September 28 2012

Music History Fact Of The Week

“Sylvia Robinson (then Vanderpool), arranged, played, and produced the first huge hit for Ike & Tina Turner, ‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.’ But in the 1960s, women simply didn’t work behind the mixing consoles of recording studios, and Sylvia Vanderpool received no credit for what she may very well been: American pop music’s first female record producer.” -From, “The Big Payback” By: Dan Charnas

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September 24 2012

Michael Jackson and His Publishing

“Finally in 1995, at Sony and John Branca’s urging, Michael merged ATV publishing with Sony’s music publishing division. Sony became half owners of Michael’s valuable catalog, and in exchange Michael was paid $95 million and retained half ownership. This not only meant that Michael would share in the label’s profits, but that he also had to approve any moves the label wanted to make regarding the catalog. This power division soon became problematic because Michael was an artist first, and a businessman second. So, unlike his new partners, he was not motivated by an insatiable quest for profits. Often the decision that would have brought in the most money was not the one that Michael agreed with personally, so he didn’t allow it. For example, when Sony wanted to license Beatles songs for use in iTunes and other commercial ventures, Michael declined because he didn’t think John Lennon would have approved, after he spoke to Yoko Ono about it.

All of these deals should have put Michael in an exceptionally strong position, professionally and financially. But Sony had played Micheal. Branca, who by this point had been brought back in by Bert Fields, had not been clear with Michael about several alarming details of the contract. Only after he signed did Michael learn that the contract granted Sony the rights to his masters for much longer than he had thought. These masters would not revert to him until 2009. Did he get them back, or did Sony keep them? Who knows?…

Being an international pop star with a recording contract with one of the world’s biggest labels, Michael decided to turn his fortunes around by releasing a new album, Invincible, in October 2001. Only, just before the album dropped, Michael became suspicious of Sony. He began to fear that Sony purposely didn’t promote his album because they wanted him to be so in debt to them that he would have to sell them his share of their collective publishing venture. He became so angry that he told Sony head Tommy Mottola that he wanted an early exit from his record deal with Sony.

Soon after that, Michael’s album Invincible came out, and something strange happened. Those loyal fans that went to purchase Invincible found that it wasn’t available in stores. The promotion and distribution of Michael’s albums was the responsibility of just one entity, Sony. Here was one of the industry’s most successful labels, which had ushered Michael’s past albums into the world with fanfare. It was impossible to believe that they suddenly lost their ability to promote and distribute an album, especially one for an artist as famous and as adored as Michael Jackson. There could be just one explanation. At first, Michael didn’t want to believe it. But he told me he’d ultimately concluded that Sony had purposely sabotaged his album so it would not sell. By doing so, they hoped to make Michael so financially desperate that he would be forced to sell his controlling half of the catalog to Sony, which was what they had wanted all along…

Michael was raised to be extremely meek and religious. He disliked confrontation and preached a message of love. He would rather experience hardship than react negatively, even to a person who was harming him. Yet, here he was speaking out against Sony in the most aggressive way possible and organizing boycotts of their products, which led to a dip in their sales that quarter. I watched on TV as Michael held a press conference in which he told his fans, and the world at large, just what Sony was doing to him. He was so frightened that he was going to be killed throughout his press conference that he wore a bulletproof vest.” -From, Starting Over By: LaToya Jackson

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September 21 2012

Dionne Warwick Talks About Sam Cooke Part 2

“Sam Cooke was a real cutie. He was a kind, gentle, and caring man who always had something nice to say to and about people. When I learned that Sam was having a party in his hotel suite one evening, I knocked on his door. When he saw it was me, he said, ‘I know your mother, and you can’t come in here.’ He then walked me back to my room. I was upset at being excluded, but I knew that Sam meant well; he was very protective of me, like a father. I first met him on the gospel circuit while he was with the Soul Stirrers, whom the Drinkards would occasionally tour with. I loved being around him because he always had a smile on his face and was always humming either one of the gospel songs he used to sing or someone else’s song that he loved…

Sam was also a smart man who saw the importance of owning his songs. He took steps to copyright and publish them himself and owned his catalog- an unusual thing for an artist during this time in the music industry. Most would sell their writing rights to a publishing company.

The news of his death on December 11, 1964, a day before my twenty-fourth birthday, was devastating. I was going to Los Angeles for the first time, at his expense, to celebrate my birthday with him and some friends.” -From, “My Life, As I See It” By: Dionne Warwick

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