Letters to the Editor - August 1994

This is in response to Mike Bailey's response (RAP July '94) to John Nixon's letter to RAP Forum (RAP June '94) regarding "Verbiage." I felt I must take issue with a few points Mike Bailey made.

First of all, I don't feel John Nixon should be chastised on his "attitude." All of us in this crazy business have run across similar situations. What better place to vent than the "RAP Forum?" As long as Mr. Nixon doesn't display his attitude to the client, what harm is there? By venting his frustration in the "RAP Forum," not only did John get a few gripes off his chest, but he reminded all of us that we're not alone. In this particular instance, I might have gone running into the night screaming had I encountered that same situation. I think it's okay for John to be frustrated.

My main point of concern with Mike Bailey's response was his advice to John Nixon, and for that matter, the rest of us. In essence, Mike Bailey's suggestion was to bite your lip and not give any advice to the client to make the spot sound better, because it's their money and you're not being paid to give advice. I don't know how they do things in Panama City, Florida, but here in Seattle and every other market I've worked in, it's ALWAYS the Production Director's job to offer a better way. As Production Directors, we have a responsibility, not only to do our best to keep bad spots off the air, but also to give the client the best chance of getting good results from their advertising schedule. I've found when I give suggestions to clients, they are often grateful for the input. It shows them that you are concerned enough to want their spot to work.

As far as Mike Bailey's suggestion on how to talk to senior citizens, I also disagree. If I were to call my mother in Ohio (who is pushing 80, God Bless her) and say, "Hello Mother! I wanted to inform you of my flight arrangements upon my visit to The Buckeye State on the 25th of August. I will be arriving at 2:40 in the afternoon on an airline entitled 'United.' Upon my emergence from the aircraft you'll be presented with a big hug and kiss!" She would think I was crazy! Sure, maybe I got a little extreme on my example, but I think I've made my point. Nobody, I don't care how old they are, should be addressed in such a formal manner except in print.

I've met John Nixon a few times. I don't know him that well, but working in the same market, I've become very familiar with his work at KLSY and KIXI and know that he's an outstanding producer and has been at the stations almost seven years. You don't stay in one place for that long by having an "attitude problem" as Mike Bailey suggests. My best advice to anyone who wants to be truly successful in this business, is to always strive for the best. You'll lose arguments with clients sometimes, but at least you've tried. You've done your best to help your radio station sound great and help your client. To follow Mike Bailey's advice, is inviting mediocrity at best.

Greg MacArthur, Production Director
KNDD-FM, Seattle, WA


My name is J.T. Austin. I'm Creative Services Manager for Dick Broadcasting Company's Greensboro, North Carolina facilities, WKRR/WKZL (Rock 92 & 107.5 The Eagle). There have been many times that we have actually REFUSED commercial buys from clients who want to use popular songs in their spots because of the liability that we would incur from ASCAP and BMI should we be "caught" doing so. However, I'm very curious about some of the "winners" on the latest 1994 Radio Mercury Awards CD sent to us through the Radio Creative Fund. Some of the winners are using song bits in their spots! So what I am asking is this: if this is so blatantly illegal, why isn't ASCAP/BMI more aggressive in pursuing it? And if they are serious about enforcing it, why don't they send a letter/fax to all client stations with the specific rules spelled out?

My frustration festers as I sit here day after day coming up with fresh ideas and approaches to writing commercial copy with these great ideas that form in my mind's eye...or ear. Sometimes I think, "HEY! That would sound great, but damn, I can't use that song to get the idea across because I can't put my company at risk for those tremendous fines." Then I slip this Radio Mercury Awards disc into the player and hear these award-winning spots takin' home the bacon doing exactly what is said that I shouldn't do!! ARRRRGH! What's a Creative Services Director to do?

Thanks for the forum...(sung to the tune of Thanks For the Memories)...OOOPS!

J.T. Austin, Creative Services Director
WKRR/WKZL, Greensboro, NC

Dear J.T.,

Welcome to that wonderful spot between the rock and the hard place. Your frustrations are certainly legitimate, and I applaud your station's choice to refuse commercials from clients who want to use popular songs in their spots. If more stations take this stand (and I believe more of them are), eventually, more producers and advertisers will think twice about using music illegally. Still, you bring up a good point. Why aren't we getting official memos from ASCAP/BMI and record companies reminding us of our legal limits and their legal rights and copyrights? The infringement occurs every day in markets all across the country! Yet, all we hear about is an occasional lawsuit here and there -- just enough to keep us in line, just enough to keep us in check. Yes, it's very frustrating.

If Joe of Joe's Pawn Shop wants to use a popular song in his commercial, it's easy to say no to him. On the other hand, if you're planning on entering a commercial or promo in an awards competition, and you use a popular song in the piece because it will improve your chances of winning an award, then your values have changed. At this point, it seems all you can do is make an ethical decision. Either you respect the writers, producers, and performers of the music and avoid infringing upon their rights, or you say to heck with it and use their music for your benefit. The question is, if you win an award for a commercial in which you pirated someone else's creative efforts, will you be able to look at that award with pride? That answer should tell you what a Creative Services Director should do with this dilemma.

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