Vocal Hall assists in receiving digital royalty payments; thousands still need to be paid

By Goldmine staff

NEW YORK  — The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame 2005 inductions did more than give some overdue recognition to groups, did more than reunite groups who haven’t sung together in decades. Through the induction ceremonies July 5-7, The SoundExchange company made contact with some artists who are owed from hundreds to thousands of dollars in digital performance royalties (for example, from Internet music streaming services, digital cable, Muzak or satellite radio such as XM or Sirius).

Of the 30 groups present, about 23 of them, including The Ronettes, The Stylistics, Fifth Dimension, and The Clovers, had yet to register with SoundExchange.

Executive Director John L. Simson was pleased to tell them that the nonprofit organization has been collecting significant amounts of money in digital performance royalties since the law granting them the right was passed in 1995.

“I was swamped by group members who were so pleased that there was this new revenue stream,” Simson said. “Several expressed sadness that other members of their group were no longer with us, and some mentioned that they would help us find the heirs and estates entitled to these royalties.”

The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Foundation president, Bob Crosby, said, “These artists have paid their dues and now deserve the fruits of their labors, a time to enjoy the long-overdue privileges and respect they earned and deserved by bringing musical pleasures and memories to life in this country and around the world.”

One example is Carl Gardner of The Coasters (“Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown”). Gardner was diagnosed with throat cancer 12 years ago and has since retired from the music business. He said, “I’m worth $50 million, and I have nothing in my hands because of the business practices of that era. Now that I’m retired the checks from SX really help.” He occasionally takes the stage with his son Carl Gardner Jr., who is carrying the band name.

Hank Medress of the Tokens (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) added, “It was gratifying to know that our music is still treasured in this ever-changing industry as evidenced by its huge popularity at Internet and satellite radio stations, and thanks to SoundExchange, we are being financially rewarded for it.”

Since SoundExchange pays the actual featured performers for the public performance of sound recordings on which they appear rather than the songwriter, these vocal groups are prime examples of members who benefit from this right. In the classic vocal/doo-wop group era, the aritsts didn’t necessarily write their own songs and so couldn’t earn any publishing royalties.

ASCAP, BMI and SESAC still collect songwriting royalties — SoundExchange collects for the performers on sound recordings and the copyright owners.

There are still more than 30,000 other performers in all genres that have yet to register. Artists, producers, copyright owners and digital music service providers can find more information on licensing, copyright and royalties by going to www.soundexchange.com or calling 202-828-0120.

Some artists who still need to register in order to be paid include: Ratt, Digital Underground, Buckcherry, Dru Hill, Boys II Men, Xscape, Rickie Lee Jones, Loleatta Holloway, Eddie Money, Cheap Trick, Rick Springfield, Warrant, Lou Gramm, and Whitesnake to name a few.

SoundExchange has already paid out almost $24 million to thousands and has processed more than 630 million digital plays since its establishment in 2000. Simson says the royalty amounts collected continue to grow and should exceed $40 million in 2005.

SoundExchange, Inc., is a nonprofit performance rights organization jointly controlled by artists and sound recording copyright owners through an 18-member board of directors with nine artist representatives and nine copyright owner representatives. It has been designated by the U.S. Copyright Office to collect and distribute statutory royalties to sound recording copyright owners and featured and nonfeatured artists.

SoundExchange currently represents thousands of featured recording artists as well as more than 850 independent record companies and the four major label groups, collectively representing more than 3,000 different record labels in every genre of music. Membership is free.

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