Boy, just when you thought you had all the answers … they changed all the questions!
Watching classic ‘Mad Men’ episodes the other night, it hit me again as to how completely flipped and upside/down marketing & advertising has become from the 20th to the 21st century.
We’ve transitioned rather dramatically from ‘interruption’ marketing to ‘permission’ marketing.
Think about it, from the local disc jockey hitting a commercial and joking about the station ‘paying the light bill’ to the network newscaster ‘interrupting’ the news stories to have :30 spots sell you stuff … ‘interruption marketing/advertising’ was, last century, THE way to get your message across.
Today in 2022 even the 7 year old child skillfully navigates the remote control fast-forwarding the DVR box through the commercials … and then turns around and price-comparison-shops from a smart phone in the aisles at Target or Best Buy!
‘Permission marketing’ in the 21st century ‘allows’ the buyer into YOUR world when he is ready to buy. It gives the buyer all the pertinent information needed UPON REQUEST via the device they have on-hand – in many cases IN their hand – to make the buying decision.
So, telling your compelling story online, making yourself available 24-7-365, and letting the potential buyer know about your satisfied customers while online has indeed become the 21st century marketing challenge.
And no matter the century, it’s just plain human nature that people/buyers will put more trust and faith in what other people have to say about you … than anything you have to say about yourself.
The power of a well worded, sincere testimonial – let alone from someone already known and trusted – speaks volumes about one’s service rendered or product offered.
In a virtual world where, in many cases, the entire transaction is done without human interaction, smiles, winks or handshakes, and across miles and state lines – the testimonial creates trust!
And this is precisely why I’ve just recently dedicated many hours to revamping the Airlift Productions website’s Testimonial Page.
From local New Orleans television personalities to New York AudioBook producers, from iconic horror movie host Morgus the Magnificent to the Discovery Studios in Hollywood … from the mouth of James Carville at the Airlift mics (astonishingly, in sync with Congressman Steve Scalise’s opinion) to former Sirius/XM satellite talk show host Mike Church‘s opinion – all in their own words!
From VoiceOver jobs, music recording sessions & audio books… to telephone systems & educational software – Airlift Productions & I have delivered. Time and time again. From the last century to this one.
So go ahead, tap the 21st-century-brakes for just a second, hit the pause button on the DVR box, and visit the Airlift Productions~Ziants Testimonials page here – when YOU are ready, 24-7-365 – and we’ll be there for you!
And trust me, Mad Men’s Don Draper wouldn’t have had a clue!
“Thank you Michael for being so accommodating, and making my job truly enjoyable. I’ve recorded in many professional studios all around Australia throughout the years, but I felt right at home and was really impressed with the hugeAirlift Productions recording space & booth you built. Recording with you was as easy as if I were in my own studio back in Australia – and that really makes for a successful session. All your wonderful compliments didn’t hurt the vibe either! My ego appreciates your generous, kind words. Thanks again for being such a gentleman.”
The National Weather Service defines the “Eye” as the region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones.
Metaphorically, the ever-changing media & technology would be the tropical cyclones/hurricanes, and Airlift Productions & I would be the ones whohave for nearly forty years resided… calmly persistent & steady, in the hurricane’s eye.
In 1984, the needs of my first full-time client – WGNO-TV/Tribune Broadcasting – gave birth to the Airlift Productions Studios.That very year Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, the compact disc was brand new, and top-rated CBS affiliates WWL-TV & WWL radio here in New Orleans were owned by Loyola University (“World Wide Loyola”) and… the Catholic Church.
From the changing complexion of the White House to digital music distribution (and piracy), TV/radio deregulation and consolidation, and from Loyola’s WWL ownership change to Gannet/Tegna, and Entercom to Audacy – my oh my, how the media and technological winds have blown!
Meanwhile, through all the changes and through all the years, Airlift Productions and I have resided calmly and ever-persistent in the Hurricane’s Eye.
A recent Search Engine request for just two words “Airlift Productions” yielded the most remarkable result – in the Images section was an internet-search-generated collage of a Life lived in the Hurricane’s Eye…
There was every studio I’d ever built – from the closet at Rock Creek Apartments to Iberville to Pomona. There was Norman Robinson, Rich Lenz, Heath Allen, Deuce McAllister, Congressman Steve Scalise, Amy Landon, Dr. Morgus, Rachel Wulff, Tim Weston, Jamie Neumann, Sean O’Shea, Sister Thecla, even studio mascot The Shadeaux, the studio’s stained glass window and game room!
From radio commercials, TV voice-overs, podcasts & audio books, to educational software, industrial training & safety videos, and from cathode ray tubes to flat screens and broadcast to podcast – the Airlift Studios & I have shifted and tacked into the winds of change … while remaining calm & steady in the Hurricane’s Eye.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence & Determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Coolidge/Ziants
*** Micheal Ziants AUDIO BOOK Demo ***
And the winds continue to blow! My grandfather John was born before the radio, my father Charlie was born before the television, and I was born before the internet & digital.
Well, whatever it is, you can rest assured that Airlift Productions and I will be there … in the Hurricane’s Eye.
“We’ve worked with Mike for almost 15 years, both as voice over and on-camera talent in more than 50 films. Not only is he a great guy and a super talent, but he has the coolest recording studio in the South.” ~ TIM WESTON, President TLW Productions, NOLA
No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger A brotherhood of man Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will live as one
~ John Lennon, “Imagine”
As my fave old metaphysical space cowboy running partner Henry David (Thoreau) used to say, “Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now… put the foundations under them”. And …
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us … are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”
Airlift Mike – channeling and realizing the dreams of John Lennon & Henry David Thoreau… since 1972.
“Michael is without a doubt one of the most versatile audio and production experts in the industry. ” — NORMAN ROBINSON, Harvard Nieman fellow; Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters-Our Lady of Holy Cross College; former CBS-TV White House correspondent; senior news anchor WDSU-TV, NOLA
When folks first visit my Airlift Productions Studios here in New Orleans, one of their first questions is regarding my motivation for building such an awesome recording space in the first place.
My response? “Well, quite frankly”, I tell them, “I have an entrepreneurial drive that was forged in the fires of unemployment!”
I just grew tired and weary of the corporate radio mentality that treated warm, talented and caring humans – with families to look after – as simple commodities!
As all of America today it seems is constantly being outsourced, marginalized, downsized and capsized, even back in the ’80s, I wanted to forge, hand-craft, and create my own future.
Enter the Airlift dream.
I would never have been at Q-93 Radio (WQUE-FM) in 1983 had WIFI-FM in Philadelphia not fired me. A format change to “Rock of the ’80s” – Psychedelic Furs, Oingo-Bongo, Roxy Music, X, Berlin – in early ’83 led to my dismissal.
Imagine taking this excuse to the PA unemployment line bean-counters, “Well, the consultants considered my on-air approach & style too adult sounding and too mature for the new format!” Really.
I would never have been at WIFI in Philadelphia had management not fired the entire air staff at WLAC in Nashville. This legendary 50,000 watt radio station sat on Music Row in Nashville, was owned by Billboard Magazine at the time, and reached Canada and Cuba from the mid-south with it’s remarkable signal.
But it all didn’t matter when Billboard sold the station to new owners – who then changed the format to All-Talk/News and fired/terminated its entire air staff, including yours truly.
I would never have been on-air at WLAC had the Pulitzer family in St. Louis at 55-KSD not made a similar move. The radio station was sold to new owners who then changed the format to All-Talk/News and fired it’s entire on-air personality music air staff.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Enter the Airlift dream.
I left Harrisburg on my own terms to pursue my first major market air shift in St. Louis. And I indeed exited Q-93 (as afternoon DJ/Air personality) in 1985 to build my own dream, to fulfill my destiny… to create Airlift Productions.
Airlift Productions was my way of taking all the skills that I’d learned working for “the man” and putting them to work for myself! I simply parlayed the many skills hard-earned and fine-tuned through all those radio years into self-employment as a VoiceOver talent and recording studio owner.
The final chapter? Well, it has yet to be written. As the old advertising adage goes… “watch this space…”
My dear colleague, it was a true delight to visit and work with you in yourdigital laboratory. I somewhat envy your remarkable equipment, which far exceeds anything we can afford here in the old city ice house. Your audio production facilities are second to none, and I thank you again for the excellent recordings you produced for the Momus A. Morgus Institute.” — Momus
** A tested-by-time Testimonial from Dr. Morgus (aka – Sid Noel Rideau) direct from the old city ice house to the Airlift digital lab via email.
With all the equipment in the Airlift Productions studios – bouncing meters, glowing lights, ‘bells & whistles’ – the one thing visitors and clients seem to remark the most about is, strangely enough, the Window!
Its custom-cut, stained glass beauty captures every New Orleans sunset from it’s setting in the western wall of the studio, and gives constant feedback on current sky conditions as it reflects the tempo of each and every recording day.
Inspired by ancient Mayan illustrations and pyramid hieroglyphics, it was custom-designed to carry the colors of the Airlift Studios into it’s intricate artwork – from the passionate purple of the walls to the midnight blue carpet & charcoal grey acoustic foamed walls.
“The Gift of Life”, as it is called, symbolizes the spiritual journey of man.
At the center is the flame-like symbol of God who is Light & Life, the Creator of All.
The Triangle – symbolizing Mind, Spirit & Soul enlightened by God in its midst – is within the circle that signifies God is All in All, without beginning or end.
Surrounding the circle are the glyph signs for sky, earth’s abundance, and precious water.
And this magnificent artwork accomplishes all this spiritually without being overtly religious, to say nothing of ‘choosing up sides’ – favoring one religion, faith, or approach over another.
“The Gift of Life” also serves as the perfect backdrop and vibe for all the intensely creative audio projects & work being recorded and captured at the Airlift Productions Studios.
It has been said that the best VoiceOverTalents come from the stage – not the radio – because the theater and acting is at the heart of the craft, not broadcasting.
But what if a talent could combine both?
Yes, this blog could perhaps be seen as self-serving, tooting one’s own horn … and sort of like ‘breaking the 4th wall’ in a Woody Allen movie where he addresses the camera directly, but here goes …
While I began my broadcasting career in the 1970s and worked on-air in some of America’s greatest cities (and was subsequently hired & fired from some of America’s greatest radio stations), for me… it all began on the stage!
The acting bug bit me early – and hard! In the 1960s it was civic Children’s Theater in Youngstown, Ohio that was my launch pad. Saturdays could find me on-stage re-creating the stories of Peter Pan, Tom Edison or Robin Hood.
I then went on, through high school, to become the President of the Thespian Club and had the leads in the Junior and Senior Class plays as well.
Using the human voice to arrest someone’s attention … and then motivate them to relate to a cause or sympathize with an issue seemed the stuff of magic. I was hooked.
Later on, as a broadcaster – and then as a voice over talent – I learned to call on these same skills, intuitive yet honed on a stage … and bring them to the microphone!
Shocking, Raw, Visceral – Adults Only ** Micheal reads from Pelican Publishing’s True Crime Drama “Murder in Coweta County”
So, again, what if the voice over artist – the person delivering the message at the microphone – could combine innate, yet trained, acting chops plus vast commercial broadcast experience and decades of technical, hands-on production experience?
OK, here comes the horn tooting part – that would be … me!
Do you want to book a voice talent with experience? With theater in his blood? With years of broadcasting & audio production thrown in ala carte?
“I listened to a lot of voices to represent Detective Lt. Robert (Robbo) Davidson for our audiobook version of “The Evil I Have Seen” and none quite fit. At last, I did a search for a commanding, seasoned, slightly Southern voice — and pulled up Airlift Productions of NOLA. I clicked on Micheal’s sample narrations of “Murder in Coweta County” then James Patterson’s “The Chef,” and I was hooked. No one else would do.
I was surprisingly delighted after speaking with Micheal to learn, he would not agree to narrate and produce the audiobook until he read it. He wasn’t in it just for money — he would only partner on material he believed to be worthwhile. It has been a delightful, rewarding experience and Robbo and I could not be more proud of the way he brought this book to life.” — Author PJ Jones
I first met and recorded Norman Robinson in 1991. He was fresh back in NOLA from the White House CBS-TV Network news beat, and was the newly-ordained anchor man at our WDSU.
Little did we then realize, or even think about future days, but the fact is, 31 years later, we’re still at it!
Our most recent project? Recording and compiling every electronic message for every streetcar and bus – even the ferries – in the cityof New Orleans.
“Senior citizens ride the bus for only 40 cents”… “Please look around you for any personal items you may have left behind before exiting the vehicle/next stop, Canal Street.”
NORTA – the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority – tagged Norman and me to record well over 1,500 wav files for use in their system citywide.
** Norman narrates NORTA’s ‘Go Mobile’ App Tutorial **
Rich Lenznow calls Tulsa, OK home, a gone pecan from NOLA for over ten years now (gee, Thanks, Katrina), but he served for 16 years as sports director/anchor atWDSU.
Richie and I’ve recorded countless tunes together, including epic anthems to herald the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon fund-raising year-after-year to benefit and support our Children’s Hospital’s life saving efforts for our kids.
** the 1st, of many, Telethon Tunes for Children’s Hospital **
After meeting WWL/WDSU anchor gal Rachel Wulff around the aisles of our local Lowe’s Home Improvement store, I helped Rachel improve her post-anchor life and UP her game by producing a VoiceOver demo for her.
** Rachel’s VO Demo, with her daughter’s cutesy intro **
His compassionate, and knowledgeable in-the-field reporting is always incisive and spot-on. And he picks quite a guitar, at that.
2022 continues to see local NOLA news veteran Camille Whitworthdrop by from time to time for various VO commercial and industrial projects.
Camille dedicated years to the anchor chair at WDSU, and today fills her days public speaking, doing on-camera work for our East Jefferson Hospital, and recording various VoiceOver projects forclients in and around NOLA.
Dependable, personable, and experienced, Camille is always fun to have around the Airlift Studios.
There is simply no reason or need for news anchors to walk away from their skills & finely-honed talents when they walk away from the nightly news anchor desk.
Norman, Rich, Heath, Rachel, Lee & Camille are all exceptionally fine and experienced talents with, as the expression goes, ‘ a lot of good miles left on their tires’.
It has also been said, and rightly so, that journalism, as well as the nightly news, is ‘History – the first draft’.
I am so gratified – and humbled – that these remarkable ladies and gentlemen have all chosen to work with me and Airlift Productions to write new chapters.
And, as Paul Harvey used to intone, tell ‘the rest of the story’.
“I’ve been in studios from the Bayou to the Beltway and I can say after recording my last two audio books with Mike that there is no better place than Airlift Productions. The quality of the production, the studio, and frankly the comfort make it the only place I want to record now or in the future”— JAMES CARVILLE, Political commentator, Tulane professor & Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation
If you ever recorded at or visited or got silly during Friday ‘happy hours’ at the now-the-stuff-of-legend Airlift Productions Iberville Street location … have you ever paused to consider what it took to create that remarkable space?
It’s not too bold a statement to say that my blood is quite literally in the mortar that holds the very bricks in this wall together! For though I am not a mason or a brick layer, I certainly played one in 1989 on Iberville Street.
With the help of just one other guy (Joe Delery now works in the crime division of the NOPD), I also pounded the nails, hung & floated sheet rock, packed insulation, laid carpet, and wired the entire facility. Whew!
And a whole host of radio rebels, stand-up comics, misfits, in-laws & outlaws!
The mantra through the entire construction stage was ‘Build it…and they will come!’ What a passion, what a studio… what a time!
** A “Mike McCann” classic VoiceOver/Production Demo from the 90s, all produced on Iberville with R-R tape – for NOLA clients like WVUE-TV, Pat O’Brien’s, Times-Picayune, etc. ***
But as much as I loved this location, Iberville street, the elevator, my Endymion parties, and having Venezia’s Italian food, Angelo Brocato’s, Mandina’s & Liuzza’s but a block or two walk away … I flooded twice at this location – and this was well before Mother Katrina came to town!
So, I ran with my prophetic visions and in early 2001 moved the entire Airlift Productions business well out of the flood plain and to the high ground just the other side of the now-infamous breached 17th Street Canal . To start over.
But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.
“Working with Airlift Mike in NOLA was an utter pleasure. I was in town for business for a month and needed to maintain my audiobook recording schedule. Mike was accommodating and a pure professional. He mastered the punch and roll technique in 24 hours to be ready for our first session, and over the course of the month we laid down 5 books and a number of auditions. His studio sounds great. The vibe & atmosphere can’t be beat. You’d be hard pressed to find a better recording studio in the southeast – no matter what your needs. I wish I could have stayed!” ~ AMY LANDON, Los Angeles-based Actress & Ultra-busy AudioBook Narrator
The short answer? All three! The long answer? How much time do you have? Too many questions? Oops, another question…
To begin with, all sound travels in waves. That’s analog. As I speak, my voice travels from my larynx to your ear as a wave form. Now, in capturing said wave form in a recording device or computer for editing and storage, it is still considered and called a wave form, but then it’s digital. Science.
But making MAGIC with that wave form is quite another thing altogether. Art.
Now, creating an environment, a creative space, a ‘vibe’, a place to make that audio magic – that audio alchemy – possible is yet another story completely.
Pause to consider, the entire Airlift Productions air space is completely out-of-square with no parallel walls, and the studio ceiling rises from front to back.
Custom-designed, the entire room is built like the ancient Greeks imagined the amphitheater – sound waves naturally propagate from the near-field reference monitors in the front across the room to the back wall.
The Airlift Studios control room widens from 6 feet square at the front … to nearly 12 feet at the back. Dramatic, sure, but functional, as well. A critical listening space should never be constructed with parallel walls, ceiling & floor, as this creates standing waves, slap-back echoes and assorted audio headaches.
Room treatment, acoustic foam, carpeting on the walls, natural daylight filtered through stained glass, and dimmer-controlled mood lighting further enhance artist & engineer comfort & creativity through the entire recording process.
Yes, Art & Science get it on at Airlift Productions! To create MAGIC.
Purpose-designed for comfort, creativity & breath-taking sound, Airlift has delivered the goods since 1984 from local to global with style!
From broadcast to podcast, big screen to small. From simple voice over tracks to intensely personal musical projects, test-drive your first session today from wherever you are on the web at Airlift Productions.
“Weapons of Mass Production” ~ Airlift Productions, New Orleans
Airlift Mike, always as close as the mouse on your desktop or the cell in your pocket at #504.833.8450.
When quality counts ~ count on Airlift Productions. Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984.
“Airlift Mike was a saint, and ridiculously patient and supportive (and helpful!!) for this audio book virgin. In another environment, without the support, and with pressureto perform “right”, I probably would have completely fallen apart. So the MVP for this getting done goes 100% to Mike and the chilled out environment he’s cultivated…personally and within his studio… A big heartfelt thanks to Mike and the years of expertise he brought to this project to ensure I sounded my very best. If you’re ever in Nola and need the best audio dude, and the best dude dude, holler at my man Mike withwww.airliftproductions.com”
—- Los Angeles & NOLA-based Dog Trainer SEAN O’SHEA
While the world was still calling the genre “Books-On-Tape” in 1993, Airlift Productions self-published and successfully sold spoken word CDs to libraries across America – and to the world via thePlayboycatalog.
I realize that this all sounds a tad mad, but let me tell you the story.
I first met New Orleans icon “Miss Linda”, Linda Mintz, during a session at the Airlift Studios on Iberville street in 1993 while recording radio commercials for a local client.
Our muses, along with the stars, somehow aligned after that session while Linda and I discussed our love for poetry… as we hatched the egg of an idea for an outfit we dubbed “WordMusic”.
Linda, long known and loved by generations of New Orleanians as Romper Room’s “Miss Linda”, had been reared with a love and respect for the magic of poetry.
Yours truly, while working all over New Orleans airwaves as a commercial voice and producer, was looking to create a self-published project that had “legs”, would be “evergreen” and that we could get behind and market to the world.
Produced on Iberville Street (all on reel-to-reel tape), voiced by Linda & me, and backed by husband Albert Mintz… we called the project “SOFT WORDS, WARM NIGHTS”.
** “I Love You/A Bright New Land”… Soft Words, Warm Nights excerpt with Linda Mintz & Micheal Ziants **
Imagine the world’s most romantic poetry lovingly rendered – and cast against the lush backdrop of the sounds of nature, coupled with a meditative new age score.
Score one for the kids on Iberville Street!
** Bess, the landlord’s daughter sacrifices herself to save her lover, Mike Ziants reads the classic, “The Highwayman” from SWWN **
Together with marketing pal Charlie Biondo, we drew the attention of Bayside Distributors in California, produced cassette tapes AND CDs in 1993, were successfully reviewed by all the major trade publications, and took it to market!
** “Will You Love Me When I’m Old?” from SWWN **
After selling over 3,500 to libraries across the U.S., we attended the American Booksellers Association trade show in Chicago, where I personally pitched the project to Hugh Hefner!
Hef was back in his hometown that weekend to promote Playboy’s 40th Anniversary coffee table book and, little did he know it – but get a fast pitch from Micheal Ziants.
Playboy Magazine’s catalog then featured our “Soft Words, Warm Nights” in several editions, helping us to move over 500 units, saying that our CD created “Irresistible Ambiance”.
While I caught a lot of kidding & ribbing from family and fellow radio pals here in NOLA over this entire escapade, it remains one of my favorite stories.
What wasn’t so pleasant?
In an attempt to get a major ongoing distributor for our work, upon sending our CDs to every single major AudioBook publisher at the time, we were not only turned down – but ripped off!
As the idea – romantic spoken word, produced with music & sound effects – was copied within a year by many of them, along with known Hollywood actors that carried marquis–type names.
Oh well, as the Bard once opined, “It is better to have loved and lost… than to have never loved at all.”
Besides, it still makes for great “Did-you-hear-the-one-about-the-BIG-one-that-got-away?” type stories around the bar and NOLA parties.
Furthermore, as Churchill reminded us all, “Never. Never. Never. Give up!”… and from the vernacular, “He who loves and runs away, lives to fight another day.”
I haven’t. (Given up.)
And.. I have! (Lived for another day.)
I mean, back in the 1990s, how was I to know that here in 2019 my path would intersect with one of the world’s biggest and best-selling authors?
“Working with Airlift Mike in NOLA was an utter pleasure. I was in town for business for a month and needed to maintain my audiobook recording schedule. Mike was accommodating and a pure professional. He mastered the punch and roll technique in 24 hours to be ready for our first session, and over the course of the month we laid down 5 books and a number of auditions. His studio sounds great. The vibe & atmosphere can’t be beat. You’d be hard pressed to find a better recording studio in the southeast – no matter what your needs. I wish I could have stayed!” ~ Amy Landon