WKRP

I just found out something interesting.  The reason it took so long to get WKRP episodes out on DVD has nothing to do with any lack of demand – apparently is was perennially a top request.  But yet it took from the 1982, when the show ended, 25 years to get released last year.  The problem was, that because it was set in a rock radio station, there is always music from popular 70s and 80s bands playing in the background — and Fox didn’t have the rights to sell that music!  Just to get the first season released, they had to track down the owner of every song played in every episode, and buy the rights to redistribute them on DVD.

This seems weird.  Artists want to have their work played on the radio to boost album sales.  They don’t want unauthorized copying of their work because it would hamper album sales.  But no-one is going to NOT BUY your music because they can hear it “for free” on a WKRP DVD.  In fact, they’re more likely to get exposed to it for the first time by watching the DVD, especially if it doesn’t get a lot of airplay any more.

Read more of my ranting about over-protective copyright clutchers here.  Or don’t.  Your call.  Really.

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4 Responses to “WKRP”

  1. CM Says:

    “It’s a sneaky snooper, Andy!”
    WKRP was second only to Newhart in terms of “comic-awesomeness”!

    25 years eh? Perhaps they were waiting for the songwriters to die rather than trying to track them all down.

  2. netdud Says:

    The problem isn’t really with artists. OK, I told that wrong–the problem ISN’T with artists saying “No, you can’t have my song in the background of a WKRP DVD.”

    The problem is in the way the rights to those songs are administered, and how much money a company wants to spend to make money.

    Artists get into publishing and licensing and record deals because they DON’T want to do all that work themselves. There are still folks who DO administer their own rights (as you will discover if you, like me, try to get the rights to “Six Days on the Road”), but more often than not, someone OTHER than the artist holds sway over whether a work can be used. And it is the job of those folks to try to squeeze every dime they can out of every use they can.

    They are not playing a long game, like an artist might be. They don’t care about the come-back as much–they have been waiting for the situation they are in RIGHT NOW. I’m just saying that Randy Vanwarmer and Paper Lace aren’t going to be hitting the comeback trail, and the Eagles are selling about as much as they are going to, and their people don’t even need to answer the phone about giving out free licensing.

    Also, keep in mind that, in order to protect their IP, all of those rights HAVE to be granted with an agreement, whether that agreement is for NO MONEY or not. You can’t let anything go without a lawyer touching it.

    So again, the problem isn’t that the ARTISTS are making a decision about this particular licensing issue. The problem is that, sometime in the past, the artists made a decision to hand these decisions over to someone else. And that someone else has a different set of priorities than the artist–which is why they were brought in.

    Is that broken? Well, it is if you aren’t on the winning side.

    Adding to this is the cost of producing the DVD. In a lot of cases, the soundtrack stuff is not recorded live during taping, but put in before or after, on separate tracks. If that’s the case, it’s just a matter of going through the source material and taking out anything that’s being a licensing problem for the DVD.

    That would cost you probably less than a week of a decent engineer’s time, and remove the licensing issue.

    Of course, this would not always be the case, and maybe they DID have the music playing live when they taped WKRP, so the actors’ voices are all munged in with the soundtrack.

    It comes down to the fact that there are lots of other DVDs that the company can chuck out with less hassle, and they are just as happy to make money selling other DVDs, even if people aren’t as happy buying them. Why spending time climbing for the fruit at the top of the tree when there’s tons of it already on the ground?

  3. Stephen Brooks Says:

    To your point of simply replacing the problematic tracks in the production of the DVD – apparently they did exactly that with Married with Children and pissed off a bunch of purist fans when they released the DVD…

  4. netdud Says:

    1) I don’t know if this story is apocryphal or not, but apparently, someone asked Gretzky about shooting efficiency one time. That’s a stat measuring the ratio of goals a player gets versus how many shots he takes. Gretzky was reported to have said something like “Well, I can’t tell you how many goals I get per shot I take, but I CAN tell you how many goals I get from shots I DON’T take.”
    2) I’m not sure that there’s a concern about how much return business WKRP gets at this point.
    3) …but if there IS any money to be made on that, it’s probably to be made by putting out the SAME material. But how to cynically re-package the same 25-year-old content in a way that people would re-buy? How ’bout a version with ALL the original soundtracking in place, which would be easier to budget for if your previous DVD had made money? I’ll see you on the Dark Side of the Moon and raise you 4 Blade Runners.
    4) There are “purist fans” for “Married…with Children?” That’s it. I quit.


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