Published on:

A few months back, we wrote of the challenges of traveling with a musical instrument. Since then, we received a request to publish a guest blog post, which, as you may imagine, had a commercial motivation: you see, the Flight Case Company, an English enterprise, makes bespoke musical equipment cases. allen_heath_xone_42_xone_62_and_xone_92_mixer_flight_case_1_2_1While I cannot personally vouch for the quality or suitability of these cases, they sure look top notch. And their blogger provided this really cool infographic of the Ultimate List of Tips for Travelling [sic – they’re English] Musicians.

Here’s their pitch: “Forget the stress of flying long hours with your whole crew and luggage, you also have to make sure that your priceless musical instrument makes the journey safe and sound. Well, here is some good news for you! The Flight Case Company has an entire line of bespoke equipment cases that has been built just for musicians. So whether it is a simple guitar case that you need or a Mackie DL 1608 Digital iPad Mixer flight case, they’ve got just what you’ve been looking for. Check it out!”

I considered demanding one of these bespoke travel cases for my D-28, as quid pro quo for this shout-out. Ah, bloody commerce.

Published on:

scales of justiceI’m not a judge. And I don’t play one on TV. And despite what I believed was a strong memorandum in support of summary judgment, District Judge Klausner denied the defendants’ motion and set the case for trial.

Recall that defendant’s motion set forth several bases to support the grant of summary judgment. Following is a summary of the Court’s analysis of the motion for summary judgment, and the reasoning applied in denying the motion. Remember that in ruling upon a motion for summary judgment, the Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the plaintiff here.

The Court first reviewed the parties’ expert testimony as well as deposition testimony of other witnesses to address defendants’ three principal defenses: (1) abandonment/waiver, (2) laches, and (3) defective deposit copy.

Defendants argued that Randy Wolfe had clearly abandoned/waived any claims to infringement, as evidenced by a magazine interview he gave many years ago. But the court found evidence that Wolfe’s waiver may not have been heartfelt. For example, the journalist who conducted the interview testified that Wolfe never received or reviewed the interview notes before the article was published. Plaintiff also pointed to the tenor of the interview, which indicated that Wolfe felt cheated by Led Zeppelin and was merely trying to save face and made light of a bad situation.

NOTE: HEAVY LEGAL ISSUES AHEAD, INCLUDING SOME (OK, COPIOUS) VERBATIM TRANSCRIPTION OF THE ORDER. PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION TO THE JUMP PAGE.

Continue reading

Published on:

treble staffI’ve been on Blog Sabbatical for a few months, but I’m back and jazzed to talk about that Stairway to Heaven copyright infringement lawsuit.

You remember, Randy (“California”) Wolfe’s trustee sued Led Zeppelin, claiming Zep copped the intro section of Stairway from the song Taurus, performed by Spirit. Things have been moving right along.

When we last checked in on the case, the trial judge, Hon. Juan R. Sánchez, had permitted venue to remain in Pennsylvania. But in May 2015, Judge Sánchez entered a final order on defendants’ motion to transfer venue, and found that the individual defendants (Messrs. Plant, Page and Jones) lacked sufficient minimum contacts with Pennsylvania to justify retaining venue. Judge Sánchez transferred the case to the Central District of California.

The parties skirmished back and forth through the discovery phase. On February 25, 2016, the Led Zeppelin defendants fired off a motion for partial summary judgment. The memorandum in support of the motion sets forth some pretty persuasive arguments for granting summary judgment in their favor. WARNING: REVIEW OF DENSE LEGAL THEORIES FOLLOWS. BUT IT’S STILL INTERESTING. Continue reading

Published on:

I get calls from artists telling me that they’ve made a recording of one of their songs and have let others hear it. Then, one day they hear something on the radio by a popular artist that is remarkably similar to their song. What do you do?neon sign copy MGD©

For starters, always copyright your songs before you let anyone have a copy of it. The process is straightforward and may cost as little as $35. Here’s a rundown of how the registration process works. Until you’ve copyrighted your song, you do not have federal protection and cannot sue in federal court because of the infringement. What’s more, unless you register your copyright within three months after the infringement occurs (or when you first learn about the infringement), then you will have no right to sue for damages in federal court.

To prove infringement, you must show both (1) copyright ownership (see above regarding registration) and (2) proof of copying. Proof of copying is shown by either direct evidence – the infringer admits it – or indirectly by showing (a) the infringer had access to the work and (b) there is a “substantial similarity” between your work and the allegedly infringing work. Continue reading

Published on:

NBC’s The Voice is in its eighth season, with few signs of letting up. So what are the pros and cons of being a contestant on the show? I talked to a couple of former participants – Emily Earle from Season 3 and Clara Hong from Season 7 – for their takes on the experience.file0001848982250 edit

Both musicians agreed they got a positive bounce from the show. Not only did the national exposure provide a boost of self-confidence and dose of professional validity, it has also helped them get gigs. Emily says that in her adopted hometown of Nashville, she’s often recognized by a younger demographic than you might expect, and when she performs at the Opry Mall (hey! this is Nashville) it’s often younger kids that hang out to listen. Clara’s experience has been similar, and includes getting messaged by young people looking for career advice. And because both women were in the crucible of a national TV show and very much in the public eye, it’s perhaps a bit easier to meet people. Plus, they got to meet and know many really good musicians. Continue reading

Published on:

We’ve previously discussed the necessity of club owners and restaurateurs to pay the Performing Rights Organizations (“PROs”) for use of live and recorded music. Depending upon the egregiousness of the failure to pay, the obligation might not be dischargeable in bankruptcy. So, if you’re not licensing the music, what can you do when you get the dreaded demand letter and threat of litigation from ASCAP, BMI or SESAC? You may have some room to negotiate.file0001631184133

Of the three PROs, ASCAP is the most litigious. For example, in May 2015, ASCAP filed copyright infringement suits against seven recalcitrant clubs and restaurants across the country (including one in Atlanta, GA). And while, as a club owner, it may seem unfair to have to obtain licenses from each of the three PROs, bear in mind that by playing unlicensed music, the club is getting a free ride at the expense of the songwriter.

ASCAP President and Chairman, songwriter Paul Williams (check out Paul Williams in the high-camp bomb, Phantom of the Paradise) noted: “We want every business that uses music to prosper, including bars and restaurants. After all, as songwriters and composers, we are small business owners, too, and music is more than an art form for us. It’s how we put food on the table and send our kids to school. Most businesses know that an ASCAP license allows them to offer music legally, efficiently and at a reasonable price – while compensating music creators so we can earn a living from our work and keep doing what we do best – writing music.”

Continue reading

Published on:

the wordThe First Amendment is a mighty shield, protecting all sorts of offensive speech. No matter how disgusting I might find the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church, in 2011, the Supreme Court found a First Amendment protection in its favor allowing the church to spew its hateful ideology in public. In Snyder v. Phelps (yes, Fred Phelps, the late leader of the Westboro cult), the Court held that a speaker on a public sidewalk, speaking about a public issue, cannot be held liable for the tort of emotional distress, even if the speech is ‘outrageous.’ But the Snyder Court also distinguished between hateful speech directed to issues of public importance, like homosexuality and abortion, and speech of a personal nature, like insults and lies, directed to a private person.

Hubert Crouch’s new book, The Word (2015), practically yanks the Westboro headlines from today’s paper. In his sophomore novel, the second installment of the Jace Forman series, Crouch brings together three main characters from his first book (Cries For No One (2013)) for a wild ride through a world where religious zealots hide behind the First Amendment to cover their virulent hate speech, high-powered attorneys hire thugs to intimidate magazine reporters from exposing their misdeeds, and an entire family – the McGuffin, if you will, for the story -– is killed off, one-by-one, until only their lawyer is left standing. Hey, The Word is set in Texas, after all! Continue reading

Published on:

Cousin Billy (L-R: Charles McNair, Tom Junod, Mark Baker, Bo Emerson) Photo credit: Bill Worley and Annalise Kaylor, Mother Nature Network

How did I find myself standing on stage at the Washington Correspondents’ Jam playing beside Rolling Stones keyboardist, Chuck Leavell last Friday night? Well, it was one of those rare cases where ‘don’t quit your day job’ turned out to be music to this amateur musician’s ears!

If you’re as big a fan Tom Junod’s writing as I am, then you’ve read his piece in Esquire, Start A Band, about how a group of guys (all professional writers and me) formed a band and sang for our supper in the New York City subway on the coldest day of winter.

The Esquire story led Chuck’s media company, Mother Nature Network, to ask Cousin Billy to perform a 30-minute set at the very first White House Correspondents’ Jam, a party held in conjunction with the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The gig was like a Battle of the Journalists, with bands composed of writers from the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Fortune, and one band with an on-air personality at CNBC. Cousin Billy was up first on the line up and, miracle of miracles, Chuck had agreed to sit in and jam on a song with each of the bands.

Continue reading

Published on:

The music business is in turmoil and no one seems to know what the future holds. Even so, there are some good resources out there to help you get a handle on things.

file1551274811685 editIf you don’t know about Lefsetz Letter, you must check it out. Bob Lefsetz is a brash, highly-opinionated entertainment attorney (what’s new) and industry insider. His daily blog cuts right to the chase, sparing no one. Here’s a bit from his diatribe reacting to Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime extravaganza: “I am saying it’s nowhere for music unless you can own the room, and the only one who’s been able to do this is Prince. And when a smart person witnesses such a triumph, they don’t compete.”

Encore Newsletter is a performance industry magazine that’s e-mailed weekly that “strives to provide timely and accurate information and to create a positive flow of information throughout the entertainment industry. It is our hope not only to inform, but to create business opportunities. We welcome any and all comments and encourage you to report newsworthy items for publishing.”

Pollstar, is another weekly periodical covering the worldwide concert industry. Local bands are free to submit tour dates and Pollstar “may add local or regional acts to our database as time permits but we do not guarantee the entry of any dates submitted. Artist representatives are always welcome to submit itineraries to our data processing department.” Pollstar lets you enter as many touring bands as you want to track and it sends auto-notifications when the act is coming to your city.

Of course there are more specialized publications, depending upon your interests, like Tape Op, about sound recording, Sonic Bids for gig opportunities and the Performing Rights websites for the organizations that collect performance royalties (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC).

I asked a number of music professionals, clients and fans where they get their information about the current state of the music business and to give any observations about same. Their responses cover a wide swath, but there are some common features. Continue reading

Published on:

records“There hasn’t been any good music in forty years!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this self-evidently ridiculous assertion, I’d be able to buy a Happy Meal. With a Super-sized Coke Zero. It’s a common sentiment among people of a certain age, and attempts to persuade with opinions to the contrary are inevitably met with skepticism, if not derision. But it looks like the dinosaurs as well as Millennials are putting their money where their mouths are: for the first time, over the course of 2014, online ‘catalog album sales’ (think, classic vinyl, sold via iTunes and other e-services) outpaced online sales of new music.

The Music Business Worldwide article poses some legitimate and worrisome questions for the industry: “are people merely starting to consume their new music on streaming services rather than buying it in album form? Or are they increasingly less impressed with the new album releases that arrive year-in, year-out?” Continue reading