February 21, 2018
By William Glanz
Artists themselves make the most powerful argument for closing the gaping loophole that digital music services believe allows them to deny royalties to featured artists and rights owners who recorded music before February 15, 1972.
So we asked Mary Wilson, a founding member of The Supremes, to talk about how the loophole affects her.
“It is an economic issue,” she told us following an event on Capitol Hill last week to promote the CLASSICS Act, the bill introduced in the House and the Senate that would close that gaping loophole.
The Supremes had 12 No. 1 songs – from “Baby Love” in 1964 to “Someday We’ll Be Together” in 1969 – that don’t generate income from digital music services.
“People get paid for their art. We created art, but we aren’t getting paid, so it is an economic issue. Digital music stations are playing our music on a daily basis and making money off of it, but they’re not paying the artists,” Wilson told us.
She isn’t alone.
Darlene Love made some of her most prominent hits – including “He’s a Rebel” and “The Boy I’m Gonna Marry” – before 1972.
“That’s when we [made] our greatest music. Thank God I was blessed to be able to carry my career on and I got paid after 1972 because I worked with Dionne Warwick for 10 years,” Love said.
But so much of her work occurred prior to 1972. She was a background singer for Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Marvin Gaye.
“All that music was before ’72. C’mon guys,” said Love, who was one of the singers portrayed in 20 Feet From Stardom.
Love, who will turn 77 in July, still tours – and she stopped in Washington, D.C., last week during a two-day break in her current tour – but said many artists who made music prior to February 15, 1972, can’t work.
“There is nothing for them to do,” she said.
Many other artists have passed, said Wilson, who will be 74 in March.
“This is a serious issue… we give you the soundtrack of your life, so it’s time we get paid,” she said.
Love said she will lobby Congress as long as it takes to convince them that the CLASSICS Act is necessary to update the nation’s outdated copyright policies.
“We’re here now, and I will be back. I will be back,” she said.
Wilson and Love are two of the 213 artists who put their name on an ad that ran in Politico last week urging lawmakers to pass the CLASSICS Act.
Learn more about the House (H.R. 3301) and Senate (S. 2393) bills here.