This past weekend I was lucky enough to catch the Sunset Strip Music Festival in LA. Seeing Motley Crue and Public Enemy, playing live outside on the Strip, and The Doors, live at the Whiskey A Go- Go, where they started as a house band in the 60’s, (with David Brock on vocals doing a mind blowing rendition of Jim Morrison), was truly an unreal experience … and just what I needed. Working with the major music labels for the last eight years and following this beleaguered industry from the business side, I always rely on some good-old live, loud music to quickly put things back in perspective for me.
Last week the New York Times wrote an article reporting on yet another potential crushing blow to the music industry, a little known revision to a copyright law from the mid-seventies, dealing with musical artists regaining rights to their songs. Basically the law grants artists “termination rights,” allowing the artists to regain control of their work from the labels, 35 years after the songs release, provided they file the proper forms two years in advance.
“The recording industry has made a gazillion dollars on those masters, more than the artists have,” said Don Henley, a founder both of the Eagles and the Recording Artists Coalition. “So there’s an issue of parity here, of fairness. This is a bone of contention, and it’s going to get more contentious in the next couple of years.” Some big names released in 1978 and eligible to be granted termination rights in 2013 include, Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” Billy Joel’s “52nd Street,” and the Doobie Brothers’ “Minute by Minute.
This will be a bone of contention for years and will certainly wind up in court and in the hands of lawyers, some of whom I’m sure were rockin’ right alongside me. Thirty-five years is a long time, but after seeing these bands perform over the weekend with passion and energy, sounding better than ever, something tells me they’re not going away anytime soon, and thank goodness!
Listening to bands tell their stories between songs during the festival reminded me of how this whole thing started and why it’s all here in the first place…and never a mention of words like copyright or piracy. I say avoid the legal fees, pay the artists instead and let Don Henley go back to singing with his Eagles band mates.