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Posts Tagged ‘production’

INSIDE RADIO STUFF #100

RS 100 coverI just recorded and edited the 100th episode of the Radio Stuff podcast. It features an extensive interview with Cumulus and Westwood One personality Jonathon Brandmeier. It also marks the milestone by sharing memories with original co-host Deb Slater and listening back to a few favorite moments. I realized of all 100 episodes this one is among the most challenging. Primarily due to production. This experience reinforced the importance of caring about the details and asking for help when you need it. Here’s how it all came together.

LANDING BRANDMEIER
I had been talking to Brandmeier and his team about doing the podcast even before the new show was announced on WLS and Westwood One. We have mutual friends and had some business dealings in the past year so it wasn’t really ever about IF he’d do it, but WHEN the timing would be right. They wanted to wait until about a month into the new show. Last week I suggested the 100th episode and Johnny made it work.

Our call was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PDT immediately following his syndicated show. I asked for 30 minutes, we talked for an hour. I started rolling tape and talking to the Radio Stuff listeners while waiting for the phone to ring. I don’t have a phone coupler, so I plug the phone directly into the board, place the phone on the desk. I record my part into a microphone and the phone mic sends my voice to the guest. In this case, I was talking for about 8 minutes before he called. Rolling before the interview is an NPR trick to capture everything. I blogged about it with Anna Sale a couple of months ago. My monologue and our opening exchange become a teaser clip I released 24 hours in advance of the podcast. His opening line to me after I answer the phone is the first thing you hear on the podcast.

 

THE CLIPS and DROPS
Brandmeier uses a lot of audio during his show and our interview was no different. However, the phone distorted the audio he was sending down the line. So, I had Brandmeier send all the clips after the interview to insert in post. The clips, for the most part, are longer than what he sent down the line, so I had to find the parts he used, edit, insert them and silence the phone version. For example, I used about 20 seconds of the audio from this video in the show.

THE LEVELS
After recording, even though I thought the levels were perfect, my voice entirely dominated Brandmeier’s, so I went through the entire interview and adjusted all my parts to blend more seamlessly with Johnny and then raised the gain on the whole file.

DEB SLATER
Deb recorded her voice on her end and I recorded my voice on my end. She then sent her file to edit in a higher quality audio. I recorded her right after Brandmeier and forgot to unplug the phone from the board. So, that means I recorded her too. I tried to silence the phone quality version of Deb, but I couldn’t get it all. You’ll hear it switch back and forth especially when she’s laughing or talking over me. My mistake. Won’t do it again.

During our chat she mentioned several moments from early Radio Stuff shows that I found after our call and inserted in post production.

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 1

After receiving that tweet from John Collins about the return of the fake town crier after the second Royal baby was born, I put an all call out for audio of the town crier.

It worked! I received this email a few days later;

Dear Larry,

You asked on Saturday for a clip of the town crier announcing Kate’s baby.
Here’s how 680 News in Toronto reported it.

https://soundcloud.com/bandanachap/royal-birth-town-cryer

Downloadable WAV (but from internet feed), 12MB, 1:10.

There’s a lesson in how radio has no borders any more.

Journalists in London capture the sound, and beam it around the world.

An all-news radio station in Toronto edits the announcement into their piece, broadcasts it to their listeners in Toronto, and right around the world on the internet.

A listener travelling on a train in Britain hears the piece, thinks “that might be interesting”, hits rewind on his mobile app, records it for posterity, and makes it available.

Congratulations on Radio Stuff 100, and here’s to many many more.

All best,
Weaver

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 2
After realizing the town crier was going to be a topic of discussion, I again asked twitter followers for help.

Geoff McQueen saw it and tagged DJ Dapper Dan and within an hour it was done. DJ Dapper Dan also had some thoughts on the fake town crier.

“That chap Appleton did not have the permission to cry from the Royal Family, they just said they didn’t object and that he should consult the relevant local authority which he failed to do as far as we know over here. Anyway he is not a bona fide Town Crier as you have to be appointed by a Lord of The Manor, A Local Authority or Similar level of accepted Government Body. He is not, never has been and is not likely to be. But fair play to him, he got a lot of publicity!”

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 3
I also reached out directly to Radio Today host Trevor Dann to see if he would offer a toast for the 100th episode. Trevor has been a supporter and reoccurring guest over the course of two years and I was happy he agreed to record a little something for the show.

CONCLUSION
I sometimes wonder why I go through all the hoops I do to create a show each week, but it is because I want it to be great. I don’t always hit out of the park, but when all is said and done I’m usually extremely satisfied with the product and proud to put my name on it. Johnny said it in the interview and I believe it to; you have to do the show for yourself first and not worry about who is listening.

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When Copyrights Trump Commercial Creativity (Spoiler: Always)

copyrightI was listening to radio this morning and heard a spot for a local restaurant trying to be relatable by exemplifying how hard it is for working adults to find time to eat breakfast. They preached the importance of the first meal of the day. And wouldn’t you know it? They have a quick, easy, affordable breakfast sandwich you can pick-up on your way to the office to help solve your problem. Not a bad spot overall, but at one point the announcer says, “before you know it Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho it’s off to work you go!” and then fairly quietly layered underneath was the unmistakable original recording of the seven dwarfs singing the song.

That’s a problem.

  • It’s not an original work created by the advertiser.
  • It doesn’t qualify under “fair use” exceptions.
  • The song isn’t in public domain. The only songs that are public domain in the USA are songs and musical recordings published in 1922 or earlier. This song was released in 1937. (Check out the website here with examples of public domain works http://www.pdinfo.com/)

So, that means either Disney licensed copyright permissions to a local breakfast joint in central coast California or the restaurant and radio station stole it. It probably wasn’t intentionally and in fact, it was a solid creative choice, but the law doesn’t factor in intent, creativity or ignorance.

What should they have done? Here’s some advice from business law firm Brooks/Pierce:

“To secure a license for a musical work, you will need to contact the publisher directly. You can obtain publisher contact information using the repertory databases maintained by ASACP (www.ascap.com), BMI (www.bmi.com), SESAC (www.sesac.com), and/or the Music Publishers’ Association (www.mpa.org). If a sound recording license is also needed (e.g., for dubbing an original recording), you will also need to contact the record company directly. Record company contact information can sometimes be obtained by the music publisher and is often also available on the copy of the recording (e.g., the CD liner notes). Publisher and record company contact information may also be located on the U.S. Copyright Office’s website (www.copyright.gov).”

That’s a lot of time, work and likely money for a :07 sample of a song in a :30 radio ad that you’re charging 50-bucks a spin for on your radio station.

Here’s the kicker. Even if the radio station didn’t produce the spot they can be held liable for copyright infringement. (Production Directors and Traffic Directors listen up!) Penalties can range from $150,000 to $250,000 per infringement and up to 10 years in prison. And in this case, Disney doesn’t shy away from going after little guys, because once you knowingly allow one entity to infringe a precedent is set. Typically a cease & desist will be the first action taken, but I wouldn’t press your luck.

Be careful out there.

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Six Pointers for Writing Radio Promos and Imaging

Image

Sometimes, I sit in my chair with a full cup of coffee, a cleared desk and a blank Word .doc page staring back at me waiting for station imaging to flow out of me like dirty water from a fire hose.

I sit.

I stare.

I check email.

I refresh Twitter. Just in case.

I end up writing something predictable, pedestrian, and yet somehow entirely acceptable and often times complimented by the radio station. We’ve all done this no?

Writing great production and imaging is hard. First off, “great” is debatable. Does great mean reflective of the brand promise? Does great mean encouraging listeners to take action? Does great mean you were able to fit 43 seconds of sales copy into a 30 second promo? Great is debatable.

Aside from that, it’s also hard because radio folk have come to expect a certain sound and style and anything too far off the ranch is quickly stamped out. (Raise your hand if you or your station is still using Star Wars laser sound effects.)

And it’s hard to capture a moment, an emotion, tell a story that resonates with the listener while selling them something (music, a benchmark, a contest, the news) that they didn’t know they wanted. Over the years my style has changed and evolved, as I assume yours has. Here are six of the most recent pointers I’ve picked up from various sources. Please share yours too..

SIX POINTERS FOR WRITING PROMOS and IMAGING

TIMING:  :60s are dead. :30s are tired. :05s to :20s are where it’s at. The caveat! If you’re doing a :30 or :60 chunk it up in sections so you’re delivering one message or thought every :10 or :15 seconds. So, instead of one :60, think of it as four :15s.

TELL A STORY: People won’t buy what you’re selling until they can see themselves benefiting from it. Create a world for them to imagine.

NEVER SAY “IMAGINE THIS”: While creating that world leave our phrases like “imagine this” and “picture yourself.” Just take them there. Create the world you want them to play in.

Golden CirclePEOPLE DON’T BUY WHAT YOU DO, THEY BUY WHY YOU DO IT: This is from a popular Ted Talk from Simon Sinek. The idea here is don’t sell me 10 songs in a row, sell me the experience of zoning out to some killer tunes for the next half hour while the guy in the cubicle next to me refreshes his email every 30 seconds. I don’t care how many songs in a row you play, I want an uninterupted listening experience to bliss out to because it relaxes me, makes more productive, and makes me happy.

SWEET NOTHING: Being an audio medium, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do in production is nothing. Include silence in your promo. Stop everything for one beat longer than is comfortable.

TREAT WORDS LIKE WEEDS – CUT ‘EM DOWN: I like to write my script out completely and then chop it in half. And then chop it in half again. I look for extraneous words and phrases. Every word counts. Every word reflects the brand. It’s the difference between a “chauffeured limousine” or “a limo to haul you around” or “transportation included” or *delete* you can read about that part on the website.

Look Who’s Talking: Jim Cutler

Jim Cutler Photo

Jim Cutler specializes in News-Talk-Sports voice-overs. He's heard on Nickelodeon, Judge Mathis, CNN, ESPN, Sunday Night Football on NBC, E!, TMZ, Nat Geo, Spike, E:60, Speed, Weather Channel, etc.

GIFF: How would you describe the state of radio production / imaging among news/talk/sports stations in America?  

JIM: It’s actually pretty good and getting better. Yes, people are working with less and some had even cut out their production person completely, choosing to save money with a national or group service for creative on barter. There was a time when I was reading only tags for stations that all ran the same national promo all over the country. Different tag for each station but the same promo for every market. But IRONICALLY when the bottom fell out of the economy and stations had even fewer resources to work with that radio did some soul-searching and figured out that being cookie cutter is what was KILLING us. Many realized that local creative was the last thing they should have cut. The less local you are, the more you’re handing your lunch right to the other national medias. But this has turned around. The group production services are killer great, and I voice for many of them to use as promo examples. But they are supposed to SUPPLEMENT and boost what you do, NOT REPLACE all your local flavor and local texture, issues, problems, joys…local relevancy, just to save money.  

You only have a certain number of promo avails each day to tell your story. If you just plug-in the same national “Glenn Beck rocks/Obama is bad” promos with your local tag every single day, there is nothing there that makes your city’s station special. People can hear the same promo in 100 different cities, along with the same music and shows. But instead if you take a clip of Beck and use it in something that promotes your town, your situation, your local politicians, your local personalities, your local political slant, your events and community vibe oh and by the way catch more of Glenn at 9am…then you’re taking Glenn and making him local. It’s strong, and that’s what I’m seeing more and more of.

If you’re not local you are going to go away. TV stations now know this. It’s why affiliate TV stations are putting on more local newscasts all day. What once was just 11pm local news, 6pm and a morning news hour is becoming news starting at 4:30am till 10 (not 9am anymore), news at Noon, again at 5p, 5:30, 6 and 11pm. Logically, your viewers can already get news anytime from FOX TV or CNN so why would anyone watch the local channel for more newscasts? Because in a time when listening and viewing is so completely fragmented among all the media screaming for your time, playing the LOCAL card actually is working. And you can make more money with it. I’m seeing a ton of really good scripts these days. it’s like the beginning of the return to creative thinking again. I’m VERY, very optimistic about radio.  

Of the hundred things I could talk about, let me give one solid tip you can use: In a PPM world, you have to make everything shorter. Promos should be 15 seconds instead of 30. I was just a part of an expensive focus group test in New York where we watched 100 real listeners each holding radio hand controls turn the station when they were bored. Anything longer than 15 seconds and they are gone no matter how brilliant you thought the creative was. and YES you can get it all in 15 seconds. When we moved from 60‘s to 30‘s people asked the same question, “How can you get it all into a 30?” You think about what you want to say, you keep your clips short and tidy, you write clear and distinct sentences and  you have a 15. In TV I read the daily news topical promos and they are only 10 seconds long. TV would love to have the luxury of being able to move up to 15’s.

GIFF: You talked about moving to the :15 promo, what are some keys to writing an effective promo in those time constraints?

JIM: It’s what TV does every time so it’s quite easy. Put in the important impact-full stuff and you must leave out the stuff that doesn’t matter. Once you get used to it you then think going back to 30’s feels wasteful. It’s the elevator speech, you have 15 seconds to impress and that isn’t hard. Leave out the stuff that isn’t important. And if there’s a ton of clients that have to be in you have to leave their slogans out of it. If a lot of clients are in the spot do several 15’s and just rotate 3 clients in each. Here’s an example of re-writing a 30 down to 15 seconds:

First the 30:

“WZZZ presents Lunch with a Legend. This month’s Legend is New York Giant‘s Quarterback Eli Manning. Thursday October 4th at Mortons the Steakhouse at 722 West 43rd street in Times Square. Come and meet giants QB Eli Manning. Reserve your spot now by calling Bonnie at 212-555-1212 , that’s 212-555-1212. Lunch With a Legend is presented by Capitol 5 Financial Management. WZZZ’s lunch with a Legend at Mortons the Steakhouse in times Square, Tickets are going fast. Join us for Lunch with a Legend by calling Bonnie at 212-555-1212.”

 Here’s the 15:

 “Are the Giants for real? Hear it from the QB himself, Eli Manning at WZZZ’s Lunch with a Legend. October 4th at Mortons in Time Sq. Presented by Capitol 5 Financial Management. Join Eli Manning and WZZZ for Lunch at Mortons, call for reservations: 212-555-1212”

Boom, your done.

GIFF: What advice would you give to account execs working with clients who want to shove 20 seconds of copy into a :10 sports update sponsorship? 

JIM: Ask them for help. You’re not blowing the order. You want to fulfill the order and make client happy, YOU JUST NEED THEIR HELP because there is something wrong. Tell the agency it doesn’t fit, send them the voice track to illustrate it and tell them you’re standing by. That puts the onus on them and after hearing the voice track there isn’t much they can deny about it. They will cut the copy. It’s when you don’t send the voice track that they live in fantasy land about “Well I can read it at my desk and it all fits”. Sending the voiced example and saying “This ten is coming out to 13 reading at warp speed as you can hear, please let us know what to do” does the trick.

I deal with this almost every day but more on the network or big agency level where people have already approved the way too long copy and legal has locked it in. It’s still way too long but it can’t be changed. I read it at warp speed and send it to them unproduced so they see the problem. 

How about a station promo that’s too long to be a 15 because of all the client mentions? Make several versions of the same promo that rotates the different sponsors in it. 

When you write this stuff from scratch, know that you only have 15 seconds to tell the story. That immediately should tell you to get to the point fast. Boom. Boom. Boom.

GIFF: As an amateur photographer and a v/o artist you’ve had the experience of telling stories with just the eyes and with just the voice – what have you learn from each to make you a better story-teller? 

JIM: GREAT question! Photography teaches a good a lesson about PPM. If you just take snapshots you won’t know the following: A Professional Photographer’s job is to think about what to capture so that you communicate what you want to say, but more importantly the job is to CUT OUT ANYTHING THAT IS DISTRACTING. If I’m making a Larry portrait outside Staples Center I might blur the background so the viewer sees that the focus is you. If there is a distracting sign over your shoulder or some people standing near you I’ll recompose so none of those distractions are in there. Just Larry in the clear well lit, with a creamy out of focus background (called bokeh) where the Staples Center is recognizable behind you but only as atmosphere. Most people don’t know that photography is the art of elimination so your story is clearly told without distractions. In a radio PPM world you need to be much shorter, much more to the point. Say it straight and make it interesting. Leave out the flowery language and the generic. People are going to tune away the first time you give them the opportunity: the ridiculously long intros, the generic writing that says nothing, the music bed that plays out of spots for 20 seconds before your host begins talking. So apply the same photography rule to what you do in radio, tell a great story and eliminate the distractions and the reasons to tune away.

GIFF: What does it feel like to be spoofed by Saturday Night Live? (see the video here)

JIM: Surreal. My coffee came out my nose. It was very funny and the Collinsworth imitation rocked. I think the guy who did me had me down pretty well. 🙂 The guys at Sunday Night Football loved it.

Jim Cutler is everywhere