As things go in Radio so much contributes to the overall success of the station, and Production plays a major role.
The part of Production that gets the most attention is the imaging. It is simply creating an audio image of the projected perception you want the station to convey to the listeners.
It is an audio (signature) sound that the listeners will immediately relate to YOUR station exclusively among others in a given market. Back in the day we called it the “Stationality!” A sound that is identifiable regardless of the Day Part or Personality on the air during a shift.
The first step to imaging is to acquire a voice that will stand out from the announcers on the station. Secondly and the most important is the “writing” of the imaging. You must make sure that what is said and delivered connects with the target demo of the station. Example: If you are programming a station targeted to 25-54 you would not use a line like WXYZ Dropping the Phat Jams” but you would say “WXYZ Playing the hits”
That is a more mature way of saying the same thing, and the voice has to be relative to the target. In other words, you would not use a voice that (sounds) like a 20-year-old on an Adult station.
One of the best Imaging Companies out here now days is Mix Talent group out of Miami with Jason Garte and Crew.
Also, the other factor is the style and technique used to produce the imaging like Sound effects, Sound design elements and inserted voices from listeners and other vocal clips all have to be relative to the target audience. So stutters, fast editing on vocal lines and flips should be relegated to the pertinence of the message conveyed in the imaging!
If you listen to an imaging piece on a station and at the end you ask what were they trying to say? Then you missed the mark. Your imaging should ALWAYS sound better than your basic spots to continue to carry the “Stationality”
There are lot of independent imaging Producers out here vying for your business. It seems that everybody with a Laptop, USB mic and decent voice are selling themselves as imaging Pros, but at best they are just trying to pick up a few extra dollars to supplement their income. Also, one of the biggest issues I hear now days is the Producers are trying to (out) Producer the Producer across the street and the Production does not actually sell the Product or service is trying to sell to the listener! We all know that when you get a new plugin or you figure out how to do a production trick, you want to use it on everything you do to impress the “OTHER” producers.
You have to stop trying to impress other producers and make spots or imaging that actually sell the product or service. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE SO STOP IT (lol). One of the best Imaging Companies out here now days is Mix Talent group out of Miami with Jason Garte and Crew. I am one of the featured voice talents with the Mix group and they offer imaging on a Barter basis which means you can get high-quality Imaging without expending CASH.
The Mix group has a stable of Super Voices and even greater Producers who take the time to develop a custom sound for the station at hand. There is no cookie-cutter production with your calls or positioning statement dropped into apre-produced template. They always deliver the goods relative to your projected sound/image.
Now the next part is the commercials produced in-house at the station. (OMG) Really? Production is important because in most cases if you run (10) minutes of spots per hour, your production accounts for 10% of your total sound on air.
I am sure most of us have worked at a station where we are running spots from outside sources, like agencies and local production houses, and the spots may not “speak” or connect with your audience. Like the car dealer spot that has a Country and Western feel with the music and the (announcer being completely left) of what the station offers in sound or format! It is hard to get the sales department to police the spots that are sent in to air, so that means you must keep an even tighter control on the spots you can police.
It should not be obvious that a spot is produced in-house when it airs, as we have all heard great radio stations, and when the stop set starts the production is a rip and read spot or poorly written and delivered.
All too often the sales staff may spend months courting a client to advertise on the station, and as soon as they commit to a schedule, the spot is poorly written and produced rushed to air. If the client does not get the desired ROI they do not repeat the buy.
Once the client has decided to buy a schedule the sales person should then become a marketing consultant to make sure the spot creative actually connects with the intended consumer to spark results in the ad campaign. Not just rush getting the spot on the air the next day as promised.
Some thought must be applied to helping the clients reach their goals through your station. Now days most stations will have a Creative services Director or Production Director that is handling production for several stations within the cluster. They are often over-worked and time management becomes the issue as it relates to how much effort is put into the Production. Stations that utilize the actual on-air announcers often get the “I got it done” type production. With most announcers doing production is like as asking a Gourmet Chef to wash the dishes after the meal.
If the announcer does not take the same pride in doing spots as they do being on an air shift, it is not going to be effective for the client or the sound of the station in the breaks.
Production is very important to URBAN radio because it is a make or break situation as it relates to the Revenue generation and the perception of the Station through it’s imaging with the audience.
In using a SINGLE Production Director for all production on the station you are still relegated to (that) persons skill set and or voice and you can easily run into burning out the sound. Example: you have the same voice and Producer producing competitive spots, same voice doing the Chevy Dealer spots and doing the Ford dealer spots often in the same stop set.
There was a time in Radio where the announcer pulled carts and determined the order in which they ran, like spots with high production and or music would run first in the break and dry voice or outside produced spots ran later in the break to salvage the Tune out factor. Like, station Promo is the first element in the break etc. But research shows that listeners do not distinguish between promos and spots, to them it is still a commercial and they will tune out Physically or Psychologically after the (3rd) element starts. This a fact as it relates to listener behavior. So “it is important” to always put your best efforts first in all things produced.
First rule of thought in production is (it is recorded), so there is no excuse to mess up! Get it right before it goes to air! We all understand making a mistake live on air but there is no excuses on mistakes in prerecorded audio (wtf).
Stations will always seek an outside voice for imaging but will lackadaisically approach spot production for local advertisers or in-house produced spots. Stations will not invest in high-quality Production equipment/software and format relative sfx library or production music beds and elements even at the behest of the Production Directors request!
As radio is faced with disruptive technology we do not have many chances to get it right for the clients because clients have more options on how to reach their consumers where/how they live or use electronic media. Just remember that PRODUCTION is a MAJOR part of what we do to keep folk tuned in and to keep clients coming back so put your best effort forward every time.