What Would John Doe Do? – Drummer Dilemma
John Doe is the founder of the seminal Los Angeles punk group X, a solo artist and actor. John answers questions from the KnowTheMusicBiz.com community members in the WWJDD? blog.
A Question from Scott in Maine
Hi John, First off I’m a huge fan of X, and your solo albums/CD’s.
‘Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet’ is a favorite.
Now, I’m a drummer and have only been included in songwriting
percentages on 2 or 3 occasions by generous and realistic, non
egocentric individuals. The rest of the time I’m told to forget it,
you’re just the drummer. I feel the drums add a vital and even
essential part to most songs you hear on the radio, and beyond. Why
has the system been set up to not include drum parts ?
Realistically, the drums are almost always ‘Written’ by the drummer
with his past experiences that led him to a particular session/gig or
whatever. I have been playing most of my life, gigging and recording
for 25+ years. Now, again, I’m in a dilemma. I was verbally told I
would be cut in on publishing/songwriting for a debut CD, then after
recording is over, I’m out. We mutually parted but no mention of
previous verbal agreement. (with two members). They want to pay me a
small fee for the recording, and that’s it. Any suggestions?
What Would John Doe Do?
Hmmmm . . . this is somewhat of a moral dilemma.
First, I would suggest that you write words, music & melodies; that way you would be assured your writing & publishing percentage. That’s sort of the legal bottom line.
Many bands, early on, split writing & publishing money to keep all the band members afloat. When they’re more established, the non-writing members forego their cut because the gig money, recording fund, whatever, is paying their bills. IF, you were told your contribution was important enough that you deserved a credit, then they should keep their word & you have every right to speak up & demand your share.
I’m quite certain that, legally, even if an instrument has the “hook” to a song; they are not considered a writer and do not share that credit or publishing. Unless the writer gives them a share. We all play our instruments & develop the song the best we can. That’s why people get paid for recording sessions and if they’re great players, the pay reflects that ability or creativity. But if there was no structure (melody, words & music) then there would be no song to contribute your part to. For instance, would Greg Leisz be considered a writer for playing his amazing pedal steel parts on kd lang records? There were X songs that I wrote entirely but included Exene as writer because she either edited or inspired the song. On the other hand if it’s a “jam” that turns into a song, I would say that everyone playing that jam deserves a writers’ credit & therefore publishing.
Hope this helps. thanks for writing & as always,
best of luck,
If you have questions for John Doe about music, the music business or life feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.