Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pull the other one

This last week, the record companies' campaign to get copyright in sound recordings extended from 50 to 95 years, which was kicked into touch a few months ago, got fresh impetus from the European internal markets commissioner. The leading edge of their argument was that non-writing performers such as Cliff Richard and Roger Daltrey would benefit from their labours in later life. The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property rejected this on the grounds that in reality the only people who would continue to benefit would be the record companies.

This morning I found a lovely Ben Webster/Joe Zawinul tune on an MP3 blog. It came from the album "Soul Mates". I found this on Emusic and bought the whole album. They made this record in 1963. Webster died 35 years ago, Zawinul just a couple of months back. If either of them were around I guess they would tell you that, the odd freak hit apart, they had never made much from record royalties.

Today I paid a few pounds to Emusic for this record. A small amount of that will get back to the copyright owners, who are the people who bought the company who bought the company who bought the company who paid for the making of this record 45 years ago. The main musicians are dead. The rest got paid by the day.

So who's getting my money?


  1. Anonymous8:43 pm

    Who's getting your money? It's a fairly safe bet that it won't be the artist, unless they are Cliff, or the Stones, or one of the others in the tiny, rarefied top .001% of earners.

    While those who write the songs generally do receive their royalties, those who perform the songs on "records" generally don't. Artists sign contracts to make "records" (what do we call them these days?"), but recording, promotional, video and other production costs are recoupable against future earnings.

    In most cases these costs are never recovered and, in most cases, the accounting and business practices of the record companies makes it impossible for - say - a bass player from a band which made a record back in '83, to ever ascertain how much the record earned and how much he might be owed.

    Here's an extract from an email I received from JC Carroll of the Members. This is fairly typical of the great majority of recording artists:

    "I just signed a contract in 1978 and that was it. Thanks to the efficiency of The Virgin Groups contract lawyers I have not received a penny for playing on Sound of the Suburbs and other Members hits for 29 years."

  2. The "rights owners" are getting most of your money, usually a publishing company. Sound familiar?