Jet City Blues

 Industry Trade Secrets 

Return to Home Page

 Some past articles written by some of the staff, I hope you enjoy and find some of it useful and entertaining -- Shannon Love

WHY UNION?

By Pete Leinonen

Local 76-493

Most conversations I have about the musician's union begin with the question "Why?" Why join? Why belong? Why the union contract? and so on... This is how I usually answer.

I can remember well when I first knew I wanted to be a professional musician. I had been taking lessons and playing cornet in the school band. Musicians used to come around the schools to demonstrate instruments, play for assemblies, etc. I was intrigued and would hang around while they were warming up, packing up, and on their breaks. I saw these same guys playing at country dances, weddings, musical shows, TV specials, and in rehearsals. As I got older, teachers like Jerome Gray would take me to the clubs. I remember meeting lots of working musicians who didn't have any other job, except music-related work like teaching, music retailing, instrument repair and recording. For some, the symphony provided the security of a day job. The thing about it is these people were living well, by today's standard. They wore nice clothes, drove cool cars and often were buying nice homes; I remember several on Lake Washington. I also remember something else. It was well known that the jobs were all "UNION". There was such dignity, friendliness, humor, respect, and generosity in this community, that you had to accord them the same respect that any other professionals received. Seattle was called a "UNION TOWN".

As time went by, I went off to college, enjoyed the experience of gigging around Pullman and Moscow, and finally decided to come to Seattle with a quintet of folk musicians to play at the world's fair. We went to see the entertainment director who said, "You must be union to play here." The other guys went back to Pullman; I dropped out and stayed to take lessons and hang out. Eventually I joined the local and right away began getting really good jobs (for which I was sadly ill-prepared). Those early jobs were usually for weeks or months; there was no audition, there was extra pay for TV, recording, and benefits, just like any other skilled worker could expect. It was against the rules to solicit another member's job. There were said to be 150 such gigs in the area, and we all liked each other. We hung out at the same restaurants after work, and union meetings drew a crowd. We met in the auditorium.

What is it like to work in Seattle today? Does any of the above sound like recent history? There are people in the so-called music industry (I'm in the music art) who are proud of having achieved victories over the musician's union. Are they making our lives better? Do we have a solid middle class lifestyle today? When you examine the conditions of working musicians today, the absence of union affiliation emerges frequently. It is my opinion that this was a much better trade in the "UNION TOWN".

What Happened?

By Neil Rush

Once upon a time in a country gone by, there was a group of people known as Professional Musicians. They were a very special group, and they knew it -- the cream of the crop -- the guys who could sight-read anything and make it sound like it was second nature to them. They all belonged to a society known as the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). They all got paid "scale" wages or better; and they all received a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes they played.

People flocked to see them when they played the Shadow, The Castle, Parkers, Gaffney's, Heisure's, The Plunge and a host of other venues. The ladies loved them (boyfriends were always jealous) -- sure sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it?! Well, it wasn't. WHAT HAPPENED?

Now-a-days, they all have hair, long or weird. They mostly hold guitars, and very few can read music... let alone play a chromatic scale. Some will tell you it was technology; some will say it was Rock & Roll, and even some will tell you it was M.T.V. There is some truth in all of this, but what really happened was GREED!

Instead of sticking together and working as a team, they all began to say, "I can sing and play better than that person. I look better than that person. I should get more money than that person. I am the STAR!"

Now, how does any of this relate to today? Just look around. The clubs are empty. Bands have to pay-to-play, and the audiences are bored. But amazingly enough; Seattle is world famous for its bands and musicians -- go figure!

This is my first column for the JET -- actually my first column ever. I am one of those guys who made a good living in the music biz, and one of the few guys that is still trying to save the industry. I believe it is possible. I believe in people, and I believe it is not just a music business problem, but a total societal problem.

In future articles I hope to address the specific problems we face in music. I need to get (and give) feedback in a positive way so we can all learn something.

I look forward to your comments and input.

If you would like to voice your opinion, write to Neal Rush at the Jet City, P.O. Box 52765 Bellevue, Washington 98015.

WHAT HAPPENED? (PART II)

By Neil Rush

I wrote my first article in the February 1995 issue. In that article, I talked about musicians that were more show, than talent, and about "pros" that could sight-read anything and make a decent living while doing it. Now, there's a new breed of cat on the street -- "Techno Hip" types, that primarily make music by using the computer. This type of music is probably one of the industry's biggest illusions. Music is produced in sound waves and the computer can reproduce or sample that sound that you program into it, such as piano, sax, drums even guitars. But what these reproduced sounds are lacking is soul! And that's what music is, soul!

Another aspect I would like to address is the financial problem that most consumers and club owners have. Most people want to go where the crowds are. Men and women both want to go they can meet and converse. Musicians are often influenced by the profits of this arithmetic, and the music budget numbers are always being questioned: Can we save money on the band and still have the same product?

We know there will always be bands willing to play for less, and yes, there will be bands who will use a computer to emulate a whole band sound. Well, the real question should be, is the consumer getting a less soulful quality product compared to a full live band sound? With exceptions of very small rooms, where one musician is all the space that it allows for, can a one-man band create the sound of the true, soul sound -- the blood, sweat and tears that musicians put into their craft?

It seems that very few today are willing to invest the time it takes to truly master their instrument (there are of course exceptions to this). But for the most part they are looking for short cuts on their performance. Most musicians spend a lifetime mastering an instrument, and most are never compensated fairly for their efforts. You will always hear a musician state the argument that doctors, lawyers, architects -- well, just about any professional that puts their time in school to earn a degree enjoys a higher standard of living. They do not begrudge them. They just find it hard to accept the perception that most people have about musicians. And that's that they get to play music stay out late and meet a lot of girls or guys, and that should be enough.

But what I am really trying to address here is that if you want to be a musician, and you would like to make it a paying and respectable career, you're going to have to work hard and long and be good, very good! You must be original, innovative and an astute business person. More on the later biz.

 

Your Songs

International Musician 93' (I.M.)

By Jimmy B. Nixon

"Copyright" gives the copyright owner the sole right to make copies of an original work of authorship. Some of these rights include mechanical, synchro-nization, print, dramatic or grand performing, derivative and small performing. These rights may be bought or sold, licensed, inherited or abandoned. Small performing rights are the ones collected by ASCAP and BMI.

You've dreamed up a brilliant new concept for a CD. Over morning coffee you write it down. Pure genius: "Boy Meets Girl." In a flood of creativity you complete the melody and lyrics to 10 songs. As you have big hopes and plans for this CD, is it time to copyright it, or are you being paranoid? Or are you being paranoid enough?

On March 1, 1989, the United States Notice of Adherence to the Berne Convention became effective. The Berne Convention is a treaty governing international copyright relations. All 79 member nations agree to a certain minimum level copyright protection. The Berne Act is not retroactive. Once your songs have been fixed in a tangible form, i.e., written down or recorded, they are now considered to be copyrighted. In previous years, your songs would fall into public domain if the copyright symbol, the date and your name were not attached. The mandatory deposit of the Berne Act, however, says "copyright owners must deposit in the copyright office two complete copies or phone records of the best edition of all works subject to copyright that are publicly distributed in the United States, whether or not the work contains a notice of copyright."

Whew! In other words, formal notification in the old way still works best. The laws are more relaxed now, but you need to file the copyright form if you think you might ever be involved in any type of litigation.

What you can copyright is the melody and lyrics. If you get someone to help you with the chords to your melody they do not share in the copyright. You cannot copyright chord changes, song titles, ideas and repetitive phrases.

When to copyright is usually a matter of common sense. Ask yourself, are you being paranoid enough?

 
bulletIf you're not sure, but someone wants a tape.
bulletIf you're sending copies of your tape around the country to publishers.
bulletIf you're giving tapes of your songs to your mother, who in turn gives them to everyone.

These are all good reasons to copyright. Actually, almost any reason is a good enough reason to copyright in the music business.

You can copyright the 10 songs in "Boy Meets Girl" as a collection under a single title in an unpublished collection form. Publishing is defined as distribution of copies for sale to the public. There is a $20.00 fee per form and you can include up to 13 songs. The main appeal of this method is that it saves money. There are some problems with the collection method, but as long as you understand that this is not the ultimate step in protecting your rights, you should be okay.

Think of this method as a holding area. If you write a lot and can't decide which songs you like or need to rewrite this is a good way to go initially. The down side of this method is keeping track of the songs under each title. If you sell the copyright, all the songs included are sold. Also note that, co-writers, if any, need to be the same for all songs on each form.

For a studio project, you can wait until the final songs are chosen. Then you may copyright each song individually on separate PA forms. At $20.00 each, it may seem expensive to copyright each song separately. However, the real, long-term value of the songs is the copyrights. So that $20.00 a piece is the best money spent on any recording project. Budget the copyrights first.

When you complete the recording you may copyright the sounds of the recording with an SR Form. If you record for a recording company, they usually own the sound copyright. If it's your band's company, the SR Form allows every member in your band to share in the copyright and protects each members own unique sound. This is a separate right. Do not confuse this with an individual member's song copyright.

For playing your material live, the "unpublished collection method" works fine. Nightclub work does not necessarily constitute publication. But, if another musician wants to record or even play one of your songs in his or her act, you should be paranoid enough to copyright it individually on a PA Form.

This is very basic advice for beginners and the do-it-yourself-I-can-release-my-own-thank-you people. If you are going to write songs, you need to do your own research and learn the language and the laws. The first law is never sign anything you don't understand. The second is never take anyone's word for anything in the

music business.

The PA and SR copyright forms may be obtained by calling the Federal Information Center at 1800-726-4995. Always submit the best quality tape you can with the copyright forms, lead sheets and lyric sheets, while not required, certainly won't hurt.

Two books that should help you are: The Craft & Business of Songwriting, by John Bralieny, and Protecting Your Songs and Yourself, by Kent J. Klavens. Both are published by Writers Digest books, 1-800-289-0963. Other references are: Expose Yourself to Art Law, by Washington Volunteer, Lawyers for the Arts; Circular 93 (highlights of US Adherence to the Berne Convention) Copyright Office, Library of Congress; and The Songwriters Handbook, by Harvey Rachlin. May all the songs you write sell platinum.

 

In Bill's Eye

By Bill Blackstone

In addition to managing and performing with The Charles White Band, I operate the Seattle BlueStar Booking Agency specializing in scheduling Seattle R&B dance club bands. Through this experience I am realizing why night musicians are sometimes subject to disrespect coming from club management and booking agencies.

You've heard the old saying "one bad apple spoils the bunch" well, I think the principle applies to this issue. Yes, it is unfortunate that somehow along the line a significant number of people got the idea that professional musicians don't actually work, but instead lead carefree irresponsible lives filled with nothing but fun. I know some assume this to be true because while negotiating terms for gigs I still sometimes hear annoying statements like "now, we can't pay you guys much but there's plenty of food, beer and women, and I know you'll have lots of fun." There, I have empathy toward victims of this display of ignorance. However, I also firmly believe, we as professional musicians unknowingly and sometimes knowingly enable and confirm these attitudes in potential employers.

Recently a local club owner shared his frustrations with me concerning some of the bands that had worked at his club. His complaints included: 1) not starting on time; 2) taking unreasonably long breaks between sets (up to 45 minutes); 3) blaming club management for difficulty experienced while attempting to cash club checks, due to not having a personal checking account; 4) being overly intoxicated and unable to deliver past level of quality performances; 5) forming new unrehearsed bands, allowing the club owner to believe he was hiring the same band from previous engagements; and 6) refusing to follow club rules of volume, etc., claiming they didn't make enough money to follow the rules.

Now, I am the first to understand and acknowledge that some clubs don't pay bands what they're worth. However, my belief is, if you want to work, find out what the conditions and terms are, and if they are not acceptable, don't take the job. On the other hand, if you know what you're getting into and you accept the job, it is your responsibility to follow through with the details of your agreement with the club. It is certainly disturbing to me that I sometimes find it necessary to proclaim my rights as a working musician and have to ask for the respect deserved of any skilled professional of a legitimate career. But, as far as I'm concerned, there is no value in placing blame. It takes two to tango. And I can only try to change my own attitudes and behaviors. Any expectations or efforts toward changing somebody else's has usually left me feeling let down and unaccomplished. Please continue to spread a positive and supporting message for working musicians with the intent to represent us all with integrity. Also spend an extra "thank you" with those clubs, agents and their staff that show us their respect.

Please Note: Concerning last month's article, the club owner did indeed breach our contract, and the case is being pursued in a legally legitimate manner. The outcome is expected to be in our favor. Also, the last issue of that article should have described a club owner negotiating individually between the agent, Charles White, and myself, trying to work one of us into accepting an unreasonably low wage without admitting to any of us that he was calling us all separately. When I established that The Charles White Band had no intention of going behind the agent or accepting an unreasonable offer either way, he was never to be heard from again. I wanted to clear that up as I had made an error with my article entry for last month's issue.

 

In Bill's Eye

By Bill Blackstone

I would like to precede this article by expressing my sincere appreciation to the clubs, staff and management that consistently treat the Charles White Band with the utmost respect and consideration. However, the problem we've recently experienced with other clubs is the topic of my current Jet City article.

I have worked as a professional musician since 1978. But, for some reason, I am still stunned when I experience a lack of honesty and integrity in this business. I guess it's my difficulty with acceptance. Regardless, I would like to share with you my most recent misfortune.

In May, we arrived to a gig that had been established by written contract well in advance. Upon loading P.A. gear into the club, the owner who had signed the contract, informed us that we would not be working that evening. In speaking with him, he admitted to not reading the contract, but signing it anyway, and in addition, had his own version of our verbal agreement (preceding the written agreement). Consequently, we experienced the inconveniences of not receiving the expected and very much depended upon income, as well as having to gear up for and bring equipment to a job that had been canceled without our knowledge.

I am pursuing compensation for our losses and feel confident that the owner will be quite surprised with my resourcefulness, persistence and knowledge of legal rights and liabilities in this business. By the next Jet City issue, I hope to have a favorable outcome to report.

In the same month of May, one week previous to a job, also established by written contract well in advance, I received a call from the agency who set up this job. I was told that the owner of this particular club had requested that the contract be canceled because they did not have the necessary insurance to cover dancing in this establishment. I was asked if I wanted to cancel the contract, therefore, losing expected income with no time to find replacement work. I said no.

The agency agreed and informed me that the other groups affected also said no. After reporting to the club owner, the agency called back to tell me that they had changed their mind and had decided to honor the contract regardless of his state of insurance coverage. Three days previous to this scheduled performance, I got another call from the agency. Now the club owner, changing his mind again, decided it would be less expensive for him to pay the band the agreed upon amount not to play, than to risk being discovered without property insurance coverage for dancing.

The agency made an appointment for me to come in the next day to pick up the check. However, when the agency went to pick up the check from the club owner, there was no check. I was then told to go directly to the club at 3:00 PM the next day and the check would be ready then. Well, when I walked into the club, I was greeted by two masters of verbal manipulation, distracting jargon, and in general, loads of deceit.

With check on the table, they proceeded to ask me, "Why should we pay your band for no reason?" After a silent prayer and mere aneurysm, I began to realize their trap, quickly realizing that they were attempting to make me believe I had somehow not fulfilled my obligation to them. I explained that they were the only ones not fulfilling obligations, that I had no control over music scheduling or insurance coverage, and that I had no intention of paying for their mistake. I also mentioned that I did not appreciate them wasting my time, and that if they preferred, I would turn the matter over to my attorney. After making a quick phone call to Charles White, who in turn, called the club owner, I was handed the check.

But no, it is not over. In the same month of May, I received a call from another club owner requesting our band. To make a long story short, the club owner was negotiating with two bands at the same time, trying to find out who would play for the least amount of money (hoping that we would overlook any misleading verbal agreements). Gee, it sounds like it would have been a great gig. Ha!

Yes, I guess I'm still stunned after all these years when I run into situations with club owners like those named above. However, I again have to affirm my appreciation for the club, agents, their staff and management who do treat musicians justly. Also, in an abstract way, I have to thank those club owners as well for teaching me over and over, no matter how much I think I can't afford an attorney, I certainly can, and most definitely have to in order to protect myself in an effectively, orderly and calm manner. Essentially, I have to pay someone else to deal with the lack of ethics and integrity that sometimes comes up in this business.

Until we meet again, make sure you show your appreciation to appropriate parties at your next show.

Sincerely,

Bill Blackstone

 

 
Shannon Love Professional Auto Consultant  
 


ęCopyright 1995 -- 2008 Jet City Blues Review
 
Return to Home Page