Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday (the 13th) Questions

This Tuesday is the All-Star Game so with baseball in the air I’ve got a couple of baseball-related FQ’s to go among the others.

Rory Wohl gets us started.

Now that every team broadcasts every game on a cable regional sports network, how does the camera positioning work at the ballpark? Are there two sets of cameras, one for each team? Does the visiting team have to schlep their cameras from one stadium to another on a road trip? Are the positions fixed, home and away right next to each other?

There are separate cameras for both team broadcasts along with some shared cameras either can use (like the one looking in from centerfield).  And yes, often two cameramen are in position side-by-side.

Visiting teams hire crews from the local venues to provide the equipment and manpower. A team will generally travel their own producer, director, and graphics person.

But you need your own cameras. If, for example, the announcer wants to talk about something happening in his team’s dugout the director needs a camera to show it.

There are times when a broadcast won’t have its own crew and just has to use someone else’s feed. Foreign language broadcasts typically. And that’s murder.

I called a game like that once. I’m talking about something and for no reason they cut to a guy sitting in the bullpen chewing bubble gum. Obviously the announcer from the host feed was talking about him but I wasn’t, and sometimes I didn’t even know who the guy was. Lots of scrambling. The way I dealt with it was to cop to it. I let the audience know we were using a borrowed feed and had fun every time they showed something that seemed completely random. But that was my approach. Other announcers try to scramble and justify what the audience is seeing. Good luck to them.

Today’s other baseball question comes from Rick.

You were my favorite color commentator with the Orioles. How would you even begin to go about repairing the current situation??

Thanks, Rick. I loved doing Orioles games and still root the birds on.

The announcer solution is simply to hire people who have a personality. Be less concerned with voice, age, even gender. Hire for content. Don’t be afraid of offending six listeners.

Don’t judge a demo tape based on an exciting inning. Everyone sounds great calling a ninth-inning come-from-behind rally. When the Orioles hired me they wanted three continuous innings where absolutely nothing happens. They wanted to hear how I sound when I have nothing else to fall back on other than my ability to hold an audience’s interest.

Good guys are out there. You just have to find them. Or not stupidly pass on them.

UPDATE:  I'm referring to the general state of announcers, not the Orioles specifically.  In fact they have two terrific announcers in Gary Thorne and Joe Angel.  As for fixing the Orioles, replace Peter Angelos.  

Rock Golf (which might not be his real name) asks:

Friday question: A follow-up to your comment about Robert Altman's son making more money from the (mostly) never-heard lyrics of the M*A*S*H theme.

What kinda money are we talking about?

Barenaked Ladies were asked last year if they made enough money to retire from the Big Bang Theory theme they wrote & perform.

Here's their reply:

"No," laughs Robertson. "I would have to radically alter my lifestyle to be set for life from that song."
"I believe a single woman living in Meductic, New Brunswick, would be set for life," Stewart adds.
"A single woman … no children … and a part-time job," Robertson clarifies.
"And, she inherited the house."

-- And that's on the biggest show in the world that gets syndicated several times daily by multiple outlets. I can't think of any more often played TV theme. (And they also wrote and perform the closing credits music too!)

So what determines royalties on TV themes? Is there a fixed price? Is it negotiated?

Composers make their real money on record sales. The theme from MASH was covered extensively. Young Altman literally made millions.

When a group is hired to sing a TV theme song usually a fee is agreed upon. The big money for the group is if the song itself becomes a huge hit, or the exposure from the show helps catapult the group. But none of that is a given.

Gary Portnoy’s career didn’t skyrocket after singing the CHEERS theme. Neither did the group that sang the FRIENDS theme.

I’m sure Barenaked Ladies have enjoyed increased popularity from the BIG BANG THEORY theme, but no, the fee itself is not enough set you up for life.

On the other hand, Paul Anka wrote THE TONIGHT SHOW theme (actually as a record for Annette Funicello) and that got played every night for decades. Anka made a pretty penny.

And finally, from Peter:

Ken, I was in a bookstore earlier today browsing the film section and flicked through a book called Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency by James Miller. Have you read it? The guy has interviewed almost everyone who's ever been connected to CAA in some way. I love juicy industry gossip.

I read it and enjoyed a lot of it. But I think it’s because I personally know many of the players. But I know a few former CAA agents and they felt it was a lovely piece of fiction.

I think if you can cut through the ego and spin you’ll find it quite informative.

Mike Ovitz is coming out with his memoir this year. That should be interesting too. And I expect it to be 70% fiction too.

Stay away from black cats.


Michael said...

Your comments on baseball broadcasting, as always, struck a chord.

First, I remember a story of the Mets playing the Cubs and using the WGN feed. Remember that Cubs broadcasts have a homier and homer feel. So, a Cub, Dave Kingman, hit one of his typically gargantuan home runs, and WGN replayed it SEVEN times. Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner were doing the Mets game and were ready to throttle the WGN crew.

Second, Bob Wolff, one of the Frick winners, used to say that in the first three innings you're setting it up and in the last three you're building to the conclusion, so the middle three innings are when you can really roam, do different things, be silly, or whatever. I continue to be amazed at broadcasts--not to name names, the Padres--whose announcers talk about everything under the sun even when it seems to me they could actually talk, um, baseball?

Janet Ybarra said...

Ken, do still have access to see Os games? I know I've commented my thoughts on their announcing teams. What is yours? Also what advice would you offer so the team can climb out of the basement its in.

I believe losing Manny Machado won't help.

Oh, and don't crack any mirrors....

Rock Golf said...

"Rock Golf (which might not be his real name)...."

How did you know?!?

I didn't think there would have been many covers of the MASH theme that were on albums that sold in significant quantities, but then I remembered that the MASH theme (Suicide is Painless) was a #1 hit in the UK for 3 weeks in 1980, credited to an act named "The Mash" (no asterisks). It seems to be the vocal version heard on the soundtrack.

Chart info:*a*s*h-(suicide-is-painless)/

Video: (still picture of the 45 played over the song)

Rory Wohl said...

Thanks, Ken, for answering my question.

Jon said...

In reference to how young Mr. Altman made so much money on the MASH theme lyrics, can a lyricist still make money off an instrumental version of a song, where the lyrics are unheard? Does anyone here who has a music industry connection here know?

P.S.: I've had a wonderful black cat since this past March, and she's been wonderful luck for me through 1 and now another Friday the 13th. :)

Craig Russll said...

Ken, was the question about the Orioles about their announcers, or the team? (They are 38 games out at this point I think)

Peter said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken!

A. W. Carter said...

I got the feeling Rick was not asking about upgrading Orioles announcers, but what you thought would help turn the team around, which is about 36 games behind first place around this time. As someone born across from the original Memorial Stadium, I'd be curious, too. Sad times for the O's.

Frank Beans said...

I looked it up and yep, it's true: Paul Anka wrote the old theme to THE TONIGHT SHOW originally as a tune called "Toot Sweet (It's Really Love)" that was covered as an instrumental first and then by Annette Funicello as a pop single. Seek it out on YouTube if you dare...

I must say though, Doc Severinsen added a lot more swing and harmonic depth to the original tune, which frankly is kind of bland.

Canadian Dude said...

I'm a TV screenwriter up here in Canada. I occasionally write lyrics for songs that appear in various low-budget kids' TV shows you've never heard of, that play in tiny countries around the world that you might have heard of, and I make about a thousand bucks a year in royalties from them... so if we extrapolate from that, I don't think we need to be holding a fund-raiser for the BNL fellahs any time soon. I remember Sherwood Schwartz once said he made more from writing the theme song to "Gilligan's Island" than he did for actually creating and producing the show. An exaggeration, I'm sure, but I have a composer friend who lives in a very nice house in LA that's been paid for entirely with the royalties he gets for writing incidental music for prime time shows.

Jeff Maxwell said...

A friend of mine wrote the theme to DuckTales, Disney's popular animated show. He did just ducky.

Woo Woo!

Janet Ybarra said...

A.W.: My own thoughts are that owner Peter Angelos refuses to put in the bucks needed to attract great, star players. Which is very unfortunate because Angelos himself is a gazillionaire and could certainly afford to hold onto players like Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters (just a few of the departed) in addition to the soon to be gone Machado.

Frank Beans said...

And by the way, the best cover of the MASH opening theme, by pianist Ahmad Jamal in 1973:

Dhruv said...

You did review that book on CAA in one of your blogs. I loved that blog

Hope Mike Ovitz's book will be interesting. He seems to have a lot of enemies if this article is anything to go by

Mike said...

What about the residuals that writers keep getting from big syndicated shows like FRIENDS? Is it enough to comfortably retire?

gottacook said...

Leonard Maltin's (former) annual movie guide says that there was a 1973 rerelease of the film MASH with Ahmad Jamal's version substituted in the opening credits, but I've never heard of this elsewhere; has anyone here seen that version?

Bryan said...

Friday (Baseball) Question: did you keep your scorebooks from your baseball days? Could you show what a page looks like? Any funny story associated with one (especially if while working with Dave Niehaus)?

Mike Bloodworth said...

On my college radio station one guy had a jazz/R&B show. One day he pulled out an record that had the TAXI theme song on it. I can't remember the name of the song, artist or album, but it reminded me that sometimes shows take existing songs and use them for theme songs. I know of at least two sitcoms that used Billy Joel's "My Life." And there are other examples. That raises the question, why chose an existing song over an original piece? Is there a monetary advantage? Power play by the creator? Not enough confidence in a show to create original music? No wonder so many people in this business are alcoholics.

Andy Rose said...

When the two teams are covered by co-owned regional networks (like Braves/Cardinals -- both FSN), they will share virtually all of the game cameras. The visiting team has its own announcers, some of its own graphics, and maybe a couple of unilateral cameras (mostly for shooting the announcers and the dugout), but otherwise they are using the home team's feeds. They even work out of the same production truck. That's the big reason for Fox and Comcast owning so many small nets... it cuts their per-game production costs nearly in half.

If the two teams' networks have different owners (like Braves/Mets), then they usually will each have their own cameras and trucks. The only sharing will be of certain specially positioned cameras that would be difficult to duplicate, like the robocam behind home plate and the cameras in the bullpens.

@Mike Bloodworth: The Taxi theme was original to the show. It was originally intended to be a short cue for the third episode (that's why it is titled "Angela," the name of a key character in that episode). But the producers decided they liked it better than the more disco-ish composition that Bob James originally intended for the main theme. He put an expanded version of "Angela" on his album Touchdown, and later released a full album of Taxi cues called The Genie.

Janet Ybarra said...

Then there is the series WKRP. Being a series about a then-contemporary rock radio station, it had all kinds of music rights issues out of the gate.

The theme song though is a faux hard or acid rock tune and the lyrics are nonsensical by design.

Lemuel said...

M. B.: Esquivel got a songwriting credit for Universal's audio signature of the early 70s but I don't think he bought a beach house with the royalties (but then, it was Universal...)

Mike said...

As I recall, a comic book on the history of the WKRP programme stated that music licensing was a lot cheaper for programmes shot on video, rather than film.

Dave Creek said...

Regarding instrumental versions of themes and whether the lyricist makes any money: I've read that some producers have purposely written lyrics to theme songs, never intending to use them. That way they get half the songwriting royalties, even if the lyrics are never heard. Perhaps the most famous example is Gene Roddenberry's lyrics for the original STAR TREK (they're pretty bad).

VP81955 said...

They better not trade Machado to either AL East evil empire (the Bronx or New England), or the Baltimore fan base will revolt. And I'm from Washington, and as a Nationals fan have no love for Cuban Pete, who tried to block baseball's return to D.C. and is gypping the Nats through the current MASN deal.

Janet Ybarra said...

I'm not sure all the details....Ken may know more, but I recall music being swapped out on the DVDs from the original broadcast versions due to rights issues.

DBenson said...

Read a story to the effect that Gene Roddenberry wrote amateurish lyrics to the Star Trek theme. They were never performed, but as part of the copyrighted song they meant Roddenberry got a cut of the music royalties. The composer was not happy.

Neal Hefti, composer of the Batman TV series theme, wrote that he actually got a lyricist's royalty. He noted at the recording session somebody scribbled on the top of a page "Music by Neal Hefti. Word by Neal Hefti".

The Bonanza theme had lyrics. They were sung by the characters in exactly one episode.

Trevor said...

As a follow up to what others have mentioned, Johnny Carson added lyrics to the Tonight Show theme. They were never used but he received half of the royalties. I'm sure Paul Anka wasn't happy about it but, better to receive half a "pretty penny" than have Carson request a theme change and receive none.

The song was recorded many times and Tommy Newsom's single got them a Grammy nomination. I'm sure the gents also got a royalty every time Doc Severenson and the band did a gig and played the song.

Mike said...

@Janet Ybarra: Yes, broadcast no problem. Music on syndication or CD/DVD release gets expensive.
There's an excellent joke in The Hitchhiker's Guide radio series that relies on Pink Floyd that is cut from all CD releases. And another Pink Floyd joke in WKRP.

Astroboy said...

I remember once seeing Paul Anka talking about the Tonight Show theme, he said (and this was, I believe, while Johnny was still host) that he had made half-million in royalties on it. I have no idea if that's outrageous fiction or close to the truth.

Janet Ybarra said...

Here's a great article on the TAXI theme, one of the more under-appreciated theme songs from that era, I think.

But then consider the TAXI cast and all of the divergent directions their lives went. Somewhat unexpectedly, Danny DeVito became the most "A list" of the bunch, but certainly Tony Danza went on to more Fame and success, as did Judd Hirsch and Christopher Lloyd. Meanwhile, you have tragic trajectories of Jeff Conaway and Andy Kaufman. And you have others, like Marilu Henner (the bombshell who perhaps seemed most positioned for "big things" kind of middling through).

The article link:

Tom Galloway said...

How to fix the Orioles: Move out of the American League East. See also how to fix the Jays and the Rays.

Seriously, you're up against two of the richest teams (as opposed to owners) who currently have good to great ownership and management and a major rivalry to keep them perky. If you're in that division, you're not just up against one generally good team but two (so one can still have an off year), and these two rarely go into rebuild mode as opposed to reload mode. Now that most teams are equal or close to it on the analytics/moneyball front, you're not going to see many jumps and runs like the Rays had for a bit in this situation.

Bob K said...

As a sport camera operator, we have specific assignments provided by the director, but we also have to follow the announcers. It’s almost impossible when working a foreign-language broadcast. But you quickly pick up words, phrases and names. The really good directors get it and know your reaction time isn’t the same and they’ll help you out as much as they can. They really appreciate when you’re paying attention and you can usually start to anticipate things fairly quickly. It’s also fun (and quite impressive) hear the director cursing and directing in two different languages. One time I worked a foreign-language soccer game and the director (trying to be a nice guy) provided the cam ops with English-language announcers. Not his announcers, but two guys trying to do what you were doing, Ken. I asked the director to give us HIS announcers to better follow the action, explained that we can pick up names, etc, but he never changed our feed. In that case we just rolled our eyes and shot the game as best we could.

thirteen said...

More on Paul Anka's theme for Johnny Carson: It started life as "Toot Suite (It's Only Love)," a 1959 instrumental by Tutti's Trumpets. Later that year, Anka wrote lyrics for the tune and retitled it "It's Really Love," which was the version sung by Annette Funicello. In 1962, Anka happened to run into Johnny Carson on the street in New York and pitched him a theme, a jazzed-up version of "Toot Suite." The deal was sealed when Anka offered half-credit to Carson, whose contribution to "Johnny's Theme" was the drum riff at the very beginning. (Skitch Henderson, Carson's first bandleader, had expected to write the show's theme and was angry about losing the job.) Every time "Johnny's Theme" was played on Carson's show, Carson and Anka split an $83 fee. BTW there may well be lyrics for "Johnny's Theme" because, in those days, it was thought that a song couldn't be copyrighted if it didn't have lyrics. Anka could have dashed some off during a lunch break.

estiv said...

Always loved this version of the MASH theme. It was all over the radio in 1970. Al De Lory, according to Wikipedia, was a member of the great group of LA session players known as the Wrecking Crew.

therealshell said...

It's neat how so many of us use WIKIPEDIA as a source, despite knowing that entries can be altered at the proverbial drop of a hat.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Thank you.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Thanks, "thirteen," for the clarification about "Toot Suite (It's Really Love)" "Tutti's Trumpets" were an elite group of the best brass musicians in Hollywood that recorded for the legendary Tutti Camarata when he joined the Disney record label in the late '50s. Tutti was not one to brag much so he gets very little recognition, but this is yet another example of his behind the scenes influence. He was very much a creative force behind the careers of Annette, the Sherman Brothers, the eclectic music in Disney films and parks, and sophisticated recording techniques. His Sunset Sound studio, where everyone from Sergio Mendes, the Doors and Prince recorded, still stands today. Even the Johnny Carson theme can be traced back to him, where Annette recorded with Paul Anka.

As to royalties, yes the lyricist gets a cut if credited. The "I Dream of Jeannie" theme song credits lyricist Buddy Kaye even though the (insipid) words were never sung on the show. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera usually shared theme song credit with musical director Hoyt Curtin for almost all of their shows because they worked with him on those songs, as well as a handful of records. Some themes existed before they were attached to shows as library music, such as The Donna Reed Show theme and "The Toy Parade" for Leave it To Beaver" (which had lyrics). Sally Field recorded the lyrics for The Flying Nun and it was played on one episode of the show.

One thing the might be cloudy is the artist's compensation, as it the Ron Hicklin Singers did the M*A*S*H theme in the movie, which was on the soundtrack album, though it may have been listed under various names on records. This happens a lot with studio vocalists. The Ron Hicklin Singers also did Love American Style, Happy Days and many others (with various personnel changes here and there), but are most notable as the singers behind David Cassidy for The Partridge Family. Shirley Jones was in the mix, but they raised her volume for the TV soundtrack and lowered in for the albums.

What I don't know is whether the individual singers get royalties for the theme song, "C'mon Get Happy." That song was never on a vinyl Partridge Family album during the show's run, but was later included on various "best of" CDs and downloads and comes directly from the soundtrack in mono. It was just played twice in the Ant Man sequel and only Cassidy is credited. My guess is the studio singers receive nada as well as bupkis.

slgc said...

Sometimes you can love a film right, left and center and yet get caught up in a small detail for which you have trouble suspending disbelief. For instance, when I watch The Naked Gun, the one factoid I have an issue with is that Frank Drebin (played so brilliantly by Leslie Nielsen) didn't know the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner.

What details do you have trouble getting past in movies that you otherwise enjoy?

Mike Doran said...

For sigc.:

The lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner have been a point of contention for all of us in the USA from the beginning - when those words were just the first stanza of a much longer poem, and the attached melody was copped from an old English drinking song.

As kids in school, we were all required to sing the Anthem on certain occasions, and I can assure you that even as we got older, many of the archaic words still threw us ("What the heck are 'ramparts' anyway?").

As to The Naked Gun, I think part of the humor stems from audience knowledge that Leslie Nielsen was in fact Canadian (or not; who knows?).

Anyway, the fact of documented footage showing that one Highly Prominent American (who shall remain nameless here) doesn't know those words either - well, that makes the whole issue academic, doesn't it?

Unknown said...

No idea if anyone will see this three days later, but the KILLER music from Carson's Tonight Show was the end music, a song called Li'l Darlin' - a 1957 jazz standard, composed by Neal Hefti (of Odd Couple and Batman fame) for the Count Basie Orchestra, where Hefti was a trumpeter for a while.

One of the few pieces of music in which playing it slower often makes it better:

Example, Basie's awesome version:

Ray Charles's version at more than half the tempo slower: