SoundExchange's (SX) executive director John L. Simson was bombarded with questions recently after making a brief speech during the Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductions ceremony in Wildwood, NJ which took place from July 5-7. 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. These groups, among others, could be owed thousands of dollars in digital rights royalties, according to SX.
Simson told them that the non-profit 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. 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," he recounts.
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 over due 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", "Love Potion No. 9"). Gardner was diagnosed with throat cancr 12 years ago and has since retired from the music business. He says, "I'm worth 50 million dollars 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") adds, "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 Sound Exchange, 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. But there are still over 30,000 other performers in all genres that have yet to register.
SoundExchange has already paid out almost $24 million to thousands and has processed over 630 million digital plays (satellite radio, internet radio, and cable/direct TV radio) since its establishment in 2000. Simson says the royalty amounts collected continue to grow and should exceed $40 million in 2005.
For more information, please contact Diana D'Angelo [firstname.lastname@example.org] or Rebecca Shapiro [email@example.com] at Shore Fire Media (718-522-7171) or Doretha Dixon at SoundExchange (202-828-0120 x9655).