Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jazz: History's Healer In a Search for Meaning

By lovers of the art, jazz has long been thought of as a healing music. Steeped deeply in rural blues, field work songs, and church call and answer, it follows that within these influences come a necessary salve, especially in difficult social and economic times.

Ebony Magazine launched an article today called Rebirth of Slick: Jazz Returns to Black Popular Music and noted how young African-American artists such as Esperanza Spalding and Robert Glasper, two world-class artists often mentioned in this blog, have opened doors to jazz for a new generation of people.   Through its Twitter feed (@EBONYMag) and through feedback buttons on its website, I commented to the magazine that I thought its points were excellent and timely. However, the more I thought about jazz music's place in history, the more I realized that its emergence and awareness to popular culture -- black, white, all of us -- tends to surface at times when Americans are searching for deeper meaning. 

The birth of jazz coincided with not only the invention of sales of the RCA Victrola (1906) and radio (first AM broadcast, 1920), but also with the catastrophic conclusion of World War I in 1918.  At that time in history, the "war to end all wars" had been fought, with a worldwide total of more than 15 million dead and over 20 million wounded as a result.  Various intellectual movements, such as post-modernism in English-speaking countries and el vanguardismo in Latin America, seethed in the arts and carried an angry societal message that basically screamed:  if behaving in a civilized manner brought us to total World War, then what good is there in being 'civilized'?  A great example of this angst is captured in Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream".  In popular culture, partly because of this angst and fueled further by the 18th Amendment in America ("Prohibition"), the Roaring Twenties blazed ahead in earnest with devil-may-care abandon.

During the late Teens and early Twenties, even as a baby, jazz nursed wounded souls with the golden cornet sounds of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke; in the affected blues of Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters; and in the next generation of Scott Joplin influences in stride piano via written compositions from Jelly Roll Morton.   With these giants at the helm and powered by the popularity of radio and RCA Victrola records, jazz became the official soundtrack of the Western world from the 1920s, 1930s, and even into the Swing Era of the 1940s.  It was a curative ointment that bonded a generation, from one World War, through the Great Depression, and into the next.

By September 1939, only a generation later, the world was again at war, led by Adolf Hitler of Germany and the Nazi party.  Jazz again sailed in as a salve to soothe frightened and wounded hearts.  This was evident in the fact that Swing music was outright banned in Germany, particularly if and when recorded by African Americans (on "race records") or Jews.  For example, Benny Goodman records continued to sell in Germany, but only under Goodman's drummer's name, Gene Krupa, a non-Jew.

In stark contrast to Nazi aims, during World War II, jazz again emerged as the era's popular music, and its commercial name (swing) is often cited in literature and on Ken Burns' Jazz as the "true welcome" and "Golden Age."  Swing was the most popular music on the radio and its success offered hundreds of jobs to musicians in major cities such as New York, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, and even new points out West, such as Los Angeles.  Many music jobs could also be found in various touring and territory bands that traveled the country.

During the next few decades, aided by the birth of jazz's cousin, rock and roll, the overt popularity of jazz music would disappear for most of the record-buying teenagers, starting in the mid-1950s.  However, for a small group of authors based first in New York, then in Denver, and finally in San Francisco and beyond, it would remain the only official music of their existence.  Once again, after yet another bloody world conflict ended, these writers were a part of a new generation of young people that rebelled against conventional wisdom.  Most of these "rebels" were actually middle-class intellectuals from the suburbs, urban universities, and various literary circles that were first termed as "beat", and by 1959, with the launch of the Soviet missile Sputnik, "beatniks."

Credited to writer John Clellon Holmes in November 1952 ("This is the Beat Generation" - New York Times Magazine), "beat" had nothing to do with music; it instead referred to rebellious young people who carried themselves as though they were "beaten" or "beat up" by life and circumstances and therefore had nothing to lose.  At that time, the term simply meant socially "worn out", or more accurately, "fed up."

The Beats reveled in driving fast cars, drinking and taking anything they could get their hands on, listening to bebop jazz, and were ultimately America's first "hippies".  Instead of tie-dye and beads, they were mostly clad in dark turtleneck sweaters, berets, and horn-rimmed glasses.  Like the post-modernists and Vanguard before them of the 1920s, this group of young people again observed the senseless, socio-hypocritical norms of 1950s America and thus decided to drop out and live life on their own terms.  The famous Beats (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, etc) opted to write about their experiences, usually while cranking bebop records during a Benzadrine-induced frenzy.  Most (black) jazz musicians were not amused at the time as the (white) Beats often attempted to emulate their troubles with heroin and speed, thinking that the drugs would improve their artistic abilities and free their minds, but in retrospect, these teenagers must be credited as jazz's biggest fans through the late 1940s to the early 1960s.  In addition to writers, artists such as the troubled Jackson Pollock angrily slung paint against a proverbial canvas in outright frustration at his times. 

The collective social kettle was slowly being turned up to a boiling point and urgently wafted the unspoken question -- how could we Americans fight for three long years against oppression overseas, European ethnic cleansing and racial inequalities, then respond by sending men of all races to war against it, and finally bear to continue with business as usual once we returned home?   The idea of "Separate But Equal" -- for blacks, whites, and women of all colors -- was a blatant and hypocritical agenda against minorities with which newly enlightened people could no longer abide.  Pandora's Box had been opened and there would be no closing it.

In addition to the Beats' professed devotion to both jazz and unfettered freedom to roam the continent, a more powerful sentiment of equality and freedom flowered in black communities, giving rise to the Civil Rights movements of the late 1940s, 1950s, and finally culminating in U.S. Federal law as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.   Even though swing had long since left the radio by the late 1950s, jazz continued to heal via live music --- bebop and hard bop -- in the underground clubs and supplied the pervasive underpinning to new movements in popular music such as Rhythm and Blues and Soul. 

However, jazz music for its own sake was also never completely down for the count.  In the mid 1950's, jazz artists and composers Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck (1956 and 1954, respectively ... a feat that while Brubeck was honored, was saddened to have hit the cover before Duke ... ) both graced the cover of Time Magazine.  Brubeck also scored a major instrumental hit on the pop chart with alto saxman's angular chart Take FiveWithin devoted jazz circles, however, led by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, the music soared to even faster, more experimental, and crazier heights, embodying a collective social frustration and its longing to fly.

Now jazz beckons a new generation of young people in America who are searching for meaning in an otherwise plastic, boring, broke, uncertain, redundant, and hollow media world.  Many Americans today have expressed in interviews that they do not feel much different from what we learned of the 'Beat Generation' rebels above; we are often tired, used, overtaxed, stressed -- beat.   Furthermore, in terms of entertainment, how can we have thousands of channels on television that offer essentially nothing of value to watch or that feature more advertising time than actual show time ... or thousands of radio and Internet stations (owned by the same handful of corporations - the same ones that own the TV giants - getting the picture yet?) that broadcast the same 10 pop songs?   Certainly we can do better than this -- and some artists have -- by embracing the power of jazz influences into their work.

In this new age of seeking meaning (i.e. movements against the eradication of racism; living in a "greener planet"; celebration of cultural diversity) it is evident to me that jazz has poked its head around in the corner starting with talents such as Spalding and Glasper, and young people have noticed.  We noticed.  Vibe noticed.  Ebony noticed.  A lot of people are starting to notice and it's about damned time.  Per the Mayan Calendar, the world is ending on December 21 of this year, so enjoy this revolution while you still can!

Best wishes always,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
President, pianist, jazz historian
TIMKAT Entertainment, Inc.
Denver, CO, USA

Twitter: @timkatent

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony - April 14, 2012 - Adventures

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on an overcast Cleveland day, April 14, 2012

Listing of 2012 Inductees

This year, the Induction Ceremonies for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sizzled on an overcast but otherwise pleasant day (Saturday, April 14, 2012 8 PM -?? AM) and returned to its home city of Cleveland, Ohio.   While the Induction Ceremony itself sold out within 15 minutes of tickets being offered for sale, I was one of more than 1,250 people who were fortunate enough to snag tickets to the Induction Simulcast Viewing, which took place at the actual Rock Hall last night.

The 2012 Induction Ceremony was held about 2 blocks down the street, at Cleveland's Public Hall Auditorium and boasted a crowd of 6,000 fans, fellow musicians, press officials, and even mounted police officers standing by on horseback!  Here are some great photos of the bands and all the coverage, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.  
Johnny Cash Tour Bus, 1979

The event itself was a stunning, historic, and energy-filled memory that I will treasure for years to come.  I still have not grokked the fullness that I Was There and that the rest of the world will not be able to witness what the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, and many other world magazines, blogs, and newspapers saw along with me last night until it airs on HBO next month.  Accompanied by friend and Cleveland-area native Kim Foster, we two ladies made our experience a day never to be forgotten.

9th Street aka "Rock and Roll Boulevard"
We arrived at the Hall at about 4 PM, as we wanted to avoid excessively long lines at the exhibits. In honor of the Induction, admission to the Hall was free to the public all day from 9 AM to 5:30 PM, and even at that time of day, patronage was still healthy. 

We strolled and viewed marvelous exhibits such as the exterior of Johnny Cash's 1979 tour bus (outside, shown above), Alex Van Halen's 1980 full drum kit (lobby), and further in, John Lennon's Yamaha upright piano and classic mellotron, Janis Joplin's psychedelic 60s Porsche, ZZ Top's bold red Eliminator, many of Stevie Nicks' famous gypsy-witch performance gowns, a full room of Elvis memorabilia, Michael Jackson's various glittery outfits and Grammy award for "Thriller" in 1984, marveled at "The Wall", a black-and-green back-lit veritable wall of artist autographs.

At every turn, we heard the music all around us, revelved in the costumes, videos, marquees, posters, and guitars, and soaked up the history of those various styles of music that blended over the past 60 years to create what Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed termed in the 1950's as a "little something to make you rock and roll..." 

ZZ Top's famous "Eliminator"
We then headed over to the gift shop, as we learned that it would not be open all night, and grabbed swag for ourselves and family members that had pressed us to visit the Hall for so long: coffee mugs with the listings of the 2012 Inductees, postcards, a magnet to support music education, and a vibrantly-colored mouse pad.
At 5:30, the Rock Hall was closed to the public and security made a sweep of the seven-floor monstrosity to clear it for the Induction Simulcast Viewing Party 90 minutes later. During this time, Kim and I decided that this might be our only moment to grab a bite to eat, so we headed back out to the street. 

We met a new artist, named BRIK (aka "KRYME" ... a "Thug Food Production" .... ) who was selling his new hip-hop and rap CD for a "donation" of $5.  I figured that you only live once, and what happens if and when BRIK gets big?  I will have wanted to have a copy of the thing.   I bought one, chatted with the enterprising young man for a while, handed him my card, shook his hand, attempted to get his autograph (sort of did, his pen wasn't working well), and wished him a great weekend and career.  When we turned around to look for food, we noticed right away that Cleveland still has a little work to do in terms of making food accessible to both Rock Hall and adjoining Cleveland Browns fans (across the street), as there were no restaurants within sight or even a comfortable walking distance. 

We noticed that there were two police officers sitting in a cruiser nearby and Kim immediately headed over to their car as though it were an information booth.  We chatted with the officers and asked if they knew of any good places to eat.  They began to explain that the nearest restaurant row was easily 3 blocks down and a few over, and then, seeing our reactions at having to walk that distance, smiled and said, "Hop in!  We'll take you there."

We couldn't believe it - two of Cleveland's finest (and truly friendly officers) offered to shuttle us 100% free but taxi-style to a hip restaurant row a few blocks away.  We hopped into the cruiser, the officers shut the doors behind us, and we were off.  The entire ride, the jolly gents joked about how they were just kidding and that they were actually taking us to jail.  In actuality, they kept their word, took my last name down as a passenger (since they need to track who has been in their car), and drove us to a small restaurant area off of 6th Street.  Once there, we had to make a quick decision, spotted Sushi Rock and asked to be let off there.  The officers let us out of the cruiser, we shook their hands and thanked them tremendously for saving us a good 15-20 minute walk, took a few pics of them and the car, they drove off, and we stepped into the establishment.

My view from the back of the cruiser .
The officer had to take my last name as a casual passenger.

Our friendly driver from Cleveland's finest.
This officer should be a model!

Let me be the first to tell you that when you step out of a police cruiser and into a restaurant, the host might not be willing to seat you right away.  Two lovely hostesses were stationed at the door that were forced to do a double-take and asked if we just got out of a real police cruiser?  We explained that yes, we did; that we had just come from touring the Rock Hall, and that we managed to snag a ride. The hostesses were incredulous that the cops would offer to take absolute strangers to a restaurant, but thought that was the coolest thing that they had heard in a long time.  We agreed!

One of the hostesses whisked us to a table upstairs, where we were greeted again by another smiling server who also had seen us step out of the cruiser.  Once again, we explained how it happened, and she laughed and said she couldn't believe it.  Most people run away from the police; we ran right to them and look what happened.

Upscale dining at Sushi Rock
An excellent choice!

We had a fantastic dinner at Sushi Rock  (a pure coincidence as it seemed that everything "Rocked!") - a delicious assortment of tuna and salmon sushi, as well as Philadelphia roll and spicy tuna roll.  Kim also ordered a fantastic plate of "Beef Sushi", which was not raw fish at all; rather, slightly-spicy filet mignon strips soaked in a delightful marinade and served over rice.  Kim loved the fish and beef both and with my coaching, learned how to manipulate a pair of chopsticks. 


Rear view of the cruiser from which Kim and I had just emerged!
At 6:30, we called for the check, because we needed to get back to the Hall in time for the 7:00 PM door opening to the Induction Viewing party.  Once outside, we regetted that we no longer had the police to shuttle us back to the Rock Hall; but no matter.  We walked the short distance down 6th Street, back out to Lakeside, and witnessed the throng of people awaiting their turn to enter Public Auditorium to see the actual Induction.  There again were officers on horseback, who graciously allowed us photos of them on their mounts, and a red carpet that adorned the Auditorium's front hall for the famous artists about to be inducted.  We snagged a few photos and then picked up the pace to get back to the Hall, as we were running a bit late, but also because it had started to sprinkle and we didn't want to be caught in the cold rain.

We arrived back at the Hall just after 7 PM and there were two long lines forming outside.  A line to the left of the entrance formed for "Will Call" ticket holders, while a line to the right queued for Internet/pre-printed tickets.  We jumped into the second line and miraculously found our way inside and to the viewing area.

Press, musicians, and fans queue at the Public Auditorium
Site of the 2012 Rock Hall Induction Ceremonies.
For the over 1,250 ticket holders to this exclusive viewing event, the Rock Hall did a super job of ensuring everyone had a decent seat and that peace and order, in spite of the rock and roll, were preserved. 

There were actually at least four viewing rooms established; one giant one with a 12-foot projection screen, right in the main lobby (and photographed here), which is where we chose to sit. 

(Side note: If you look carefully at the Plain Dealer's photo, you will see that there is a man standing near the windows, dressed in a black sweatshirt, and pumping his fist into the air.  This would have been taken near the beginning of the show, as the "GWEN" and "MOBY" lights above had been dimmed for the occasion.  My friend Kim and I were seated right behind that man and next to the picture windows that faced Lake Erie.  The man's name was also Kim (with wife: Vickie), who was attending along with his buddy Jeff (who allegedly knew many British Invasion people and even once slept at the Beatles' Abbey Road Studios - with wife: Maureen), and all four made the event even more fun, as they were true-blue music fans, fueled by the power of Budweiser and the elation of the evening.  To be fair, I don't think Maureen drank anything all night, which was good, because by easily midway through the simulcast, Kim, Jeff, and Vickie were completely soused.   The hardest thing either Kim or I drank all day was Coca-Cola.

I had to snag a picture of (male) Kim's sweatshirt and he was proud to model it.  He said that it was actually made by his mother-in-law as a gift to him and in tribute to Todd Rundgren. The shirt is a gorgeous hand-creweled work of art, showcasing Rundgren's visage on Hermit of Mink Hollow.)

Kim proudly models his Todd Rundgren apparel

As well as the back side...

Anyway, back to layout of the viewing area.  In addtion to the 12-foot big screen featured here and in Cleveland's "Plain Dealer" newspaper this morning, viewers could also catch all the Induction action on several other large, flat-screen televisions placed just below our viewing area, as well as in the Foster Theatre upstairs.  The Hall itself also stayed all night, allowing patrons VIP access to stroll through the exhibits at their own pace - completely unfettered by the large crowds seen earlier in the day.

Around 8 PM, the Induction Ceremony itself began and viewers in the Rock Hall were strongly admonished not to take any photographs or videos of the event.  HBO secured exclusive rights to the filming, which will air in May 2012, and luckily, it will be edited by then.  We, however, endured the unedited version of the event, which included plenty of profanity, but also incredibly long-winded speeches, first from the presenters of the inductees, among whom is a small listing:

  • Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill (bearded guitar and bass guys in ZZ Top) for blues legend Freddie King.
  • Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day) for Guns 'n Roses
  • Bette Midler for Laura Nyro
  • John Mellencamp for Donovan

Unlike most award shows that are custom made for live television and therefore impose a three-minute-or-less restriction on speeches, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame did nothing of the sort.  Each inductee took easily 30-45 minutes apiece, followed by no more than a performance of 3 songs.  All told, considering the set changes and the amount of work that it takes to get changed from one artist to the next, the staff at the Rock Hall did a tremendous job to keep things moving along.

This year, however, as you may have already heard or read, the lead singer for metal music giant Guns n' Roses, Axl Rose, chose not to attend the ceremonies and also wrote a little to the Hall, asking not to induct him personally.  While the Rock Hall deliberately ignored this request and inducted the entire group, Axl was not in residence last night.  

When presenter Billy Joe Armstrong of the punk group Green Day introduced each member, and then finally landed on Axl's name for recognition, the thronging crowd at Public Auditorium booed, as well as a portion of the fans at our simulcast.  Billy Joe would have none of that and immediately -- and courageously -- barked at the clamor: "Shut the F*CK up!!  Shut up!!" and proceeded to defend not only Axl's talent as a brilliant vocalist but also possible reasons why, after so many years, there are times when musicians do not always appreciate a forced reunion with his bandmates and may choose to bow out of the pomp and circumstance.  Given the acrimonious history between Slash and Axl, this was probably not far from the truth; futhermore, as Rolling Stone reports, this was also not the first time in Rock Hall history that such a refusal occurred.  In any event, in the same letter, Rose thanked the Rock Hall for considering him, but "respectfully declined" the Induction.  The show went on with an unnamed stand-in for Axl; I found it a little annoying that the sub wasn't publicly recognized or even thanked for his work with the band last night.   For what it's worth, here it is:  To Miles Kennedy, great job, sir!  You took on a huge burden and kept the show alive! Thank you!

At about 12:30 AM, the Induction Ceremony was still going strong, but we were worn out.  After 4 1/2 hours of speeches and a general loss of hearing from the awesome sound system, we were ready to bug out, even before the Red Hot Chili Peppers (the closers) took the stage.  Apparently others felt as we did that it would be safer to leave a little ahead of the rest of Cleveland's drunks after 1 AM, so we graciously took our leave. 

In its 27th year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still going strong. With over 7 floors of the short history of this incredible art form, it has established itself with prominence in the music world, accepting not only traditional "rock" bands, but also blues, rhythm and blues, soul, songwriters, British Invasion, and countless other forms that have woven their song into the rock and roll story.  I was blessed to be a part of last night's Induction and look forward to perhaps attending again, either in Cleveland, or in the next city chosen for this momentous event.

Best always,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
TIMKAT Entertainment, Inc.
Denver, CO by way of Cleveland, OH, USA

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review: Tony Monaco - "Celebration: Life, Love, Music"

Also featured on JazzTimes Community Pages at:

Visit Tony Monaco's website and purchase the album here.

Monaco and team blend outstanding sounds of classic Hammond B3 organ greats with modern and swanky sensibility to please a variety of jazz tastes

Hailed previously by JazzTimes as a "monster B3 player", Tony Monaco's "Celebration: Life, Love, Music" continues to showcase this Hammond heavy hitter at his finest and is his first studio album since 2006's "East to West."

This two-disc collection could have easily been split into two powerful and separate albums that each hold their own weight. However, Monaco and friends have graciously packaged their considerable talent into one roaring 133-minute, double-CD set, ensured that they tackled jazz in its various forms to please a wide audience, and delighted us with all original Monaco compositions.

Few jazz albums open with -- let alone include -- a bright jazz waltz, but "Celebration" does just that with "Daddy Oh!", featuring New York's Jason Brown as guest on the drums. It is his introductory cadence that kicks off the album and solidly sets a mood that decries us to hold on tight for a burning and fun ride.

From there, the album pleases with Monaco's dexterity at setting the right B3 organ moods, tones, coupled with his absolutely masterful left foot on the bass. That's right; there is no bass player on this album. In the 'amazing' tradition of Jimmy Smith, Monaco's mentor and great B3 organist, Monaco has the bass completely under control and no matter the tempo, locks solidly throughout with session drummers Jason Brown, Reggie Jackson, Byron Landham, Adam Nussbaum, Louis Tsamous, and Vito Rezza.

Each of the tracks offer a veritable festival of jazz styles that feature a wide variety of seasoned soloists on guitar, piano, trumpet, saxophone, and trombone. For instance, after "Daddy Oh", comes "Aglio e Olio", a searing, swinging, hard bop take over classic "I Got Rhythm" changes. However, by track three, the mood changes completely on "Indonesian Nights", a soulful, smooth funk made to cool you off after you've been dropped right on the sweltering streets of Jakarta at midnight. This chart would play well on both classic and smooth jazz stations, as well as a second smooth funk offering a few tracks later on "You Rock My World".

The album continues to blaze ahead with tasty Brazilian bossanovas ("Happy Sergio"), a pensive piece ("Unresolved") and shouts hallelujah at the Sunday Revival with vocalist Mary McClendon and gospel choir on "Just Give Thanks and Praise". After church, on "Bull Years", we arrive back in the heart of the city with a relentless medium swing that trades fours between organ and drums.

We cool down again for a spell on "Ninety Five", in early 1960's West Coast style, to a delicious bite of lead tenor sax from Philly-based Ken Fowser. "It's Been So Nice to Be With You" is a fun two-beat swing in which Monaco alternates between a biting traditional organ tone on the melody but quickly switches to a mellower diapason behind McCaslin as he lends his warm sax sound to the piece.

"I'll Remember Jimmy (2012)" is a reprise from the track that was on Monaco's 2006 album ('East and West'), but instead of featuring Bruce Foreman on guitar, we hear from Donny McCaslin on tenor sax. The recording quality also appears to be a bit crisper, as though we had the front row seats at Night Town in Cleveland, drenched in jazz all night long.

On "Called Love" (vocal), Monaco opens with an introduction that rings of the opening credits to a swarmy 1960's soap opera, but then changes that mood as he sings a rubato introduction that speaks of a relationship in which "time stands still". When paired with the B3, Monaco's vocal style is remniscient of a young Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra, where the heartfelt message of the song is key. During the "A" section of the tune, even though it is an original composition melodically, I could definitely hear the changes of "Misty".

Disc One then ends the same way that an excellent live show or radio program would pause for a break - with a short bumper tune reprise of "You Rock My World (Asako)" now named "To Be Continued", designed to get one ready to hear Disc Two. 

Tony Monaco's "Celebration: Life, Love, Music" comes in a Limited Edition Two-Disc Set, white hot with 71 more minutes of outstanding music on the second disc. For the Columbus (Ohio)-based Hammond B3 organ master, this album is a true rendering of his immense talent, ability to collaborate with star professional, song craftsmanship, and ability to hold his own in league with fellow B3 masters such as Jimmy Smith, Joey DiFrancesco (who also appears on the album!), and Pat Bianchi. This is world-class jazz that blends classic sensibilites with modern grooves.

Tony Monaco: B3 organ, vocal; Jason Brown, drums / Joey DiFrancesco, organ / Derek Dicenzo, guitar / Ken Fowser, tenor saxophone / Asako Itoh, piano / Reggie Jackson, drums / Robert Kraut, guitar / Byron Landham, drums / Donny McCaslin, tenor saxophone / Mary McClendon, lead vocals / Sarah Morrow, trombone / Adam Nussbaum, drums / Ted Quinian, guitar / Kenny Rampton, trumpet / Vito Rezza, drums / Louis Tsamous, drums / Voices from Around The World.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Response: CDBABY/DIY Musician: Posting Cover Songs on YouTube: Music Licensing Law Explained

Since we produce a lot of covers, my response to a reader's question about selling music and rights for media outlets such as TV, movies, games, etc. 

From an excellent article titled Posting Cover Songs on YouTube: Music Licensing Law Explained by entertainment attorney Christiane Cargill Kinney -- (April 4, 2012)


Yes, Christopher is right. That kind of arrangement is typically called a "Co-Publisher" agreement. I'm sure Christiane could fill you in legally, but the bottom line is that such an agreement usually allows a music supervision house (the people who were interested in buying and marketing your song to sell to a movie, TV show, game, etc) to enter into a direct contract with you to secure the "synch" rights to be paired with new media elsewhere.

A practical and real example from us: Tim Ballard recorded Irving Berlin's "Change Partners" (album "Easy Does It") many years ago, and therefore secured the mechanical rights to cover the song so that the songwriter (or the songwriters' estate -- note that copyrights can last for up to 75 years AFTER the death of the LAST surviving songwriter and can be renewed by an estate in perpetuity --- Christiane, correct me if wrong!) have already been paid. However, last month, a music supervision house selected the song for placement into its general catalogue for marketing to its potential entertainment industry clients.

The music supervision house sent us a "co-pub" contract that basically said IF our song were chosen by one their clients, all royalties would result in a 50/50 split from there on out. In the deal, TIMKAT and the music supervision house are both considered "publishers" (hence the name "co-pub"), and the movie studio would then buy the rights to the song from the music supervision house directly in a separate agreement.

In any event, you should always be sure that the contract allows you to retain 100% control and rights over your recording and also of any masters. You should also ensure that the agreement is "non-exclusive" and that you can terminate the agreement in writing, should you be dissatisfied with the partnership. However, NEVER sign anything that gives away your master ownership rights to another authority!

Finally, we learned that music supervision houses will often alter song titles so that they track the co-pub version with a PRO agencies such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. This to ensure that when the new name of the song ends up on a PRO report, everyone is paid according to contract for the version being used throughout the industry. As a further example, in our case, "Change Partners", which will forever be an Irving Berlin-written and copyrighted tune, will now be called "Switch Partners" within the music supervision house's catalogue. This title would be registered with ASCAP for royalties when used in other media.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
TIMKAT Entertainment, Inc.
Denver, CO, USA

Twitter: @timkatent
Facebook :