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Darren Marlar

Owner

Marlar House Productions

 

Darren's Career Capsule

Have held positions of Production Director, Music Director and Operations Manager. Worked at radio stations including KCNW, KFKF, Bott Radio Network, and KCWJ. Founded Marlar House Productions in April 2000 producing quality station imaging and production for Christian and family-friendly stations all over the country, and daily show prep to hundreds of radio talent around the globe. Samples can be heard at www.marlarhouse.com

1. When did you decide to form Marlar House Productions?  
 

I would answer this question by saying that Marlar House Productions kind of evolved on its own, but since the entire theory of evolution is riddled with errors and Darwin is certainly a creationist now, I'll say that the creation of MHP is a "God thing" instead.  And, as all "God things" in my life happen, it started with no help from me whatsoever. 

I need to begin by saying that my entire radio career has been spent on the air and in the production room.  I love both areas, but it's the production side that I've always been drawn to.  Fortunately, I had no semblance of a life in my early 20's when I first got into radio, so spending every waking hour in the production room was no real sacrifice.  I'd come in at 5:00am each day to do my show, after which I'd make my way to the production room to produce whatever needed to be produced for that day, and then at 5:00pm when everyone was leaving the building, I'd still be in the production room creating parody commercials and character voices.  I couldn't stop.  I'm sure the entire staff thought I was insane.  I had all this nutball material on my show and people started thinking, "who is this guy - and what's the name of his psychiatrist?"  It was the best job I ever had - and it paid off in more than just money and experience... a listener named Robin liked the fact that I was a nutball on the air.  She was obviously a nutball as well, because she thought "Hey, maybe I could marry that nutball!"  We've been married for seven fantastic years now.  (I love you Robin!)
Jump ahead a few years now.  I'm still having fun on the air, spending lots of time in the production room, and wondering what's next in my career.  I thought perhaps the title of Program Director was in my future, but all of my job hunting in that direction never seemed to pan out.  I came extremely close once to a PD position in Columbus, OH for a Christian station there... but was beat out by the only other finalist in the audition process.  Disappointed?  Yes.  But also relieved.  It just didn't seem right.  I decided to contact somebody that I had a lot of respect for and get his opinion on what my next career move should be.  I sent him samples of my work, asked for an opinion, and then asked what he thought about my career.  He had one big suggestion... imaging radio stations.  He complimented my production as being extremely high quality, he heard some of the imaging in the demo I sent, was impressed with it, and told me I should start contacting stations.  Oh, by the way... that guy was Rick McConnell... you know, the Monumental Air Show guy?  I have a majority of my current career thanks to Rick's constant support and encouragement.  Even when he began offering his own imaging, he'd still stay in touch (still does) seeing how things are going, send a name my direction of someone I should contact, give me ideas on things I can do with the business, etc.  In fact, we're getting ready to begin a new service called The Online Production Director, which was inspired by an idea he'd given me a couple of years ago.  I don't know where I'd be today without Rick, I really don't.
Anyway, about that same time, God had this wonderful idea of getting a station owner from Tulsa, Oklahoma to hear some of the imaging I'd been doing.  How he heard it, where he heard it, or how much he heard I still to this day do not know.  And honestly, I don't recall exactly how the relationship with this guy started, but I do know he contacted me out of the blue and asked if I'd be interested in doing some imaging for one of his stations.  I found that I really enjoyed doing imaging for a station I was not employed with... it was freeing in a way, as I did not have the pressure of a PD, a GM, or a sales staff looking over my shoulder at all times.  I liked the freedom, I liked making my own rules and decisions, and began thinking of possibly making that kind of thing a full-time career.  God must've had that idea too, because just two years later that's exactly where I am and although I am no longer making as much as I was while working as a radio personality, I am much happier and content in knowing that I'm doing what God wants me to do.  Oddly enough, I get job offers and inquiries all the time now... figures.

2. What were some of the obstacles you faced when launching your own business?   

 

Running my own business... that was an obstacle.  I was my own problem.  I had a owner/manager that had never run this type of business before, had no experience in promoting said business, and yet was in charge of everything.  Hey, I can't even balance my checkbook correctly!  (Radio people count by 60's and 30's... not by 10's and 100's... boy does that mess up your bank account!)  Man, why did I hire ME in the first place?  I'm totally unqualified for this position!  For years I'd been making fun of the "sales weasels" at the stations... suddenly now I was a (gulp!) VENDOR!  I had become what I had despised - a sales person!  Man, I was clueless.  But over the past couple of years I've learned quite a bit, and now I'm not only a producer and talent, but I'm also a business manager.  I just hope I never have to fire myself for insubordination... that'd be a real bummer.
Another obstacle is trust.  Trust in God.  That might sound strange coming from someone that works with Christian radio stations, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my down days.  Being in business for myself means I have no one to blame but myself if the money is tight this month.  And if someone is late with a payment, it gets real easy to start biting nails.  Steel nails.  My fingernails are long gone.  Money gets tight, economy gets rough, and I'm still responsible for getting that house payment taken care of.  If you want security and a guaranteed paycheck each month, this ain't for you.  But for me, I have to step back and remind myself that God truly is in control and that He will take care of me as long as I don't squander the gifts and talents that He has given me.  It's definitely a humbling experience at the end of every month.
Open up Radio & Production Magazine (great magazine, by the way) and in the back you'll see at least a dozen more obstacles in my way... companies providing imaging for stations around the globe.  How can one little guy compete with all of those other companies?  Rick McConnell gave me a huge piece of wisdom in this... "find your niche".  Not "find A niche", but "find YOUR niche".  That turned out to be Christian radio.  I help secular stations too (as long as they're family friendly), but I cater to Christian radio stations - that's where my heart is.  Of course, now Rick is offering imaging too... that meanie.  He's now an obstacle as well.  I must destroy... just kidding.
 
3. What are some of the features you offer with your show prep?  

 Ah, one of my favorite things to do in the whole world... show prep!  No, really... I mean it!  Honest!  I know, I know... you're wondering about the name of my psychiatrist.  It's contagious, isn't it?  The UnNamed Daily is the free show prep service that I offer on the website (www.MarlarHouse.com).  It's grown considerably over the last couple of years, and it now contains a LOT of stuff.  I keep thinking I need to trim it down a bit, as it often reaches 30 pages a day, but I find myself adding more and more anyway.  I try to go the extra mile with just about everything in the service.  The bible trivia questions are given in a way that they can be used for a live game show I've created called Bible Brain Busters - I even supply all of the sound effects and audience reactions for the game in the prep service.  The "today in history" stuff usually has a kicker comment afterwards, and the birthdays are divided up so that the Christian artist birthdays are separated and given a week in advance so that stations can plan their own little birthday tributes in advance if they want. 

One of my favorite bits is Bob, the station engineer with "Today Is".  It's amazing how many holidays there really are in the world.  Like "look for the shape of Elvis in your potato chips day" and stuff like that.  Bob is a free audio feature where he comes out and tells you what some of those holidays are for each day, and gives his own opinion about them.  The problems is that Bob isn't really all that bright, and often misses the true meaning of those holidays completely.  It's kind of fun, and he's become more and more popular as stations have been listening to him and using him on the air. 
Some other daily bits are the News Kickers, jokes, a Rush Hour Devotion each day, and the Moment of Duh.  I also have the files of Law & Disorder in the prep... which comes with an interesting story.  I could easily have been sued over that one.  Archer & Valerie (another show prep site) has copyrighted the term "Law & Disorder" - but I didn't know about that when I started my own Law & Disorder feature.  So for two years I'd been illegally using that name for a "stupid criminal" feature and didn't even know it.  Fortunately, I had a good relationship with Archer & Valerie, as I'd been contributing news kickers for free to THEIR show prep service for quite some time already - so when their lawyer called them and ratted me out about my illegal Law & Disorder feature, they told him not to worry about it and then gave me written permission to continue on as normal.  I almost had my own Law & Disorder experience up close and personal! 
I also have an interactive part of the show prep called the "Build-a-Bit" where I give a story or topic to the subscribers, and they in turn send in their own kicker comments, punchlines, etc.  I gather up all of the responses and list them all in each Monday's prep.  It's a lot of fun, and it shows the creativity of some of our subscribers.  With almost 600 people using the prep now, it surprises me that we don't get any more submissions than we do, actually.

4. How can you offer your show prep service for free?  And how does someone get it?  

 Getting The UnNamed Daily is easy - it's available online at HisAir.net (duh!) and it's also on our website at www.marlarhouse.com.  If signing up for the service on our website, an account can be created so the subscriber can get the prep via email as well.  

The big question though, and I get this a lot, is how I can possibly offer the service for FREE.  To be honest, it hasn't always been that way.  The UnNamed Daily used to be a pay-prep service, but God changed my mind on that one and now it's more of a promotional tool to let people know about the imaging, voicework, and production services that MHP offers.  It keeps our name in front of radio professionals all around the world - just in case they need a new signature voice, need help in the production department, need station imaging, etc.  It takes about four hours per day to do the show prep, but right now it's working fairly well as a promotional tool.  Also, I don't think there are enough prep services out there that keep the Christian and family-friendly stations in mind - so even if the prep isn't a money-maker, I think it's worth the effort.  I'll continue to do it as long as I can.  I think it'd be great twenty years from now when I'm looking at early, early, early retirement (yeah, right) and wondering how I can continue to get the prep up on the web while traveling in my Winnebago. 

5. How did your passion for Christian radio develop?  

 My passion for Christian radio mostly comes from my being a Christian and the fact that my first radio job was with a Christian station.  I fell in love with Christian music, and listen to almost nothing else now.  But my CONVICTION for Christian radio actually comes from my secular radio experience.  After spending time in the secular radio world, I saw how lacking Christian radio was in the way it promoted itself, in the quality of the DJs and imaging, and in other areas.  I'm not saying that Christian radio is bad in any way... but I do believe we need to raise the bar considerably in what we consider quality radio.  Christian radio should be the format that secular stations listen to and say, "Wow - why can't we sound like that?"  With Marlar House Productions I'm trying to help Christian stations reach that level in any way that I can.  Show prep and audio bits for the DJs, imaging for between songs and stop sets,  and I'm hoping to create an Online Production Director service in the next couple of months so we can help stations sound great even during the stop sets as well. 

 
6. Who are your main radio influences? 

  You mean, besides Dr. Johnny Fever?  Oddly enough, I don't really have any radio influences from when I was growing up - I never really listened to anybody else until I got into radio.  Of course, now I listen to everything with a biased ear.  I would have to say "thanks" to a couple of guys for helping me get to where I am today though. 

First would be Rick McConnell for the reasons I mentioned above.  If it weren't for his constant encouragement  I don't think Marlar House Productions would exist.  He pushed me to a new level. 
Secondly, I'd have to say Dan O'Day.  Rick may have helped me with the confidence to begin helping other stations, but Dan O'Day helped get me to the point that I was ready for that step.  Dan O'Day and I have become kinda like email buddies in a sense, as I'm always asking his opinion about things.  I didn't have anyone I could go to in my career to give me feedback on what I was doing, how I was doing it, etc., so I had to take the initiative and teach myself how to do this whole "radio thing".  I learned as much as I could by reading books, listening to cassette tapes, taking notes from lectures, and it all came from Dan.  In fact, it was his cassette series "Radical Station Imaging" that pushed me to improve the quality of imaging I was already providing.  If you're reading this, Dan and Rick... thanks!
 
7. What in your opinion is the primary role of the Christian radio air personailty today?  

 I don't know about a primary role, but I can tell you what I'd like to see more of.  I'd like to see Christian jocks having fun on the air.  I think we get all caught up in this "we're a Christian radio station so we must behave ourselves" and we forget that being a Christian doesn't mean you have to be calm, cool, and collected all the time.  You don't have to be spiritual 24-hours a day.  Yes, you should always reflect Jesus - but c'mon, do you think Jesus spent all of his time preaching?  I'd like to see jocks having fun on the air with interesting stories, phone calls that are fun, off-the-wall contests and promotions (like giving away a real ground hog on Groundhog Day - ground pork!).  Be stupid once in a while.  I think we do more to further the kingdom if we're just ourselves, laughing when we feel like it.  If Christians can learn to open up and have fun, maybe non-Christians won't be so put off by us and avoid contact.  It's kind of hard to be an influence on anybody if they won't give you the time of day.

 
 
8. What advice could you give to a young person wanting to start a career in Christian radio?  

Be willing to pay your dues.  Everybody and their dog wants to be a radio star instantly in this world - but it doesn't work that way.  Too many people apply for a radio job thinking they'll be on the air doing drive time the next week.  If a station doesn't have any openings, ask about an internship where you work for free for school credit.  If you're not in school, offer to work for free anyway - what can they lose if they don't have to pay you?  Getting your foot in the door is the most important thing.  That being said, once you do make it into that door, learn as much as you can from all areas.  Don't put the blinders on and consider only on-air work.  Look at it all and see where your gifts may be.  And if you do ever get that thought that you've "arrived"... it means you haven't by a long shot.

On the flip side, your biggest gift to radio could be you leaving it as a career.  Not everyone is cut out for this business.  You get paid squat, you work long hours, you see your family less than normal people, and it's not as glamorous as you think.  Don't get into radio and start complaining that you're not in the position you want to be in, or that you're "too talented" to be where you are or to be paid what you're getting.  If you're going to be that way, get out... you're not doing anyone any favors and you're bringing the quality of radio in general down, because you're bringing everyone else down.  There's no room in radio for people that think that way... that's what Hollywood is for.

 

 

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