RAP: How did you manage to get so many stations so quickly?
Willie: It started off with Greg Strassell, the Program Director and Vice President of Programming for American Radio Systems. He came to me and said that they were going to flip a format in Las Vegas, that he liked what I did here for their Mix format, and could I put together a package for them. This was probably late last spring. They gave me a script and the VO work had already been done by Randy Reeves. I put together probably twenty-five or thirty elements--sweepers, bumpers and promos--and put all of those onto a compact disc and shipped the CD out to them. The next morning, after they got all the elements, they carted them up and flipped formats. Then they came in and requested another package. So I produced another package for them.

Also, I have the fortunate luck of working for American Radio Systems which now owns upwards of a hundred radio stations. We're second to the Westinghouse CBS Infinity deal.

RAP: Are all the stations you're doing work for owned by American Radio Systems?
Willie: No. I'd say sixty to sixty-five percent are American, and the others probably come from American directly or indirectly--a consultant may work for a station out in California which also has another station in Rochester, New York or Fresno, California or whatever the case may be.

RAP: How can someone who produces imaging production for stations afford to cater to smaller market stations and provide the same caliber of work for less money? I mean, the voice talent's job is incredibly easy compared to the producer's task in terms of time spent on the project, so he/she can reduce the rate without much sweat off their back. But the producer still puts in the long hours piecing it all together. Do you offer special rates for smaller markets?
Willie: Everything I do is saved on compact disc. So I have the masters to all of these radio stations on compact disc in the library here. And now, for every piece of production that I do, I'm starting to also save a shell of that production. This is advice I would give to anyone who is looking to expand this sort of thing as well. You know, we sweat and toil over work here. Once it's aired, whether it's for a day or a week, once it has aired and run its course, it's time to basically get rid of it forever. The one thing I'm able to do for my clients, those interested in working with me but who can't afford the higher priced package of all original material, is offer them the opportunity to pick and choose from these pre-produced shells where they can basically insert their own voice-over talent. It's cookie-cutter type production for them, but what they're getting in market two hundred is the same production that they're getting in a top ten market. The shell consists of the sound effects that I produce here, and music, drops, things of that nature, and the choice is from Country to Modern Rock to Mix formats to Top Forty to Classic Rock and just good old fashioned AOR.

RAP: Are you creating these elements yourself?
Willie: Some of them, yes.

RAP: Are you a musician?
Willie: I'm not a musician, but I do have a sampler keyboard, the Roland S10. I'll take just anything from the music library, whether it's an album that was released a week ago or something that was released some time ago, and I'll manipulate the data. I'll put it in there and play with it, pitch change it, flip it. It could be music from an album, but it could also be from some people who are not recording artists. We have a couple of people here who go to Berkeley School for the Arts around the corner. They are creating things in school and then bringing me a DAT. Then I'll take their musical pieces and use them for music beds and things of that nature. One of the luxuries of living in the city is having a school like that just around the corner. Here are college students who are going to school to learn the arts and hopefully some day hear their music on the air. In the meantime, they're hearing the music on the air behind my promo.

RAP: Is this something they get a few bucks for or are they just glad to be on the air?
Willie: On occasion, sure. If we sell the product, they'll pick up something. If I'm using it right here, they're thrilled to death just to be able to have their product on the air and to be able to use the product for resume material.

RAP: With these pre-produced "shells" you offer, how do you handle using pre-produced sounds effects and work-parts from existing production libraries?
Willie: I'm talking to a couple of companies right now as far as getting sound effects and things of that nature. And as I expand, I'll be able to also help these companies out as well. Let's say I'm doing work for another radio station. The first thing I'll ask them is what bumper packages or sound effects packages they are using. More than likely, I'll have the same ones here, so there is no copyright infringement. If I don't have the package, with the ease of Federal Express they will send me their work-part packages.

RAP: Are you still producing commercials on a free-lance basis?
Willie: I've pretty much left the commercial aspect behind. Maybe two percent of my business now is commercial production, which is fortunate because I'm able to focus on the stationality sound. And I only have to please the OM or Program Director of the station and not some entire advertising agency, as well as the advertising agency's clients. And nine times out of ten, when I do something for one of my stations now, I'm not having to redo it because the client didn't like the way this person said this or that, or there was a typo in the script. So the problems you run into with advertising agencies are pretty much nonexistent with radio station type product.

RAP: Would you say you have a particular "style" of production?
Willie: My style of production is whatever my current client needs. It may sound pompous and it may sound silly, but whatever my client needs, he gets. The most important thing is to have a complete understanding of your client's needs. Once you understand the direction the radio station is going, it's quite easy to be able to get in and actually expand on that idea. Most of the Program Directors I work with are in the habit of just writing the product and not even putting specific instructions on how to do it because they're pleased with the way the product is turning out. And that's because I have an understanding of where they are trying to go with the radio station. A lot of these radio stations have listen lines, so it's quite easy for me to dial up to a listen line and listen to the radio station to know what direction they are going and expand on that as well.

I suppose my style runs the gamut. First of all, I find I can produce other people's voice-over work so much easier than I can my own, and I think everyone you talk to is probably going to feel the same way. When you use your own voice, you hear an inflection or something that perhaps you think you should do again. So now you're going back and doing the voice-over work over and over again.

But to get back to your original question, the style can vary. If a drop is necessary for a certain type of format, then drop related it is. I've amassed a library, I dare say, of drops, probably ten to twelve thousand strong and then some. That's a fun way to do production, but it seems as though everyone and his or her brother are doing drop type production right now. If you just turn on your radio in any market, you're going to hear that style of radio, which is a lot of fun, and I do just as much as anyone else does. But I'm looking forward to the next step, the next phase of production.

On the Soundstage

Her VERY FIRST commercial...ever!
Ashley Pierce, Kaden Hawkins

ICYMI...

August 01, 1996 2679
Bill Flowers, Steve Schneider, Urbanwild Productions, North Bridgton, Maine by Jerry Vigil The RAP Interview regularly checks in with people who have left radio stations to start their own production companies. This month, we...