Laurie Pepper is one smart cookie. When I interviewed her for my Wall Street Journal article on business-minded spouses of deceased jazz greats (Laurie is Art Pepper's widow), she told me the secret of her success: Making friends with worldwide collectors of bootleg recordings and releasing the material they send her on her Widow's Taste label. It's a brilliant move when you think about it. Why hate when you can love and make money?
Now Laurie has outdone herself—and has likely started a reactive trend. Recently, Disconforme, a Spanish label, released an album featuring Art Pepper performing at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago in 1977. It was issued under the Sunburn label. Somehow the label obtained the tapes Laurie had in her possession but had never released. The Spanish label issued the material in Europe.
As most people know, European copyright laws allow labels there to issue anything recorded more than 50 years ago without asking permission or paying royalties. This law has created a hornet's nest of opposition here, where labels routinely find that their remastering efforts are cloned and resold by European labels for less.
But rather than get mad, Laurie last week got even. Here's what she told me yesterday:
"I bought a copy of the album, transferred it into my iTunes library, uploaded the recording to my label [Widow's Taste], registered the album at CD Baby and now I'm offering it as a $4.75 download. I even scanned the photo used on their cover as well as the liner notes. All in all, I spent $150 to get all of this done and promote its availability. If I make back my $150, I'll make a profit."
If you can't beat 'em, plunder 'em.
JazzWax notes: Art Pepper: Jazz Showcase, Chicago (Widow's Taste) is available at CDBaby.com here.