Jazz musicians who have been in the business for decades often wonder if they are receiving all of the residual payments they are due. If they aren't wondering about it, their spouses certainly are. A few weeks ago, a woman who works in the business reached out to me for a musician's email. As most people know, I carefully guard the personal information of the people I've interviewed. At best, I'll email the person on their behalf, but that's it. [Pictured above, Fire Escape, by Alexander Rodchenko, 1925]
The woman said she worked in the music publishing business and that the musician in question was owed royalties. Because I'm a journalist and doubt virtually everything I hear until I can prove it to be accurate, I asked a bunch of questions, particularly about her motive. She said that in the course of her business, she comes across the names of many musicians who are owed residuals for original works or participation in recordings. [Pictured above, Ears and Birth of a Flower, Siobhan Davies and David Hinton, 2012 ]
When I asked what was in it for her, she said there wasn't anything in it for her—that it was merely her good deed. I checked the site where she said this artist had unclaimed royalties and, lo and behold, there were four entries. When I asked if she'd put together a list of sites to search for readers, she said something really interesting. She asked that her name be left off the post, adding that many people think she's trying to bilk them or mistakenly think that it's her firm that owes them money." [Pictured above, The Newborn. Version I, Constantin Brancusi, 1920]
To be clear, I don't know Ms. X personally and I have no idea whether taking her advice will result in dollars for musicians. I also am not affiliated with any of the following sites nor do I know if they are up to date or on the level. I'm merely passing along information from an expert who works for one of the major music publishing houses. As always, avoid providing personal information prior to confirming a site's authenticity. You may want to have your lawyer explore them. [Pictured above, Skizo, Mark di Suvero, 2005]
Here's Ms. X's note to me...
"Hi Marc. Here's the list of sources of royalties that you asked for. I kept the list to the performer sites. I'd rather you not use my name because sometimes people call my firm under the impression that we owe them money. You can just say I'm an experienced royalties person who cares that stray earnings get to the artists. I think these sites are easy enough to check and that musicians and their families won't likely need help. [Pictured above, Untitled, Melissa Meyer, 2012]
"I still debate whether to do this for pay. I have done some for companies with lots of catalogs, but none for individuals, since these sites are pretty easy to use and there aren't that many of them. Thanks for helping to get the word out—and I hope it helps some of your readers... [Pictured above, detail of an installation by Lisa Hoke]
- Scroll down the left side and look for the "unclaimed residuals" link.
- At the linked page, look for "click here for Unclaimed Residuals/Funds - SAG Productions."
- Enter just the start of a last name in case of misspellings, or click on a letter.
- Click on "member resources" and select "unclaimed checks."
- Click on "money owed musicians."
- Click on "SR" and then "unclaimed royalties."
- Click on "AV" and then "unclaimed royalties."
- Click on "click here for unclaimed checks."
- Best to view the complete list (fourth option).
- Click "artist and copyright owner."
- Click "does soundexchange have royalties for you."
- Click "search for artist" and then enter just part of last name/band name to get broadest list.
- After a minute, results box automatically shows what the search engine has found based on your entry.
- Click "links" then "state/province sites."
- Click on California and New York to see if anything is lurking there from major record companies.
- Again, best to search on part of a last name and maybe first initial to get broadest possible results.
- Also search on states of your former residences.
- Click on "royalty central" at the bottom of the page.
- Enter part of a last name and click "search."