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A Message to the Music Industry from the Lead Singer of the Kingsmen

Stop Sobbing About Free Music Downloads


My name is JACK ELY and I’m the one whose voice is heard daily on The Kingsmen’s 1963 recording of Louie Louie, (may it rest in peace) so you know I have some music business experience.

First I’d like to express an opinion that probably will not be very popular but which oozes with truth. In the early ’60’s when I was recording, records were thought of as a tool to help promote live performances. The live performances were the main revenue stream and the records were just promotional tools to get people to come see the shows. Somewhere this mode of thinking got turned upside down. Consequently in years hence, record companies, producers, et. all, have made recordings, hoping to profit from the sale of those recordings alone, regardless of whether or not the artist could ever pull it off live. This did some things to the music business that weren’t very healthy. First it made available to the general public, music of artists who may or may not be good live performers; almost anyone can make a good recording with enough cut-ins and loops. And… it made music by groups of players who never ever intended to perform that music live, and who may or may not have ever been able to get along with each other long enough to really sustain any kind of a road show.

Music is meant to be played for the enjoyment of the audiences. For instance, if I go into the studio with an acoustic guitar and simultaneously play and sing on a recording, people would come to see me perform in that same mode; I.e. playing guitar and singing as a solo act. I don’t think they would come to see me expecting a full band. Conversely, if I advertised a ‘Night with Louie Louie" people would come expecting to see a rock band that they could dance to, and would be quite disappointed if I showed up with just my acoustic guitar.

The suggestions that recordings are produced today just to sell recorded music is all backwards and the sooner the record companies and producers and artists figure this out the sooner they will all quit sniveling over the fact that the entire world is freely sharing their music digitally and isn’t willing to stop; and in fact will do anything to circumvent their efforts to get paid for the recordings alone.

The days of producers and musicians putting bands together just to get a recording deal so they can get paid by the record company for a product that usually never even gets released; those days are over. It’s time record companies went back to their roots and became what they started out to be; entities who record working acts in order to

1) capture the performance for posterity, and

2) make a promotional tool to get audiences to the next show.

The solution is to give the world all the free music it wants, but to give the recording entity, whether it be a record company or a producer, or whomever, a cut of every live performance. That will do at least two things and maybe more that I haven’t even thought about yet. First it will give everyone involved in the recordings a source of revenue (pay day) for all their hard work of producing and promoting the recordings. Second, it will weed out all the so-called "recording artists" who couldn’t, in a live venue, perform their way out of a paper bag. In a down economy the public craves live entertainment, so what better time to get back to basics. The timing couldn’t be better for a profitable turn around. So now is the time to get it going.

I send you these thoughts in hopes that just maybe a new/old perspective on the subject of recorded music can be presented to the entire recording world and they can all start making a real profit.

JACK ELY, the former lead singer of The Kingsmen, is a veteran horse trainer. He lives in central Oregon.