The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 7, 1997 · Page 26
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 26

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, May 7, 1997
Page 26
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WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 1997 APPLAUSE THE SALINA JOURNAL KING OF THE JINGLE HUNTS GREATER ROYALTIES FOR COMMERCIAL DITTIES RAl.rH MJWKNTIIAL /: 1997 N. Y. Timns NPIVK Srrvicr- "At, Beneficial — toot toot — you're good for more," sang out Steve Karmen in a midtown recording studio. He segued into "When you say BUD-weis-er, you've said it all!," "You can take Salem out, of the country. ... ," "Ford, that's incredible!" and wound up with his goldeivmost, oldie, "I Love New York," now celebrating its 20th anniversary with television spots featuring Karmen in black tie at, the piano. They don't, call him King of the Jingle for nothing. But when it, comes to royalties from his creations, Karmen, along with other jingle writers, has been singing the blues. He charges that the leading performance-rights society, As- cap, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, has been shortchanging them for years to the advantage of "the biggies," as he calls writers of old standards who get a bigger vote at Ascap and whose music is compensated at a rate 331/3 times higher than original jingles regardless of play lime. So-called featured music is fully credited at 100 percent; jingles at 3 percent of that. "Jingles are a Rodneyism" (as in Dangerfield), Karmen, 60, wrote in his 1989 book, "Through the Jingle Jungle." "They don't get no respect." But it's not really about jingles or him, he says. It's about how the music royalty business is run. "We want the same financial respect as Richard Rodgers," he said, adding that Ascap had no business imposing value judgments but should simply record the duration of plays and distribute receipts accordingly, as is widely done in Europe. "If his music is on for three minutes and mine is on for three minutes," he said of the composer of "Blue Moon," "My Funny Valentine" and "If I Loved You," "what is the difference?" Moreover, he said, if Ascap was not so dead set against sampling the airwaves for types of music played, it would find that popular songs are fading off the air and should be devalued accordingly. Those are fighting words at Ascap, founded in New York in 1914 to license the most beloved canon of the American songbook. "Obviously, a background cue on a TV show is not going to be as valuable as a feature performance of a song." said Marilyn Bergman, the society's president and a noted songwriter who created the lyrics for "The Way We Were" and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," popularized by Barbra Streisand. For its part,, Ascap says it is doing what it is supposed to be doing: taking "objective surveys of performances" to collect fees for its 70,000 members as provided under an anti-monopoly settlement with the Justice Department and dividing the money according to a court-sanctioned weighting system. Last year, Ascap led the industry with revenue of $482 million, of which, it said, $406 million was passed on to members. (It was in zealous collection of performance fees that Ascap went after the American Camping Association, enmeshing itself in a public relations fiasco last, year over campfire songs with the Girl Scouts.) "He's saying, 'I don't have enough; I should have more,' " I. Fred Koenigsberg, Ascap's counsel at the Manhattan law firm of White & Case, said of Karmen. He called the jingle writer "an amazingly talented guy" who had lost at every stage of a 15-year campaign against Ascap's weighted royalties. But Karmen, an Ascap member for 25 years, refuses to be silenced, as perhaps befits someone whose commercial hit parade includes ditties for Wrigley's Spearmint Gum, Dial Soap, the Nevele Hotel, Hertz Rent-a-Car and General Tires among many others that once heard become naggingly difficult to get out of the brain. How music played on radio and television is monitored and paid for are not issues likely to preoccupy the average listener. But they are of overriding concern to the creators and music publishers whose works are protected under Article I of the Constitution, spawning a billion-dollar performance-rights industry that is once again in the spotlight. The Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings on the hotly contested fairness in music licensing bill, which would allow restaurants, bars and businesses to entertain patrons with radio and television without buying pel-mission from music copyright holders. The measure would also carve out a broader exemption for religious broad- casters, who now pay for blanket performance licenses they say they do not need for music they do not always like. Uproar over the measure has delayed action on another bill to add 20 years of copyright protection to new and old songs. Songs written before 1978 would have their copyright protection extended to 95 years after composition. Songs written after 1978 would be copyrighted for the life of the composer, plus 70 years. Perhaps not surprisingly, Karmen is on the side of the bars and restaurants and against extending the copyrights. With only one royalties pie to divide, he says, the sooner the older works enter the public domain, the sooner more money will flow to those "whose works are actually being broadcast today" instead of providing "an unjustified golden pension to the children and grandchildren of those whose music no longer earns it." Both sides cast themselves as champions of struggling songwriters who, but for their small royalties, would be driven out of the business, impoverishing American culture. Ascap and its two competitors, Broadcast Music Inc., known as BMI, and Sesac, formerly the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, operate as giant ears to monitor the music played and as bill collectors to take in the fees and distribute them to the copyright holders. BMI, a New York nonprofit corporation founded in 1939, reports a client list of 180,000 songwriters and publishers. Sesac, a Nashville for-profit corporation founded in 1930, represents 2,300 music professionals. BMI and Sesac have their own weighting systems. The process is staggeringly complex. In addition to the millions of hours of monitoring, the societies blend a variety of factors to arrive at royalty figures. One industry economist, Barry Massarsky, a consultant in Manhattan, said songwriters and their estates had hired him to decipher just how they are being paid. As a rough example, he said, a song played on a major New York radio station might bring the writer who created the work and the publisher who exploits its value $160 each a play and perhaps 10 times as much on television, a far rarer occurrence. The royalties dispute pits As- cap against Karmen, a Bronx High School of Science graduate and Westchester County resident who went from humble beginnings in the "nudie movie scoring business," as he put it, to master the art and craft of jingle writing, which helped him bring up his three daughters after his wife died of cancer. In his book, he explains how to write and market jingles. "Suppose you are writing for an airline," he says. "The agency wants the music to say 'flying,' to establish a floaty yet secure feeling. Airlines should never sound small. Small implies unsafe, like a toy plane with a rubber band." He suggests "a violin sweep as the plane takes off and, yes, French horns, with their long floating tones: "Today every airline is out to out- French-hom every other airline." For cars, he says, hot drum tracks are good. For deluxe models, lush strings or a classical piano. Cola songs need bounce. Perfume? Solo guitar or unaccompanied flute with a lot of echo. For the Beneficial commercial, Karmen says, he was handed the slogan "You're good for more." But instead of using the line as given, he says, "I chose to break it up with a mnemonic 'toot toot,' to try to make it sound different." But it's not just Karmen vs. Ascap. There is a so-called Ascap judge, William Conner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in White Plains, N.Y., who, besides regular cases, adjudicates the antitrust consent decree under which As- cap has been operating in one form or other for 56 years. There is his predecessor, Harold Tyler, a distribution adviser to the court, and his West Coast counterpart, Seth Hufstedter. A lawyer in the Justice Department Antitrust Division, Mary Beth McGee, monitors the order. "If Ascap didn't exist, someone would have to invent it in a hurry," said Conner, who is deciding a challenge brought by the National Religious Broadcasters in another attack on blanket license fees. Musical ability is irrelevant and extraneous to his job, he said in an interview. "I never try to sing in public," he said. "When God was passing out musical talent, he passed me by." The federal involvement grew out of prewar complaints that As- cap was monopolizing the licens- REEL WORLD What moviegoers really want? Drop the volume — and the prices ByLYNNELBER AP Entertainment Writer You slide into a seat in your neighborhood movie theater, candy and soda in hand, and you're ready: Let them entertain you. Well, don't get too comfortable. It's true that lumpy cushions and sticky floors generally are a thing of the past (and let's hear it for the inventor of the armchair cup holder). But there are other pitfalls awaiting the contemporary moviegoer — besides actually paying your way in to see "McHale's Navy" or wandering unsuspecting into the 31/2-hour director's cut of "Das Boot." Real perils like SOUNDTRACK VOLUME, for example. Excuse us for shouting, but the evolution of sound technology seems to have meant a corresponding increase in the noise level of already ear-pounding films. One young moviegoer at a showing of "Volcano" at a Los Angeles theater alternated between stuffing popcorn in his mouth and his fingers in his ears. "Too loud!" complained 10- year-old Erik Forbes. He could stand the lava's intense heat; it was the decibels that overwhelmed him. According to an executive at one major studio, more com- plaints are received about auditory overkill than anything else — more than even movie content, including profanity. The executive himself griped (anonymously, of course). "Every young film director today is deaf," he said. "They've been in too many discos, stood next to too many bass speakers at rock 'n' roll concerts. ... And they're going to insist we become deaf with them." The machinery encourages them. Digital sound systems, such as Dolby Digital, allows movies to crank up the volume without losing clarity, say exhibitors. On the bright side, the racket can drown out rude chatterboxes. At one Los Angeles area theater, the audience encountered a new twist on talking during the flick. "A woman's cellular phone rang and she carried on a conversation," recalled Kathy Fujikawa. "It was unbelievable. People were turning around to look. We expected her to get up and leave, and she didn't." "Years ago, owners threw a wall down the middle of an auditorium and said 'Oh, I have a twin now,"' said Richard Fay, president of AMC Film Marketing. "They're constructing them now, knowing they're going to have loud movies playing." Not just loud movies. Increasingly, audiences have to negotiate a maze of promotion before getting to the feature film itself. Ads for local businesses, trailers and publicity for sound and other technical advances like THX are the moviehouse equivalent of junk mail. Trailers can be a fun peek at what we may be treated (or subjected) to in coming weeks or even months. But some filmmakers and studios clearly have gotten carried away. At a recent showing of "The Saint," the four trailers ranged from a concise 1 minute, 15 second blurb for the John Travolta- Nicolas Cage thriller "Face-Off" to a nearly 2 minute, 30 second one for "Volcano." The "Face-Off' trailer was a tease, careful not to reveal too much; the one for "Volcano" seemed eager to spill a heck of a lot of lava. Some moviegoers say they love trailers that know when to stop: They want to have their interest piqued, not to see a plot unveiled. Prices, of course, are a perennial consumer complaint, whether at the snack stand or box office itself. Here's a shocker: The ticket price at one theater chain in New York just hit $9. But exhibitors are trying to keep us happy. Stadium seating, with each row offering an unobstructed view of the screen, is the newest rage. Then there's the bait offered by the Kerasotes theaters: free refills on soda and popcorn. Just turn the volume down and we'll be in movie heaven. • top, Hi tun Html Ira Mm .UmtNlCvtiiH free E*tlmm*0» Toll free 1-888-825-5280 UOOW.GrandBldg.I Salina, KS (913) 825-5280 Call Avonne for an Appointment Avonne' Salon 82B 2761 216 W. Minneapolis * S'aiina Cards, Gtfts, Candies, Unique Novelties MUSEUM Gift Store 211 Went Iron Fri. J2-5 & Sat. 10-5 Sim. 1-5 Where Start .Quickly 2562 Scanlan Avenue / Salina, KS 67401 913-825-2261 or 1-800-466-7989 ing of popular music. In a 1941 settlement, the society and the government agreed to a set of fairness standards. BMI and the government signed a more limited decree in 1966. Under the Ascap system, original jingles are compensated at 3 percent the rate of featured music, up from 1 percent in the 1970s. But when an old standard like Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is used in a United Airlines commercial, it is paid at 12 percent of the full rate. Theme music and background music have their own weighted rates. According to figures cited by an Ascap lawyer, while a Cole Porter song played at the televised Academy Award ceremony might bring the Porter estate and the publisher $1,250 each, a jingle by Karmen would bring him and his publisher $37.50 each. (This does not take into account onetime fees of $5,000 to $10,000 paid to the jingle writer by the advertising agency and the vastly higher sums paid for the use of popular songs.) "Based on what opinion is this less valuable?" said Joey Levine, another jingle writer ("Sometimes you feel like a you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't"), who joined Karmen's court challenge with eight others. "Sammy Cahn may get only a few plays. Joey Levine may have 100 more plays. But Sammy will still get paid 100 percent on his plays. It's so lop- sided." He and Karmen, among other jingle writers, say the system is perpetuated by hit songwriters who have up to 100 times the voting power of other members, depending on their performance successes. Ascap denies that they have enough clout to sway a majority. Conner has heard this song before, noting that he dismissed the jingle writers' challenge in his court;, as did the Federal Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit in August 1994. "I did go into it and found it was not unfair," he said. But Karmen still hopes to win over the Justice Department and the District Court with incessant pleas for modification of the weighting system. Although he recently wrote, pro bono, "The Faces of America" for the Greater New York Hospital Association campaign against health-care cuts, for now he is out of the jingle jungle, he says, and hunting for new challenges. As he sat at the piano the other day in the Howard Schwartz Recording studio in Manhattan noodling a medley of his most recognizable jingles, he said he would never stop fighting his case but that he needed a breather. "I'm writing a musical," he said. Mutual of New Yo 104 East Iron St. Salina, KS 913-627-3838 EBeverly A. Baker Advantage N N REALTOR S«Hnc. 415 E. Iron " 825-32OO * (8OO) 825-O2O6 Kaeh effier i BUY ANY SIZE DRINK: & FRIES and GET A BIG MAC SANDWICH FOR 5ft DoirtFwjet! Hot Cakes Supper S-7pmTuesday Nights at South Broadway McDonald*! < he measure of a life is in the V %f peace me leave in the hearts of those we love. 3\ush Smit l Si ome Wl West Iron* Salina • 823-3456 Kyle West "Here far you since 1906" 3 Days Only May 8, 9, 10 Thurs., Fri. & Sat. Storewide Savings up to 210S.SHtaFfl,SallM 825-6296 1-800-262-1576 Used Band Instruments ON SALE! EXTRAS Dont Cost Extra At FREE DRINK With The Purchase of Buffet or Any Menu Item OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK, 10:30 am -10:00 pm 1708 West Crawford, Salina iiiiiiini

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