by Dennis Daniel
The evolution of my job here at WDRE has been nothing less than phenomenal. In a four year period, my responsibilities have done several loop-dee-loops, leaving me somewhat dizzy, yet grateful for the challenges they bring.
First, a bit of history.
I was hired away from WBAB, the top album rocker on Long Island, after a ten year stint as Production Director. During that time, I was lucky enough to win some awards and prestige as well as make a name for myself in the Long Island market for my particular brand of commercials. WDRE, at that time, was a "progressive" radio station, playing a lot of dance and techno-music as well as a lot of punk and new wave artists. I was hired as the Production Director, but the commercial load wasn't that heavy. So, I devoted a great deal of my time to helping out the morning show with comedy bits and crazy drop-ins. This went on for about a year. Then, Denis McNamara, the age old Program Director at the signal for 17 years, left for a job in the music industry. In came Tom Calderone, a younger PD who was ready to make major changes. In time, the morning show was changed, the music changed, even the name of the format changed to "Modern Rock" with many more guitar oriented bands. With the coming of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, The Breeders, and more, we lost our techno/new wave image and became, for all intents and purposes, a rock station playing current artists. Tom started getting me involved with producing more aggressive and creative drop-ins and promos. Then, we became a network! We started broadcasting in Philly. Now my department was doing promos, drops, and commercials for TWO stations! Soon, we were broadcasting on Eastern Long Island as well...THREE STATIONS! Plus we had to learn about a whole new computer system for the spots. We had to send work down a T-1 line to the Philly station during commercial breaks (which is a real pain in the ass!), and we had to learn digital production on the new KORG SoundLink. That's a lot of new stuff! And we still had to maintain the same level of speed and quality. No easy task! I started producing a lot of my promos at an outside studio we worked out a trade deal with. So now, I'm not only the Production Director for three stations, I'm also the Network Production Director for all programming oriented production. And I'm doing all this with the same three person department I had when I was just one radio station! Phew! I'm here to tell ya, the pressure is immense! But hey, that's cool. I thrive on pressure. I'm more creative when the pressure's on. Pressure is great for flexing the old creative muscle...ha ha ha haaa...ha...HELP ME, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE! I'M GOING INSANE!
Anyway, I wanted to update you so you could try to understand what I'm going through. You see, when I was just a Production Director, I was an island unto myself. The only two people I had to make happy with my work were the client and myself. I didn't have any other departments getting too involved in my everyday existence. Oh sure, occasionally a PD or GM might make a comment about a certain spot or ask me to put together something relevant to what the station was up to at the time, but nobody had to approve anything I did. I just did it. It's a situation I was always aware and grateful of.
Oh, how times have changed.
From what I understand, many major market radio stations have two kinds of production guys (or gals), one for promotion and programming, the other for commercials. K-ROCK in LA has just such an arrangement. John Frost does all the programming oriented stuff and, in my opinion, is a genius at it! This man does amazing work. Lucky for him, it's all he does, and he only does it for one station. I, on the other hand, have to do it for three as well as still run the commercial end. I try to be as creative as possible (and I'm pretty proud of what I do), but I sometimes feel the pressure big time. It also adds pressure when your PD has to approve everything you do. Mind you, Tom is wonderful and never gives me a problem, but that doesn't mean I don't sweat it out every time I produce something. After all, this is the image of the station we're talking about. I consider it an honor and an important responsibility.
I'm still trying to get used to the idea of having all my stuff approved. I don't mean to sound like a prima donna or anything, it's just that I feel edgy about it. And if you think changes with clients and copy can drive you nuts, try producing promos and drop-ins with very strict time considerations as well as changes galore from day to day! And for the sake of variety, two, sometimes three different versions of the same promo have to be produced!
Look, so far, so good. My PD is happy with my work. In fact, he's always trying to inspire me and give me ideas about how to improve my work and become more...well "hip" to what our audience wants.
Let's talk about the workload for a moment. I know that many of you work dozens of extra hours for no overtime doing hundreds of commercials. I know that you sometimes want to kill AEs who give you last minute work or don't take your workload into consideration out of either selfishness, stupidity, or pressure from the GM to make quota. I know that some of you reading this don't want to hear a lot of belly-aching about tons of work and responsibility because you have you own problems. WELL, TOO BAD! I'm living in hell here, okay, and I need to vent! Besides, when suffering is mutual, it doesn't make you feel so alone.
Actually, I'm just kidding gang. It's just that the pressure has been so immense of late that I find it hard to think or write about anything else. But, believe me, no matter how hard it gets, I won't let the jerks break me...you hear!!! I will continue to create at all costs! In no other way do I feel more alive and real than when a creative challenge is placed before me. When the chips get down, I just thank my lucky stars that I'm doing what I love to do. I take it all one day at a time.