If you’re in the radio business, there’s a very good chance you know the name Dan O’Day. If you know Dan personally, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that he has probably forgotten more about this business than any 10 of us know together. For years and years he’s organized and put on radio seminars for writers, programmers and producers and just about every attendee I’ve spoken to has said the same thing: “I can’t believe how much I learned. I’m headed back to my station now with a whole laundry list of things to do right away to make my station better.” Or…words to that effect.
He had asked me to speak at one of his Production Summits several years ago, which would have been my third or fourth appearance for him, but I was struggling with what to prepare. He needed a title for his advertising effort and I just didn’t have a clue. That’s when he gave me some truly sage advice: “Give ‘em 5 or 10 or however many simple tips they can use right now to improve their station or career.”
I thought for a moment and said, “Ten things every radio producer must know about music.”
He said thanks and hung up. A few days later, I got the email blast and there it was, Ten Things Every Radio Producer Must Know About Music. That August, I was standing in a conference room at the LAX Hilton giving that very presentation.
In that spirit and with a lot of gratitude to Dan, I am writing a series of 4 blogs featuring 5 quick and simple tips that will help a radio producer grow and prosper. These cover more territory than just music, but they are definitely quick and hopefully easy.
Keep It Simple – Think about what your ultimate goal is before you start slicing and dicing a promo or commercial together. Think about what your ultimate goal is while you are slicing and dicing. Once you are done, make sure that all of your slicing and dicing hasn’t shredded your USP. If you have added a “really cool” filter to your VO that doesn’t help your USP, there’s a good chance you have driven off the rails. If your music bed is grossly unsuitable for the subject at hand, you are probably bleeding in a ditch, off the road and off the point. You don’t get to decide what the USP is; it should be self-evident. Your client, a commercial client or your radio station decides what the USP is long before you write, voice or produce it. You become the pizza delivery person at this point. Simply make every effort to deliver the message hot and fresh. DON’T add mushrooms to the mix unless that is what the USP calls for.
Be Your Audience – Most production pundits will say, “Know your audience” but it’s a LOT more than that. You have to know them at a level where you can create a perfect picture of who your audience is. You have to be them to know how to approach them, market to them, and not piss them off. I’ve lectured at length about filling your creative well. Doing THAT will help you BE your audience. Even if you aren’t in your station’s target demographic, especially if you’re not in your station’s target demo, you have to learn to think like one of them. When you’re attending a play or football game, observe people who fit your demo. When you’re shopping at a mall, listen to how they speak. Figure out what gets them excited. When you go out dining with friends or family, pay attention to the people around you who fit your demo. What do they like? What do they NOT like? If you want to speak to them in a way they will understand and relate to, you must know their language.
Know Your Client’s Business – Regardless of what your client is selling, from Aardvarks to Zebras, learn everything you can about them. If your client sells cakes, go to their store and buy or at least shop for one. Find out what it is like to be in their store. Understand the level of service they give. See if they’ll give you a small sample so you know how good their cake is. It’s probably best if you don’t tell them who you are, because you want the “typical” experience to be your guide. About now, you’re saying to yourself, “This guy is a nut! I can’t invest that much time into every client that rolls through the station.” You’d be right too…you can’t. If it’s a type of business you have experienced before, whether with your client or somewhere else, you have a fundamental knowledge to work with and a trip to their particular store might not be needed. If their business is something you know nothing about, you’d better take a break and go.
If Your Client Is Your Radio Station, See Number 3 – If you’re in the radio business, Sales, On-Air, Management or even Engineering, you still need to know your client’s business, BUT from a listener’s point of view. What is it like to listen to your morning show on your way into work? Get in your car and brave the morning rush hour with your radio blasting. Listen carefully to the phone calls and try to get a sense of how the audience feels about your hosts. Set aside a couple of hours at night and listen like a listener would. Perhaps turn it on while you clean the kitchen, then sit down and read a paper. Try to forget that you know the jock on the air and become a part of his or her audience for one night. Trust me, you all think you know what your station sounds like, but I’d be willing to wager a large sum that you don’t know what it sounds like to the listener. The listener’s opinion counts about 100 times more than yours.
Check Your Ego At The Door – This has a lot more to do with your relations in the radio station, but certainly works to your listeners too. Whether you like it or not, not everyone is going to like you. I’m not talking about the clueless idiots who wander through your life taking potshots at things they know nothing about. Some people simply won’t like what you’re offering or don’t agree with what you have to say. Accept their criticism, talk to them politely, and understand that they help you become better! Don’t let your ego blind you from being awesome. When it comes to your production, remember that not every piece you put on the air is going to be an award winner. That’s something to strive to, I guess…but don’t go suicidal over a promo that doesn’t work. Learn from your mistakes and grow.
There you go. Five quick and simple tips that should help you grow as a producer. Like the old adage says, “It’s the journey, not the destination that matters most.” You’ll never know everything there is to know about radio…unless your name happens to be Dan O’Day. (Chances are he might argue that point.) All any of us can do is continue to learn every day, expand our knowledge and then pass it on. I sincerely hope this helps you. If not, I can try again next week.