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2006 - 25 March - Hugh Masekela

PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 11:05 am
by Charlie
Friday's Guardian has this piece by Hugh

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As a child, I used to think Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Nat "King" Cole, Johnny Hodges, Frank Sinatra were living inside that gramophone. My uncle would wind it up and play it to me, and I used to say "hello" to them all. By the time I was five, I knew all the songs, and my parents had to get me piano lessons to lure me away from that gramophone.
South Africa has always been a country of voracious record collectors. Everywhere you went in those days people would be playing records loud, with their doors open. If you heard something you liked you'd lean on somebody's fence and listen. I was 13 when I saw Kirk Douglas playing Bix Beiderbecke in the movie Young Man with a Horn; the great Harry James was playing the trumpet part. That's when I decided to be a trumpeter.

I was fascinated by all music, but American popular music had a special drama and glamour about it. I thought if I could do that too, it would be a way out of the miseries of life in South Africa then.

When I went to the US in the 1960s, it wasn't as an African musician. I wanted to be an American bebopper - my ambition was to play in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. But then Miles Davies and Louis Armstrong and the others said to me, "If you play only American jazz, you'll just be a statistic. If you play something of your own music, then we'll learn from you as well as you from us."

That's when I discovered what musical migration meant. It made me realise I should know more about the traditional music of my country. Singers such as Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte helped me begin to discover my roots. Miriam's mother was a traditional healer and she knew everything about the music of South Africa. Even now the process still goes on when I go home and share what I've learned over the years, and in turn learn more myself about things that maybe I didn't pay enough attention to when I was young.

So, like many others in the 20th century, I had become a musical migrant. But musical migration had been influencing the sounds of South Africa long before I heard those American gramophone records as a three-year-old.

In 1834, the colonial government of South Africa's Cape of Good Hope staged a centennial celebration. In addition to the British and indigenous South African pageantry, a minstrel company from the US called the Brothers Revue performed. So massive was the impact of this review that Cape Town's people of mixed-race origins still re-enact their own version of the Brothers Revue in their carnival today, complete with colourful satin outfits, face paint, tambourines, guitars, banjos and a style of choreography that is a joyous mix of yesteryear's African-Americana and home-grown steps.

The 19th-century US missionaries taught the new African converts Negro spirituals; European missionaries brought their own brands of church music, which went on to influence choral composers whose compositions are still sung today by school and community choirs.

But it was in the 20th century that the most powerful migration in music came about with the emergence of cinema and 78rpm vinyl records. Films of singing cowboys Jim Reeves, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were shown in the single-sex mining hostel barracks that housed the black migrant labourers from South Africa's rural hinterlands. They digested these, and came up with a guitar and vocal style called Maskanda. This music spilled over into the urban and rural African townships, and today its exponents - such as Mfaz' Omnyama, Amatshitshi Amhlophe, to name but a few - sell hundreds of thousands of CDs.

Jazz musicals of the 1940s, with their predominantly black casts and swinging quartets like the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots, spawned similarly styled orchestras and groups in South Africa, such as Victor Ndlazilwane's Woody Woodpeckers. And vaudeville films featuring barbershop singing gave birth to local revues as far back as the 1920s that lead all the way to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Without US stars of the era such as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, Bessie Smith and Judy Garland, we wouldn't have had township singers such as Miriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe, Thandie Klaasen, Sophie Mgcina and Abigail Kubeka.

This was how I experienced it as a South African; so did Abdullah Ibrahim, Dudu Pukwana and many more of my contemporaries. And all over the world other musical dreamers in so many other places were experiencing their own version of the same process.

The Californian-born Herb Alpert and his Tijuana brass band was inspired by Mexican mariachi bands. He sold millions of records, and established A&M records, a label that produce hit records for scores of artists from various parts of the world. Astrud and Joao Gilberto teamed up with Stan Getz to produce their worldwide hit The Girl from Ipanema, a smash that opened the doors for hundreds of Brazilian samba musicians who owed their subsequent success to the 1959 film, Orfeo Negro (Black Orpheus) which took the world by storm and led to the eventual popularity of Brazilian coffee house cafes and capoeira dance.

America's bebop era touched the spirits of Joe Zawinul in Austria, Django Reinhardt and Toots Thielemans in Belgium, Monty Alexander and Joe Harriott in Jamaica, Sergio Mendes in Brazil, Miroslav Vitous in Czechslovakia, Michel Legrand in France, and Sadao Watanabe and Keiko Matsui in Japan - pulling them out of their countries of birth to travel the world.

And on it goes. The list is endless. Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley gave birth to Elvis, who spawned the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, who gave birth to U2, Coldplay, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Bee Gees, and so many more. James Brown begat Fela Kuti. Then there's Nat "King" Cole, who begat Ray Charles, who begat Elton John, Jamie Cullum and John Legend. Or Ella Fitzgerald, who begat Sarah Vaughan, who begat Anita Baker through Aretha, who begat Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey and Natalie Cole. Or consider the Nigerian roots of Seal and the velvet-voiced Sade, who could be the daughter of Nat "King" Cole from the way she sings. Ravi Shankar's music got to George Harrison, who brought the sitar to rock'n'roll. Ladysmith Black Mambazo bring back their barbershop-inspired sounds in the form of Zulu choral singing, throwing it back at Europe and America.

And out of Africa comes Salif Keita, Oliver Mtukudzi, Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, Ghana's High Life, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Oumou Sangare, Ballets Africaines, Youssou N'dour. Western music critics and self-appointed authorities are too mesmerised to label them African, so they call it "world music". What poppycock! It goes on and on, this migration.

· Hugh Masekela performs as part of the Jazz Odyssey: Music & Migration festival at the Barbican, London EC2, on Thursday. Box office: 020-7638 8891.

http://tinyurl.com/l2cdk

Playlist

PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 10:11 pm
by NormanD
Seq Artist Song Title Album Country Label

1 - Ben Harper - Better Way (Peace Mix) - Both Sides of the Gun - USA - Virgin

2 - Quinteto Violado - Forró de Mané Vito - The New Brazilian Music: Pernambuco - Brazil - Trama

3 - Psapp - Tricycle - Live in session - UK

Radio Ping Pong with Hugh Masekela*

4 * - Louis Armstrong (w. Jack Teagarden) - Rockin' Chair - Ken Burns Jazz Collection - USA - Sony

5 - Hugh Masekela - Gold - Still Grazing - South Africa/USA - Blue Thumb Records

6 * - Miriam Makeba - Thanayi - Miriam Makeba: Her Essential Recordings - South Africa - Manteca

7 - The Zulus - Joala - Hugh Masekela presents the Chisa years 1965-1975 - USA/South Africa - BBE Records

8 * - Dark City Sisters / Flying Jazz Queens - Langa More - Dark City Sisters & Flying Jazz Queens - South Africa - Earthworks

9 - Hugh Masekela - Grazing in the Grass - Still Grazing - Hugh Masekela - South Africa - Blue Thumb Records

10 * - Marvin Gaye - When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You - The Master 1961-1984 - USA - Motown Master Series

11 - Lester Bowie - The Great Pretender - The Great Pretender - USA - ECM Records

12 * - Dorothy Masuka - Ufikizolo - The History of Township Music - South Africa - Wrasse

13 - Nassim Maalouf - Cadence - Improvisations Orientales - Lebanon - Club du Disque Arabe

14 * - Miles Davis - All Blues - Kind of Blue - USA - Columbia

15 - Psapp - Needle & Thread - Live in session - UK

16 - Erik Truffaz - Sweet Mercy - Face a Face - France - Blue Note

17 - Marta Topferova - Semana Azul - La Marea - Czech Rep/USA - World Village

18 - Candi Staton - His Hands - His Hands - USA - Honest Jon's

19 - Remember Shakti - Lotus Feet - The Believer - India/USA - Verve

Hugh Masekela and Psapp - the bulletin

PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 5:43 pm
by Charlie
He’s smiling as he walks into the room, and when he leaves us two hours later, he’s still chuckling. Hugh Masekela is not tall, but he’s a big man in every other way, exuding a sense of hidden strength and alert energy. If there was a power cut, you could plug him into the mains and the lights would come back on.

For Hugh, it all started with Louis Armstrong. Without Louis, says Hugh, we’d have no music and the world would be a cube. He recalled hearing the live recording of ‘Rocking Chair’ in 1952 as a thirteen year old learning to play trumpet in his home town not far from Johannesburg. He marvelled at the freedom and humour of the interchanges between Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden, and said to himself, ‘I’ve got to live to the country where it’s possible to be like that’.

And so he did, moving first to New York in 1962 and then to Los Angeles, where he lived and worked through most of the sixties and seventies. His instrumental ‘Grazing in the Grass’ topped the American pop charts in 1968, in a sequence that included several other classic perennials - ‘Hey Jude’, Otis Redding’s ‘Dock of the Bay’, Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’. In a century of American music, no other African musician or singer ever matched that feat, especially not with a record in a distinctly African style. [Before you ask, no, Seal doesn’t count. One, he was born in Paddington, London; two, his music showed little or no trace of his Nigerian/Brazilian parentage.]

For musicians and song-writers, making a hit that becomes a radio perennial is like having a pension, as royalties from airplay, compilations and soundtracks arrive in six-monthly accountings over the ensuing decades. But ‘Grazing in the Grass’ earns Hugh Masekela nothing. First, he didn’t write the song. Having heard the tune on an obscure single made in Zambia, Hugh made sure that the original writer was registered for song-writing royalties. OK, so Hugh’s not the writer. But surely he would be entitled to artist royalties, as the performer? Well yes he would have been. But he waived them. And therein lies a tale, ruefully told.

1968 was a pinnacle year for the Black Power movement in the United States, and as an exile from the South African apartheid regime, Hugh was intensely politicised. He followed up the success of ‘Grazing in the Grass’ with an album of powerful songs recording the pain of those still trapped in South Africa. ‘Gold’, which we played tonight, still makes the hair on your neck prickle, as Hugh talks over his own African vocal, translating the lyric about South African gold miners into English.

Russ Regan, boss of Uni Records, held his hands up in dismay: ‘what can we do this, who’s gonna play it, who’s gonna buy it?’ Hugh and his producer Stewart Levine had formed their own Chisa label to record other singers and musicians. They laid down the gauntlet: ‘if you don’t want it, give it back to us, we’ll put out.’ Regan offered a deal – if they waived all royalties on ‘Grazing in the Grass’, he would release them from their contract.

Hugh chuckles. ‘We didn’t understand what we were giving up. I don’t know if we’d do the same thing again, knowing what we know now. But we survive. Stewart Levine is one of the top producers in the world today.’ And so he is. Our radio ping pong guest on 24 August 2004, Stewart produced multi million selling albums by Simply Red and Jamie Cullen and many others. But while Hugh’s career also continues to flourish, he has never had another record to match the multi million sales of ‘Grazing in the Grass.’

So Universal Music continues to make money from ‘Grazing in the Grass’, but feels no obligation to pay any royalties to the producer and artist. Surely there could and should be an amnesty from an arrangement made by impetuous, principled people nearly forty years ago? Does anybody reading this have any influence where it counts? Or maybe there are other aspects to the story to be considered. I look forward to responses in the forum at our website, www.soundoftheworld.com

Several of Hugh’s selections took us back to South Africa in the 1950s, with songs by Dorothy Masuka, The Dark City Sisters (moonlighting under the name The Flying Jazz Queens) and Miriam Makeba. Actually, the track we played by Miriam was not the original Hugh wanted to play, but a re-recording of her fifties hit, ‘Thaniyi’, recorded in New York in 1962 under Harry Belafonte’s production supervision. Hugh played a muted trumpet obligato that attracted the attention of New York DJ Symphony Sid and led to the launch of his own career in the United States.

Resident in South Africa since the day Nelson Mandela was installed as President in 1990, Hugh is in London for two reasons. At the Barbican this Thursday 30th, he leads a band of South African musicians, augmented by a handful of London stars, in a night called Musical Migration. A week later, on Friday April 7, Hugh will be one of the three MCs at the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music at the Brixton Academy, a generous gesture considering his reservations about the term world music.

A last minute addition to the programme was a live session by Psapp, whose new single ‘Tricycle’ has a do-it-yourself charm that inspired me to invite them onto the show despite knowing nothing about them. They turn out to be an inventive duo based in Kings Cross, about a mile from our studios, comprising vocalist Galia Durrant and guitarist Carim Classman. On record, they mix up conventional instruments with an eccentric assortment of kitchen equipment, long defunct toy instruments and anything else that comes to hand, and tonight chose to reinforce themselves with percussionist Sean Lee, who played mechanical ashtray, PG Tips tin (filled with nuts, I think) and a cardboard box. Hugh Masekela was fascinated as Galia played something that looked like an extractor fan but was actually some sort of children’s autoharp. Look out for their album The Only Thing I Ever Wanted (on Domino).

The following night, my wife Buffy and I went to see TransAmerica, the new film directed by Duncan Tucker and starring Felicity Huffman. What were the odds on the music played over the opening credits being a song by Miriam Makeba? There is no narrative reason for it - it’s there simply because it sounds good. The previous Sunday, the night after the ping pong with Nitin Sawhney, Spike Lee’s Inside Man started and ended with an Indian song, ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya Bollywood Joint’, performed by Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi featuring Panjabi MC. Again, there was no narrative logic for it being Indian, and it was the only piece of music in the entire film not written specially for it. Next week’s show with Sue Steward is liable to feature plenty of Latin American music, which is more regularly heard in American films, so it’s possible we can complete a themed guest/film hat-trick. Transamerica is highly recommended, by the way; Inside Man is not. More about both in the Film section of the forum at www.soundoftheworld.com

Hugh's choices

PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 10:29 am
by Charlie
Most of the time, guests bring records with them, usually with no prior discussion between us. But occasionally, the guest is on tour and asks if I can bring in their choices.

This was the list that Hugh asked if I could find, with the tracks he actually played noted with an asterisk (*)

Miles Davies, any track from Kind Of Blue (* All Blues)
Marvin Gaye, When Did You Stop Loving Me? (*)
Aretha Franklin, Respect
Billie Holliday, You've Changed
Louis Armstrong & Jack Teagarden, When It's Sleepy Time Down South or Rocking Chair (*)
Manu Dibango,Soul Makosa (original)
Mahotella Queens, anything
Dark City Sisters, anything (* played Flying Jazz Queens)
Mystere des Voix Bulgares, anything
Brenda Fassi, Vulindlela
Joao Gilberto, one of his most early recordings

I consider it a great failure if I don't have everything, and in this case rounded up all but the version of When It's Sleepy Time Down South with Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden together.

Hugh Masekela and the Missing Millions

PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 10:27 pm
by BumpsB
Charlie wrote:So Universal Music continues to make money from ‘Grazing in the Grass’, but feels no obligation to pay any royalties to the producer and artist. Surely there could and should be an amnesty from an arrangement made by impetuous, principled people nearly forty years ago? Does anybody reading this have any influence where it counts? Or maybe there are other aspects to the story to be considered. I look forward to responses in the forum at our website


Charlie, I cannot believe it is you saying this! Universal grant an amnesty? This from a man who knows the record industry and has written books about it! I have tried for years to get royalties due to artists from this company; I have tried to get miserable 50s and 60s royalties increased to a reasonable level; I have tried to get Universal to stop deducting 25% from CD royalties for so-called packaging costs, or to base the pennies per CD royalties on the actual price rather than the price of vinyl album equivalents (they actually persuaded artists to sign away decent CD royalties due to ¨increased costs of production¨ in the 90s).

All my efforts have been in vain. These artists are making millions for their companies but the people in charge of the decisions that would give them a reasonable return are morally bankrupt. They do not care, Charlie! They would if some hotshot lawyer went after them, but until then they hide in their ivory towers. The Crickets and the Buddy Holly Estate have fought Universal in the US courts for a decade in an attempt to get fair treatment. But Universal have bigger lawyers so the case drags on - it must have cost a couple of million dollars so far. And still there is not a Buddy Holly CD box set....

Re: Hugh Masekela and the Missing Millions

PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 10:53 pm
by NormanD
BumpsB wrote:...The Crickets and the Buddy Holly Estate have fought Universal in the US courts for a decade in an attempt to get fair treatment. But Universal have bigger lawyers so the case drags on - it must have cost a couple of million dollars so far. And still there is not a Buddy Holly CD box set...
There's an-online auction going on elsewhere that contains dozens of Buddy Holly relics: unreleased acetates, stage suits, shirts, an engraved silver watch, etc., all sanctioned by his widow, Maria Elena. I thought she was having an emotional clear-out, but I suspect it's more likely she's broke and needs the money.

I found your post really fascinating, BumpsB. What you said isn't heard often enough - I'd like to call it the seamy side of the music biz, but it's probably its ordinary side. I feel cynical about the whole corporate process, and I'm not even (and never have been) involved.

Norman

Turning back the clock

PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:13 am
by Charlie
I agree with Norman, this is a fascinating topic. Can the industry ever be persuaded or lured into behaving in a moral manner, regarding its accounting practices?

One long-time BBC London listener is Dennis Muirhead, a former music business lawyer who is now mostly a manager (Billy Swan is one of his clients). Dennis always worked on good causes alongside his industry work, and I asked him if he could consider investigating Hugh's case. His reply was not encouraging:

"It will be hard to reverse such a deal between Hugh, Steve and Universal. Duane Eddy and Elvis did the same with Jamie and RCA and are still stuck with it."

In those two cases, the artists (or their representatives) waived all future royalties in return for a substantial one-off payment. I think this is different from what I understand to be the situation for Hugh and Steve, who received no payment at the time, but were allowed to walk away from a contract while being in the black - ie, they did not owe Universal unrecovered advances. We don't know all the fine details.

But there have been cases where record companies have relented and upgraded or changed a contractual arrangement.

In 1971, when I was researching my book about Atlantic Records, Making Tracks, the label's bosses Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun were very concerned about what the artists had said to me about them.

In most cases, to their relief, the artists had been positive, but several felt that it was unfair they were not being paid royalties because Atlantic was still recouping recording costs, incurred years earlier.

Much later, as Rhino started to compile Greatest Hits collections of its pioneer artists, Atlantic did change its practice, and began paying royatlies to survivors like Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker, upgrading their royalty from the 1 or 2 per cent that had been standard back in the early 1950s, and wiping out the recording debt incurred towards the end of their time at Atlantic. I don't know if other comapnies have followed suit.

I have also heard of publishers agreeing to change the terms of their contracts with writers, upgrading writer shares from 50/50 (as originally agreed in the 1960s or 1970s) to 70/30 in favour of the writer, as a gesture of good will.

Hugh Masekela & other programmes

PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:46 pm
by MartinG
Dearest Charlie

The programmes where you have a guest in whom you delight, with whom you delight, are the finest.... and the Favourites of the Year.

One such was last Saturday with Hugh Masekela. Simply transcendant.

Grazin' in the Grass? I was playing it in a disco, the Birds Nest
atop Muswell Hill, when it came out; it still blows my socks off. To learn that Hugh earns nothing from its continuing radio plays is a very sad state of affairs, and a measure of the amorality rights holders practise.

You should also know that your annual compilations provide essential
and compulsive travelling companions. Although I must confess that
after a few years I'd like to do a bit of recompiling, omitting the
occasional track that fails to endure!

[/b]

PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:19 am
by Charlie
email correspondence with Bill Bragin, manager/booker at Joe's Pub, Manhattan, probably the best small music venue in the city

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from Bill:

So YOU had Psapp! They were supposed to make their debut here at Joe's
Pub on March 28 and cancelled their tour (luckily we replaced them with
Jose Gonzalez who sold out before we could even advertise it - are you a
fan?) How was Psapp live?

All the best
Bill

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from CG:

Psapp are great, Bill, totally charming - kind of reminded me of the Be
Good Tanyas in their unassuming manner

can't say higher praise than that

Jose is a bit bland for me

------------------------------

from Bill:

Thanks for the info re psapp. Hopefully they will reschedule.

I think Jose's album is lovely

I know you've put Auktyon on your comp. Have you seen them? We just
presented 2 sold out shows, they blow me away every time.

We added tanya tagaq, inuit throat singer who worked with bjork and
kronos quartet, to open. You might want to have her on your radar.
Mesmerizing in a sainkho, marlui miranda kind of way

All the best.

----------------------------------------

from CG:

Tanya came and did an acapella thing live on my show about four years
ago - extraordinary - her album wasn't as good as I hoped but it's a
hard thing to capture

Never did see Auktyon but am glad to hear they are good live

----------------

from Bill:

Auktyon are literally one of my favorite live bands right now. Each
show surprises me by it's range and energy. Very inventive, amazing
players and Garkusha the clown hypman is tons of fun to watch.

Glad Tanya is someone you are familiar with. I want to bring her back -
maybe hook her up with Camille.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 2:52 pm
by Adam Blake
Charlie wrote:...So Universal Music continues to make money from ‘Grazing in the Grass’, but feels no obligation to pay any royalties to the producer and artist. Surely there could and should be an amnesty from an arrangement made by impetuous, principled people nearly forty years ago? Does anybody reading this have any influence where it counts?


Hey! I daresay it's all been said but I just thought I'd chime in with: Isn't that what the music business is all about? Screwing young people out of what's rightfully theirs? Always has been as far as I know... Also, isn't the Buddy Holly catalog owned by Paul McCartney? The "Mr Burns" of rock'n'roll?

Missing Millions

PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:29 pm
by BumpsB
Charlie is right; there ARE some decent companies. As a publisher I have been paying those 'upgraded' royalties as a matter of course for years - and as a label trying to pay a fair royalty without all those deductions. Its hard but it can be done as Charlie may confirm. Some of the bigger companies are not so bad, EMI for instance, have been very helpful in giving writers upgrades.
Adam thinks that stealing is what the music business is all about. Maybe it is but we shouldn't condone that; anyone involved who values music and has a heart should be fighting and reporting companies who treat artists and writers unfairly. The Musicians Union and other industry organisations have shown themselves to be just as bad as those who rip off the people they should be protecting, so its useless to complain to them.
What is needed is a website (theyfkdus.com?) where all the guilty parties can be publicly pilloried; then at least up and coming artists will know who to avoid. And maybe the bad publicity will convince even Universal to change their tune...
Oh, and Adam, Paul McCartney has nothing to do with the Universal/Holly case - his company publishes Buddy Holly and the Crickets music in the USA but thats all.

Re: Missing Millions

PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:54 pm
by Charlie
BumpsB wrote:What is needed is a website (theyfkdus.com?) where all the guilty parties can be publicly pilloried; then at least up and coming artists will know who to avoid. And maybe the bad publicity will convince even Universal to change their tune...

Until such a site is opened, why not get things rolling here...?

For a start, it would be interesting to know the finer details of what you are trying to get sorted on behalf of Buddy Holly's estate, if that is not sub judice

PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:29 pm
by Adam Blake
Sorry I didn't mean to be too flippant - it's just that as a musician I know so many fellow musicians who've been ripped by record companies you just expect it as a matter of course. I'm sure most members of this forum have read "The Hit Men" by Fredric Dannen where he details the standard industry practice of the 50s off paying off black performers with a Cadillac. Of course there's more to the music business than stealing. There are many dedicated music lovers in there, I've even met one or two of them! And I'm sorry to badmouth Paul McCartney too! I really did think he owned the Holly catalog.

Missing Billions

PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:59 pm
by BumpsB
Charlie, I agree, this site will do for now. And Universal would be a good place to start. However, it is not me who is trying to fight them in the US courts - it is the Crickets, Buddy Holly's widow, Maria Elena, the Holley family (Buddy's brothers and sister) and the Estate of Norman Petty. All these people pursued an action in the LA Superior Court for many years; the court ruled that MCA had made deductions from royalties due to all the parties when they were not entitled to do so.

It's difficult to sum up the court case as it is so complex but, briefly, when Holly & the Crickets signed with Coral-Brunswick they became entitled to a royalty of something like 5% based on 90% of all sales, worldwide. No mention is made in the agreements for reduced royalties being payable for overseas sales, record clubs or budget releases. Despite this, the successors to Coral-Brunswick - MCA and later Universal - allegedly made deductions for all these things. MCA were told by the court to account to the artists for the wrongful deductions in a Decision of June 2005. They still do not appear to have done so. Other parts of the action have been disallowed due to the fact that no action was taken within the statute of limitations by the parties against MCA.

Having seen some of the documents I can say that the royalty statements provided by MCA when paying the artists over nearly 50 years would not have been any use to someone without detailed knowledge not just of royalty statements in general but without detailed knowledge of how MCA arrived at their figures. Most artists would bank the cheque and file the statement - it took experts years to decode the accounting system used by MCA and to discover that some parties were never paid for certain titles - and that they were paid for tracks to which they had no royalty entitlement. It also appeared that MCA had colluded with Holly's ex-manager and others to deprive the Crickets of their share of recordings made with Holly. The whole story is a sad and sorry one, and the result has been to prevent Universal from putting together a definitive CD box set of Holly-Crickets material. Bootleggers have stepped in and further deprived the artists of their rights. Meanwhile the case drags on, it seems to me, because Universal refuse to abide by the court decision, preferring to extend the court action. I suspect their lawyers are of the opinion that the artists and their representatives will give up due to the high cost of court appearances. A settlement could no doubt have been made out of court for about half the cost of court action so far. There is little doubt to my mind that MCA's actions in the royalty department were at best careless and at worst, fraudulent. Or maybe there was a lack of light bulbs in their accounts department.

The refusal of companies to acknowledge artists claims is well-known. Anyone who has tried to query a royalty statement will know that the company's first defence is to ignore the enquiry until a lawyer's letter arrived, and even then, unless that lawyer is a 'heavy music biz firm' it is common for such missives to be ignored, or dealt with by junior staff who do their best to wear down the artists will to pursue the matter. It's an old ploy - "if you don't like it, sue us". Most people give up at that point for lack of civil court funds.

The Holly-Crickets case has cost hundreds of thousands, and yet it appears to be no further forward despite right, on the face of it, being on the side of the artists. There are many other examples I suspect.

All the documents relating to the MCA case are available online at
https://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/OnlineS ... /index.asp
I have read about half of them. Life is too short to study them all .... thank goodness for the music....