Mom, New Song & Millions of Dollars

Yesterday I had a chat with my “publisher” (my contact) at BMG. They as of this day administer my Marsa Music catalog. We spoke about the CBS Sunday Morning News piece a few weeks ago about Primary Wave the trends in music publishing and she gave me some insider insight about the president of that company. She also asked me what I thought of the piece. I told her what I told her several times before, as these huge wars for older artists’ catalogs and bodies of work become the obsession of these music publishers that are now being funding in part by hedge funds. I cannot imagine how they will ever get their ROI.

How will they make their money back, especially on the older artists, (ha) that may only tour for a few more years yet alone keep up their artistry, writing new songs as important or popular as their earlier ones? Or maybe that does not matter? We hear about artists making no money on streaming royalties and consumers (music lovers) not buying music any longer due to streaming, though the recent rise on mechanical royalties has just gone up from 9 cents to a bit over 12 cents.

Another question is, what does it say to new artists reading about all these deals, it’s like the music business isn’t tough enough with gold rings beyond most people’s reach, now new artists hear about a classic catalog being sold for 500 million dollars. Talk about the competition. Just so one big company can say to another big company, he stays or comes with us. They negotiate numbers that are hard to believe. It seems to me to be the quintessential definition of CORPORATION EGO. That’s the long and short of it for me. Unless I am missing something?

I have never been a big fan of the music business, (love making music) with its sexism and ageism blatantly displayed for decades. And the money that was once spent on production budgets, especially back in the 80s. These years very wealthy people are investing in catalogs and even artists through music publishers. I saw today, again on CBS Sunday Morning News, that a very wealthy man gave Bob Dylan millions for his archives, his memorabilia, his lyrics typed out and coffee-stained, and they have built him a museum where he lives, in Tulsa, so they can bring in tourism. Not where he was born, where he lives now. Dylan must be tripping about what one might call, his eternal fame. He started off with his acoustic guitar in the West Village, not wanting to be put in a box, singing from his heart & soul about what was going on in this world. Will there be a new era of young artists spreading their thoughts through songs, or is there no money left for labels to promote them to express themselves about today’s wars and injustices?

What would Beethoven or Chopin say, (whose compositions are now public domain and who were the popular musicians of their times) about all this money for music? And what about the public domain? How many years until you won’t have to get permission or pay an estate for a Springsteen song? Well, the key is buying up all the Master recordings of these artists, that is where I imagine they believe the golden dragon lies.

Today I am working on a new song, in honor of my mom. I woke up thinking about an idea to write a song inspired by her as it is Mother’s Day 2022. “Don’t Count Yourself Out Yet.” Ahhh, show biz!



As a songwriter it is important to keep track of your song catalog. This is your intellectual property. ASCAP, SESAC and BMI handle the performance end of a song’s activity (radio, live & internet) in the USA. Publishers (you can be your own publisher) are responsible for handling the mechanical (sales) licenses for songs which are to be recorded by artists other than the original songwriter. There are also master sync licenses and sync licenses.  I can go into those more in another blog.

Let’s focus on a mechanical license. Record labels have to acquire a mechanical license in order to release a song from a writer if their own signed artist has not written it. They need permission and often they have to pay a fee.

In 1989 King Records in Japan released the album VISUALIZE from the Japanese recording artist Miskao Honjoh with my song EYE UPON YOUR AIM on it. I wrote the song while living in the UK.  I happen to have found out about it because a label owner who was doing business in Japan heard and saw the record / single and my name was on it. A close friend of mine was his assistant so he knew of my work. He brought the record back for me.

The label never asked my permission nor did they send me a license for me to sign/approve allowing their artist on their label to record it, release it and earn on it.  I was like “cool” and then I listened when I was given the CD. They changed the lyrics, while translating it to Japanese and even added to the title, “JUST A CARNIVAL (EYE UPON YOUR AIM)” – though they gave me full credit for the words and music on the album.

The album and the song have been reissued as recently as 2014 and there is even a live performance from 2015 of the song at a club by the artist in Japan on – you guessed it–youtube.

I never did anything about it because it was before the internet and I was too busy moving forward.  Is it too late to do anything about it now? Stay tuned…