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Radio Interview

                                     

Rick McConnell

Owner

Monumental Imaging

Colorado Springs

 

 

Rick's Career Capsule
I’ve been in and around radio since 1978, and doing some freelance voice work since 1985. In the 90’s, I worked for about 6 years at Focus on the Family. While there, I began to create the idea for doing a unique imaging package for Christian radio stations, that would not only have promos for the station, but actually have some creative features with some spiritual meat to it. .

 

1. How was the “Airshow” concept born?

I saw something lacking in the direction of Christian radio about 9 years ago. Stations needed imaging. No mystery there. But I wanted to develop imaging with some spiritual “meat.” Not just promos saying, “this is what we do.” But actually GIVE them something deep and useful right there in the spot. There were many short features- in which some great speakers and teachers “talked.” And that is ok. And there was your basic “station imaging” –sweepers, promos and rejoins. I saw a need to mesh the 2 together. A powerful, sometimes funny, sometimes hard-hitting, thought provoking sixty or thirty second feature really grabs the audience. So our monthly package mixes a lot of those, along with more standard station promos- and that is the AIRSHOW. More than just station promos- but way more than simple “preachy” short features.

 

2. What are the services you provide Christian radio stations?

The Airshow Imaging pack has grown to also include station support promos for non-coms. And of course voice work. That is part of our package. I do a lot of that. I just get a kick out of helping stations sound their best. I also do a fair share of corporate voice work for radio and T.V.

 

3. How do you coordinate what you do with the station PD?

If you mean coordinating what we create with what the stations are up to, we simply  listen to PD's and station managers- and even listeners who email us. With my ear to the ground we are always tweaking the Airshow package. We try to create a product that can be utilized by the widest variety of stations. Listening to the stations AND listeners is the best way to achieve that. Since we can't cover all the bases for every station, I also give our stations some free custom voice work every month. This fills in the gap if the Airshow is missing something specific for their station.

 

4. As for production, what do you think are the characteristics of effective promos?

Believe it or not, it’s not production quality, but the content of the copy. So an effective promo for a Christian station often has to be tying in a spiritual message, or a family message. If you are a Christian station and you have slick sounding sweepers and rejoins, and you are talking all about what you do for families, and being positive and sounding the best, BUT you “bleach out” the spiritual aspect, you are out of touch with your audience. Period. The main reason people listen to Christian radio is because it’s "Christian" radio. You don’t have to sound “preachy.” But you do need to touch them in a spiritual way. The songs are not enough in my opinion. The audience needs to hear that YOU as a station are tied in with the message of your songs. Effective imaging promos can do that.

 

5. Regarding equipment what in your opinion is essential in the production room?

A good mic and a good mic processor is where it all starts. BUT, one of the best tools is, believe or not, a big hard drive. Load as much stuff on the hard drive as you can- sound effects, sweepers beds etc. Then you can click and drag instead of ripping them from CD. I have to put a lot into creating effective spots every day. A hard drive loaded with listener clips, FX, music beds, and sweepers saves me a lot of time.

 

6. Can you mention any new production “toys” that have got your attention?

I’m a basic meat and potatoes guy. I don’t go for the newest toys- though I like to stay up on it. I have a good mic (A Marshall MXL 2003) A decent mic processor (Symetrix 528E) And Cool Edit (now Adobe Audition) I bought a good flash recorder months ago. Now listener interviews are clean and easy.  Nothing else on my radar screen right now.

 

7. What advice can you give Christian radio management that may not see the importance of “good” production?

Outsource! Good grief, every station thinks they have to re-invent the wheel every month. So you have hundreds of production guys struggling to come up with new imaging concepts each month. Hire our company, or some others like New Life Productions or Green Eye creative, BUT go that route as much as possible. You’ll save a lot of money in man-hours and sound better.

 

8. Describe the thought process of putting a promo together?

I start with a wacky, “out of the box” story or thought. Maybe a strange human interest story. A town that is doing a tour of their local land fill. A man who bought a frame at a garage sale and it contained a $100,000 painting. The crazier the better, then I look for the spiritual angle- or the “family” or “station promotion” angle.

 

9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

I like stations that best mix a slick professional sound with the spiritual aspect of Christian Radio. The best one I can think of is Reach FM Radio Network operating up and down the Northeast Coast. They do some outreach in the inner city areas. Giving away coats in the winter, school supplies in the fall and Christmas gifts at Christmas. And all of it has an evangelism tie in. They let their audience know that they are involved in the community.  Other stations do that, but the Reach FM is one of the best.

 

10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

I would like to answer it this way. Where would I like to see Christian radio in 5 years? I think of the mid-80’s line, “Where’s the beef?” And I think of a lot of Christian stations. We have gotten slicker, ratings are up, the sound is more professional than ever, but listen for hours to some and you’ll notice they have “bleached out” the spiritual aspect. Because some “experts” told them their audience didn’t want it. Hmm. When I go to festivals and concerts and churches and stick a mic in front of hundreds of people and ask what they like about Christian radio, about 3/4 of them say they like it because it’s “Christian.” They like the spiritual aspect. And if you probe, they are talking about MORE than just the music. If you “listen” to the listeners, you’ll find that the message in the music is not enough. They like the message in other ways on the station- as long as it does not sound preachy. They like it coming from the announcers. They like it on some short features. So, I’d like to see Christian radio be as slick and professional as possible- without forgetting the spiritual aspect. I think that is why people like the Airshow features. Stations have told us for years that some of their most common positive comments from listeners have to do with “those spiritual things you air.” Fortunately, the listeners didn’t get the memo that listeners aren’t supposed to want anything spiritual these days.

 

 

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