R.A.P. Interview: Glenn Miller

R.A.P.: What are your thoughts on copyright infringement.
Glenn: Regarding this "liberation" of music from un-aired album tracks, it is illegal, as you pointed out in a previous issue; but, unless you're incredibly arrogant and insensitive towards the rights of other people's property, nobody's gonna come after you. The property, in this case, is music.

There are two parties concerned here: The copyright owner/administrator (the person or persons that own the song), and the record company that produced that version of the song. Let's take the record company first. This following story is true. I personally know the people involved. This major record company signed an artist to record an album, sent him to London for six months to record it, pressed it, and released a single from it here in the States. It didn't do anything, they dropped the album and the artist, and coincidentally, everyone at the record company associated with that project was fired shortly thereafter. They weren't fired because the record flopped; it was a change in management and the new leader brought in his own team, just like in radio.

There's ten tracks of music nobody cares about. The record company doesn't care anymore. They have new artists and new releases that they are hot on. They would just as soon forget that that record ever happened. It was an abysmal failure, and nobody wants to be reminded of their failures.

And what about the artist? The artist has probably written 20 new songs since then -- all of them ten times better than anything on that album. Ask any songwriter what their favorite song is and they'll tell you it's the song they just finished yesterday, or the one their working on right now, or the one they're going to start on tomorrow. That's the nature of the creative spirit -- ever onward towards something new or different. The artist is grateful for the opportunity to make the album, sad that it wasn't well received in the commercial market place, but life goes on. Tears are shed, yes. Bitter feelings? More than likely, but life goes on.

Beyond that, record companies have a symbiotic relationship with radio. You really have to piss 'em off -- do, what they consider, some real dollar damage before they'll come after you. I saw a blurb in R&R a short time ago where Geffen was taking legal action against some station in California for airing a Whitesnake album prematurely and encouraging listeners to tape it. That is getting down on your knees and begging for trouble.

Now, for the copyright owner: Their property, a hit song, has a market value. They seek to enhance or, at least, maintain that value. If your use of their property diminishes its market value, they're going to take steps to stop you. If someone is kicking your car, you're gonna tell them to stop it! Same thing. However, if their property is on an album that never charted, by an artist nobody ever heard of on a record label that doesn't want to promote it, its market value is negligible. It's like going into a wrecking yard full of rusted-out, stripped-down cars and kicking one. Who cares?

The bottom line is: Yes, it is copyright infringement to use music in this way. It is illegal. It may even be unethical and immoral, but to me, it's a bigger crime to throw it out as if it were garbage. Ideally, I'd like to see some sort of an arrangement involving the radio industry, the licensing companies like BMI, ASCAP and SESAC, and the recording industry, whereby certain material would be cleared for use by a radio station, to what extent that use would be, and what it would cost if an individual station wanted to take advantage of it. I envision a system whereby record companies would make a determination about their "properties": "This one we have no further interest in promoting; This one we want to think about a while, and this one by Springsteen -- don't mess with it under any circumstances." The product they had no further interest in would go into a music pool. Radio stations that wanted to make use of it, within clearly defined parameters, would pay for the right to do so. The money generated would be divided up among the people that made that music.

My interest in this is more than academic. If this resource were suddenly no longer available, it would adversely affect my ability to make a living. I know the people that make this music, not all of them personally, but I know how hard it is for them to make a living. I also realize no one is holding a gun to their heads demanding they make their living this way; but to prohibit the use of this material on the one hand and treat it like garbage on the other hand strikes me as being very wasteful and most unclever.

R.A.P.: That's an interesting point of view, but the producers of production libraries probably will have something else to say.
Glenn: Yes, I can hear the "music library" people saying, "Buy our service, you pinhead!" I think there's room for both. Neither one addresses all the needs of the marketplace.

R.A.P.: One final question we usually ask: What's in Glenn Miller's future?
Glenn: Nothing specific. My immediate goal is to bring an end to these terrible cola wars.

With our mission accomplished, we'd like to thank Glenn for a most interesting and information packed interview. Look on this month's Cassette for several of the spots Glenn refers to in the interview.

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