Questions and Answers
This is a random sampling of some of the e-mail that has been sent to me,
and includes my answer. They are in no particular order. Forgive me if I
have no time to answer your question.
Don't you think you are being a little
harsh on ASCAP and BMI in your essay? Is this a case of sour grapes?
I appreciate your comments. This is a complex
issue, and I urge you to learn something about it before you take sides.
We are all entitled to our opinions, though I do support mine with a lot
of facts and research.
Of course I am pissed off at ASCAP. They have an unfair monopoly in their
business, answer to no elected officials, and mistreat a lot of small venues
where musicians like me perform. And they spend a lot of our money doing
PR and printing glossy brochures to make people like you think they "care"
The places I play for my living pay licenses to ASCAP and BMI, and none
of that money makes it back to me. Every time I play I am being ripped off
for $20-$100 of license money though I play primarily my own music. Likewise
as I explained, the radio airplay $ that are paid out rarely makes it back
to people like me. If you write a hit song you might get a fair shake, since
the system is set up to take care of those at the top.
There are better ways to set up such a licensing system, and the current
system favors those and is controlled by those who run it, and it is not
beneficial to those artists at the fringes. Almost all other countries have
a very fair and different system.
Wow, even though I'm not involved in the music
industry in any way, (other than playing a few worn out tunes on the guitar),
I was fascinated by your article. So was my 8 year old(great reading around
the dinner table tonight, thank you).
Then I went to the ASCAP site, and found them directing me to "dangerous"
bills H.R 789, S. 1137, and S. 1628. @ http://thomas.loc.gov (search the
site, but you are probably well aware of the current bills)
It seems the real danger is to THEM unveiling on-line what is copyright
protected under the current members of ASCAP (among other things)and lifting
the secrecy, and closing some strong-arm tactic capabilities.
Anyway, just some thoughts, and big THANKS for your contribution,
I am a struggling artist. How do you get your
music and your name out there? How does the royalty system work?
Thank you for your message. I am swamped with
e-mail, but grabbed a minute to respond to you.
There are thousands of independent artists who are dying to get exposure.
Hard part is finding the good ones. I believe that people want good music
from the heart, and when they find it they will respond. Sometimes it comes
from lesser-known artists. Woody Guthrie said some great things about how
hungry people sing better than rich people.
ASCAP and BMI are not involved with making samplers. All you need is written
permission of copyright owners. Normally there is another type of royalty
paid to songwriters, baded on number of copies pressed, known in the biz
as a "mechanical". The rate, known as the "statutory rate"
is set by the RIAA group, and is currently around 6 cents per copy, per
song. Major labels only pay 75% of statutory, and have an unwritten 50 cents
per album limit on mechanicals, which is why major labels records are so
short and do not have medleys of songs.
ASCAP and BMI are logging airplay. Songwriters collect from both groups.
Bigger name artists all use a company called the Harry Fox Agency in New
York to collect mechanicals from record companies and pay them to the copyright
owners. I have not heard any stories of them being unscrupulous. They just
charge a small percent 2 or 3 % handling fee. Many people who make samplers
arranhge deals where they do not pay mechanicals, in exchange for free publicity
and exposure. There are a lot of people doing this sort of thing, and I
have mixed feelings when asked to participate, because people are always
cooking up concerts and schemes to get musicians to play for free. If you
were willing to pay the mechanicals, you would get a lot more willing participants.
Gotta go. Harry Fox Agency 711 Third Ave 8th Floor New York, NY, 10017 212-370-5330
How do I copyright my songs? I am afraid of
someone stealing them, especially record companies if I send them a tape.
Get a copyright form from Library of Congress
Copyright Office, (form PA is the one), or from a local library, or possibly
from the WEB, and send $20 and the form in and you are safe from anything.
You can copyright a collection of songs for $20, and give it some name and
list the individual songs on the form.
They will mail you a certificate in a month or two.
Record companies are more afraid of you suing them for stealing than you
should be of stealing. Most of them will send back unsolicited tapes unopened,
since the key part of a copyright lawsuit is that you must prove that they
could have heard your song (access they call it).
You have very little to fear. Many publisher's offices get hundreds of thousands
of tapes a year, barrels full of tapes ever week, and they bulk erase, or
send back or destroy most of them. Wait until someone asks you for a tape.
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the essay on ASCAP & BMI. My
husband owns a small tavern in rural southwestern New York and got zapped
by ASCAP....the whole situation has nearly ruined us. I wish more people
knew what really goes on with ASCAP. We feel as though we are victims of
some sort of legal extortion. It is good to know that even musicians have
their doubts about this legal unregulated scam.
Thanks again for the great essay,
Glad you are interested in the ASCAP situation.
Sorry you had a hard time with them. Legal extortion is a nice term.
i just read your analysis of the ASCAP licensing
practices. an absolutely brilliant piece.
my partner and i are composers and incidentally, we have been the recipients
of "decent-sized", ASCAP royalty payments on a number of occasions,
as recently as last year. and yet in still, we KNOW it's all a scam. in
fact, ASCAP is perhaps more full of it than i think even YOU realize.
i've ample reason - evidence - considerable evidence - to believe that those
"surveys" happen a helluva lot less than the ASCAP people claim,
if at all. i don't feel comfortable writing about this kind of stuff, at
least not in too much detail, at least not right now. but regardless, in
the near future, i'd like to apprise you of a few things that are going
on out here regarding ASCAP, maybe by phone or mail.
ASCAP has GOT to be exposed before they take too much of a grip of the online
world. if for no other reason, principle. <s> and by the way, i don't
think the fight is quite as hopeless as it may seem. yes, many of the "big
boys" have failed against them, but there doesn't seem to be any groundswell
from the "constituents" of ASCAP; namely, the members, particularly
the majority of whom don't benefit at all from their in passing but loyal
membership. they could really be the key in this potential revelation.
maybe we'll talk soon, man.
Very interesting message. Thank you. I am just
a curious musician from Maine who did some research, and none of the magazines
would publish my story. I am sure there is much more I do not know, and
I would love to > hear some of your stories. And I would love to learn
more of what is going on. I have many unanswered questions, and maybe there
is a way for us on the internet to share what we have learned and put together
the big picture works. I am puzzled by your fear of telling me things electronically.
Keep in touch,
it's just your basic paranoia i guess. <s>
my partner and i, b.k.a. locke hines music, is currently merging with two
other independent entities to form "starlight broadcasting", an
internet TV network. we've gotten some seed money from an organization called
viewcall america, similar to "webTV". co's like viewcall are forging
the move toward bringing the internet to television. that's why they have
an interest in an independent production entity like us.
i said all that to say this: it is very likely, based on what has transpired
on the 'net so far, that ASCAP will want to force companies like "starlight"
to pay for a music license, although two of starlight's principals are composers.
the QUESTION of "what is really going on here?" will come up more
if situations like this start to proliferate.
with the advent of the internet, ASCAP is actually claiming worldwide power,
based on that same decree. unfortunately, many of the internet radio web
sites, in their desire to do the right thing, are paying a license fee to
ASCAP without doing any research.
hate to cut it off, but i gotta run. maybe i'll call you tonite for a few
min, lemme know if it's okay...
I am starting work on my PhD. and am very interested
in the field of copyrights and how they apply to traditional music. I have
heard that you have some things to say on the issue, and was curious what
your position is.
I am pleased that someone is interested in the
problems of Traditional copyrights, and I am no expert, but I know certain
amount. The problems as I see it are
1) people are claiming authorship of songs with trad melodies, and collecting
royalties for things they should not. (Bob Dylan is famous for writing new
words to old songs, yet his publisher M Witmark & Sons registers them
as "words and music by Bob Dylan") No one can claim to be a plaintiff--
it is much like cutting timber on public lands when people profit personally
from something that is supposed to belong to us all.
2) ASCAP and BMI pay 10% and 20%, respectively for airplay of trad./arr.
works, and thus there is less incentive for people to record traditional
3) The whole royalty system in the US is based on authorship of songs, and
performers get essentially nothing in the big picture, so many hallowed
traditional musicians have a hard time earning a living
4) Songs are not falling into the public domain as they are supposed to.
Patents do. Virtually the entire recorded history of music in US is still
protected, included things from the 1920's, which should have expired by
now. It used to be 17 years for a patent, 28 yrs for copyright, and then
they allowed a 28 year extension, and then in 1976 they pulled something
sneaky I don't fully understand, and savvy publishers were able to re-register
again, and get another extension. Now they have made it 50 years after the
death of the last-surviving author, and savvy writers are copyrighting their
songs with their children listed as co-authors, so they essentially can
print money for 100-150 years. There is currently a bill in the US congress
in the works to increase it to 75 years.
5) People in general (including musicians) know nothing about all these
issues, and are unwittingly being sold music that makes certain people rich,
instead of the best music than can be made or played.
Keep in touch.
Thanks for the reply. As of yet I've only scratched the surface, and
I received confirmation this week that I've been accepted for the PhD starting
in October, but it seems to me that the whole topic is a mile high can of
worms. I think this one's going to take an awful lot of diagrams on my blackboard
to sort out! :) The problems seem to be universal, from what I've seen in
preliminary research, although in Ireland for example they are exacerbated
by the omnipresence of performance royalties - trust someone with migraines
to do a PhD in a major headache!!! I should be spending a fair amount of
time in the States during the course of the three years, as I intend to
use jazz, blues, and bluegrass as areas of comparison for Irish traditional
music and the copyright debate. I appreciate any and all help you can give
me - this one is going to take more than the work of one PhD student to
What I am particularly interested in are the extremes - eg, the case of
the girl guides and ASCAP. Any hot disputes, local or national, you can
think of that I might be interested in? Any individuals I should be speaking
to? If you could spread the word among any you know that are playing traditional
music that I'm in search of controversy I'd be grateful.
Beir bua agus beannacht,
I am interested in purchasing a Larrivee C-10
that is on sale at a local store. The owner of the store says he is dicounting
it because it hasn't sold for over a year. He says it doesn't compete well
with the other stock he has (Taylor, Breedlove, Santa Cruz, Collins etc.).
I think it sounds good for a cutaway. Is this guy nuts or am I dull of hearing?
I notice Harvey plays one. What is his opinion of it?
Thank you for your help,
I have a wide-neck C-10 Rosewood cutaway, and
it is an extraordinary instrument. I like most Larrivees, and many of us
who have wired up Larrivee guitars with Fishman Matrix pickup system have
been extremely pleased with the results, indicating a possible pattern.
Larrivee has a web site at http://www.larrivee.com and you can always contact
Jeff Hickey there at email@example.com
I own several Taylors, and I consider Larrivee to be an equally good brand.
Perhaps there is another reason it is on sale. I'd have to see the instrument.
Are you ever going to do a book or a video?
I am particularly interested in the music on Steel Drivin' Man.
I may do a video for Homespun on arranging traditional
music, and some things from SDM might be on it. I do not read or write music,
so a book would be hard. When I do a book, it will have "Water is Wide"
and "Arkansas Traveler" in it I am pretty sure.
If there is anything I can help with about tuning or capo position or whatnot
I would be glad to do so.
The house concert was very cool. I think it's a great way to fully appreciate
a performance by an artist of your talent --- kind of like chamber music
probably was when it first started. I really enjoyed your music and
also met some interesting people. My question is about concentrating on
what you're doing while you perform.
How do you do it? When I play something fairly new, I seem to be okay, but
when I play a
"middle age" piece, sometimes I zone out and de-rail.
That's a rather tough issue you raised. Two
lines of thought come to mind at first:
Part of being a minstrel involves being able to remember a large number
of songs and jokes and pieces of music, and certainly in the old traditions
of traveling musicians, having a large repertoire was crucial to being a
good entertainer. Flashy artists with a few impressive pieces under their
belt can do well in a contest or a TV show, or an opening act, but in the
long run, being able to play a lot of music is important.
The act of playing music involves a certain Be Here Now state of mind. One
of the more pleasant aspects of being a musician is to immerse onself in
the moment, and in the anticipation of the very next moment, and little
else. If your thoughts are wandering, you are not focusing. Between the
notes, the groove, the tone and other elements of the music, there is no
spare thought space for "How am I doing?" or "Aren't I cool?"
I take a certain delight in playing things I have not played in months,
possibly in order to totally enjoy the trance-like process of concentration,
since adding to the above list the task of remembering the words and music
makes sure that you are completely in the moment.
Learning to activate this concentration during a performance is a big part
of what being a musician is all about. Maybe you are just shy about going
into a trance* in front of strangers.
When I watch a guitar contest, and I watch people struggling to get through
complex things, I just wonder what this person sounds like in their living
room when they are playing their best. Are they making mistakes because
they are not good players, or are they just nervous? Who will ever know?
What is the difference? Is music complete without an audience? If you play
The Entertainer perfectly in the forest, and no one hears you, did you really
You are right to ponder these issues. They are profound and essential, though
I cannot tell you where the key to the door is. There may be more than one
key, and there may be more than one door.
* I do not know what the altered state is, and I use this word for lack
of a batter one. There is some form of altered, extra, exalted, trans or
whatever going on during good music, and in truth there is no need to isolate,
name and describe it.
Thanks for sending me the E-mail about concentration. Your thoughts are
very provocative. My college major was philosophy; so I like to think about
thinking, and how we think. I'm slowly making my way through a book by Martin
Hiedieger called What is Called Thinking. Reading is one of my favorite
things to do (when I can, which isn't often), but novels, etc. have sort
of lost interest for me. My Currently biographies (I loved Truman ) and
this kind of rather abstract work are what makes it as far as I'm concerned
(I enjoyed your articles on the Woodpecker Homepage - very cool image on
the opening screen). When you mentioned the idea of focusing, I realize
that sometimes I can, and sometimes I can't. Recently we had quite a family
crisis just before I had to leave for a gig. Driving there, I was concerned
about how things would go, since this was a new place and I wanted to be
invited back. I played fine, got invited back, and an offer from a bass
player to work together. However, at a gig last Saturday night in a coffeehouse
(my usual venue) two young women playing Yahtze kept rattling the dice in
a plastic tumbler. I was so distracted that I nearly de-railed! In one of
your articles you said that a musician tries paint the Mona Lisa each time
he creates music. Probably, I get too hung-up on the brush stokes. When
I have had good performances of difficult pieces, it seems that I'm almost
watching myself play - but I can't get that every time. The human being
is an amazing creation in and of itself. I guess our humanness comes out
one way or the other. Important Question: Will you be doing your Christmas
concert anywhere within driving distance for me (Conn.-Phila.)?
Keep on Thinkin'
What does E-mail and the Internet offer you
as an acoustic troubadour that you didn't have available before, in terms
of staying in touch with the business and your audience, promoting your
music, etc.? How does it change your life on the road?
Jeffrey Rodgers (Acoustic Guitar Magazine)
E-mail does all of the obvious things like allowing
you to keep in touch with friends and family and business people, but it
is also a double-edged sword that giveth and taketh away
1) it does not matter what time of the day or night you send or check your
messages, allowing you to get real work done at crazy times of the day 2)
it does not matter what your message looks like, and you don't have to worry
about the presentation, letterhead, envelope. etc. 3) It's the best way
I know to check on weather problems to help you travel, as well as finding
addresses and destinations and such things 4) Best way to keep up on current
events 5) You end up watching a lot less Kung Fu and Sylvester Stallone
movies in your motel, (which may actually be a cultural loss) and you spend
less time prowling around a far-away town, since now you can do real and
meaningful work and communication in your hotel. 6) It allows anyone in
the world to bother you anywhere you go, 24 hrs a day. 7) Hopefully it will
help end this crazy mailing and faxing of information to journalists and
promoters, who eventually will just go to our WEB sites and get our bio,
pictures, stage plot, etc.
E-mail makes road work more productive, and helps end the huge glut of work
you have to do before and after a road trip, but it also prevents you from
having the crazy experiences, songwriting time and the down time that you
used to get only on the road, and that, oddly enough, were the most memorable
parts of travel.
Eventually all of us will get so much e-mail that we will have to spend
all day just keeping up. The volume of it grows quickly, which is a menace
to already time-strapped people.
I am enjoing your web site. I also have a request.
If possible could you send me or point me in the right direction to the
chords,tabs and lyrics of the song "Grandfather's Clock". I am
a new guitar player and would like to learn this tune. Thanks. Jerry
Grandfather's Clock (sometimes called My Grandfather's
Clock) was in every elementary school music book I ever saw, and is one
of the more commonly known American songs, at least among players and pickers
of traditional music. I learned it in elementary school, since it was in
the songbook we used in music class. It was written in the 18880's by a
man named Henry C. Work. I do not know all the lyrics by heart anymore,
but they start "My gradfather's clock was too tall for the shelf so
it stood 90 years on the floor, It was taller by half than the old man himself,
though it weighed not a pennyweight more..."
I would be surprised if you could not find the words in a WEB search. I
have them in numerous folk song books. (I bet they are in the How Can I
keep From Singing Songbook) Lots of people sing the song, and I am sure
you could find numerous instrumental versions. My version is played in C
position, capo 5 (most pickers play it in C), I play fingerstyle, and Dan
Crary plays with a flatpick in the duet. He also plays in C position.
The chords pretty much go
C G C F C G C C G C G C G C
C C7 F C C Am D G C G C F C G C
There are some passing 7th chords (C7 and G7) I did not include in the chords
I gave you, which only reflected root movements. Some people (me included)
put a relative minor (in this case Am) then a II (D7) in the line:
C Am D7 G7 It was always his pride and his joy But it stopped short... (etc)
When you play this with other people you have to decide whether to do this
The bridge (90 years without slumbering) goes
C C C C C C C C C G C F C G C C
I think that Circles is the most perfect CD ever. My entire family loves
it, it never leaves our 5-CD changer. Wyatt, my 14-month old son, runs into
the livingroom each evening, pointing to the CD player, asking us to play
it for him. Thank you, your music enriches our lives.
Hello Harvey (or someone else, most likely)
... we go way back, but I'm sure you get mail from too many people to remember!
I bought a third-hand capo and that LP with a red cover oh so many eons
ago. Some CDs too, over the years. Not sure if you entertain technical questions
on home recording, but I'll give it a try ...
I have a fairly basic question, if you've got the time. I'm attempting to
record acoustic guitar, using the little Fostex X-18 multitracker, which
I've pretty much figured out ... I just want to get some of my stuff onto
tape to share with friends, etc. ... nothin' fancy. What I'd like to know
is your opinion of the best way to mic the guitar (I have the Radio Shack
imitation of that classic Shure 58 whatever); it works ok, but I have to
boost the level controls on the Fostex pretty high, then I get lots of tape
noise when I play it back.
I'm ready to spend around 500 to get a good mic and/or pickup and a little
effects box, such as that DOD Acoustic 1 (www.dod.com). Can I do it for
that amount? (the DOD is about 240), leaving up to 260 for another mic or
thanks a bunch ... so, come play in Portland, Oregon sometime ... !!
I am a kindred spirit in the pursuit of live,
digital, no overdubs recording techniques. I am in the process of putting
together a small studio in my basement, and am curious to know if you have
found a particular DAT machine with which you may be enamored. Enjoy your
articles and essays. Currently I'm a songwriter/keyboard/hack guitarist
with a shitty long hours day job. Thank you for inspiring articles and observations.
I will occaisionally spew forth venom on some of the very topics you have
addressed on the homepage. It makes me feel good.
I like the Panasonic 3700 and 3800 DAT machines
very much. I do not have encyclopedic knowledge of the market, and rely
on Tim Murray at the DAT Store in Santa Monica ,CA to advise me. I also
send my machines there for repair, which is something that will happen to
I like a DAT machine that has 1) a jog wheel 2) remote 3) ability to add
and remove start ID's (the portables cannot do this) 4) can defeat the copy
protect crap 5) digital i/o
If you need time code on your DAT you have fewer options. Only people who
sync it with video need that, and Fostex has been the leader in that field
for a while.
DAT machines range from $600 to $1400 for most purposes.
We are twin brothers who have been playing together for fourteen years,
writing and recording original material, and performing original and cover
material live for the last five years. Original material includes over thirty
completed pieces. Ohio performances include: · Bistro, Findlay B&G
Bar, Shelby Borders Bookstore, Columbus Alibi Room, Upper Sandusky MJ Mugsy's,
Upper Sandusky Center Street Four, Marion Deleware Hotel, Deleware OK Café,
Marion Longshot Restaurant & Pub, Bucyrus Cookies, Bucyrus Mad Bull,
Bucyrus American Cancer Society Benefit, Bucyrus Planet Earth, Mansfield
VFW, Crestline Just Jokin', Crestline PPG Abate Party, Mansfield ·
It is our goal to perform professionally nationally and possibly internationally.
Our musical styles include Celtic, jazz, blues, instrumental, classical,
folk, and Spanish forms. We are in the process of recording a CD consisting
of our own work. Vocals, bass, harmonica, percussion are also in live performances.
^ For additional information contact: Jeff
We are not looking for new arists on our label.
We do appreciate your inquiry, and we hope you find the best outlet for
your music. Good luck.
The only published transcriptions of Harvey's recorded
guitar work are in the book Sleight Of Hand, a book of 20 guitar arrangements
for the Third Hand Capo. Standard notation and TAB, available for $12.95 + shipping
from Third Hand Capo Co PO Box 7461 Madison, WI, 53707 608-224-2320 fax: 608-224-0813
Two of the selections from Harvey's Solo Guitar Sketchbook, the Suite in F:
For the Duchess and Fur Elise are in it, arranged in both TAB and standard notation.
Scarborough Fair from Chestnuts is also included. Also included are Irish fiddle
tunes, some classical pieces, a boogie-woogie, and assorted other illustrations
of the use of the Third Hand Capo.
No immediate plans are available for a Harvey Reid TAB book, though there may
be a Homespun video within a year on advanced fingerpicking.
Information on Sleight of Hand is included on our web page at http://www.woodpecker.com/
Here are a few things I have learned about 6-string
banjos. Maybe they will help you.
* I have had success only with certain models of Deering Banjos. Don't know
why. Seems that metal rims I prefer to wood. I really like the MB-6.
* I use much lighter strings than I do on guitar. I use .013-.056 on guitar
and .010 to .046 on banjo.
* I use much thinner flatpick than I do on guitar
* I capo a lot. Capo 5 is normal, above and below that for effect. Sometimes
I capo 10. Banjo can handle that, guitar cannot. Tone gives out on high
notes of guitar. I use open position, no capo as sort of special sound,
rather than norm.
* I sometimes take the back off the banjo
* I sometimes use fingerpicks, sometimes bare finger, sometimes flatpick.
Good luck with your explorations.
Once Upon A Time is 1) hard to
perform, and talkes up 9 minutes of a show and 2) is something I do with
the 12-string, which I do not always travel with.
^ Thanks for your suggestions. I have been recording a lot of shows this
last year, and there may well be a live album. I am currently working on
listening to the show tapes and trying to determine what is on them. It's
a lot of stuff to wade through.
^ HARVEY REID
It is telling, I suppose, that I am too busy
to stop and tell people how to do this for a living. Here is some advice:
* Don't expect to work a 40 hour week * Be grateful when you actually get
to play music. There's a brutal ratio of 10-20 hrs of preparing to play
music for every hour you get to play. * Remember that you are running a
business, and you should keep track of every tank of gas, meal, toll, xerox
copy, and every CD you sell or give away. It's an hour a day paperwork at
least to be a musician. * Learn to sleep in noisy and uncomfortable places,
and to eat virtually anything. * Remember that there are no natural boundaries
on this life, and there are no weekends, 5 o'clock bells, or paid vacations.
Going everywhere, answering all the calls, doing all the paperwork, music,
keeping your gear working, all of it can swallow up your whole life. In
fact, it's a struggle to keep it from doing that. * Remember that "The
Road" is not a place, only in your mind. You are always you, and you
are either somewhere you know or you're not, and you don't change. It's
just much harder to do your daily things like make phone calls, find food,
gas, a post office, beer etc when you don't know where you are. * Never
eat at the same chain of fast food restaurants twice in a day.
* Buy every gadget you can that plugs into a cigarette lighter.