by Dennis Daniel
Cliches are often steeped in truth. "If you want something done right, do it yourself." Boy, has that one hit me over the head recently. Let me tell ya a little story.
When I started out on my own with One On One Productions, one of my fondest hopes was to do some imaging, especially for Modern Rock stations. I really enjoyed the four years I imaged WDRE. The format allowed for some wonderful improvisation and "theater of the mind" concepts. Basically, it was anything goes. To be able to walk into a studio with a clean slate was an experience beyond joy for me. Now that I was free of any one station, the sky truly seemed the limit! I could pick up a few really cool station accounts and take out my "hard sell" commercial frustrations on some over the wall imaging. The trick was, how do you get accounts?
Thanks to a record company executive friend of mine who loved my WDRE work, I latched into my first one, The Nerve in Rochester, New York. Eric Anderson, Program Director and Modern Rock madman, is a real pro who is a pleasure to work with. From the get go, he was very excited about our working together. The first few phone conversations we had were so intense, I'm still shaking with excitement from them! Here was the chance to have some fun! A brand new Modern Rock station making its debut in a new market, a station that needed to establish an image immediately--albeit on a limited budget--and this task was to fall on me!
Well...not just me. I had some major help. Help from someone who is one of my dearest friends and extremely talented. This friend, who recently was laid off, was in a perfect position to work with me. Not that he needed my help, mind you, but the chance to work together as we had in the past was something we both looked forward to. And so, we began to image The Nerve.
We are both perfectionists. To do three promos in a state of the art KORG digital recording studio (first time out of the box and dying to impress our new client) took about four hours. They sounded amazing. We called Eric and he agreed. After this long session, I began to realize that it would take a lot of extra energy to get these promos done the way we wanted. It was energy that I wasn't sure I'd always have. The Nerve was, first and foremost, a labor of love. The fact that two of us were working on it certainly ate into what little profits there were, so it wasn't a financial windfall but...from the acorn, etc., etc..
As the months went on, I was finding it more and more difficult to get involved entirely with every aspect of the account. The reason for my cut in total participation was simple business axiom at work. Monies earned were not in direct proportion to other work I was doing and I can only do so much. Because of this, I had to rely more on my friend to carry it through. At the same time, he was busy building an account list of his own, an account list that was providing more money for each job that The Nerve, which had to be shared with me and my two partners.
Things began to slack off. Promos were late. This is not good.
For all the years I've been in this business, the one thing I pride myself on is being a man of my word. If I say you will have it, you will have it. For the first time, I had to almost totally rely on someone else to get a job done that I had made promises on. Each time it didn't happen as I said, it ate away at my insides. Whenever I tried to talk to my friend about trying to be more punctual with the material, it turned into a back and forth discussion about "all the other things we have to do that pay more and are killing us." While these arguments made fiscal sense to us, they made no sense to The Nerve. And why should it? We made a deal. We should either stick by it or bow out. But that was just it...I couldn't bow out! I loved The Nerve as an account! So did my friend. The people were so friendly, complimentary, and...they paid all their bills!
What it boiled down to was this. Due to no fault of anyone, the account was ending up on the back burner. While my friend is amazingly talented, he also has to eat! He was not in the same position I was with a full-time job. I couldn't blame him for not getting the work in on time because he had to work according to his priorities. I would tell him when we had to have the work in and he, for whatever his logical reasoning was, could not deliver it exactly on time.
I decided to take a stand. I called my friend and told him that it would probably be best for both him and the account to let me take over the creative. He could still send me as much work on it as he liked, but without a sense of deadline. This way, I get the best work from him. It also put me in a position to be more creative and exercise that muscle I had let lay dormant on the account because I put most of the weight on his shoulders. He agreed with me one hundred percent and was actually relieved with the loss of deadline responsibility.
In the end, your word is your bond. The deal was made with the burden of delivering the goods placed on my shoulders. The buck had to stop with me. What happened was, I let it slip. I got lazy. I am a man of my word, but "my word" can only be my own. Depending on my friend was not fair to him or me. Although we entered into this thing as a team, it didn't turn out that way over time. (Not his fault...mine.) So, I spoke to Eric and explained my situation. I explained that I was now going to be writing and producing the bulk of the material, with my friend contributing whenever he could. I added that if he felt it wasn't as good, he could bow out any time, no hard feelings. I faxed him a schedule for the next six months that stated clearly when he would receive each new batch of promos, come hell or high water. I then went into the studio and produced five promos and ten out-of-spot drops immediately. I called the next morning, played them, got them approved, and FedEx'd them. I did my job. I was a man of my word. In the end, that's all that matters.
The lesson to be learned by all of this is a simple one. In the world of business, whatever the reasons may be, NO EXCUSES ARE TOLERATED. The minute you start making them, your image in the minds of your clients will change. Guaranteed. So, if you make a promise, keep it. Don't think that "creative" or "personnel" issues will save you. Not in the '90s pal! Yes, we are artists. Yes, creativity is not necessarily a commodity to be bought and sold on deadline. But there are exceptions and radio is one of them. In the words of Hyman Roth from Godfather II, "This (cough) is the business (cough) we have chosen!"