by Dennis Daniel
One of the hardest lessons I've ever had to learn in this business is that creative people are the low men on the totem pole, the scum, the expendable, the nice guys who finish last. Why? Because, more often than not, the people whom we work for haven't got a creative bone in their body! Oh, sure, the suits didn't get where they are by being uncreative financially and otherwise. I'm talking about "giving birth" creativity! The kind that begins with a blank piece of paper, a blank reel of tape, and ends with a joyous, fulfilling, audio creation that really kicks ass! This kind of creativity is beyond them. They don't understand how it's done. They just know how to use and abuse it. That's their "gift." We need the devil so we know there's a god. We need the suits so we know there's a paycheck. This is reality. I don't like it. I don't understand it. I don't accept it!
Okay. Fine, tough guy. If you don't accept it, how do you deal with it?
That's just the trouble. The suits have us locked into a tight corner. Jobs in this field are not easy to come by. It isn't often that I see anyone hired simply by listening to their demo. It's who you know. It's your rep. I'm sure you all have stories about how your foot first got wedged into the door.
Belief in your own abilities is obviously essential to survival in this business. Often, self awareness is the only light we're guided by. Still, it amazes me how solid creative people are treated with such disdain. Mind you, I'm not suggesting that all creative people are kept locked in the dungeon, hung upside down, and given just bread and water until they're needed to write a club spot. But more often than not, radio stations treat their Production Directors as if they were just another cog in the wheel, rather than the wheel itself.
Why? Doesn't simple logic dictate that creative production leads to: A) Happy clients! B) More station revenue! C) More "ear candy" -- yet another reason for people to tune in...those great commercials and promos?
I've puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore on this one, kids. I've been tempted to just throw my hands up in the air and proclaim it to be yet another great mystery of the universe. Just one of those things. That's life! Deal with it, bro. My recent experiences at WDRE were just further proof to me that the lily is gilded! But, just as all great thinkers of our age refuse to give up the pursuit of knowledge, I refuse to merely accept this situation! I want answers, damn it! Listen up all you GMs, PDs and other initials...what the hell is wrong with you? Are your egos so inflamed that you refuse to believe there are other elements besides the music and format that influence the functions of your stations? Are you so blind as to ignore the importance of a quality talent in the production department? Are you so dumb as to think that a one-on-one relationship with your Production Director built on mutual respect for each other's abilities is not a major step towards profits and station listenability?
Look...it would be unrealistic of me to think that all this pontificating is going to change a thing. Perhaps a voice crying in the wilderness isn't loud enough to be heard. Here's what I do know. The information super highway is here! Every day new ways are being developed to take up people's time. Deregulation has created a plethora of radio stations, throbbing and growing like some blood engorged pulsating monster eating its way across this great land of ours. Now, more than ever before in the history of mass media, talent is needed! People with the ability to grab the ears of all those poor fools out there with their heads jammed to bursting with information and choices! People who know how to say in a creative, stimulating way, "Buy this product!" "Listen to this station!" Wake up people in high places! Acknowledge with reverence and good will those around you with even a scintilla of creativity within them! The time has truly come where the creative people are no longer the scum. They're the seed.
To all of you out there fighting the good fight, keep it up! If you're good, it will be recognized. To all those radio station bigwigs that do treat their production people with respect and admiration, thank you, and thank yourselves. And, finally, to those of you who feel the cause is hopeless...trust me, it isn't. As I said before, the opportunities are opening up every day for creative people. Next column, I'll try to lead you towards some of them! Have a Happy New Year!!