WE AIN’T CHEAP (compared to the out of copyright releases)
14th February 2013
In these straitened times everyone is looking for a bargain. When it comes to the world of re-issues, there is a flood of CDs out there utilising recordings made prior to 1963 that are now free of copyright. Good news for the bargain hunters amongst you, as dozens of independent labels scramble to release ever-cheaper compilations of old masters.
One of the reasons why these CDs are so cheap is that no royalty is paid to the artists or producers of the masters utilised and so your bargain is in part funded from money that would normally be paid to the talented people who created the music in the first place.
Another major saving in the cost of production is the audio is lifted from other companies’ releases, including those of Ace. In doing this, the labels exploiting the copyright law are saving themselves the trouble and expense of dubbing original 45s and 78s, cleaning them up and EQing the resulting masters to make them sound good. By the very nature of their business these companies are unlikely to have access to master tapes and essentially they are dependent on companies like Ace to produce high quality audio that they can steal. In gaining access to masters, we can maintain high standards of audio and often turn up great previously unreleased material.
So the money you save in buying these CDs is in part due to theft of top quality digital masters from the companies who have done all the groundwork in locating and post-producing the audio.
Ace also releases music that was recorded after 1962 and this has to be licensed from legitimate copyright holders. These companies cannot be expected to look kindly on us if we issue their pre-1963 recordings without paying for them. So, on that practical basis alone, we cannot benefit from the free ride on royalties, even if we wanted to. And we don’t want to, as we own many pre-1963 recordings on which we continue to pay artist and producer royalties.
As owners we are contractually liable to artists and producers for royalties, since early contracts did not make allowance for expiry of copyright. In any case, as most of these artists are US-based (where the copyright term is longer than in Europe) they would expect to be paid royalties anyway. It would not be helpful for our relationship with them to withhold royalties on sales outside the US.
So we still pay royalties to artists and producers of pre-1963 recordings, not only because we think we should, (and we have numerous examples of gratitude from older artists for whom even the smallest amount due is extremely welcome) but also because we are running a business and have practical considerations to take into account.
Furthermore the copyright in the songs embodied in the masters is protected for 70 years after the death of the songwriter, and without being recorded the income from these songs would be very limited. So the artists and record companies who provide the vehicle for income to the songwriters are denied the same copyright protection and ability to earn.
We like to think that we issue well-annotated, good looking CDs that sound as good as they can and the truth is, it costs money. We have been running a business since 1976, so have a pretty good idea of what it takes to survive in a tough market place and we fully intend to do so as honestly and fairly as we can.
So we ain’t cheap, but that’s because we ain’t cheapskates.