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Click to email ChrisMick Jagger on Royalties
and Getting Paid for Music
by Christopher Knab - Fourfront Media & Music -
May 2010

Back to Music Business 101

I found this Mick Jagger quote about getting paid royalties worth sharing with you all.

Mick Jagger has an interesting take on whether the internet has meant that artists no longer get paid for their music:

    “… it is a massive change and it does alter the fact that people don’t make as much money out of records. But I have a take on that – people only made money out of records for a very, very small time. When The Rolling Stones started out, we didn’t make any money out of records because record companies wouldn’t pay you! They didn’t pay anyone! Then, there was a small period from 1970 to 1997, where people did get paid, and they got paid very handsomely and everyone made money. But now that period has gone. So if you look at the history of recorded music from 1900 to now, there was a 25 year period where artists did very well, but the rest of the time they didn’t.”

Jagger still doesn’t control the music he made in the 60s because of a dispute with former manager Allen Klein. The Stones have previously gone to court to try to get Universal, which owns their former label Decca, to open its books so that they could establish whether they were paid all the royalties owing to them. It seems Jagger still believes that he was short-changed.

And the following anonymous comment on the post is notable...

The Supremes, the Marvelettes, the entire Motown lineup, the early rock and rollers, and so many of the jazz greats, didn’t make squat until the AF of M and the music publishers were compelled to sort matters out under the oversight of the National Labour Relations Board. Many of them died in abject poverty, and/or were gigging until the the day before they died. The only thing they stood a chance on getting paid for was live performance, and their managers pocketed most of that. Popular music has gone to be an alternative traveling carnival and amusement park sideshow venue to a genuine paid trade only since the 1960’s.

It’s important to note, too, that so much of the enforced underpayment and hypercontrol of musicians as a sort of mutant pet dancing bear at the zoo was a function in the USA of political terrorism by the regimes that prevailed at the time (I cannot think of another word to substitute for terrorism, sorry; I knew lots of Detroit rock musicians who lived in terror their whole performing careers up until the blacklist was abolished by Presidential decree by President Ford in 1976. It was physically dangerous to be a musician in rock music then).

I think Sir Mick could hold forth extensively on that, too. There are lots of good reasons why music then had such a political edge to it. It was in response to the high level of political harassment by the authorities. Had the state had its way, we would still be listening exclusively to Bobby Vinton and Fabian and Pat Boone. Few born after 1975 can even imagine what it was like, in terms of political and social pressures, to be 18 in 1968 in either the USA or the UK. To reimpose that sort of pressure would quadruple the teen suicide rate overnight. It’s why I am very leery and oppose much of this “Common Purpose” and social engineering stuff: it’s McCarthyism and micromanagement of people’s lives all over again, but this time coming from the Bolshie side of the same coin.

Come to that, it took an outright unrelenting 75 year war in the courts and the picket line so that film and stage actors could succeed in being paid anything better than working for a fast food franchise. “Bob’s your uncle” for centuries for performers was room and board and a place to sleep. For centuries up until the end of the 1940’s, they lived like and were treated like caged zoo animals and paid not much better unless they developed “side enterprises” which put them under the protection of a political bigwig.


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