Friday, March 27, 2009

Roger McGuinn on the importance of MP3's

(This is a reprint of a post from March 2nd. -R.B.)

Thought I would share with my readers the wise and prophetic testimony of music legend Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, in the statement he was called upon to make to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 11, 2000:

Roger McGuinn
Formerly with The Byrds
“The Future of Digital Music: Is There an Upside to Downloading?”
before the
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
July 11, 2000

Hello, my name is Roger McGuinn. My experience in the music business
began in 1960 with my recording of “Tonight In Person” on RCA Records.
I played guitar and banjo for the folk group the “Limeliters.” I
subsequently recorded two albums with the folk group the “Chad
Mitchell Trio.” I toured and recorded with Bobby Darin and was the
musical director of Judy Collins’ third album. In each of those
situations I was not a royalty artist, but a musician for hire.

My first position as a royalty artist came in 1964 when I signed a
recording contract with Columbia Records as the leader of the
folk-rock band the “Byrds.” During my tenure with the Byrds I recorded
over fifteen albums. In most cases a modest advance against royalties
was all the money I received for my participation in these recording
In 1994 I began making recordings of traditional folk songs that I’d learned as a young folk singer. I was concerned that these wonderful songs would be lost. The commercial music business hasn’t promoted
traditional music for many years. These recording were all available for free download on my website on the Internet.

In 1998 an employee of heard the folk recordings that I’d made
available at and invited me to place them on They offered an unheard of, non-exclusive
recording contract with a royalty rate of 50% of the gross sales. I
was delighted by this youthful and uncommonly fair approach to the
recording industry. not only allowed me to place these songs
on their server, but also offered to make CDs of these songs for sale.
They absorbed all the packaging and distribution costs. Not only is an on-line record distributor, it is also becoming the new
radio of the 21st century!

So far I have made thousands of dollars from the sale of these folk
recordings on, and I feel privileged to be able to use MP3s
and the Internet as a vehicle for my artistic expression. has
offered me more artistic freedom than any of my previous relationships
with mainstream recording companies. I think this avenue of digital
music delivery is of great value to young artists, because it’s so
difficult for bands to acquire a recording contract.
Complete statement

Commentary & discussion:

Broken Record

Keywords: lawyer digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property portable music player

1 comment:

Nefarious Wheel said...

I weep. All those years -- I still listen to his songs; all that brilliant musicianship of The Byrds, and to find out that the proceeds of my purchase were lining the wrong wallets - hurts.

But I've also heard that other greats, such as Chuck Berry, John Fogerty and others were in the same boat. Minor advance, never saw another dime of what had to be a pretty stupendous sum of royalty revenue.

It's good to hear people like Nelly Furtado, Sigur Ros and other musical innovators are going the indie route. But what I'd really like to see is for good artists as well as good fans to stop buying from labels who treat their musicians as badly as they do their customers.