Regarding the different Ship Report theme music you heard today:
Regular Ship Report listeners who tuned into the show today (11/20/23) on KMUN, or the podcast on my website or through Facebook, probably noticed something that some people think is significant and others may not even care about: the theme music is different from the theme I have had on the show for 20 years.
I knew this would probably inspire negative feedback from some listeners, but it was something that was necessary to do, even though I know it will upset some people.
So in the interests of being honest with my listeners, which I think is very important, and because I feel we are a community who together love ships and all things maritime and I care about you all, I want to offer an explanation:
The short answer: I’ve changed it because I discovered that legally, I needed to. No one challenged me, or objected, but when you know something is wrong you need to do something about it. So I’m being proactive, out of respect for the musicians who own the music, and also to protect myself from legal issues.
If you want to read more, here’s the backstory:
When the Ship Report began 20 years ago, it was simply a 10-minute radio segment that I created and produced for KMUN when I was an employee of the station. Podcasts were not even thought of then, and all music played on KMUN is covered by their licensing agreements. So I delved into the KMUN CD library and discovered this wonderful California group called the Black Irish Band, whose music I often played on my folk music radio show that I had for years in my early days at the station.
On one of their CDs, Into the Arms of the Sea, was a song called the “Ballad of the Pomona,” which had a lovely instrumental intro that I ultimately chose to be the theme of the Ship Report. There were no issues with me using it then, and it has remained the theme until today. At some point during the ensuing years, I had a request from a Coast Guard member who wanted to hear the show but could not listen when it was broadcast, and that inspired me to create the podcast version.
Fast forward to our current podcast age. Up until recently, I was an employee of KMUN, the radio station in Astoria that airs the Ship Report, and as such my show was covered under the legal umbrella of their programming. Now I’m retired and independently produce the Ship Report as freelance content, which means the responsibility for all content rests squarely with me. So the show sounds the same to listeners, but the legal parameters have changed.
And as podcasts have become so prevalent, legal issues with use of music in podcasts have expanded as well. Without going into the weeds on detail on this, the bottom line is that I really have no right to use this music as an independent producer of the show. To do that I would need to license it.
At first I thought – well, I’ll just do that – until I applied for a license for the song (which I use less than 30 seconds of on the air) and found it would cost me at least $10,000 to license that one tune. The one you’ve been hearing all these years. That’s simply unaffordable for me.
If you know me, you know that the Ship Report has always been, and continues to be, a personal labor of love. Even as an employee of the station, I produced the show on my own time and with my own equipment. It’s not a money maker for me, but that was never my goal. I get a little revenue from selling my shipwatching guides, and KMUN has this year generously offered me some some compensation for providing the independent content to them.
I am grateful for all of that. And the truth is I spend many hours weekly producing the show, far beyond any compensation I receive for it.
But that has never been the point. I do the show because I love it, and I love my listeners.
I want to be fair to the musicians who created that music, and I thought I was operating within the law. I thought because I am using less than 30 seconds of the song that it was protected legally. I was incorrect. I can’t afford to pay $10k for the rights to the song, so I have to change it.
The music you are hearing now as the theme is music that is free to content creators. After hours yesterday of listening to potential themes, believe me, this one is the least inappropriate for the show that I found.
I’m in the process of developing another theme with a traditional fiddle tune that will be played by a local musician with his permission, so there will be no issues with its use.
I’m sorry for any discomfort this is causing listeners. But there’s not much I can do about it. I can’t knowingly place myself in huge legal jeopardy over one song. It’s going to mean a lot of work for me, since I will have to go back and rerecord the music for the podcasts I have online, which goes back years.
So I am probably the least happy with this turn of events of anyone who is hearing it.
I really appreciate your loyalty and care over all the years. I hope you’ll understand that this is a dilemma I did not anticipate but need to deal with now.
Thanks for your patience while I work this out.
I’m going with the idea that change is not a bad thing after 20 years…