Posts Tagged ‘Art’

When Copyrights Trump Commercial Creativity (Spoiler: Always)

copyrightI was listening to radio this morning and heard a spot for a local restaurant trying to be relatable by exemplifying how hard it is for working adults to find time to eat breakfast. They preached the importance of the first meal of the day. And wouldn’t you know it? They have a quick, easy, affordable breakfast sandwich you can pick-up on your way to the office to help solve your problem. Not a bad spot overall, but at one point the announcer says, “before you know it Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho it’s off to work you go!” and then fairly quietly layered underneath was the unmistakable original recording of the seven dwarfs singing the song.

That’s a problem.

  • It’s not an original work created by the advertiser.
  • It doesn’t qualify under “fair use” exceptions.
  • The song isn’t in public domain. The only songs that are public domain in the USA are songs and musical recordings published in 1922 or earlier. This song was released in 1937. (Check out the website here with examples of public domain works

So, that means either Disney licensed copyright permissions to a local breakfast joint in central coast California or the restaurant and radio station stole it. It probably wasn’t intentionally and in fact, it was a solid creative choice, but the law doesn’t factor in intent, creativity or ignorance.

What should they have done? Here’s some advice from business law firm Brooks/Pierce:

“To secure a license for a musical work, you will need to contact the publisher directly. You can obtain publisher contact information using the repertory databases maintained by ASACP (, BMI (, SESAC (, and/or the Music Publishers’ Association ( If a sound recording license is also needed (e.g., for dubbing an original recording), you will also need to contact the record company directly. Record company contact information can sometimes be obtained by the music publisher and is often also available on the copy of the recording (e.g., the CD liner notes). Publisher and record company contact information may also be located on the U.S. Copyright Office’s website (”

That’s a lot of time, work and likely money for a :07 sample of a song in a :30 radio ad that you’re charging 50-bucks a spin for on your radio station.

Here’s the kicker. Even if the radio station didn’t produce the spot they can be held liable for copyright infringement. (Production Directors and Traffic Directors listen up!) Penalties can range from $150,000 to $250,000 per infringement and up to 10 years in prison. And in this case, Disney doesn’t shy away from going after little guys, because once you knowingly allow one entity to infringe a precedent is set. Typically a cease & desist will be the first action taken, but I wouldn’t press your luck.

Be careful out there.

Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Oprah, Rush and Howard Stern Have This. Do You?

I watched a TED Video this week on the origins of pleasure.  Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that our beliefs about the history of an object changes how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is. Which explains, in part, why some “heritage” radio stations and hosts across the country continue to get great ratings, despite the poor programming. People love (take great pleasure in) the idea of listening to the station that their Mom or Dad or grandparents  listened to. It’s a connection to a simpler time, your childhood, and a shared experience with your parents/grandparents.

It also makes me believe that it’s important that each personality and radio station needs to have a story. Seth Godin coincidentally touched on this same idea this week with his blog post “Just a myth.” Godin concludes his blog by encouraging brands (which could be a personality, a show or a station) to create their own mythology (or story.)


So, if I were trying to invent a mythic brand, I’d want to be sure that there was a story, not just a product or a pile of facts. That story would promise (and deliver) an heroic outcome. And there needs to be growth and mystery as well, so the user can fill in her own blanks. Endorsement by a respected ruler or priest helps as well.

The key word, I think, is spiritual. Mythological brands make a spiritual connection with the user, delivering something that we can’t find on our own… or, at the very least, giving us a slate we can use to write our own spirituality on.

People use a Dell. They are an Apple.

The most successful in broadcasting have these mythologies or stories that help define their brand; Oprah, Rush, and Howard Stern all have overcome great adversity to find success (triumph over tragedy.)

So, it begs the question. What’s your story? Start at the beginning and remember how your personality, show or station went from being a germ of idea to transforming into what it is today. What did you overcome? How are you spiritually serving your fans? If you’re a super hero – what’s are your special powers?

Taking the time to write your story / myth is an investment into being a something people listen to and being something people live for, experience and claim as their own.



Radio is an Art

I recently watched a video from the TED conference featuring spoken word poet Sarah Kay and it was a good reminder that spoken word radio is also an art form.

Sarah describes the beginning of a great story as the intersection where what you are passionate about meets what others are invested in. She tries each time she opens her mouth to make impossible connections with people.

The key to great spoken-word poetry and spoken-word radio are the same.

Entertain. Inform. Inspire. It’s about gathering up all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected up until now to help you dive into things you don’t know. Sarah suggests approaching each day / show / poem with your backpack filled with everywhere else you have been.

Sound advice for all radio hosts.

Take 18 minutes and watch this video.

Five Tips for Executing Contests

I have created, executed and heard a lot bad contests on the air. Also, some good ones. What makes one contest work and another not? There are infinite factors, but I’ve identified a few things that do influence the success or failure of contests on the radio. You might have more – please share them in the comments section.

1. The Prize. It can’t be lame. When I was a PD, I instituted a policy that all prizes had to be at least $25 in value. In reality, it needs to be something that your fans value. Would you want it? If not, don’t bother. For example;  tire patch kits, 2 for 1 coupons, a chance to stand in line to maybe see a movie premiere and loafs of bread. These are horrible, yet inexplicably all actual prizes that I’ve helped to giveaway in my career.  I’m sorry to everyone who won.

2. The Prize – part 2. It’s important that you, as the host, believe the prize is of value or at least treat it as such. If you aren’t a fan of UCLA basketball, but have to give away tickets, you need to sell it to the listeners as if the tickets are at least as valuable as they are. I’ve heard hosts apologize for the quality of the prize. For example, “I’m sorry they aren’t Lakers tickets” or “we have UCLA tickets for this weekend, if you’re in to that sort of thing,” or “we have UCLA vs Cal tickets, sorry it’s not a better match up.” If you’re downplaying, downgrading or devaluing the prize – you are destroying the whole concept of the contest. Stop being so honest and sell the giveaway. Otherwise you end up wasting everyone’s time.

3. Let the Listener Play Along. If you announce the contest on the air and then don’t say anything else about it, the listener doesn’t know what happened. It’s like a black hole. If it’s trivia…play it out on air. Make it a game. If you can’t execute the contest on air, at least acknowledge who won and how they won.

4. Don’t Make it Too Complicated. If you have to go on the website to register, listen at a specific time in the day for five straight days to hear a key words and then text them in at a certain times to win, no one will play. Keep it simple. Text to win. Enter to win. Listen to win. One or two steps only. Much more than that and most won’t bother to participate. The one’s who do make the effort aren’t typically listeners, they are the professional contest winners (a.k.a. prize pigs).

5. Promote the Contest in Advance. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth telling people in advance that you’re doing it. Give people a specific time to listen for their chance to win the prize. If you don’t tell people you are doing a contest, they won’t know.

BONUS: Why are you doing the contest? Increase TSL? Cume? Sales initiative? Know why you are doing the contest and make sure it accomplishes the goal. Everything you do on air and on-line needs to have a purpose.

Are You A Host or Personality?


There are a lot of “hosts” on radio and some of them are very good. They do the basics well, they talk about the right stories, they are likeable, and they never embarrass themselves or their bosses.

CBS Radio Programming VP Bruce Gilbert says, “Being a good host is nothing to be ashamed of, but if you really want to make huge money, cut through and achieve significant ratings you must advance from “host” to “personality.”

Gilbert admits the true radio personality is rare and exceptional. He created this chart to demonstrate the subtle but important distinctions and has graciously agreed to share it with us all.

Knows the Science of Radio vs Knows the Art of Radio
Wooden vs Animated
Harsh & Pretentious vs Self-Deprecating (imperfect, human, lives life)
Wrecking Ball vs Architect
Plain vs Real, Genuine
Announcer vs Seller
Sprinter vs Marathoner
Reads Stories vs Tells Stories
Rehearsed vs Real
Know More Than You vs Never Assumes They Know More Than You
Meander vs Always Knows Where They Are Going
Copycat vs Original
In Hurry vs Develops Over Time
Safe vs Uncomfortable
Shallow vs Deep
Always Goes With First Thought vs Always Explores New Angles

A good personality will generate complaint calls to your office, fans will call for him to be fired, he/she will make you nervous or uncomfortable from time to time, and you will have to protect them. He/she also will increase your station’s ratings and revenue.