By and large, intellectual property earns nothing for the originator, yet it is responsible for more fortunes than anything else.
The 1996 film Basquiat chronicles the life of street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who began painting when he was living in a cardboard box in New York City.
A drug dealer in New York had a regular customer named “Mike," who, after buying $300 worth of heroin, saw some paint cans on a shelf of the dealer's bodega and asked if he could tag the dealer's metal door. The dealer said sure, so Mike painted a devil image on the door and then went home to O.D. Years later, somebody showed the dealer a book about Jean-Michel Basquiat saying, “Look, that's Mike." Today, Basquiat's paintings sell for as much as $14.6 million. The drug dealer who sold him the fatal hit of dope is cashing in on the last work Basquiat painted.
Basquiat painted on the streets of New York in the '80s for the same reason our ancestors painted in caves 32,000 years ago. Even when his paintings were earning him a fortune, Basquiat continued to paint for free when he felt inspired. He needed to create.
By and large, intellectual property earns nothing for the originator, yet it is responsible for more fortunes than anything else. Geniuses, morons, every Joe and Jane Six-Pack alike pull an endless supply of intangible assets out of thin air every day, filling our world with musical, literary, and artistic work, as well as computer programs, patents, trade secrets, designs, and garbage. By virtue of the fact that you're reading Premier Guitar, it's a safe assumption that you, dearest reader, create music. Let me fill you in on the money in songwriting.
Shares: When you write a song, you immediately own the song—100 percent of the songwriter's share and 100 percent of the publisher's share. The song exists as soon as you've written or recorded it, and can potentially be worth money. The profits from a song are split evenly between the writer(s) and publisher.
What's a publisher? Before recordings, songwriters earned money from sheet music printed by publishers. Today, publishers don't print much music, but they do administrate copyrights, license songs, and collect royalties for songwriters. Most importantly, publishers pitch songs to recording artists to get cuts. Publishers also pay for recording demos of songs and often pay writers a “draw" (a monetary advance against future royalties earned). If the writer's songs earn money, the publisher recoups the advance through the writer's share of royalties. If the songs never make money, the publisher takes a loss.
Do you need a publisher? A great publisher works wonders. Bob Dylan did not become a legend because of his first few poor-selling albums. His publisher got his songs recorded by the Byrds, the Mamas & the Papas, Peter Paul & Mary, Sonny & Cher, the Hollies, the Association, the Turtles, and nearly every other successful act in the '60s. After his songs hit for others, people discovered Dylan's own recordings. Publishing worked for Dylan, but it's not for everybody.
My publishing odyssey. When I learned one could make money writing songs, I wanted in. I located a successful songwriter and bugged him to listen to my music. After some bribing and pestering, he agreed. I was thrilled when he said he liked one of my songs, and ecstatic when he said he would make the song better with a co-write, then publish it and record a demo. However, the changes made the song sluggish and the demo laid there like lox. At first, there was some interest in the song, but then it cooled and now withers away in the Polygram song mausoleum with a million other worthless songs.
It worked out fine. We became friends and wrote a few more songs that were cut and made their way onto some major-label albums and a film. This led to my first writing deal, which led to my second writing deal, which led to a few failed development record deals (on Atlantic and Asylum), which led to my happy, little weird life of playing and writing music.
Today, I hold my publishing. Harry Fox agency collects my mechanical royalties. (Those are royalties paid for the reproduction of songs on CD and other devices sold on a “per unit" basis. The current rate is $.091 for songs lasting five minutes or less.) Synchronization licenses (a fee paid when music is synchronized to images like film), I work out on a per-deal basis. For example, a song I wrote and recorded with my band the Tennessee Hot Damns just landed in a movie. I worked out a small licensing fee because I'm happy to get exposure for the Hot Damns. Also, when the movie hits HBO or Showtime, I will probably make some jack through BMI, an organization that collects my “public performance" royalties. (These are fees radio, TV, and internet broadcasters must pay BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC, who collect income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast.)
I do a lot of music for television, often cutting deals where the production company or network acts as the publisher or buys my music outright. Many would argue that this is a stupid way to do business. Maybe, but I've got to make music and this allows me to, so I don't care.
Willie Nelson shares this philosophy. He received less than $300 in total for three of the biggest revenue-generating songs of all time—“Crazy," “Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away," and “Night Life." Though he lost millions on these songs, their success made people recognize his genius as an artist (and gullibility as a businessman), which led to the incredible career he's enjoyed for over half a century.
Had Willie not sold his songs for a pittance to some smarter businessmen, he may not have become Willie Nelson. Similarly, had Basquiat not painted the streets of New York for free, his creations may never have been seen and the world would not be as rich. Business people will exploit the talents of artists, but usually some reward makes it to the artists, enabling them to create. Sometimes the best business plan in the arts is to focus on making great art.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville multi-instrumentalist best know for his work in television, having lead the band for all six season of NBC's hit program Nashville Star, the 2011, 2010 and 2009 CMT Music Awards, as well as many specials for GAC, PBS, CMT, USA and HDTV.
John's music compositions and playing can be heard in several major label albums, motion pictures, over one hundred television spots and Muzak... (yes, Muzak does play some cool stuff.) Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.