It´s a secret operation, don´t want this getting out,
So watch it, watch it, watch it, if the payment doesn´t bounce,
It´s the sweetness of the readies, makes the bell ring on the till,
And if they say they’ll pay next week, you know they never will.
Take the cash, don´t let them pay you in kind,
Take the cash, before they change their minds,
And let´s see the colour of their money – take the cash
(words and music / E. Goulden)
Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for the downright brilliant songs of Mr. and Mrs Goulden’s lad, Eric – better known throughout the whole wide world (sic) as Wreckless Eric – whose songwriting, according to this little Voltaire out there on its grassy knoll on the windswept prairie, deserves far wider acknowledgement than it presently has or, indeed, has accumulated over the years.
Nevertheless, in this relative world, its probable that young Eric doesn’t do all that badly out of his songwriting royalties… even despite the fact that he (probably) signed a piss-poor publishing deal back in the day with his pay-meister’s at Stiff; the World's most flexible record label that was started up by Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson (Robbo) via a four-hundred quid loan from Dr. Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux and which offered for our delectation some of the very finest (and also some of the most horrible) records issued in the Seventies and Eighties.
Amongst which, (the former that is), any discerning individual would list a high quantity of W. Eric’s tunes – lyrically as astute as it gets with a fine turn for a belter of a melody; consider the rhyming couplet delights within his second Stiff single (and, sadly, it was a stiff), Reconnez Cherie – On a convenient seat by the lavatories in the sodium glare; We used to wait for the bus in a passionate clutch and go as far as we dared; Do you remember when I passed my driving test; Took you to the pictures, forget the rest; Do you remember all those nights in my Zodiac; Playing with your dress underneath your Pac-a-Mac. And, on it goes into an entirely memorable chorus. I mean – c’mon… Cole Porter, eat your heart out.
And Eric… well, he’s been plodding along, ploughing his own, entirely unique, furrow these many years and, in an unlikely twist of circumstance, has returned to (some would say) his spiritual home by licensing his new record (with his wife, Amy Rigby) to the label – Stiff having risen once again, phoenix-like from its own ashes.
Aha… the key word here is licensed… as it looks as if our hero has his act together. And, is nowadays a lot more in control of his own work than (maybe) once he was.
Back in 1977, when his first record – Whole Wide World – hit the stores, young Eric was (quite possibly) relieved to have found an outlet for his music and (probably) never once thought about the long-term… At 32 Alexander St (Stiff HQ) it was all about madcap schemes hatched in any one of numerous nearby pubs with (probably) no real thought to how the label’s output would be considered (say) a quarter of a century later. At that point, the powers that be at Stiff were more concerned with what might happen next week.
Nevertheless, a true gem such as that (aforementioned) record was listed not so very long ago in Mojo Magazine’s ‘best punk singles of all time’ while also being acclaimed as one of the top-40 ‘alternative era’ singles between 1975 / 2000.
And, while written in its entirety by E. Goulden, the copyright would be shared (possibly at something of a disadvantageous rate) with his publishers. And, given the copyright laws in existence at that point, that’d be the case until the year of our Lord, 2033. Meaning – if my arithmetic is on song – that Eric wouldn’t have full control of his own song until he was 79 years old.
Quite a sobering thought that.
But, of course, more or less the same situation that any songwriter (unless they’ve either had exceedingly clever management or have been exceptionally astute themselves) will find themselves in for works (songs) registered before 1978. After that, the situation changes – and will do so radically – in 2013 when the 35-year-law comes into force… in other words, a fore-shortening of the length of time before copyright reverts. Yes, I realize this is all a bit publishing 101 but it’s for illustrative purposes.
This ownership and being able to work and properly earn from your own copyrights point being vividly brought home by a snippet spotted in today’s Guardian.
In which, we learn that Producers working at Channel 5 TV have been asked to ‘avoid’ using commercial music in their programmes as a method to bring down royalty 'payments'.
And, those 'payments' are songwriting Royalties which are collected by the PRS and then distributed to the Publishing Companies and then, eventually, paid – on a percentage rate – to the actual writer(s) are accrued from any public performance of said music be that on-stage, recorded, on the radio, on the telly, within a movie or… online.
Apparently this is all part of a cost-cutting drive to make C5TV more profitable.
But, what is not mentioned is the heinous manner in which they (and, it should be noted, most other TV as well as Film Production Companies) actually deal with the creatives – in this instance, those who write music which may or may not be included within said TV Programmes or Films and so forth.
The C5TV spokeswoman is quoted in today's Guardian saying "Channel 5 plan to commission more original music as they have excellent contacts in the creative industry.”
Well… on the face of it, that’s great – more opportunities for creative folk.
But, here’s the rub… C5TV (as above) are clearly wanting to pay as little as they can by way of Royalties but, at the same time, they’re also demanding their cut as a Publisher because, as the source said (and this was also quoted in The Guardian) “All publishing rights have to be assigned to Channel 5."
In other words, they not only want to cough up little as they can get away with or grab just a little slice of that nice (lucrative) publishing steak and kidney... oh no, they want the entire bloody pie, crust and all.
And, if you – writer X – do not kow-tow to their demands… then, like as not your music will not be used. Same applies if you’re already signed to a Publishing Company. If your Publisher doesn’t (or won’t) play ball then… that’s it, your music won’t be used.
And, either which way, you'll not earn as much as you should.
Double-edged sword or what?