What Can Dr. Johnny Fever Teach Us About Music Podcasting?

Apr 26th, 2007 | By | Category: Audio Podcasting, Digital Music, Making Money with Podcasts, Podcasting Law, Video Podcasts

Dr FeverNearly 30 years after it aired on television, episodes of WKRP, a television show about the antics of a Cincinatti radio station, are being made available on DVD.

Unfortunately for fans, the series, which prominently featured Dr. Johnny Fever (played by Howard Hesseman) playing popular music of the day, has been “butchered”, removing the music that originally drove much of the series’ humor.

The series has been cursed by its use of mainstream music, because the music was not licensed with digital technology in mind. Dozens of songs that were used in the series have been taken out and replaced with generic soundalikes. In many cases, the original music was integral to the scene.

Gary Sandy, who played program director Andy Travis on the show, succinctly sums up the reason for the edits.

“It all has to do with money. I can tell you that,” said Gary Sandy, who played program director Andy Travis on the show. “I think it came down to the point where there was more money to be made off a DVD release than some semblance of syndication again.”

Licensing the music for DVD distribution proved to be prohibitive, forcing Fox to either cut the music, or pay up. The decision to cut the music has fans calling the release an abomination.

The release highlights the risks of using mainstream music in podcasts and video podcasts. Because there are not established standards for using traditionally-licensed music in podcasts, using it could come back to haunt you – even 30 years later.

No Responses to “What Can Dr. Johnny Fever Teach Us About Music Podcasting?”

  1. Final Taxi says:

    Ok– here is a question.
    All that wonderful free music that we got during the 31 days for FREE music, (Great idea BTW),
    What if one of the artists makes it big and then it is decided by his record company that that music now must come under his license.

    If we had used it in a podcast before it became ‘traditionally-licensed music’ would we be forced to remove it from our archive?

  2. info says:

    Great question.

    The fact that someone gets a record deal shouldn’t invalidate a previous agreement made previously between you as a podcaster and the artist.

    For example, Creative Commons licenses are non-exclusive and non-revocable. This means that a musician that has published his music with a CC license could also make a deal to release it on record. If that happens, though, it wouldn’t affect people that have used the music under the CC license.

  3. Summer says:

    I am curious as to why Fox thought licensing the music was cost prohibitive, when Universal bit the bullet to make sure all the music was intact for the “Miami Vice” DVDs, and also didn’t price the sets at $70.

    Universal realized that without the music, the MV sets would not sell. Why Fox fails to realize what fans want, both on the air and on their DVDs, continues to boggle the mind.

    I’m also hoping that a podcast I’m on doesn’t suffer from #1’s scenario fate… in August 2005, we received permission from an artist to use one of their songs that’d been available for download online… it’s our theme song. Now, apparently, the song is a potential hit and they’ve already gone after someone for swiping the online video of the song. I don’t think the song was originally released under CC, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens for the long run.

  4. info says:

    If you explicitly received permission for using the music in the podcast and the artist owned the rights to his/her music, you should be in good shape.

    There hasn’t been much legal activity in the podcasting world yet, though, so it will be interesting to see how this develops. In practical terms, if Universal decides to sue you, it’s probably time to get another theme song, unless you have deep pockets or have the EFF watching your back.

  5. Summer says:

    The artist in question isn’t affiliated with Universal (not that I know of)… 7 Seconds of Love is a popular UK bar band.

    A few years ago, one of their video creations and songs was used in a Quiznos ad. More recently, another video of theirs was “borrowed” for someone’s ad campaign without permission, and the songwriter/lead singer went after them (rightly so). Problem was, the article about it mentioned that the song had hit potential and that was why the band went after the offending usage of their song.

    Our podcast uses that song as it’s theme, and while there’s no official agreement in writing, I do still have the emails between myself and said songwriter where he gave us permission to use the song. We should still be okay, but it is interesting how the thought of that song becoming a radio hit never crossed our minds at the time.

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