I was stunned by Elisabeth Hart’s Kobe Bryant tribute on Soundcloud and reached out. We chatted for a while and thought I needed to share her learnings, findings and awesome way of marrying plug and play to songs with you. Enter Elisabeth!
Andreas Sanneman: Can you give me a bit of background on yourself, your career, and your achievements? I am sure a lot of the readers will know you, or of you, but it puts a lot of the below in context.
Elisabeth Hart: I graduated from the Radio Broadcasting program at Fanshawe College too many years ago (not THAT many years ago…). I started my full time radio career at 1240 CJCS in Stratford, Ontario, and a few years and the launch of one new station (107.7 Mix FM) later, I moved onto what at the time was CHUM Peterborough (Country 105/1420 CKPT). Nine years, two management changes and one station flip later (1420 became Energy 99.7), I moved on up to Rogers Radio Toronto. I was hired as a Commercial Producer for 98.1 CHFI, KiSS 92.5, Sportsnet 590 the FAN, and 680 News. During my time there my role has evolved and I am currently the Imaging Producer for Sportsnet 590 the FAN. I still do some Commercial Production, as well as assisting with Imaging for the Country stations that Rogers has across Canada, and I’ve done Imaging for the News, AC, and CHR stations as well. I also do a lot of voiceover work for commercials and various other projects within Rogers, so all of that keeps me hopping!
AS: How is it to work for some of the biggest radio and sports brands in Canada? How do the tasks differ between the different stations and brands? What are the stylistic approaches and how difficult is it to change hats?
EH: It’s great to get to work with some of the best brands in Canada – but they don’t get to BE the best brands in Canada without the best people. It really is about having the best team around you to help you and support you. If I need help with something I’m working on, I know that I can go to any of my co-workers and ask for their help, and they’ll offer their advice. It’s then up to me to decide whether that advice works stylistically with what I’m working on or not. We’re not doing heart surgery here where the patient lives or dies by whether we cut the promo the right away – everything is open to interpretation and is subjective. But knowing that you can get different feedback from really talented people is always a help.
As far as changing hats, for me it’s important to focus. As much as I may need to multitask in the course of a day, if I’m sitting there working on a Sports promo while I’m thinking about what I’m going to do with the Country splitters I need to work on, then there’s a chance that the Sports promo might accidentally end up with a Country feel to it. And for me, that’s not the right move. Plan things out, set aside the time to work on and focus on that one project for that format before you move on. And if an idea comes to me for something different than what I’m working on, I’ll write it down so that I remember it for later, rather than abandoning what I’m in the middle of to see that idea through. There will always be times where fires come up and something needs your immediate attention, but as much as you can, focus on one project at a time.
AS: What do your days look like? Is there a blueprint? A routine?
EH: My days are usually pretty different, which I like. There are, of course, always some projects that need to get completed every day and I have to balance what commercial projects I’m working on that need my attention as well, but there’s not necessarily a blueprint to each day. I usually meet a couple of times a week with the Assistant Program Director of the FAN to talk about what’s happening that we might need to promote, any shows coming up that need our attention, any new seasons starting, etc. I usually try and get some time in a couple of times a week as well just to scour the internet and see what’s out there that other people are doing that’s cool that I can take inspiration from.
AS: What is your baby? Most fun project?
EH: For me, every year my favourite project is the Season Opener for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball season. I’ve been a Blue Jays fan ever since I was young (wait, does that mean I’m not young anymore? DAMMIT!!), and to this day I still even hold a part-time job through the summer working at the Jays games. As a very passionate fan, and someone who listened to the game broadcasts growing up, to be able to produce the big season opener piece that kicks off the season across the network is just amazing. There’s NHL teams in 7 different markets across Canada, and while the whole country rallied behind the Toronto Raptors when they won the NBA Championship title, there’s still nothing quite like the way Canada supports the Blue Jays, no matter HOW good or bad the team is doing. So being able to hype people up for another
baseball season all across the country like that is pretty special to me.
AS: How important is institutional knowledge for a format like sports?
EH: To be honest, it’s not the most important thing. Again, it comes down to the people you have around you, and also your willingness to research. The guy who was doing Imaging for Sportsnet before me is an incredibly talented producer named Anthony Conte. He’s now imaging 98.1 CHFI, and is the AC Imaging Lead for Rogers Radio. He was doing an amazing job with 590, to the point that I was intimidated when I took over the job – I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up his standard! But he isn’t a big sports guy. He was able to do such a great job because he would research – and because the other people – the assistant PD, the writer, the jocks, the show producers, etc. would all help out too. Even with myself, I’m not a huge basketball fan. So when it came to producing that Kobe Bryant tribute that you heard, I had to do a lot of research. I knew of Kobe Bryant in the same way everyone did, but not in the same way a basketball fan knew him. So I Googled him, I watched Youtube videos, I asked my Assistant PD what the *most* important thing for Kobe was, and we had people pulling audio clips from different sources and sharing them with me. While it may have been a piece that “I” produced, there were a bunch of different people involved in it. Can you do great Imaging without having an incredible knowledge of sports? 100%. As long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort to research what you don’t know.
AS: What DAW do you use?
EH: ProTools 12 for PC.
AS: What are your favorite plugins?
EH: Well, I was recently introduced to a plug-in called RX7, and I’m really excited about it. It’s an audio repair plug-in that can create near-studio quality instrumentals and acapellas from just about any song. It’s way better than the Vocal Remove feature in Adobe, or any other commonly-used attempt to create instrumentals. Previously, I was always limited to using songs where I could find a really good quality instrumental version, so I’m excited to get to play around with this plug-in, and expand my horizons!
AS: What are new learnings? Ideas you work on? Inspirations?
EH: An idea I’m working on right now is the Season Opener piece for the 2020 Blue Jays season, but it’s actually an idea I’ve been working on since October. I heard a song that I liked and thought would be cool to use in something, so I found an instrumental version, threw it into ProTools, started putting some play by play with it, and thought hey – this could really work to kick off next season! So I’ve been working on it as I have time, and even though it’s almost done, I still go back to it from time to time just to listen to it with fresh ears, and make sure it all still works. I get my inspiration a lot from commercial music – even if it’s not using that exact track in my material, because you can’t use artist songs in EVERYTHING – it’s how can I get that same emotion? I’ll go on Youtube and search for fan videos – there’s no end of hype videos that fans have made for their favourite sports teams, and they’ve often used great hype music in the background. It not only gives me ideas of what music to use, but also helps me connect with what sort of emotions those fans have tied to their favourite teams.
AS: Any new tools you discovered lately?
EH: The tool I’ve been using quite a bit is actually nothing related to ProTools or production at all – it’s actually an app on my iPhone. I’ve found Shazam has been extremely helpful. If I’m watching those hype videos on Youtube and I don’t recognize the song, I can just Shazam it. I’ve even been sitting at home watching TV and heard a commercial with a song that had a cool beat to it that I didn’t know, so I just Shazam it. A few months ago, I was watching a hockey game and just before puck drop, they were playing a piece of music in the arena that I wanted to use in something. I wasn’t able to Shazam it at the time, and it took me about three days to FINALLY find out what the song was (I’d gone through Spotify playlists, Youtube, all looking for songs played at hockey games and came up empty.) Finally, I was able to find a broadcast of that game, find where that play happened, and there was enough of the song coming through that Shazam was able to pick it up. (It was Tsunami by DVBBS, but where it kicks in at 1:17, in case you’re wondering!)
AS: Your favorite piece of imaging/production ever?
EH: My favourite piece ever is probably a piece that Chris Pottage, my boss, produced in 2015 back when the Blue Jays were doing really well and made it into the postseason. He managed to weave together Eminem’s “One Shot” with the Beatles “Come Together” WITH the Ok Blue Jays theme song, along with play by play calls in an absolutely incredible way that really captured the excitement of the Blue Jays run, and hearing that piece takes me right back to those sold out crowds and the energy in the stadium. It was electric, and his promo was just as electric.
But if you mean my favourite piece of MY Production – that’d probably be the 2019 Season Opener for the Blue Jays – that season was all about the team re-setting, and all of these young prospects finally coming up to the big leagues, and I just love how I was able to find a song that not only captured that theme, but worked so well with the play by play, and I was super happy with how it turned out. The opener for the 2020 season may actually be even better, but it won’t air until the end of March, so I can’t share it just yet. And if you’re wondering if I’m biased that all of my favorite projects are based around the Blue Jays – absolutely I am. I still try and connect to the emotions for other sports for the listeners, but they don’t connect emotionally the same way for ME. There’s a difference between “Hey, that’s a really cool piece of Production”, and “Oh, I love the memories and feelings that that piece of Production connects me to.”
AS: What would be your career advice for a youngster or your twenty-year-old self trying to enter the radio biz?
EH: It’s not too late for law school.
But if you really MUST try to enter the radio biz – then stay passionate. Even if you find yourself working with a format that you don’t really like, find a way to discover passion within it. You spend so much of your life working, there’s no sense in spending all that time doing something you don’t enjoy, so always find a way to find the fun within a job. And when you DO get stressed out, always remember…we’re not dealing with life-or-death situations here. We get to PLAY radio for a living. And that’s a pretty fun thing to do!
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