Sing for the unsung

After writing last week about how “Boring is important“, a few more thoughts started permeating my brain during the week. I was also contacted by a former colleague and this prompted some further thoughts about those who are ‘unsung’ in media organisations. The day to day and the mundane are the basis of building anything. Yes, the creative and the vision, the fluff and the sparkle, the magic and the inspiring are the difference between success and failure, but the nuts and bolts, the building blocks, the daily chore are the same… and vital.

Here’s to the dreamers…

Let me just lay out again clearly that the vision is important- in fact absolutely critical to success. Without the creative spark, the original thought or concept and the USP of what you are offering then you are more of a utility than a necessity. The dreamers, the mavericks and the creative geniuses are central. There is a presentation I used to present from time to time showing the print ads in Empire magazine for BSB – British Satellite Broadcasting, (The squarial, you might remember), and Sky Movies. BSB had a lot of arguably better tech and had some creative and ground breaking concepts, but Sky had the glamour and the right marketing approach (and of course the deeper pocket). The BSB and Sky print ads really demonstrated, within the same edition of Empire magazine and just a few pages away from each other, some of the reasons for Sky’s dominance and ultimate success. Sky focussed on Hollywood and movie stars and BSB’s ad on the cinema ticket that you threw away.

The nuts and bolts and functional won’t make a success on their own. Just because the vision has to be right, and the sparkle needs to be right doesn’t mean the boring and day to day should be overlooked- in fact its also critical to success. All too often, the visionaries of organisations underplay the importance of the mundane, the product creation, and the effort that goes into the nuts and bolts of keeping the needles wagging. I remember someone high up in an organisation once saying, “oh we’ll just play out some music”. It seemed like just an innocuous phrase at the time, and ordinarily would have gone unchallenged but I felt it demonstrated a lack of understanding, appreciation or value in the creation of a product, and the crafting of the basics by the often times unsung heroes. Most things that include “we’ll just” tend to be that way it seems to me! I think pointed out at the time that having the right person to schedule, craft and create the music that would “just play out” was critical and without that person or the effort involved, there would be no “playing out” of anything actually! Creating a decent music log is not like hitting shuffle on a Spotify playlist. Just because you can create a playlist on a music app does not mean you can expertly schedule music output.

To be fair not all of those in higher layers of organisations are like my above example, and I know of a few who get involved in, and appreciate that the detail is important. They roll their sleeves up and get involved in the nitty gritty detail and their respective organisations and outputs are all the better for it. They understand that the “front of house” and the “backroom”, that both sides of the mic or the camera are equally vital to getting the show up and running and maintaining any kind of success.

Making the swan look graceful, everyday

The herculean efforts of show producers, audio imaging producers, video editing producers, directors, writers and technicians are the workhorse nuts and bolts of making the “shiny” look good and are often times though, easily overlooked. Behind any brilliant episode of anything you might consume, TV show, podcast, radio programme etc, there are the writers, tech, editors, engineers and producers below the surface of the water busily making the swan look amazingly graceful, effortless and elegant. Their expert effort though, their fine-tuned expertise and craft is just as vital as the “star” or the public facing vision.

If you are one of the front facing, on air, on screen, front of house performers- then the job is hard enough, and you will know the effort and energy you put into what you do and how to make it the best you can each day and each minute you are in full flight. You will also know how much harder it would be without the unsung, backroom, often unthanked team who make you look good. You understand it and you appreciate all that goes into making you look half decent!

If you are hovering in the upper stratosphere of an organisation, make sure you fully appreciate the legwork it takes from the unsung heroes to keep you sounding or looking good, and make sure that your casual language, your turn of phrase or glib off hand comment doesn’t also demean the level of effort of those heroes. If you are “the swan”, make sure you fully appreciate the work going on below water level to maintain your elegance, and never take it for granted or you will sink pretty quick. If you are an unsung hero, I doth my cap to you for starters, and make sure that carefully and respectfully you stand up for your art, craft and skill and demonstrate whenever you can, just how vital you really are.


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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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