My column in the July/AugustJazzTimes (not online, alas), concerns music publishing, an issue of stealth importance today. To parrot a dry but earnest line from my own self: “At a time when most jazz musicians are composers, and other sources of income are dwindling, music publishing may be the one area with growth prospects.” Given the thrust of some recent bloggery, it seems a good notion to revisit.
Jazz musicians have long paid the price for inattention to
their publishing. In some cases, it’s a matter of ineffectual policing. You may know, for instance, what happened with Thelonious Monk’s most oft-recorded composition, “’Round
Midnight.” After it had been introduced to Cootie Williams, the song was filed for copyright with three names on the
certificate: Monk, Williams and lyricist Bernie Hanighen. “Consequently,” writes Robin Kelley, “Hanighen and his
estate receive a third of the royalties from every version of ‘’Round Midnight’
produced. And in turn, the original composer and his estate receive only a
third of the royalties -- to this very day.” Got that?
But let’s set aside the Big Fish example from a bygone era. Most
present-day jazz musicians will never write a “’Round Midnight” -- and that
shouldn’t at all diminish their interest in the publishing game. In the column,
I seek illumination on that point from Dan Coleman, whose publishing-administration company, “A” Side Music, works with the likes of Maria Schneider, Brad Mehldau and Billy Childs. (More on him in the comments.) I also consult with two publishing-savvy musicians, bassist Ben Allison and keyboardist Larry Goldings.