Imaging In 2019 – Matt Damrow

Welcome to the “Imaging In 2019 Series” – a blog series that interviews inspiring producers and great creators of Station Sound.

Matt Mamrow

This week’s guest is someone I’ve been aware of for probably about 5-6 years. Matt Damrow is an Imaging Producer and Manager of Sports Imaging with SiriusXM, based out of New York.

I’ve had a few guys from SiriusXM so far but I knew Matt well before starting at SiriusXM. He has been quite giving with his time in pushing our industry further through various interviews and even “Creatives In Bars with Coffee” (see video at the bottom of this page)

Matt is a cool guy and knows his good drink! Had a great night out in New York drinking Glenfidditch Scottish Whiskey. Welcome Matt

1. How did you get started in the business and tell us about your role at SiriusXM?

I’m from Westchester County, New York.  It’s a suburb of New York City. I started in radio back in 1997 AD, at a lowly little 250 watt AM community station. I was 16 and desperately needed to do something productive since school wasn’t that interesting at the time. A young programmer named Matt Deutsch was right out of college. He brought me in as an intern and I fell in love with radio. From there I interned at Z100 New York and KZLA in Los Angeles (now defunct). I transitioned to on air at a heritage Rock station in the Hudson Valley, WPDH.  From there I went to Entercom Rochester and Entercom Denver. Between the two Entercomgigs, I discovered I geeked out in a big way with Production and Imaging. When I returned to NYC in 2007, I reconnected with Matt Deutsch at SiriusXM, where he was the Executive Producer for Sports Programming. He brought me in and introduced me to Steve Cohen, SVP Sports Programming, and Joey DiFazio, head of the Sports Imaging department. I’ve been here ever since, working up to Manager as our department has grown over the years, first with Sirius’ merger with XM and most recently Pandora. 
My role functions as both a creative direction lead for sports production and I also keep tabs on weekend operations. Our seven producer team designs and actively images every sports channel on the SiriusXMservice. I manage a lot of the original designing and re-designing of channel brands. I also voice and produce most of the large-scale event promos – Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals, motor sports, fantasy drafts, town halls with big name players and coaches, etc. My voice is probably the most-heard Sports Imaging voice on SiriusXM and one of the three most-heard imaging voices on the entire platform. One channel I’ve been voicing for almost ten years is Fantasy Sports Radio.  Matt Deutsch’s channel and brainchild. It’s a cash cow. And I don’t even play fantasy sports! 
I’ve been very lucky in radio and have learned a lot from a slew of talented folks over the years, and, fortunately, I continue to.

2. What's your opinion on the current state of play with regards to Sport Radio Imaging?

Sports Imaging, like Sports Programming, has changed over the last decade or so. Programmers are always trying to engage their listeners more and more.  And a regular sports audience is a demanding audience. They want action, information AND story. Television and digital has enabled viewers to practically become part of the game by putting cameras right next to players, on the field, on the track. For example, for NASCAR Radio, we carry driver-to-crew audio so dedicated fans can go inside and be part of their favorite driver’s team. The imaging needs to convey this. No longer can you portray sports from the perspective of a fan far away in the stands or bleachers. You need to get up close with the sound to convey the adrenaline and emotion. Putting the experience in the foreground so the fan (listener) can be there, in the game, is what it’s all about. I find music helps with this more than anything because it carries the emotion of the experience. Then the specific sound design carries the imaging home, enhancing the crescendos and beats of the copy. 
Which leads me to the one thing that has not changed: The importance of well-written copy. As with any other format, imaging lacking strong copy is like a house built without a foundation.

3. In 2019, what do you think is more important - creativity or technical ability (or both)?

I will go with “both”.  To me, creativity is something that comes from nothing.  Your creativity, with your unique perspective and outlook on the world, wasn’t in this world until you put it here. You literally put it in the world.  It’s original. It’s art. It’s your take. Your opinion. But everyone has one.
Technical ability, on the other hand, is certainly necessary, there’s no way without it. But having technical ability without any idea how to use it effectively or strategically in an entertaining way to captivate the audience is a lost opportunity. 
That’s where the two come together and become what’s called craft. Think of it this way: If you’re a film director, yes, you need to know how a camera works, how to edit, how to incorporate sound, how to compose a shot, how to handle actors, etc. But what is your work going to say?  And how is it going to say it? Your DAW is not a means to an end. It needs YOU.

4. What was the best tip you know now, that’d you wish you knew when starting out?

Learn how to manage your boss.  Each one is different.  Every programmer and GM has a different MO. Are they driven to just deliver results? Are they interested in growing their staff or mentoring in any way that can help? It’s important to identify what kind of boss you’re working with so you know what is expected of you and how to succeed.  The extra benefit of learning how to manage your boss is, once you do, you can teach them how to manage you more effectively.
A bonus tip would be to stay in touch with radio friends. As my relationship with Matt Deutsch has proven, it’s essential to expand your professional network with meaningful relationships and friendships. Friends look out for friends.

5. You are very well versed when it comes to formats and styles. What is your favourite format to work with?

Although I started out in music imaging and morning show topical production, and I WANT to say Rock Imaging…  I have to go with Sports Imaging now.  
When you sell sports content with Imaging, you are telling a story. The player or team is the protagonist. There’s a bad guy (the other team) or a struggle to overcome (an injury, losing streak, etc). Let’s face it, human beings connect to each other through emotion, and storytelling is a mechanism that can trigger many emotions. And I even get to go back to my music imaging roots and tap into the emotive power behind music theory (Thank you Dave Foxx!). Sports Imaging allows me to play around with an assortment of creative tools and connect with the listener. And that’s my job.  Connect. Communicate.  Deliver.

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