What’s your battle plan?

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Image – Damien St John / Celador Radio

Yesterday, the sad news that another music legend had passed away.

This was, unfortunately, nothing new. There have been a raft of these events over the past few months.

On radio, it’s time like these where the ability to react fast and deviate a bit from a format is a real luxury. Not many formats want to do it. Some would never do it. Luckily, most of the brands I work with can.

Whilst we have a major story plan  – for huge news (disasters, Royal deaths etc), music stars don’t fall under this. There tends to be an informal process. The programmers know we’ll play some extra songs, and I know that we’ll need something to image the change in structure. It happens simply. It’s what we do. And we have the flexible working procedures in place to allow remote working / loading of content etc.

We’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern of what we like to do on our stations. The Breeze has a daily 6 of the best feature which can easily be adapted to work as a best of tribute section. Sam FM has a more fluid format, so extra songs can be scheduled, and a feature hour added if necessary.

So what’s required in the imaging. And what can it do for your brand? Of course, it’s a way of reinforcing musical ownership. It’s a way of being topical. And it can live on many platforms. The image at the top of the post lived on social media. And if required, the audio montage can be used too.

Since I also produce imaging for the Benztown Avalanche Classic Rock imaging library, I’ll often have a though of what I can produce for that and then rework for our stations. Pieces I made for David Bowie’s and Beatles producer George Martin’s passing were reworked into on air content. Anything of that era will often work for both.

Here’s what I created for the library and then used on our stations too..

What I tend to start with is interview clips – on stage announcements, award show acceptances and then interviews on youtube. Luckily, the Avalanche library has lots of award show and some archive content, but the odd interview is always a help too.

The next step is to find a small number of useful clips – something punchy / emotional to start the piece and ideally, a nice quote from the artist to end the piece too. It’s then a case of finding the right songs, and cutting the music to the clips – so there’s a smooth flow, and ideally a good pace too.

We tend to use the imaging piece to kick off an hour – and then if we are intending to use it through the day, I’ll often make a couple of cut downs that are half the length so as to help increase the music flow. Today’s Prince piece was also deconstructed into 4 or 5 short out of break IDs – each using a short clip and song loop – so the process of constructing other imaging pieces becomes simpler.

Creating something like this requires good editorial judgement, needs speedy editing skills and creative thought. If nothing else, its a great way to test your skills under pressure and time is often of the essence. For some producers, there’s not much opportunity to create something free form like this – so if the sad opportunity comes, maybe it’s an excuse to give it a try.

 

 

All songs sound the same, right?

Image - Eflon on Flickr (CC)
Image – Eflon on Flickr (CC)

I just came across this on Buzzfeed. It’s by the Australian comedy band, Axis of Awesome. And maybe it might lead to a music promo idea for someone.

Now, whilst it’s true that all these songs follow the same chord pattern in some way, it’s probably just that chord pattern has a nice progression and is pretty nice sounding to listen to.

But I guess you could use it as the source list for a clever series of music promos if you wanted to. Or maybe Magic 105.4 should mine this for another TV ad..

A conference for people like me

There’s a lot of radio. And there are lots of radio conferences. But it’s rare for 2 to come along on the same week.

nextradiologo2-300x44If you work in radio as a producer, programmer, presenter, marketeer, or in fact anywhere in a radio station – then you should definitely check out NEXTradio. It’s a one day conference in London with loads of short, sharp presentations – and you will learn loads. I’ve been twice, and have always come away inspired. There are even videos on the site from previous conferences, so you can see what you missed last time.

Logo_TheImagingDays2014_FullBut if you are someone involved in imaging, marketing or station sound, it’s rare for a conference to have more than a session or 2 totally devoted to discussing and celebrating the  deep down and dirty skills required by the modern day audio ninja. That’s understandable – but this September, there is one, and it feels amazing that there hasn’t been one like this before.

The Imaging Days takes place in Amsterdam on September 8th and 9th, and will feature producers from across Europe and the rest of the world – gathered together to talk, listen and share ideas, skills and experience.

img_1892I was asked by the organisers to create a panel session of UK producers to discuss imaging in the UK – and am delighted I’ll be sharing the stage with Dan Mumford, former Head of Station Sound at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, and Nathan Freeman, Station sound producer of BBC Radio 6 Music. Together, we’ll be delving into our archive of 40 plus years of radio imaging and production to share some of our favourite pieces, discuss how we came up with the creative concepts, and share some tales form the radio battlefield. We may also be brave and pull out examples of our first forays into radio production, to show that everyone needs to start somewhere..!

I’m really looking forward to hearing stories and strategies from some of the best producers in the business – but also hope to meet loads of new radio people with a passion for creative audio production.

If you love sound, create sound or work with people who do, head over to the website, grab a ticket, and maybe we’ll see you there…

Why I’d Rather JACK

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I’m pretty lucky. The job I have now probably allows me to be more creative in the stuff I create than any job I’ve previously done.

This is slightly disappointing.

Surely every person who works in the creative industries should be able to be creative all the time. But often rules prevent this happening.

When I worked in marketing at the BBC, the rules were often down to suitability of radio trail for   “network fit”.  Or limited by the visual TV campaign creative that didn’t contain an easily transferable radio creative. As a team, we’d normally find a way to make the creative work well on radio, and many times created a radio campaign that worked in really surprising ways. But I sometimes wish that I  had pushed harder on my campaigns. This was probably sometimes my fault – but also sometimes simply down to the nature that each radio network was very particular about the network sound.

This is one of the reasons why I moved back into working in a radio station, where I could directly help shape the sound of the station, contribute creative ideas, and ultimately, actually get the things I wanted to create on air without (many) barriers.

With JACK fm, everything I do is born out of the rules and rigours of the previous formats I’ve  worked on throughout my career.  I twist an idea, break a rule, or  try a different slant on things.

Because doing things the same way every time is predictable, and that is boring.

Many PDs at radio stations are pretty set in the way they want things to be done. In many formats, there’s a good deal of evidence why things should be done that way. But I truly believe that in almost every format, rules can be broken. Of course, it depends on the format, the market and the audience. But everyone likes to be surprised sometimes, so why not surprise them now and again?

Here’s a few examples of how we’ve done things a bit differently recently at JACK.

JACK PACK at COWES WEEK

Promos for station events can be a bit dull. There’s often very little reason to promote what you’ll be doing on air. Sometimes it’s part of a contra deal commitment. Or in order to get on site branding, the sales team have managed to squeeze in some on air promotion. This is fine if there is a genuine reason to promote something, but sometimes is little more than filling airtime to get in a sponsor or event name. We started using these 2 anchorman inspired characters to promote events where the JACK Pack were going to be at. Sometimes Chuck McGutsup would throw to a real JACK Pack reporter who’d add in event details, and sometimes, he’d throw to his friend Huw Jarse. It’s all a bit Simpsons in terms of stupid names, but for our audience, it’s suitably irreverent.

DON’T BE DAFT, PUNK

JACK plays what we want. We don’t often play new stuff. This annoyed me a bit as last summer, this song was huge. When I was driving through France on holiday, it played almost non stop on NRJ, and I kept singing “We Play What We Want” to hook of the song. On my return, I’d read a blog post by my friend Andreas on the Benztown Branding blog about how they’d been recreating the Daft Punk sound. So I gave him a shout and got him to record the vocals for this piece. Having made it,we forgot to load it on air and then started running it well after the song was a hit. That made it work just as well, as on JACK, music is pretty timeless so it didn’t matter that by then , most music stations had long forgotten it.

BAM BAM at BREAKFAST

There’s nothing remotely original about most of this. But it’s got a bit of a JACK twist. Many of these IDs take a hook or a line of a classic rock song that I  play with a sound clip or recreated BAM BAM voice sample added in. We have the additional resource of Marc Silk as a VO , so sometimes, we just make up voices and phrases at the end of the session. Most of these out takes and ad-libs are what make these IDs work.

Radio is such an easy medium to be creative in. You simply need an idea, a voice and some imagination to create almost anything. So if you are a producer and are about to create something this week – why not ask yourself which rules you can break. They don’t necessarily need to be big rules, and certainly don’t need to break your brand sound. But they might make for a slightly more interesting listen.

We’ve just added a musical theme to BAM BAM’s show too. Steve Martin has blogged about it (and has a premier of the “video”) on the Earshot Creative Review .

RADIODAYS EUROPE

I’m taking part in a panel discussion at Radiodays Europe in March, where we’ll discuss this subject in more detail. You can find more details here.

Breaking the Creative Rules of Imaging and Branding

James Stodd (UK), Goran Kurjak (Croatia), Andreas Sannemann (Germany)

The thing with radio formats is that all imaging and production has to sound the same… right? Wrong.

This session aims to break the myths of radio production – and show that whilst formatted radio is here to stay, there are many ways where you can surprise your listeners.

Join some of Europe’s most creative imaging experts who’ll show you how to break the creative rules of imaging and branding.

Speakers: James Stodd (Senior Producer at Celador Radio in the UK),  Andreas Sannemann (CEO, Benztown, Germany) and Goran Kurjak (Creative Director, Otvoreni Radio, Croatia).

You can find more details here.