In the early '70s my bandmates and I arrived in Los Angeles, fresh and green, and within days of shopping our demo tape up and down Sunset Boulevard we were offered deals with three different big-time record labels. Just old enough to get ourselves into some real legal trouble, my pals and I went for the deal with the most money up front. A staggering $10,000. No small sum to us in those days, plus there was talk of buying us new amplifiers, and oh, first we had to sign something called a publishing agreement. This came up as we stood pen in hand around the desk, all set to close the deal of a lifetime.
We had no manager, which didn't seem to upset the label, who advised us we might need a lawyer to go over the contracts. We had found one with no trouble on the recommendation of· a bass player we knew in Topanga Canyon. But publishing was something that hadn't really come up in our discussions. The lawyer had seen a quick thousand bucks and told us things looked good to him, so understandably there were some quiet stares between us as we sized up this deal-or-no-deal situation. Hell, why hold this thing up over publishing? Let 'em print the songbooks . . . So we all signed, and drinks were lifted.
Thirty years later, after throwing countless dollar bills at shaky lawyers, some of that deal still sticks to my feet. You may ask, "Who is he to complain?" and you might be right. It's true that after many a well-publicized lawsuit I was able to regain my publishing rights and have had a wonderful and lucrative career in music. But to this day I do not own the copyrights to my first few records. The record company went out of business, and through some spin of the wheel I wound up owning the actual master tapes. But the sacred publishing remains something that can't be bought. How could this happen? It's simple. I didn't have Randall Wixen's book! Hell, in the '50s, the writer of a book like this might have been dropped in a lake with concrete shoes.
Check the shelves: even today, you'll find precious little of this information made simple for the guy on the street. Why? Because music publishing is still one of the greatest scams for ripping off an artist ever created. I am far from alone in having to pay the price of an education in the music business.
You'd be hard pressed to find a songwriter without a similar tale of woe or one far worse. I once attended an ASCAP awards dinner and was fascinated to see, time after time, six people go up and take a bow for a song one guy wrote. To the man on the street it must be hard to imagine how something that is so personal and intangible can be wrestled away from the poor fellow who was humming something in his head, to become a stream of income for countless shysters, corporations, managers, and ex-wives. But yes, my friend, as you will read in these pages, this is often what happens.
It has been my pleasure to know this book's author for many a happy year of him managing my two publishing companies (as he does for a number of writers I have great respect for). And I always feel sure he'll track down every penny on B sides only released in Guam. Randall Wixen is that rare man of integrity in a business that I'm not gonna call crooked, but I'm not gonna call it anything else. Anyway, here's a chance to learn how to own those random inspirations that cross your mind, and a book that could be the most valuable writing partner you'll ever hook up with.