RAP: To what extent do you use interns?
Willie: I use them in production primarily to gather material for me, whether it's running in to one of the FMs to get music for music image promos, or whether it's outfitting them with a microphone and cassette recorder or MiniDisc recorder to go out on the streets and record listener testimonials. Everyone has lots of use for testimonials.
This is another thing I do quite a lot of, and that is build listener testimonial type things that are non-station specific. I get permission to use these people as we recorded them. We give them a compact disc as payment to do the voice-over for us. I've amassed a large library of listener drops, so whether the station is in Oregon or Pennsylvania, it sounds as though the people are right there on the street talking about that radio station. Quite often, when we do a flip of a format, three or four days later we've incorporated listener testimonials in top of the hour IDs long before anyone would have had a chance to get out on the streets to actually take the time to record it. It works out well.
RAP: Maintaining all these drops and recycling them into production for other markets sounds like quite a task.
Willie: The key to this type of organization is organization. As long as you can take the time, and you're detail oriented, there's no reason why you can't either mass produce it or at least have a nice resource at your own facility.
A day doesn't go by that people don't come in here looking for something specific, whether it's listener testimonials or a specific type of music or something I've created within the studio like some unique sound effect. I take existing sound effects and manipulate that data to make new sounds. I might take a simple dentist's drill on a sound effects disc combined with a lion roar. I flip the two of them, roll the pitch up a little bit, and all of a sudden the dentist's drill and the lion's roar played backwards at twice the speed with a little reverb gives me a sound that just is not out there. It's unavailable. And every single Production Director across the country who has access to sound effects or knows how to make a sound effect has access to a library. I always get a kick when I hear people say, "Oh, if I could only get this library and that library." There are some wonderful libraries out there, and yes, I have access to those libraries, but it still comes from within. If you can push the limits of creativity, there's no reason you can't sit down with a handful of sound effects discs, a handful of music discs, and come up with enough product to last for a couple of weeks.
RAP: You must put in some long days--twelve, fourteen hours.
Willie: I put in half days. I always joke about that. "I've got another half day going...," that being half of twenty-four.
RAP: It sounds like you've got your hands full, but you seem to be handling it very well. How do you do it all?
Willie: It's something I've been doing now full-time for this radio station for two years, and now for stations across the country. My next goal is to get international, and the trick there is to just understand the language so that I know what I'm doing. But it's all about the passion from within. I absolutely love what I do. The people I work with are wonderful people. I couldn't do it without Patty Fox next door handling all the commercial accounts. When I was here for the first year and a half, I was doing exactly what she's doing now plus the stationality work for the two radio stations, which is pretty much the situation that I think most of your readers will be in, handling both the commercial aspect as well as the stationality aspect. If I were going to give any advice, it would be just what I've lived through, which is that it's okay to say "No" on occasion as long as you always have an answer for that one Account Executive banging on the door. "I don't have the time right now, but I'd love to sit down with you. Let's make the time."
The first thing I did when I came here was devise a clerical system. The traffic department works with the production department in such a way that everything's catalogued on paper so that the system runs itself. You're not always pulling your hair out. You're not worried about the deadlines so much because the system runs itself. I was there to baby-sit, and I was there to say no, and let's reschedule an appointment, and here's when we can sit down. "Oh, but my client needs it now! My client needs it now!" That's when I'll pull my AE to one side and say to him, "This one particular time, I'll take care of it. But I want you to know that when you come in with just minutes to spare the next time, I'll be unavailable. You may need to also schedule time with me as you do with your client." Once that's understood, it has always worked for a wonderful, wonderful relationship between AEs and anyone in production.
RAP: You seem to have the production/sales relationship under control. That's something that just happens to be a hot topic in this month's "Letters" section.
Willie: You know, it's an ongoing battle that you'll see at every single radio station where it just seems as though sales and creative sometimes have difficulty communicating. And I've always found that funny. Here we are in the communications business, but it's just a matter of--and excuse me for saying this cliche--good time management. If I were going to pass along what I've found to be the best setup, I'd say sales work is best taken care of toward the latter part of the day because that's when everyone's in. That's when deadlines are coming. That's when the next day's work has to be taken care of. And your stationality type project is handled in the morning. The reason I find that to work out well is that when you get away from the station at the end of the day and go home, and whether you flip on the television or go running or work out or whatever you do to unwind, you find that the creativity flows again. You've had a chance to sleep on those creative thoughts, and you wake up thinking about them again. You come in and take care of those first thing in the morning when the creativity is still flowing and the door hasn't been knocked on yet because someone needs to hear a commercial.
So if you're stuck in the situation where you have to do both the stationality and the commercial production, do the creative in the morning when things are still fresh. Then at noon, switch hats and take care of your Account Executives and watch how well your Account Executives take care of you. They don't joke and call me Fatty B for nothing. I've had one or two gift certificates thrown my way for lunch, and it's just like developing any relationship. As long as there is understanding, as long as there is good time management in place and a system that can be followed, I think you'll have a successful and compatible relationship with both departments, programming and sales.