Letters to the Editor - August 1992

LettersI quite enjoyed the July R.A.P.. The Test Drive of the Dynamax was of interest as I've had one in my studio on test for the last couple of months. While it's not the future of digital radio, it certainly is a great and affordable bridge between current technology and digital mass storage. And it's compatible with ham-fisted jocks as well! It also functioned nicely as a "reel-to-reel" when one of mine went on the blink for a couple of days! I might add that my unit came with 1.0d software and has recently been upgraded to the 1.0f software you tested. The difference is that of a Chevette and a Ferrari! The Fidelipac factory was very helpful during the change-over. I even got customer service help during the week of the NAB convention!

As usual the Tips & Techniques section was very helpful to both myself and to our writers as well. You can never repeat the basic rules too many times.

Unlike Dennis Daniel, I didn't read the June issue in the can. It was the first day back at work after five weeks off with a broken leg and ankle, and what a surprise from Bill Mullin [Letters to the Editor, June '92]. Dennis, I think I know how you feel.

Let me say that I agree with Bill that using "program" music for commercials is wrong, no question about it. However, the question of copyright music in radio commercials has only become an issue within the last two years at this station, at my insistence. Before that, as a creative department, we were unaware of the "damage" we were causing, and management was unconcerned with the legal ramification. Over the fifteen years that this station has been in operation, we have never been sued for copyright infringement! Does this make past actions correct? Is ignorance of the law a defense? Of course not! That's just the way it was.

Recently, when the Canadian Copyright Act was updated to provide greater protection for writers and copyright holders, it didn't take much to realize what we were doing, and to change company policy. Was it an overnight change? No, it was not. We got more production libraries as budget allowed, and gradually cut down on the amount of program music used in commercials and promos. Am I defending our actions? No, just telling you the way it was.

Now I have seven libraries of various sizes to use in production. Do I still use program music? Yes I do, but I can count on one hand the number of times I've done it in the past year. Should I be doing it? No I should not. There is not a library around that meets my needs, that's why I have to use bits and pieces of seven different ones. If one did exist, I'm quite sure that it would be too expensive for practical use. Also note how many times in the past year you've heard recognizable music on R.A.P. Cassettes and submissions. Does any of this make the fact that Production Directors are using "wrong" music in commercials and promos any more right? No. It just shows that this is the way that the industry has worked for years, and how it's slowly changing.

In the ideal radio production world, there would be unlimited resources for new production libraries. I'm extremely fortunate to work for a company that is willing to spend money. There are many stations across North America that don't have the money, or are unwilling to spend it. We also live in the lovely and enjoyable world of deadlines. As I said originally, "...Most of the stuff done in radio production throughout North America is just schlock -- get it out and on the air ASAP." I am therefore not surprised that in the course of a twenty-five spot day that the only thing that will fill the hole, to mesh with the voice, to create a spot good enough to go on air, may be program music. Is it right to do that? No. Are we as producers in the REAL world using it as a crutch? You bet we are. As my wife says, "Shit Happens."

The whole point of the R.A.P. Cassette, and of R.A.P. itself (as I see it) is that it is a place to exchange ideas and information. I get more little ideas each month than what my $85 pays for. I assume that other producers/writers/ managers do as well. If some "Los Angeles production maven" or even someone from Des Moines, Iowa thinks that one of my ideas/submissions is worth duplicating, I'm flattered. For all the ideas I'm using, it's only fair if someone wants to use mine that they go ahead and use it. Good production/writing/voicing/characters/ideas are still good whether they come from New York, LA, Australia, or "obscure locations" like Ottawa, Ontario or Buchanan, MI!

How many stations worldwide are now trying harder that ever to ensure that all commercial music is now copyright cleared? We now reject spots from other stations that use recognizable music. How easy is it to be unaware of copyright? May I refer you to John Pellegrini's article, "Where the Hell Did You Get That Music?" in the January '92 R.A.P.. John submitted an idea to try and help Production Directors across the R.A.P. network achieve ear-catching production. He did so not to make some extra bucks, but to help producers from Alaska to Australia with something they may not have thought of. If he had not submitted his idea to R.A.P., I'm sure that John would be carrying on as normal, completely unaware of any legal ramifications. The raising of this issue in R.A.P. was the final prompting I needed to completely swing management over to the "correct" way of thinking in regard to copyright.

So what am I trying to say, both now and in the May issue? Don't use program music in commercials: make it a rule. But realize that all rules are made to be broken (or at least bent), and in the real world of radio production there will be times when you have to smash that rule into little tiny pieces. Realize, as you lock up the sledgehammer, that you're using a crutch, and the next time (and there surely will be a next time) try and walk on your own.

Thank You. I feel much better now!

Craig Jackman, Production Director
CHEZ 106-FM, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


As Dennis Daniel opened his July '92 column with, my reaction to Mr. Bill Byrne's letter was also anger. But, then I got to thinking...consider the source. Dennis Daniel was merely speaking for us working stiffs in the world of radio, who love what we do and are eager to help our brothers and sisters in the business with a few tips to make life easier. Could Mr. Byrne do the job we thousands of Production Directors perform daily? Could you, Mr. Byrne, handle the demands of my sales staff? One that consists of 10 individuals, all with extensive account lists and all requesting individual attention to each and every one of their clients daily...make that hourly? All wanting their spots yesterday and "unlike anything they've ever heard?" Add to that the Program Director hitting you from the other side for "smokin'" liners, IDs and stagers and the promotions department wanting three different "killer" promos for an event the station does weekly -- "oh, but it's got to be different" and they need them by 5 p.m. today! Well, Mr. Byrne, I can hear you now: "Who does this radio chump think I am? Of course I could handle it." I don't think so, Mr. Byrne, because the key operative word here is "alone," by yourself, without the help of your entire staff and your half a million dollar complex. You see, we "lowly" radio production people do all this daily, and most of us do it alone! The point I am getting to, Mr. Byrne, is that with all the duties we radio people handle daily, I expect a little professional jealousy from you. The fact that we handle all we do in a day, and still possess the creative power to handle a little side work and collect our meager earnings for it, drives you nuts, doesn't it? I hope your arrogance does not carry over into your sales technique in dealing with your clients, Mr. Byrne. If it does, I trust you'll be going hungry soon, real soon, regardless of how talented you may be.

Carl Palmer, Production Director
KZOK-FM, Seattle, WA

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet