Baby, if you ever wondered...
September 1, 2003 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Also by then, the cost of licensing songs had skyrocketed across the board. So it would have been prohibitively expensive for the distributor to re-license all the songs used on the show.

So ASCAP got $0 in re-licensing fees. Brilliant move, ASCAP; you really understand your market!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:06 PM on September 1, 2003

I am a confirmed WKRP geek, to the point of considering Johnny Fever a role model and even I find this level of documentation (and the idiot laws thats eemed to neccessitate it) disturbing.

What I mind more interesting is the story behind the closing theme music.
posted by jonmc at 8:07 PM on September 1, 2003

A broader look at the issue of purging music of pop music from syndicated TV shows (including WKRP) by Aaron Barnhart, from three years ago.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2003

Er, "purging of pop music." Sigh.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:24 PM on September 1, 2003

And here was a follow-up with comments from Aaron's readers. (Sorry about the disheveled posts. Wish I could fix them. I'll shut up now.)
posted by pmurray63 at 8:27 PM on September 1, 2003

I like the idea of music to purge to, though.
posted by wilberforce at 8:30 PM on September 1, 2003

Okay, I can't find a copy ... I mean, an all-night record store open that has a copy of the closing theme music (and if you go look, all the 44-second ones are the opening theme).

I can't remember what it sounds like, though! Can't anyone at least hum it, or at least prove that it in fact, had no lyrics?
posted by yhbc at 8:36 PM on September 1, 2003

Something that annoyed me: in the show Square Pegs the theme song, Square Pegs, by The Waitresses, has been replaced. I understand the licensing problem, but that seemed a bit too much.
posted by nyxxxx at 8:43 PM on September 1, 2003

WKRP was one of the brightest points of my childhood. I wasn't a big televison-watcher, but I made an exception for WKRP. My favorite moments: Les and the turkeys, and the mascots battling in the bathroom. God I loved that show!
posted by jdroth at 8:46 PM on September 1, 2003

I was interested to read about something completely unknown to me, even though WKRP was on my B-list of must-sees throughout its run. I'm going along, getting ready to delve into this guy's exhaustive documentation, and, after a throwaway reference to Elton John, here's the first specific reference to a song by a specific artist:

though the "main" song--Bob Segar's "That Old Time Rock N' Roll"--was intact.

Bob who? Sorry, no. That's it. It's one thing to be relentlessly obsessive, paying attention to details no one else cares about. But when you're relentlessly obsessive plus sloppy and careless, you lose me.
posted by soyjoy at 8:52 PM on September 1, 2003

yhbc, it was a really fast change-up guitar thingy. And, I'm humming it right now.

(OK, try this: Bam bam. Baa-dada-da-da-dam. Bam de bam de bam.)

I thought it was rather odd that a list of replaced songs doesn't actually list the songs that were replaced. If he knows they were changed, can't he say which was used the first time and which the second time?
posted by dhartung at 8:56 PM on September 1, 2003

Doesn't this just give the general public one MORE reason not to watch reruns of WKRP in Cincinatti? Aren't there already enough reasons not to watch? I would think it'd be easier to just stop syndication, if you have to change the show this much. Music is part of what made the show vaguely entertaining when it first came out. Granted, comparing it to today's more media savvy programming leaves WKRP laughable, and not in the way they intended.

This just makes people think twice for future programming. Why bother creating something that has licensing issues now which may continue to have licensing problems later? Having to pay royalties for production, and then distribution, and then broadcast? Dayam. Makes finding a pond and skipping stones look very appealing. Or maybe just watching cars rust. Would Ford and Chevy sue me for staring at their automobiles and not paying royalties? We could just turn all the media equiptment off and tell licensing to go screw itself, but Season Two of Angel's coming out on dvd today so...
posted by ZachsMind at 9:39 PM on September 1, 2003

(Hmm, ok, my comments talk about music replacements and dvd, which the linked article doesn't really address, however, the situation has been getting out of hand in the dvd world, for exactly the same reasons). The preponderance of TV shows that are needing music edits to be released on dvd's is something that's been disturbing me. Ok, yeah, I realize everyone wants to get paid, and I have no problem with that in general, but too many labels have apparently decided that they can solve their financial woes (real or imagined) by trying to charge ridiculous licensing fees for their music in tv shows that are trying to be put out on dvd. While yes, these shows are going to make some money, they're not going to make the tons that the labels apparently feel are their due.

And everyone loses in the long run. The labels lose because they make nothing on it (you'd think they'd figure out it's better to make something than nothing), the distributers lose because of the bad press that comes out because of the changes, the show suffers because the music that gets replaced might not fit as well, and ultimately, the person that suffers the most is the fan that buys the set, who gets stuck with a hack job because the parties that be can't get their asses in gear.

God forbid if you ever want to see series that heavily involved music (Miami Vice comes to mind, back in July it was looked at and decided it wasn't practical). It just isn't going to happen.

The only good news is that more recent series are starting to think about the whole dvd issue when originally negotiating music licenses. Up until DVD, with very few exceptions series never sold well on vhs, so it was never much of an issue.
posted by piper28 at 9:54 PM on September 1, 2003

Thats it - I officially give up television - if they are that cheap and crass that they want to fark with my mind and memory - then screw 'em.

Half the reason I liked WKRP was the music - so now if I tune into a re-run - I'm thinking to myself; "no - that wasn't the song played, I thought it was...."....

Who do I trust? Where does it stop?

posted by jkaczor at 10:09 PM on September 1, 2003

Okay. I enjoyed the show, but too much sharing...

As far as the wonders of ASCAP go, I used to frequent a coffee shop back in Santa Barbara where the policy was to play whatever tapes the regular patrons would bring in, or those provided by the staff. (I used to have fun bringing in stuff to test the boundaries.) It led to a pleasant, eclectic audio landscape. Then ASCAP got word of it, and marched in, demanding royalties on everything played. We ended up with an ASCAP approval sticker on the door, and plain old insipid broadcast radio...
posted by Samizdata at 10:28 PM on September 1, 2003

Every time I hear Elton John's song "Tiny Dancer", I think of that episode of WKRP. Now I find out that not only is the song gone, but they changed the dialog. "Hold my order, terrible dresser?" That's totally F'd up. I want my historic pop culture back you god damn IP vultures!
posted by willnot at 10:41 PM on September 1, 2003

What I don't understand is what ZenMasterThis said: if the music licensing agencies make life difficult for the owners of shows that use their music, they get nothing. How is is that to their advantage? Copyright isn't like trademark, it doesn't have to be actively defended. And it isn't as if the TV rerun or DVD version of the show is a competing product. No one is going to watch that episode of WKRP instead of buying the Elton John album. Hell, that episode is good advertising for the album, like Beetlejuice sparked a renewal of interest in Harry Belafonte.

The situation with music lyrics is difficult for prose writers, too. One spec fic original anthology includes this in its guidelines:
Manuscripts which feature quotations from popular music or published authors will be rejected unread. It is difficult and expensive to clear rights for this sort of material, and the potential liabilities to both author and publisher are enormous.
Big Name Authors include popular song material in their stuff all the time, but I suppose they have enough economic clout that their publishers are willing to clear rights for them regardless of hassle or expense. For minor writers and small presses, though, it seems to be more trouble than it's worth. Again, I don't see how this benefits the IP rights holder. Wouldn't they be better off making the process to obtain rights to quote lyrics easy, and make a little money from each use?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 11:26 PM on September 1, 2003

More magnificent obsession: the guy who spends about ten screenfulls of text going on about Bailey (Jan Smithers), and here's the cover of Newsweek from 1966 about "The Teen-Agers" that featured her as a teen-on-the-street.

For those who can't rememeber the closing song, it starts, "Went to the bartender/blah blah blah blah"," it's the same general cadence as "Dizzy Miss Lizzie."
posted by luser at 3:35 AM on September 2, 2003

luser, thank you, thank you, thank you. Now I remember, and can rest easily.

Also, ASCAP and the like can go sit on a tack.
posted by majcher at 7:47 AM on September 2, 2003

closing song
posted by goddam at 8:58 AM on September 2, 2003

Something is missing! There's no "meow" at the end of that closing song WAV. Sorry, too much WKRP in my past.
posted by scalz at 10:41 AM on September 2, 2003

A little off-topic, in that it's not WKRP, but this is a better place to put this than here, where I was reminded of it by all the Stairway to Heaven discussion.

If you saw Wayne's World in the theater (and if you're over 30) you know that possibly the funniest joke in the whole movie is when Wayne sits down at the guitar store and plays the first four notes of Stairway to Heaven, and is stopped by the manager, who points to a sign saying "NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN." For any of us who were teenagers in the 70s and had, or knew anyone who had, a guitar, this was a gut-buster because the phenomenon was so instantly recognizable.

But if you saw it on video, as I did later, you may have been flummoxed by the scene, since now the sound we hear coming from the guitar is generic distorted guitar, not Stairway to Heaven. WTF? I can only assume this was an idiotic licensing thing, and it completely obliterates one of the biggest laughs in the movie. Morons.

posted by soyjoy at 9:32 AM on September 5, 2003

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