This week the great George Martin passed away at the age of 90.
George was a central player in the most successful music partnership of all time. He was the producer of the Beatles on all of their studio albums and guided them creatively through some of modern music’s greatest moments.
So how did he view his role?
“The greatest attribute a producer can have is the ability to see the whole picture.
Most artists, when they record something, don’t listen to the whole thing.
They listen to what they’re doing.
It’s a bit like when you’re a kid and you look at a school photograph of a hundred kids. The first thing you say is: Where am I? Same with a musician. When the music is played back, he’ll be listening to himself. The producer must sit back, view the whole thing in perspective, and make sense of it.”
If you’re a content director or executive show producer, stop for a second and soak that quote in. I think he’s just nailed exactly what it is that you can do to support your breakfast or drive show.
To sit back, view the whole thing in perspective and make sense of it.
The most successful radio shows of the last 20 years have always had an incredibly supportive content director or EP playing the 5th Beatle role.
Producers like Sam Cavanagh and Jay Mueller have played critical roles in the success of Hamish and Andy and The MMM Hot Breakfast.
Last week Stephen Erlewhine wrote about George’s approach to managing and directing the band-
Listening to the musicians play around, Martin realized the Beatles weren’t merely a band, but they were a gang.
Martin never attempted to be part of the gang. He was a collaborator and a conspirator, a mentor and a father figure, albeit one who never patronized them. From the outset, he recognized this was a band whose value lay in their originality, so his role lay in developing their vision.
One of the hardest things to do when you’re directing or managing a show is to maintain perspective, and the easiest way to lose objectivity is to see yourself as a part of the gang.
One of my weaknesses when I was running radio stations was I would occasionally get too close to the on air team and my emotional investment in them would sometimes cloud my listening and my ability to provide objective feedback when they needed it most.
I remember a monitor session in my early days at SA-FM where I was listening to Amanda and James with Greg Smith and laughing hysterically at everything that was coming out of their mouths whilst Greg was sitting opposite me wondering what drugs I was on.
In this situation Greg was like a potential new listener, hearing the show for the first time and not making sense of all the “in” conversations whilst I was the raving fan loving every second of it.
Being a raving fan of your breakfast show is good in theory, but if you want to provide the feedback it needs to improve, you’ll need to detach ever so slightly.
It’s hard not to barrack for your show, and it’s certainly tempting to see yourself as part of the gang. As content director or EP you’re working closely with your team everyday, you want the best for them and you understand that their success and growth is in lots of ways a direct reflection of your ability to manage them.
However, from first hand experience, the biggest mistake you can make is to step over the line where the professional relationship becomes a friendship.
Yes, you’re a part of their team, but you are their leader. You are the person they’re looking to for that perspective that George Martin talks about.
As CD you need to know where to draw the line. Yes, you’re always in their corner, you’re always there to help them realise the vision they have for their show. You will support them, protect them, celebrate them.
However you also need enough emotional separation so you can “see the whole picture” when they need it most.