David Singleton

David Singleton's Diary

Friday 21 September 2001

Today at the Vicarage The

Today at the Vicarage : The Betsy, London.

A tale about Art and Commerce.

I was consulted by Adrian Molloy about a proposed contract between Cordisto, a young band he manages, and a proposed young producer. The producer was apparently keen to do the work, and is a long time friend of one of the band members. The contract he sent demanded that he should receive a royalty of 3% of retail.

I suggested an alternative - that he should receive 3/18 of the total royalty paid to the artists – mathematicians will realise that if the band receive a royalty of 18%, the net result would be identical.

The producer apparently refused to budge, saying that he would be 'being unfair to himself'. I do not know the final result. The session may have been cancelled.

I am sure that the producer is a talented boy, who is so determined to be 'fair to himself' that I fear he may never succeed. I do not pass judgement on his desire to establish a new standard for production work of 3% retail. The rate of 3/18 was, however, certainly not unfair – it has been deemed sufficient by the likes of myself. Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, David Bottril, Tchad Blake and a host of others.

It also works in the real world. Readers of these diaries are no doubt familiar with the convoluted – nay, deliberately devious – nature of many record contracts. This young band, recording their first demo, might be unfortunate enough to place this recording with a label, who might offer them a royalty rate of perhaps 20% of dealer, with a 10% packaging deduction on 90% of sales. They might offer the track for download on a subscription site. They might have the track placed on a compilation. The track might be licensed across the world on a host of differing contracts, with overrides and deductions designed by fiendish lawyers to minimize the amount of money that the band ultimately receives.

Hence the advantage of the 3/18 division – whatever the contract, it is easy to know how much is owed to the producer. He should receive 3/18 of the resulting income, whatever the contract.

A production contract of 3% of retail would have severely hampered the band’s ability to place this recording. Perhaps this was the producer’s intention.

I am reminded of a recent recording, on which Lord Crappenleigh, who I mentioned in these pages several weeks ago, was invited to beat the skins, or tickle his brushes. This was a session for which he was well suited, and which, I know, he wanted to do. Before accepting, however, he telephoned the songwriter to ask what share of the publishing he would receive if he made the recording. His invitation to play on the session was immediately withdrawn. And music was a little bit poorer for it.

I offer these stories as two day to day examples of the life of the professional musician. Music is our livelihood. We must each, therefore, find our balance between art and commerce. If I have a sadness with these two examples, it is that Art is, unfortunately, frequently the loser.

But then what do I know. I am an idealist – Good grief. I even right 'Art' with a capital 'A'!