Bob and Vermin WARNING: This blog features the oral history of wallpaper drying and pertains to music that’s less than a decade old. Reading it might very well put you in a coma and cause your family to call emergency services.

It’s been a very interesting week in the music business as the wintery cobwebs get dusted away and we start seeing the industry awaken from its post-2014 slumber. There’s something amiss in Muzoid Land and it appears to be the long tail of sins of the past coming back to eat itself.


Phillip PhillipsFirst off former ‘American Idol’ winner, and redundantly named, Phillip Phillips has filed a lawsuit to get out of his contract with the show’s production company 19 Entertainment who, he claims, continues to misrepresent his interests, withholds information from him and makes him do shows without compensation. It suddenly came to a head recently when Phillips found out the name of his new album on the day it was released!  http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/phillip-phillips-sues-american-idol-contact/story?id=28500874
phillip-phillips2Phillips, of course, is battling uphill against a repressive contract he freely signed so it is up to his lawyers to prove that 19 Entertainment has gone out of their way to act against his best interest. At issue is that they are citing a breech in California law that they claim 19 Entertainment committed in booking shows for him that he was not compensated for. A show with JetBlue was a freebie as 19 Entertainment and the airline are sponsorship partners. There were several other examples that show that Phillips has been reduced to shilling for exposure and not for his supper. It’s interesting to note that the media coverage in this story has failed to mention whether he’s on a retainer or gets a per diem so he can survive day-to-day.

As someone who has been in the music business for a very long time I can only say “boo-hoo”. Anyone naïve enough to sign a deal that gives near perpetual rights to your name and career path deserves a slap in the head – never mind the eventual bankruptcy that will come with it. Just ask the three fanstasiafinalists from each of the 14 seasons of ‘American Idol’ how things turned out for them. Only half a dozen have emerged and stayed relevant – Adam Lambert (who didn’t win first place), Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Taylor Hicks and Phillips. Even the novelty of William Hung – who never won either – wore off overnight. But where’s Fantasia (Season 3), David Cook (Season 7), Lee DeWyze (Season 9) and Candice Glover (Season 12)?

Adam LambertPhillips should count his lucky stars (he says he does) that he has a career at all. Best be a has-been than a never-been in the music business. He’ll at least be able to parlay a paying reality show or a stint in Vegas when his days performing for free under the thumb of 19 Entertainment ends. Lambert did it and he’s now a media sensation. Wait it out, kid. Your time will come after you’ve shed your contractual shackles. Patience is a game for the wise.

Sam SmithMeanwhile, it was revealed this week that UK crooner Sam Smith struck a deal with singer/songwriter Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne in October over Smith’s unconscious theft of Petty’s hit  “I Won’t Back Down” on Smith’s multi-million selling 2014 hit “Stay With Me”. Unlike Robin Thicke, who insists that the song he and Pharrell Williams wrote called “Blurred Lines” is nothing like Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” (which took an unusual twist in court this week http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/jurors-not-hear-marvin-gaye-song-blurred-lines-trial-article-1.2093741), Smith recognized that he should co-operate and not fight the claim as Petty might have a strong case if it should go to court.

Lynne and Petty Smith settled out of court with Petty and Lynne giving the two veterans a 12.5% songwriting share in the song. Arguments on both sides of this have been fierce as many feel that you can’t copyright a chord progression as Western musical styles have been explored and exploited ad infinitum over the last 100 years. The debate was over melody which Smith clearly borrowed from Petty. There are videos from independent artists dating as far back as the summer of 2014 (before Petty and Smith settled) showing the two songs as a medley mash-up. Clearly there is something there.

Regardless of whether you or I think Petty had a case to pursue, the net result can only help Sam Smith. It will mean zero acrimony between the two music stars and potentially a team-up down the line. Hell, there might even be one at the upcoming Grammys. The Travelling Wildebeests?

Flo And Eddie There is also trouble brewing in the geezer market too. The case by Flo & Eddie (aka Howard Kaylan and Mark Vollman of the Turtles) to sue Sirius XM radio in a class-action lawsuit for failing to pay royalties on airplay for songs on their playlist pre-1972 is moving forward. The law concerning this is complicated and can be downright brain numbing (see this link: http://copyright.nova.edu/flo-and-eddie-v-sirius-xm-radio/) but the crux of Sirius’ defense is that they interpreted US law to mean that all songs pre-1972 were in the public domain and exempt from payout of public performance royalties.  Flo & Eddie aren’t hip with that, man.

Flo Eddie and friends

Individual states re-dressed the original law when digital media became a concern and Flo & Eddie are suing Sirius on a state-by-state basis. The implications are huge. Because the lawsuit is class-action it means other pre-1972 recording artists getting airplay on the satellite network will also benefit – the Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix among them. It could bankrupt the digital carrier (again).

Azoff and Eagles There’s also the hold-over story of 2014 that’s been playing out in the back rooms of digital media. Irving Azoff – known mostly for his firebrand managerial style on behalf of the Eagles in the 1970s – has set up his own performing rights organization called Global Music Rights. That’s no small feat. It puts him in direct competition with ASCAP and BMI for setting royalty standards in public performance of music repertoires. In his back pocket he has the ultimate arsenal – nearly 40 of the biggest music makers in the history of rock and roll including The Eagles, John Lennon and Pharrell Williams (who claims that his hit song “Happy” has yet to generate more than a few thousand dollar on streaming services). They’ve joined his organization because he is battling on their behalf for a bigger cut of royalties from digital carriers – specifically YouTube.

DonHenleyTo date YouTube has acted as a passive streaming service with revenues generated via paid advertising. Azoff wants his artists to get a larger slice of that streaming revenue. 30% on each click-thru, in fact. It’s a number that neither ASCAP nor BMI have the muscle to enforce. Azoff has permission to yank music by his artists totally some 20,000 videos. Just try and view an original video for The Eagles or Don Henley on the site. Only a few remain available.

DesertIslandIn all these stories it is becoming clear that the artists are fighting back – against each other, against the system, against the corporate music machine. The outcomes could turn the tide and breakdown more barriers for musicians and songwriters to assume full control of their chosen art. It could also leave them adrift in a sea of millions of musical islands. Decentralizing availability, distribution and accessibility could make revenue more scarce in the long run. Be careful what you wish for. All your dreams might come true. And your art just might starve in the process.



Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon


  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Interesting look at a changing business!

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