Edison cylinders, and things like that. I had a pretty good collection by the time I was fifteen, and around that age I decided I wanted to do a radio show about the old records. So, I went to a local FM station and presented the script and the idea, and they said, "Son, we love your voice, and we love your idea. But you're too darn young to operate the equipment."
About a year later, I read an article in a Cleveland paper about one Bill Baker, and those of your readers from the New York area will recognize that name as the current President of WNET, the local PBS station in New York. Anyway, in that year, when I was sixteen, Bill Baker and his friends in Cleveland put together a student-run radio station, and they got some press in the local Cleveland paper. I happened to read about it and decided to do that same thing with some friends. So, at sixteen, we got together, four of us, and put a station on the air, a little pirate station up in Westport, Connecticut. From that station we got a lot of national publicity in the New York Times and Scholastic magazine, and we were named World Book Teenagers of the Year. We ran the station like a regular operation. We sold time. We had remote lines, and we had multiple studios in various locations.
The guys who were part of that station went on to become fairly visible in broadcasting. The News Director was a guy named Gordon Joseloff who, until a couple years ago, was a reporter for CBS News. Gordon was CBS correspondent for Tokyo and for Moscow for a while. Our Chief Engineer, Mike Fast, was Chief Engineer at WPOC in Baltimore. The President of the station, Stu Cirroco -- who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago - went on to become a fairly major weatherman, first at WTIC in Hartford. He was on the air here at WOR for a time. Then he went down to Florida. Those were the major players.
I was the senior sales guy, and we all acted as jocks. We ran the place in a very professional manner until the FCC came by and took us off. They told us, off the record, that they took hundreds of operations like this off the air every summer, but we were the best they'd ever seen in the whole country as far as organization.
R.A.P.: Well, you're the first interview we've had whose beginning started at a pirate radio station! How long was it on the air?
Jeff: It was on the air for a summer. The station itself was housed in the YMCA in Westport, Connecticut, and we had a satellite studio at the newspaper which was about a block down. That's where our newsroom was. And this was all tied together with phone lines. We had remote lines running down to the beach area which was a good five or ten miles away. We had a beach transmitter and a downtown transmitter. We were doing our thing with little Knight Kit wireless broadcast amplifiers theoretically with 100 milliwatts, but, of course, we all knew it was a little bit more.
We were lucky because we got a lot of press. As I mentioned, the New York Times picked it up from the local paper, and we got front page of the business section. And then some crazy things began to happen. Voice of America came and interviewed us as "model American teenagers" who were on the air putting out a radio signal without any government regulation. And then we got a real strange phone call from somebody from Haiti who, at the time, was working for the Duvalier regime. They were looking for some kind of technology to teach with. They wanted us to set up small receivers in remote towns in Haiti and set up an educational network. This guy felt we had done such a good job in taking basic technology and making it work that we could do that in Haiti. So he approached us. Unfortunately, our local congressman wouldn't let us go because of the nature of the Duvalier regime. So, it was a pretty auspicious beginning for four kids, and it was fun. And that was the way I started in radio.
R.A.P.: When did your "legal" radio career begin?
Jeff: Within two years, at age seventeen, I found myself on the air with a late night jazz show. Before long, I was working three radio stations under three different names in Connecticut and New York state. I was programming and doing full-time air shots by the time I was eighteen. I was programming one music station over in Mount Kisco, New York at night. That was an experimental station with no talk in the format to speak of. At the same time, I was working a Danbury, Connecticut station on air full-time. They gave me a full-time job as soon as I graduated high school.
Two years later I got a job offer in the City, and that's when I went to work for the Mark Century Corporation which was a division of Music Makers, a big jingle house. They serviced five hundred stations in the US and Canada with station production, jingles, comedy, contests, documentaries, holiday specials, etc.. I was the guy who ground out all of that stuff every month from of a little room with a music and sound effects library and thousands of voice tracks.
A couple of years later, WABC got wind of me through some of their O and Os because their O and Os were getting material from New York, from the syndication service. They were looking for a combination Production Director, Assistant Program Director, and Public Service Director all rolled into one. They fired three adults and brought me in at twenty-two, and I served them for two years in that capacity.
Then I went back to what I loved most. Dan Ingram, who is a pretty well-known disk jockey here in New York, was working at WABC at the time. He took me aside one day and said, "Jeff, what do you really want to be doing?" I said I wanted to go back into production and that I was really bored with tight format radio. He said, "I've got a job for you." So I went to work for a company servicing the movie companies with trailers, featurettes, and radio spots; and I wrote, produced, engineered, and occasionally did some voice work there.
In 1972 or 1973 that company folded, and I went to work for another company very briefly. Then I founded SoundHound along with my wife. It was basically a one-man operation. The interesting thing was the turn we took at that point. A lot of the corporate production people heard about me and found out there was a guy who could not only mix something, but who could also cast the announcer for them and get the music and the sound effects together. They could pretty much give me an audio-visual module and then walk away, and I could use all my radio production experience to put it together. That's pretty much what SoundHound did for a lot of years.
In the mid-seventies I picked up a radio account that I still have. Most of the "book" spots that you hear on the air now are done by me, and that's a bread and butter account for us. We do about a hundred campaigns a year for those people, and that's the account that I still basically maintain as an engineer in addition to casting for them through our talent bank, Voice Box International. I do some voice talent for them once in a while but, basically, I function as engineer, producer, director, and music librarian for them. In addition to that, I'm running SoundHound, and that's pretty much the dossier.
R.A.P.: That's quite impressive. When did your voice-over career get off the ground?
Jeff: That's a funny story. I had a brief career as a disk jockey and then went into audio production, and I directed many, many announcers over the years. One day, about seven years ago, I was doing a scratch track for a spot. I had painted my house and coughed for three weeks because of the paint job. It turns out that all that coughing scalded my vocal cords a little bit. I played the scratch track back, and I said, "Son of a gun, Berman! You've finally got a little character! You don't sound like white bread anymore! You don't sound like every jock on the air!" That's when I went and got myself an agent, and that's when the voice-over career started to take off a bit. It has always been an adjunct to what I do at SoundHound, though. I can't say I'm one of the major voice-over players at this point, but it's nice to know that I can still play in that arena and be fairly successful at it. I'm mainly known for casting other announcers.
R.A.P.: And this is done through your voice talent bank, Voice Box International. Tell us a little more about this end of your business.
Jeff: Voice Box at this point has about two thousand voices cross referenced on computer -- cross referenced according to voice texture and type, age, sex, versatility and that sort of thing. We also hope to be bridging into Europe soon with a whole bank of talent from some associates that we've developed through something called Digital Audio Network in Germany. They've got a Mac-based casting program that allows you to access voices. You put in the parameters you want, and then the program literally spits out fifteen or twenty examples of that kind of voice right onto whatever medium you want, cassette, CD, or DAT. First it gives you a list of the people who are right for the job, based upon what you've given it. Then you pick and choose your voices, and it spits out slated voices of that type. It's pretty exciting. Right now at SoundHound we're just working from computer lists. We put in the parameters and up comes a list of names that fit, and then we go pull tapes for our clients. But we'll be into that other program pretty soon.
R.A.P.: Two thousand voices sounds like a big number. Would you say you are one of the major players in the voice casting business?
Jeff: I'd say we're a medium-size player at this point. I'd say on a scale from one to ten, we're about a seven.
R.A.P.: You said you started out as a small operation, you and your wife. Was this like so many studios that we hear about -- something that started in a basement or a back bedroom?
Jeff: It started in my apartment on West Seventy-second Street. We took a bedroom closet, blew a hole through it into the living room, put in some double-paned glass, put in two home-made ducts with whisper fans to pump air in and out, set up some equipment in the living room, and started to boogie. That was about 1972-73, then in 1975 I found a small space in Midtown for $175 a month, a three-hundred square foot space with a small reception area. Then it just sort of grew over the years, and now we have a whole floor on Forty-fifth Street in Manhattan, seventy-five hundred square feet, four studios complete with digital-audio workstations and a fifth studio on the way. We have ScreenSound and ProTools and huge music and sound effects libraries. We have all the various video formats from D2 right on down the line along with film equipment.
R.A.P.: How many people on the staff?
Jeff: We have ten, depending on the seasonality and the workload.
R.A.P.: Did you hire pros, or did you train these people?
Jeff: In many cases, we trained the engineers we have on staff, but we're in more and more of a mode now where we're hiring people with existing clients.
R.A.P.: ScreenSound is a workstation more suited for audio-for-video work. Are you doing a lot of video work?
Jeff: Yes. We're doing a lot of audio post production for video. Our client base keeps us busy with advertising agency work, radio spots, and audio finishing and sound design for television commercials. We still do a good deal of corporate work. I'd say about forty percent of our base now is still corporate sound tracks. The rest is taken up with on-air promo work for the various cable companies and the networks with a mix of radio and television.
R.A.P.: What would you say are some of the pitfalls of running a production house in a city the size of New York?
Jeff: Overhead. Overhead is the big word, and I have to say that the consensus is that the days of the big facility are really numbered. I think with the advent of ISDN and the digital technology, the whole thing is becoming very, very global. And I think it is becoming more of a cottage industry. I hear more and more stories every day of ex-Production Directors or on-air talent who are setting up workstations in their homes and hooking up via ISDN or Switched-56 to a chain of stations and doing production work for them. I think it is only a matter of time before that's the way it's going to be. People are just going to be going to those cottage people for work. There will always be a place in the big cities for glitzy studios for the agency people to come to, but I have a funny feeling that sometime in the not too far off future that's going to change, too.
I know of a couple of people who are doing a lot of work out of their house. There's Jay Rose Productions up in Boston. Jay's working out of his house. He's got his workstation in his attic. He worked in the glitziest facilities in Boston, and now he's doing very, very well on his own. And the agency people and the on-air promotion people are thrilled to come to his lovely house and work in that kind of environment. So, I think that perceptions are going to change. It may very well be that the days of the glitzy facilities are totally numbered. That's my conjecture.
R.A.P.: Have you found it quite a battle to keep up with the technology over the years?
Jeff: Oh, sure. Absolutely. Of course, one of the biggest stumbling blocks these days is the choice of digital audio workstations. We went through a number of different choices. We went through the Otari PD-464 which was a 16-track workstation. We had a little problem with support there. Then we went to the ScreenSound because that was really, at least in New York, the box of choice. It was sort of like Kleenex or Xerox -- all the agency people knew the name. But, we're buying some ProTools workstations from DigiDesign because we feel that for an operation our size - I would consider us a medium size plus operation both in terms of the size of our pockets and the physical size of the operation and the staff -- I'd say that's really the better choice in terms of bang for the buck.
The SSL ScreenSound workstation is wonderful. It never crashes, and it's absolutely built like a rock. But for medium size operations, something like the Mac-based ProTools system is really the way to go because, first of all, it cuts your overhead way down. And their architecture has been opened up to other manufacturers. You can sort of build this thing from the ground up, piece by piece, and add pieces as you need them in relatively small dollar increments. That's really the kind of architecture I think should be attractive to the smaller production house, the production department of the radio station, and the medium size operator; although there are some very decent size operations around the country and the city using that particular kind of workstation.
R.A.P.: Are you planning to use the ProTools system together with ScreenSound?
Jeff: Yeah. Some people might question that practice because it means that I can no longer use the networking feature of ScreenSound. The nice thing about ScreenSound is that you can bounce jobs from room to room with ease just by pushing a couple of keys. At this time, however, the workstation is only an 8-track workstation, unless you go to their Scenaria workstation which gives you full random access video along with the audio, but that box is a $325,000 box.
That's where ProTools comes in because they've just come out with something called PostView that gives you random access video for about $5,000 or $6,000. And you get more than eight tracks. At this point you can get up to sixteen tracks on it.
R.A.P.: You mentioned Switched-56 and ISDN. Tell us a bit more about this technology.
Jeff: The Switched-56 system is a high grade phone company copper wire that has mainly been used for high grade data transmission, digital data transmission. The ISDN lines are fiber optics. ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. The ISDN lines which are increasingly being run around the country are cheaper to use per call. Many of your readers may have ISDN lines before the year is out because a lot of the local phone companies have a mandate to get wired before the end of 1994. Really, ISDN is the subject now. ISDN is replacing Switched-56 in many markets. Switched-56 is used by, and has been used by many people, up to this point, mainly for audio that goes out to either 7.5 or 10 kHz frequency response; although there is the Musicam system which will handle audio out to 20 kHz.
R.A.P.: Many of our readers are getting acquainted with DGS, Digital Generation Systems, a company which transfers audio files in a digital format via a regular phone line using a PC and a modem. But the DGS transmissions are not "real time" digital audio transfers. What you're talking about is real time, correct?
Jeff: Yes, it's real time digital, but it is compressed audio using one of the many compression algorithms. There are several types of boxes used to transmit and receive. The most common ones that are all around the country are based on what's called a G.722 algorithm. That's the one that uses the Micro 56 codec which is in a lot of radio and television stations. The CDQ-1000, which is the box I just bought, is a beauty. It talks to the older codecs, that is, the ones that all conform to this G.722 algorithm, and it will also talk to the higher end codecs, including those that use the 20K stereo Musicam transmission mode. It talks to both ends of the spectrum, but only those that use those two algorithms. It will not talk to the 3D2, and it will not talk to the DSM-100. It will talk to the Comrex which is another brand in the G.722 mode. But that only goes out to 7.5K frequency response.
R.A.P.: What would radio stations that have these boxes in a rack somewhere be using them for?
Jeff: They'd mainly be used for news feeds from networks. In some cases they're being used as part of a satellite transmission chain. There are all kinds of uses. People like Charlie Osgood or Paul Harvey or folks like that feed from their homes or their private studios on these boxes. I think that Osgood uses a CDQ-1000. The CBS network, the radio network, is tied together with 1000s and with Micro 56s.
R.A.P.: In radio, there are a lot of production rooms with a "news feed" coming to them somewhere on the console. What you're saying is that these stations may have the technology to not only hook up with the network as they do regularly, but they can hook up live with a studio like yours, too. Is that correct?
Jeff: That's exactly right. That can open many doors. Primarily, it gives them access to major market voices for their on-air promos and IDs or commercials without having to go outside and pay studio rates as they normally do. There's no waiting for the Fed Ex package to arrive a couple of days later. These boxes, for the most part, are full duplex. The CDQ-1000 is full duplex which means it's virtually like sitting in the studio with the other person because it can send and receive audio at the same time. The session can happen with your Program Director or the client right there in the studio, so things get done right the first time.
R.A.P.: How much does a box like that cost?
Jeff: The CDQ-1000 is in the three thousand dollar range. Plus, you need an NT1 which comes from the phone company block. Then you need something called a terminal adapter, and that runs in the neighborhood of a thousand to twelve hundred dollars. Then you get into the codecs. So with a little bit of engineering and so forth, that whole package, including the installation of the lines, would run around five thousand dollars.
R.A.P.: Would this be a top of the line system?
Jeff: No. That's one that goes out to ten thousand cycles. The high end ones are like the full-fledged Musicam systems, or the DSM-100/IMUX and its sister box, the 3D2. The DSM-100/IMUX is sold by Audio Processing Technologies. They have an office in LA. The CDQ-1000 and 2000 and the Micro 56 are sold by Corporate Computer Systems in Holmdel, New Jersey.
R.A.P.: Well, obviously there are a lot of studios around the country with the ability to hook up with one another to send and receive real time audio. Is there a network of sorts, or some way of finding out who has these boxes?
Jeff: Nope. The manufacturer, CCS for example, until recently having been prodded by a couple of people like myself, did not have any information on where their boxes were anywhere in the world. But, over the last few months they've put together a database of about, the last I heard, 360 users, and this is out of probably thousands of users. It's just the tip of the iceberg. So, the sooner we can get a database established that lets us know where all the codecs are and what the configurations are, the sooner the people can really begin talking to each other. I'd love to know where these boxes are. If people have them in their racks, I'd love to know about it and know just what codecs they have.
R.A.P.: This technology must be very helpful for you with your Voice Box talent bank, enabling you to have access to talent all over the country.
Jeff: Yes. And there are also a lot of great voices out there in the hinterlands who may be even better than some people here in New York or some people in Chicago or some people in LA. We would like access to those voices, too. We'd like to know where they are.
R.A.P.: What's in the future? If this network gets into place, and a large number of radio stations can communicate with other stations and with production houses and voice talent banks like yours, what effect do you think that will have on radio?
Jeff: Well, at the grass roots level, I think the first effect it would have would be to make the Production Directors and their departments more valuable to the sales department because they could begin to produce in-house campaigns for major clients of the radio stations using top-notch outside voice talent. This would be sort of a carrot the sales department could dangle to perspective advertisers. For example, you would use an outside voice for an upscale account like a major auto dealer or a bank or a local brokerage house, one that wants something more than a local voice or some heavy duty voice that's been used to death in that marketplace.
R.A.P.: What kinds of talent fees are we talking here?
Jeff: It all depends on the talent and what negotiations are done with their agents in New York. Normally, I would send the casting information to the talent, and then whatever negotiations took place would have to take place through their agents. If they wanted us to handle those negotiations, we would be happy to. Of course there would be a service fee for that. There's also another potential problem, and that is the problem of the unions. And once the cat is out of the bag on this whole thing, the unions are going to be hard pressed to keep control on the work some performers do.
R.A.P.: What other avenues do you see this kind of network opening up in the future?
Jeff: World-wide access becomes a reality, and a very, very strong one. We've done test feeds recently to Tokyo with a lot of success on the 3D2 unit. We recently had another visit with our friends in Studio Besser in Frankfort, and they have become part of a whole group of DSM-100 owners throughout Europe and Germany who can talk to us. Also, the sister box of 3D2 is proliferating throughout Europe, which means we can talk to them, and one only has to use one's imagination to see what concepts could develop from that -- anything you could use overseas information for on a regular basis can be gathered via this network and virtually any one of these boxes as long as you can find someone with a box. The possibilities are just limitless.
The other thing is music production. There are wonderful music houses in Europe. This particular company, Fundamental Music, is based in Frankfort, and they're going to have a box. We have a reel of theirs here in our studio, and it's not unlikely that we might be brokering some of their music to our clients very shortly. This means that jingle packages and instrumentals and so on could be received from overseas in a big hurry, probably at a lower cost than US rates. And many of the composers over there have definitely adapted western sensibilities and do contemporary music in a domestically acceptable fashion. That opens up a whole bunch of possibilities. If one needed a foreign voice from whatever country there's a box in, you just make your contacts and dial them up and there you are.
R.A.P.: And you've eliminated Fed Ex, and you have a real time session.
Jeff: That's right. And, you can lock to picture with at least one of these boxes. The DSM-100 and the 3D2 allow you to lock to picture. You can send time code on them, and very shortly, as I understand it, the 3D2 and possibly the DSM-100 are going to permit you to send working grade video in advance of a session with time code which means you'd be able to lock up to the picture in a remote location. In other words, if I was doing a television spot in New York and I wanted Frankfort to work on the music, I could send the picture along with time code over to Germany on the 3D2 and on the ISDN lines and then lock up to a reference video cassette or whatever just a few minutes later literally locking the picture overseas.
There's a another entire level of this stuff. I don't know how deeply you want to get into it, but there's a thing called T-1 which is another level of telephone lines. It carries multiple channels of information. Video can be fed directly on it. It's what they used at the Skywalker Ranch when Lucas was working on a feature. He wanted to mix in northern California and have his production people in southern California, so they locked everything up over these T-1 lines.
R.A.P.: I'm just trying to imagine what two stations linked together this way would do, particularly sister stations, sharing voices where you're not dealing with talent fees and unions and agents. If you have a ten-station chain, it would be like having all the talent from all the stations all in the same studio, live!
Jeff: Oh, yeah. There's a chain of stations owned by Nationwide Insurance. I got this second-hand, so I'm not quite sure how it goes, but it goes something like this. One of their people who is a production person and a jock left their employ and turned around and came back to upper management and said, "Look, you've got X number of stations in your chain." I think it was six or eight stations. "I'm putting a digital audio workstation in my house. I was one of your top voices, and I'm a great production guy. I want to hook up via ISDN or Switched-56, and I want to do production for all your stations."
Now, that's a very dark note because what it means is a lot of Production Directors may be losing their jobs, but I think that note has to be sounded somewhere in here because that means that one guy sitting in his house can suddenly do production work for the whole chain of stations --for whole chains of stations. So, jobs may be eliminated. That's pretty scary.
It's real interesting to see how this thing has proliferated. I was down in Washington over Thanksgiving. I was at a place called Sound Wave and Jim Block, who runs Sound Wave, told me that he personally knew of fifteen announcers in the Washington, DC area who were putting boxes in their homes within the next few months. That's just in DC, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I went down to Miami about two months ago, and, just as a result of my visit, one 3D2 went into an announcer's house. He had been on Switched-56 and was already feeding fourteen stations and one studio. This is just one talent. So Nick Michaels, the name of the announcer, with his new 3D2, is not only tied into his fourteen TV clients, but now he has the ability to feed all the major recording studios that are on that digital network. Now he can do work for major clients all over the country and effectively all over the world. And a lot of people are doing that. Nick sits in his house. He gets into his booth at twelve noon. He gets up to go to the bathroom a few times and to have a meal, and he's in that booth until eight o'clock at night feeding, feeding, feeding, feeding. He makes a lot of money, and a lot of people are doing that.
R.A.P.: Since the technology is used in radio primarily for news feeds and things of that nature, production personnel might not even know if their station has one of these boxes. I imagine after reading this, several of our readers will be knocking on the engineer's door saying, "Hey, do we have one of these boxes?"
Jeff: That's exactly what they should do. And I would love to hear from these people with the boxes and add them to my database. That would be wonderful. There's a hidden network out there that needs to be exposed so we can all take advantage of this great technology.
R.A.P.: Let's say there's a Production Director who needs a voice for a script. What costs are involved when using your Voice Box talent bank, and what's the process of getting that voice?
Jeff: Let me run down the elements from the time your hypothetical Production Director picks up the phone. I'll try to create a hypothetical scenario. The senior sales guy at the station comes to him and says, "Jack, I've got the Bank of Memphis on the hook for a six month buy. They want a package of spots, and I've told them our production department can do them with a heavy duty New York voice. How much is this going to cost us to do?" Your production guy calls New York and he says, "Hi, Jeff. I've got some copy written. We're going to do a package of six spots. I'd like to find out what it's going to cost me and who we can get for this."
"Okay, Jack. Would you fax me a couple of sample scripts? Let me have a look at the tonality of the script." So, he faxes me the scripts. I look at the scripts and get an idea in my head of the kind of voice he's looking for. I call him back. I say, "Here's the kind of voice I think you're looking for." I throw some names at him, possibly play him a few things over the phone, possibly feed him some stuff right down the network.
The other possibility is that he might say, "I don't want voice samples. I want you to hold a casting session for me." In this case, I have to start picking up the phone. Let's say I've got three or four prototypes of that kind of voice that come off my head. I call up three or four agents and I say, "Here are the prototypical guys. Send me three of your best guys who sound like this. We're running our audition session between, let's say, ten and twelve on Tuesday morning." On the Voice Box International rate card we have a quickie session, like a one hour thing. We have a half day, and we have a full day. And there's an ascending scale of rates for that activity on the part of Voice Box International. That's the casting session.
If we're lucky and we just say, "How about Hal Douglas, Jack?" and Jack knows Hal Douglas' voice and the client loves Douglas' voice, that's cheap. That's quick and easy. After working with people for a while, you sort of develop a shorthand about voices, and everybody has sort of a mental catalog of who's best for what. But that's over time. I have that with a lot of my New York clients.
You also get into, "Do you want to go scale on this, or do you want to go double scale or triple scale?" because that has a bearing on who I can bring in for the casting session or who I can consider as the voice. On the other hand, if the client has specific people in mind, I'll go back to the agent -- if I'm involved that way and the client doesn't want to do a casting session -- and say, "How much for Hal Douglas for a local market radio in Memphis. It's going to be running in three cycles which is three times thirteen weeks. They're going to be rotating the spots. How much can I get Hal for?"
After the voice is chosen and rates negotiated, then we go get into the recording process. The cost here obviously depends on the amount of time that takes. What medium do they want it on? Do they want it on DAT? Do they want it on quarter inch? Usually they have a safety running back in New York even though they're being fed the voice directly. What I'm getting at is that there are a lot of variables when it comes to nailing down a price. It's something that I'd have to go into in depth because if I give you a simple answer, we're both asking for trouble.
R.A.P.: On the other end of the spectrum, let's say there are no talent fees and other costs. Let's say it's a sister station in New York feeding some voice tracks to the sister station in LA. What's the cost of feeding this down the ISDN line?
Jeff: It's pretty much the price of a phone call, depending on the box you have. Some of the more sophisticated boxes use more than one line, so you have to use a multiple of whatever that phone call costs on ISDN. Some of the boxes use as many as four or six lines to achieve the full frequency spectrum. That's the beauty of the Telos Zephyr box. They literally use one ISDN line to get 15K frequency response which is more than adequate for voice, much more. You can feed music very nicely at fifteen thousand cycles.
R.A.P.: You've had quite a full career and find yourself quite successful in your own business in your early fifties. What's down the road for you?
Jeff: Ideally, I'd like to be somewhere on the tip of an island off the coast of Spain with my own little box and my own little digital workstation, feeding to the world and brokering talent and production to the world, and walking out to the beach every two hours. That's what I'd like to do. I'd like to be announcing, and I'd like to be one of the glorious little cottage people who are globally connected.
R.A.P.: Well, it doesn't sound like you're very far away from being able to do that. After all these years, do you still enjoy the work?
Jeff: I do. I have tons of fun. I still love to be in the studio. I love to do announcing work. I love to direct. I love to select music, and I haven't lost the fire in the belly. I love it. I love going in to work every day, and I love working with talent. And I really still enjoy talking to radio people because my roots are in radio. When I get asked to judge radio awards, I really look forward to it. Although, I have to say that, generally speaking, most of these major radio production awards things have been sort of disappointing from a creative level in the last few years. I'm really looking for some of these hot, young Production Directors to come up and go into commercial production and show us old-timers that there are still people with good radio heads out there.