Hey guys, you all remember Matt Damrow. He is the guy behind the video series “Creatives in Bars with Coffee”, where he interviewed guys like Mike McVay, Rick Gillette, Rob Cressman and Tim Zunckel. This time it is all about Matt himself. I will speak with him about his gig at SiriusXM, the new tricks he is using and how he turns around all he has on his plate and still smiles. Enter Matt.
What stations do you image for SiriusXM? Describe how they should sound and what the difference is between them? What specific techniques you use for each of them?
Within the sports programming department at SiriusXM, the Production/Imaging team is available to work on any sports channel. I’ve worked on all of them. Normally, I’m working on company-wide promos that promote new programming (i.e. Stephen A. Smith doing an exclusive show for SXM), big events (i.e. Super Bowl, World Cup, March Madness) or what we call ‘town hall’ events, where a big name (i.e. Peyton Manning, Nolan Ryan, Kobe Bryant, etc) sits down for an interview with a host. Imaging-wise, I usually find myself working with the NFL, Fantasy, NHL, NBA, College SportsNation, Rush and Mad Dog channels the most. These are my producer responsibilities. My manager responsibilities include upping the game of weekend imaging and operations.
We design most channels when they launch. Over time their image may evolve, but the original vision of the brand is kept intact as best as possible indefinitely. For example, Mad Dog Sports Radio was envisioned as being controversial sports talk and larger-than-life. So we use content in promos and imaging that speaks to the racy conjecture on the channel. The image we wrap around the content we use is a cinematic one, so we can communicate that this channel is a bigger deal than the rest of our sports talk channels. Fantasy and College channels require more of a mid-range “Dude” voice delivery from yours truly because college age guys don’t usually have baritone voices (I know, it sounds simplistic, but it’s just a theory) and Fantasy Sports Radio conveys programming used by REAL people. So there we try to keep things more down to earth, despite the name of the channel being ‘Fantasy’.
NFL Radio is hard rock and loud, in-your-face image. NBA Radio is cool and hip-hop vibe. NHL and Rush are loud and impactful, like NFL Radio, but more cinematic. I’m a movie nerd, and can’t help but imagine seeing a lot of our premium programming up on the silver screen in my mind’s eye.
Can we hear examples?
How doesyou sessions look? Screen caps?
And here’s a screen cap for an imaging session for a Star Wars special our sports department carried on SiriusXM Rush. It includes two opens and six produced rejoins. I usually go to town on an open. It allows for the most creative freedom. Just my opinion…
What are your favorite plug-ins?
Believe it or not, I don’t use a single third-party plugin. Everything I use comes with Adobe Audition. I’ve used plugins made by other vendors before, and there are a ton of great ones out there. It just so happens that my workflow doesn’t require anything fancier than what Adobe provides with Audition. That said, there’s a ton of toys you can play with in Audition these days. My biggest go-to is the Hard Limiter. It’s what makes any VO or highlight large and in charge. I also use the Parametric EQ to tweek any eq. Beyond that, the Mastering plugin gets a workout.
Don’t I use any reverb or echo plugins, you ask? From time to time, sure. But I use a TON of reverb. The thing is I do all that manually. In almost every session of mine, you’ll see what my boss calls “doubling up”. I copy a piece of VO that I want to add some sort of reverb or echo to, I delay it by about 0.2 seconds, and then I reduce the volume on the delayed copy by anywhere from 12 to 25 dB, depending on how much presence I want on the reverb effect. There are plenty of folks out there who might be surprised by that and think it’s slow. But it works for me, and offers more control.
Years ago, Dave Foxx was asked which DAW software was the best. He said it doesn’t matter. Just get really, really good at one of them. So whatever works for your own workflow is what I always encourage.
Working at SiriusXM: What’s it like? What is different?
SirusXM is very similar to terrestrial radio and very different, simultaneously. Almost everyone in all programming departments, comes from traditional radio. It offers way more opportunities to explore creative ideas you might never get to try out in FM/AM radio. Also, being built on the subscription business model has given the company the legs it stands on. We make money. Which when it started years before I got here, I never thought (looking in as an outsider) that satellite radio would succeed. Boy was I wrong.
SiriusXM is the HBO of radio. Much of the best audio content in America is here. Not all of it, but much of it. And since we make more money, comparatively to Cumulus or IHeartMedia, there are far less layoffs. People feel safer broadcasting here. Is SXM the last bastion of hope for radio? God no. But it’s a better place to be than a lot of places out there.
How do you keep clients happy?
My freelance work has progressed slowly but continues to move forward. I’m learning it’s a long road ahead. Currently I service about a half dozen clients (radio stations). I keep them happy, I believe, by super-serving. That is, I mean fast turnaround, following up (without being annoying), making sure they are getting what they want and that the VO I supply matches their vision each time they send me copy.
I also try to educate my clients in a subtle way that I’m a radio pro with almost twenty years of experience. There’s a well to tap here and they are welcome to it. I have a lot of radio experience to share that goes beyond production and imaging – like programming, promotions, social media and digital video experience.
How do you keep up with work life and having a family – your wife and two sons?
Everything is balance. I try to get better at that every day. It’s a growth and maturity thing. Having a family and focusing on them puts my priorities in perspective. Everything I do now in my professional life is for them. The motivation is no longer what can I get out of this, but rather what can WE get out of this. Beyond that, time management is still something I’m learning. I think that’s more of a personal process. Whatever is most important to you will have your focus. For me, that’s my family.
Reach out to Matt with any questions. Email him at: Matt@MattDamrow.com