PLANNING (and Plotting) YOUR
by Marshall Such
Isn't it funny how some things can become an ongoing joke? When
I was Production Director at what-is-now WNAP, Indianapolis, I
was required to submit a yearly budget that was to include things
like supplies, music and new equipment. So each year, I would
dutifully present a masterpiece of numerical magic to the Chief
Engineer, who would glance at the totals, ask me where I was buying
my tape/carts, how was the wife - usual small talk stuff. Then,
as his eyes would trail down to the New Equipment section, I would
see his lips twitch, his cheeks puff out, and hear that oh-so-familiar
cough (meant to stifle the coming onslaught of guffaws), before
the full belly laugh erupted from his gut.
I was of course inquisitive, and queried Mr. Chief Engineer what
had caught his fancy.
As he wiped his eyes and started to cycle down his laughter,
he pointed a stubby finger at my New Equipment request...which
included a $30,000 Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). And he summed
it up in two words: Good luck! (This also brought on a new round
So every year thereafter, he'd ask me if I had included the DAW
in my budget, then chuckle all the way down the hall.
What I wasn't really aware of at the time was this: Mr. Chief
Engineer had his own agenda with his own New Equipment wish list.
And while a digital audio workstation would fall in the realm
of the engineer's budget, you gotta believe that he was politicking
for a new processor, additional personnel, and God knows what
I soon realized that a DAW was not in my future.
But There Is Hope
Since I'm now working the other side of the glass (to borrow a
broadcast cliché ) as a vendor to production (and programming
and sales) people, I can offer some insight on how to get money
from corporate to make your studio more efficient and the on-air
sound more professional.
But before planning your budget, take a careful look at the dynamics
of the station(s) where you work. Does the GM make the final sign
of the cross over the budget? Is his background in sales or programming?
Is there an Ops Manager who would be the final guy in the decision
chain? Does your company have a VP of Programming or VP of Engineering?
What about the PD? Is he a player or just a rubber stamper to
corporate? How much power does the GSM wield?
Even though these are a lot of questions to answer, it's important
to know who and how you're going to sell your budget.
The First Step
Good production people are becoming harder and harder
to find. (Notice I underlined "good" - there is still
the prevailing idiocy that you can hire a jock with a decent voice
and wave the wand to magically transform this human into Production
Person.) And you, as a great production person, are valued by
Unfortunately, the perception of those around you may be "creative
genius or our crazy production guru." This probably comes
from the fact that you spend hours in one room twiddling all those
knobs, and that you can actually make all the stuff work.
You may take this talent for granted, but believe me, to the majority
of the people at your station, you're some kind of magician. (This
awe may often extend to the on- air staff as well. Again, my argument
against jock-turned-production person.)
To sell your budget, you're going to have to change the perception
of the production department. In other words: Think like a salesperson
and behave like one as well. We're not talking about wearing a
Herb Tarlick suit and putting on a phony smile. We're talking
about learning some basics in influencing people.
Open any sales manual and the first thing you'll learn is that
you have to sell benefits. And you have to demonstrate
how these benefits will affect the person you're selling.
Let's use a fairly common request that still comes up
frequently in medium and small market production rooms: a DAT
Since there are so many parameters to deal with due to the new
mega groups, duopolies, LMAs, etc., let's assume that
1) You have at least one other station that shares your room from
time to time;
2) You produce both commercials and imaging for one or both stations;
3) Your current budget covers only the basics-Supplies and perhaps
So the people who will be affected by the purchase ofthe station's
first DAT machine will be: your PD, the GSM and the Sales Manager
of your station, the PD from the sister station (if your PD doesn't
program both stations), an Ops Manager(?), the Chief Engineer,
General Manager (after all, he writes the check or grants the
If you're on good terms with your Program Director (and by golly
you better be if you want to keep your sanity and your job), he/she
will probably be in your corner just out of guilt. One down.
Now, to the sales department. What benefit will a DAT machine
in your production room have on the GSM's bottom line? And what
about your station's Sales Manager? The answer is twof-old:
I) A DAT will save the station money in the long run by eliminating
costly reel-to-reel tape which you've been using for archiving
spots. Think about it; a 120 minute (2 hour) DAT costs around
$10.00. To record two hours on reel will require two 10.5 reels
running at 15 ips. Cost: around $40.00. So, for every two hours
of material you are archiving, you'll be saving $30.00! Prerecording
a 24-hour Christmas show (for example) to DAT would save the company
$360.00 over using reel-to- reel tape. And it's digital!
2) A DAT will save time in retrieving archived spots. Do you
know how long it takes to fast forward (or rewind) through a 10.5
reel of tape? What, maybe four minutes? And if you don't leader
between cuts, how long after you get to the approximate area on
the tape before you finally find the cut you're looking for? With
a Digital Audio Tape recorder, you can fast forward or rewind
a 90-minute tape in about forty seconds! And to find the cut,
simply punch in the track number like you would on a CD and voila!
You are cued up and ready to dub that spot over to the cassette
for the Sales Manager's meeting. Two down, two to go.
Next, the Chief Engineer. (Let's assume the Ops Manager isn't
loop.) Here's how I would play it: Get the spec sheet of the model
of DAT machine you're looking at and memo the CE with the sheet
attached. Ask him what he thinks about the specs and if he knows
of any other comparable units in the same price range. He'll be
down to your room with an armful of literature and an excited
tone in his voice as he tells you all about the new Teac with
the cool shuttle wheel that has the pre-roll RAM so you always
get a tight cue.... (He will think that you've got budget approval.)
Three down, on to the Big Guy.
The GM might be your easiest sell since you've convinced those
around him whom he trusts. Your pitch to him needs to be professional
yet casual. Maybe you start with a quick chat in the hall, Hey,
Mr. GM! Have you taked with Steve the Sales Mgr. about the DAT
machine? Man! I ran some numbers on what we'd save in tape costs!
Geez! Over a couple years we'd have paid for the DAT machine
and saved about $700 bucks in tape costs. When you're talking
about saving money, you'll get the GM's attention.
And this casual little conversation will probably lead to the
most obvious question from him, How much for a DAT machine?
And this is where you have to be extra cool: They're only
around 1,200 bucks. I'll get you a proposal and the info on the
machine were looking at. Hey! Didn't I hear that Davidson got
the Home Place with a 30 grand contract?
GM: Yeah, that was sweet. Get me the info on the DAT machine and
let's see what we can do. Bingo! Full house!
Important: Be sure to get him a one page, simple proposal
with the cost of the machine (including tax and shipping if applicable).
In fact, an invoice from the dealer makes it really easy for the
GM to commit to that signature.
Do a quick analysis, much like I did above, but in
spreadsheet form. Include that on your page. Don't forget
to point out how this new DAT machine will help your sister station,
if applicable. Attach a full color sexy photo of the machine so
he can see where his money is going. And Mister or Miz, you're
on your way to a new DAT machine!
You may have to prod Mr. GM a little if you don't hear from him
in a day or two. STAY WITH IT! Ifthe GM sees that you've taken
the initiative to sell his entire staff on this DAT thing, then
don't drop the ball at the goal line. Knock on his door if he
doesn't talk to you about it within two days after you drop off
Marshall Such is the Head Potato at Radio Potato.
He welcomes your comments at questions at 817/481-4453. Radio
Potato's "Spud" production music library contains 42
CDs with 1,800 cuts and is available on a buy-out basis. Call
800-468-6874 between 9 and 5 PST for a free demo and catalog.
© Copyright 1997 by and reproduced with permission
of RADIO AND PRODUCTION (www.rapmag.com)