Legal Downloads

Recently, I was asked by a Toronto magazine writer about the record industry’s assertion that they are opposing peer-to-peer downloading partly in order to “protect their artists”. This led to a short rant by yours truly that ended with the words;

“… our old record company doesn’t give a shit about Trooper.”

After I’d hung up the phone, I recalled the blunt, and possibly ill-advised, pronouncement - blurted out in a moment of impassioned interview-flow. It’s the kind of juicy quote that magazines like to use as headlines, and I wondered, in quiet post-interview introspection, if what I had said was accurate.

From the spring of 1996 to the summer of 1998, I logged countless hundreds of hours working with representatives of Universal Music Canada on a proposed two disk compilation of Trooper songs. The project, originally suggested by the then president of the company, was contractually complicated, professionally frustrating, endlessly mystifying and, ultimately, a complete waste of time. I have never received a satisfactory explanation as to why it didn’t go forward.

While working on that compilation, I communicated at length with record company executives, lawyers and accountants in both Canada and the US and, as an unintended consequence, I had brief glimpses of what may have been big-time record company evil. In 1998 I backed away from Universal; bone-tired and beaten, depressed and unwilling to ever again invest the time and energy required to penetrate their well-maintained corporate force-field.

Eight years later, and only weeks after the Toronto interview, I learned that Trooper songs were still not available for legal downloading on either iTunes or Puretracks. Days later I received a royalty cheque from Universal for $32.00. Debbie pointed out that Trooper had sold hundreds, if not thousands, of Universal CDs at shows. We discussed the fact that, despite months of pointed enquiries made at the time of the compilation talks, no one at Universal would tell me what our royalty “penny-rate” was. I still do not know how much we are supposed to be paid when a CD is sold. She became understandably angry - a state I was numbly unable to muster in response to the topic - and, in her best soul-mate form, helped me to break through my self-protective Universal disconnect. In a spasm of irony, i thought back to the interview quote …

… and wrote to Universal’s new president to ask him what was up with Trooper downloads.

He wrote back the same day. In his friendly and upbeat email he thanked me for pointing out the omission and passed me on to someone else in the company who, in another email, assured me that “a few preliminary things” needed to be done to “determine our next steps to get Trooper up and running in the digital world!”. He promised to get back to me when he got “those answers”. I received these emails on September 18th. Two and a half weeks ago.

I am determined to follow this down. I think I’m stronger now than last time.

I’ll keep you posted.