A passion for what you do is critical to achieving excellence consistently. It is the difference between one who is all “In” and another who is just “Clockin’ In.”
If audio production is not your “passion” and you’re charged with that responsibility at your radio station, it can be an overwhelmingly heavy weight. In small market radio and many medium market stations, you may wear multiple hats. Someone must be in charge of production. Tag, you’re it!
Okay, so audio production is not your passion. Perhaps you are proficient with the administrative side of this vital area of operations, but you lack some of the skills to really do masterful audio work. A few pointers of how to approach this creative and subjective craft could help develop the “must do” part of your work into a real “passion” for it.
Isaiah “Izzy” Knight, Afternoon Host and Media Director at Spirit FM in Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia, has some tips that just may be what the doctor ordered.
Knight says, “Creating efficiencies and working smarter will provide you time to create a more effective and compelling product.” Here’s what he recommends:
“Audition CC and CS6 have a feature called ‘Templates.’ It is an easy way to have your toolbox of SFX and Beds automatically loaded with your rack presets ready to go. Just set up your session and export it as a template. If you have an older version, just set up a blank session and save it to your desktop. Just remember to hit ‘Save As.’
Set up a rack for each voice-over person you have. Unless they’re voicing a spot in another studio, you should never have to tweak their audio again after it is set (unless you’re going for a new effect, of course).
Have a voice tracker or other outside dry voice audio? Batch process their files using your settings to give them a bit more punch and match your station.
There are several ways to approach this workflow. It needs to be simple, provide accountability and include enforceable deadlines for each person in the process. Knight prefers paperless. If budget is an issue for you, going digital can be done FREE by using Google Docs. Create a form with the fields you need and it will automatically populate the spreadsheet. This operation is working very well at Spirit FM. If you have a budget for third party vendor software, Vcreative is a good tool at www.vcreativeinc.com.
Make these deadlines, presets and templates standard operating procedure. Standardizing your work flow will save you time in the long run and the continuity will make your station(s) sound significantly better.”
You never know…what is a “just get it done” drudgery to you now, may grow into a passion you never dreamed of, bringing all your hidden creative talents into full bloom. And that’s excellence!
Among the most satisfying functions of a radio station is audio production.
At the same time, this is one of the most frustrating jobs, particularly with commercials. You can crank that frustration level up a few more notches when producing underwriting announcements for a non-commercial station. The FCC guidelines are enough to cause bouts of heartburn with the “do’s and don’ts” that have a myriad of interpretations, depending on which FCC legal counsel or “so-called” station expert on the matter you’re speaking to.
The up-front work before a spot goes to production is critical to achieving excellence in the final product, before it goes to air. This begins in the sales department. Non-commercial stations sales people are typically referred to as underwriting representatives. How about we call them Sponsor Care Specialists? I like that. Anyway, the SCS has the power to make the difference between mediocre client service and care that speaks “excellence”.
This begins with how the SCS presents what we can and cannot say in their script. As a non-commercial, educationally licensed station, we provide acknowledgments or a“Thank You’” for the sponsor’s tax-deductible donation. Semantics play a key role in helping the donor understand the differences between commercials and underwriting spots. Though we will not address the FCC Underwriting Guidelines here, simply stated, we can provide acknowledgements similar to those heard on Public Broadcasting stations. It is incumbent on the SCS to know what these limitations are and how to navigate sponsor questions to arrive at a script that is agreed on by all parties.
With the Underwriting Agreement in hand and the Production/Insertion Order with approved script ready to go, these documents, including any special instructions, go to the Traffic Department for processing.
Phew!! That sounds like quite an ordeal! This phase of the production process is critical to excellence. Having a solid and sustainable means of communication between the Underwriting Department, Traffic and Production is paramount in the second phase. Having a work-flow that covers the necessary details for each Agreement and Order saves time and frustration.
Once Traffic enters all Agreement and Order information into the station traffic system, Spirit FM takes advantage of Google Spreadsheet to communicate the Production Order details, i.e., Business Partner, Start Date, End Date, Cart Number, Voice Talent/AGY, Date Sent to Talent, Date Completed, Underwriting Rep.
Now Production is ready to take it from here. The SCS tells the sponsor/client that it takes five (5) business days, typically, to process their order and have it ready for air. This keeps us in control of the procedure and minimizes rush jobs that threaten our ability to achieve excellence consistently. It is recommended that the Sponsor Care Specialist (SCS) not provide the mp3 file of the produced spot until the end of business the day prior to air. Remember, the script has already had prior client approval. This avoids giving the sponsor the time to have co-workers, friends, family and dog from giving their opinions that often lead to changes. Talk about a source of anxiety and frustration, for the Production Department especially! I worked at an AM/FM commercial property several years ago with six (6) sales people. Imagine the bottleneck if each of them had changes to scripts and spots that could have been avoided with prior, proper planning.
Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, so there will be occasions when last minute changes and rush orders take place, but these should be the exception and not the rule.
Though the relationship between sales, programming and production has been challenging since the dawn of radio, following protocols such as these are some of the First Steps to Excellent Production. And, a much happier Team!
General Manager, Spirit FM