Copyright: The Early Years
"You bust your chops to get hold of something, get chumped again and again to where you become bitter and coldblooded, and suddenly someone's saying, 'Okay, here.' And you can't offer any kind of rebuttal. You just have to take it, along with the responsibility. That was frightening."
In his early years Waits made the mistake of not having his songs properly protected. In later years this gave way to a lot of speculations about Waits owned copyrights. Central figure in all these discussions is Waits' former manager Herb Cohen. In 1955 Victor Maymudes (1935-2001) and Herb Cohen opened the Unicorn Folk Club on Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles. The Unicorn was the first coffee house in Los Angeles, it had live music and poetry. People would read and play chess. It was a place where rebellion had a place to grow.
Judy Henske (1991)(18): "Herbie Cohen had booked Lenny Bruce in the Unicorn, which was this big coffeehouse up on the Sunset Strip. It was next door to where the Whiskey is now. It was pretty big and it was painted black inside. It was supposed to be really hip, like it had pictures of nude women, but upside down. Sailors used to come in there on weekends and start fights and stuff. But he booked Lenny Bruce in there. And Lenny Bruce's audience was the hippest, meanest audience that I think was of all time in show business. And Herbie also at that time had the hippest waitresses. They were mean as snakes, these women were. And they had all been married at one time to one famous jazz musician or another who had fallen from grace in one way or another. So they were extremely hip. These waitresses would go by you and give you these terrible chilling looks with little eyes of stone."
In 1957 Maymudes and Cohen opened the Cosmo Alley where the whites and the blacks were first hanging out together.
Victor Maymudes: "Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Odetta, Peter Fonda and all the other 'hipsters.' Lenny Bruce was working the Cahunga Burlesque and he would come down after work and do his own special comedy at our place."
In the early 1960's the Cosmo Alley/ Herb Cohen ran into money troubles and Cohen apparently left Los Angeles for a couple of years.
Robert Carl Cohen(20): "Herbie Cohen, a New York neo-hoodlum type whose competitors received stones through their windows, with whom I'd been somewhat acquainted since 1960, and who ran up thousands of dollars in debts while running Cosmo's Alley prior to fleeing the USA and his creditors for several years."
Jerry Yester (2007)(29): “Herbie was a lot scarier than people would think. They'd think he was a kind of pudgy Jewish guy, but he was absolutely terrifying in conflict. I mean, he had a box of hand grenades in the trunk of his car." (When Cohen disappeared in the early 1960s, rumours circulated in LA that he was fighting as a mercenary in South America or running guns for Castro. When he finally returned to America, he was scarier than ever). "He just kind of arrived back one day and he was a wild man. Mutt (brother Martin Cohen) by contrast was very gentle and soft spoken in comparison. He said he'd talk to Herbie, and Herbie did calm down a little."
In 1964/ 1965 Cohen popped up in Pittsburgh, where he started a label with Nick Cenci (The Vogues/ Lou Christie). In 1966 Herb Cohen and artist/ painter Mark Cheka became joint managers for Frank Zappa (and The Mothers). Two years later Cohen and Zappa started the Bizarre Records label (distributed by Reprise). In 1969 they added the companion Straight label resulting in Bizarre/ Straight Records. Bizarre was used mainly for Zappa releases, Straight was used for all other artists (Tim Buckley, Captain Beefheart, Alice Cooper, Jeff Simmons, Wild Man (Larry) Fischer, The GTO's, etc.) Around 1970, Straight ran into money troubles and Warners/Reprise took over distribution. In 1973 they added the sister label DiscReet Records. The labels released albums until 1975, mainly through Warner Bros. Records distribution.So at the time Waits and Cohen met in the L.A Troubadour (ca. 1971), Cohen was already a respected LA coffee house pioneer/ rock manager/ label owner/ publisher and music business attorney (managing the stable of: Theodore Bikel, Jerry Yester, Fred Neil, The Mothers Of Invention, Linda Ronstadt, Tim Buckley and Judy Henske). Waits, still trying to grow a goatee, was a young and inexperienced artist, desperately trying to get his break into show business.
Joe Smith then of Warner Reprise Records (2007)(30): "He (Herb Cohen) was like an adventurer soldier of fortune. For a little Jewish guy with a little beard, he was really something. I got a tremendous kick out of him. He was kind of shifty but he was a delightful rogue. And Mutt (brother Martin Cohen) was a barracuda lawyer, so Herb could move through life doing his damage knowing he didn’t have any legal fees.”
Tom Waits (1976)(6): "You bust your chops to get hold of something, get chumped again and again to where you become bitter and coldblooded, and suddenly someone's saying, 'Okay, here.' And you can't offer any kind of rebuttal. You just have to take it, along with the responsibility. That was frightening."
Herb Cohen on the cover for Nighthawks At The Diner (detail). Ca. 1975.
Photography by Norman Seeff
Cohen managed and supported Waits for over a year, and gave him the opportunity to write and further develop. In 1971 they recorded some demos on Cohen's Bizarre/ Straight label to be used for promotional purposes. At that time it wasn't unusual to try and have more established and successful artists record a beginner's song. The idea being to get publicity (and maybe to cover some initial costs) for a yet unknown artist. A manager wants to get paid commissions (especially when he's financially supporting an unknown artist). In the early 1970's Waits certainly didn't have the means to hire a manager, so there must have been another deal for Cohen to pre-finance Waits' career. The only thing Waits had to offer were his publishing rights. Herb Cohen could have offered his managing qualities for Waits' publishing rights (to be sold to a future record company and to ensure future royalties through Fifth Floor Publishing). Waits might be promised the recoupable recording advance, part of the publishing royalties and revenues from touring. Cohen would probably not have Waits keep the actual publishing right, it would most likely have been an ordinary labor agreement with income depending on record sales. Waits would probably not even know what a reversion clause could be. Cohen might have made it all look a bit more attractive by for instance promising Waits extensive touring and granting him all or most of the revenues. Waits would probably have to finance those tours himself. But the best promise Cohen could have made Waits, was to get him a record deal. Cohen would tell him he knew the right people, he had the means and the know-how. Cohen would take care of business. One night in 1972 David Geffen (Asylum Records) happened by the Troubadour. Geffen and Cohen agreed upon a deal for Tom Waits.
Jay S. Jacobs (2000)(12): "... Geffen wasn't planning on staying long when he dropped by the Troubadour that night in 1972, but he quickly changed his mind. Commanding the stage was a guy who looked more like a vagabond than a rock musician. But Geffen had barely taken his seat before Waits's seductive aura had encompassed him. "He was singing a song called 'Grapefruit Moon' when I heard him," Geffen recalled recently. "I thought it was a terrific song, so I listened to the set." He watched, he listened, and the wheels started turning. Here was an artist who could make some intriguing records. "After [the show], I said that I was interested in him. He said, 'Well, I'll have my manager, Herb Cohen, call you."' Geffen left the Troubadour thinking that since Cohen had his own record company, this would be "the end of it." But, to his surprise, Cohen did finally call: "He was interested in making a deal with me for Tom ... Herb had said that he didn't really think that it was right for him to make the record. My making the record would help him with the publishing. So I made a deal for [Tom]. And he made a great first record." Geffen got Elliot Roberts involved in signing Waits to Asylum. Roberts... Once Tom had been signed to Elektra/ Asylum, Herb Cohen contacted Jerry Yester. Cohen had been impressed with Yester's production work, and he felt that Yester could bring out the best in his young prot�g�."
Cohen was going to publish the songs with his Fifth Floor Music Inc. publishing company. Jerry Yester (the former Modern Folk Quartet member who was also managed by Herb Cohen) was going to produce the album for Cohen's Third Story Productions company. The result was Waits' debut album Closing Time. In 1973 Herb Cohen suggested Waits to go and join Frank Zappa in Canada to open his shows. This would turn out to be a pretty horrifying experience, as Zappa's crowd had no appreciation for Waits' act at all.
Tom Waits (1999)(7): "I had to have Frank Zappa on stage to keep the audience from hurting me." Oh, it didn't go over. It was a complete mismatch. We had the same manager [Herb Cohen], and he said, "Aaaargh! Go to Canada with Frank! Frank will treat you right! In fact, go meet Frank in Canada! At a hockey arena!" After my cruel set, after the bleeding had stopped, I came back in the middle of his show and he would play "Ol' 55" and I'd tell a story. I had fun, some nights. But I had to have Frank on stage to keep them from hurting me. They were Frank's people, you know? They didn't want to hear anybody. And they thought that whoever was coming out before Frank, Frank had designed it that way and wanted them to hurt me: pelt me, throw things at me and abuse me. And the chant: "We! Want! Frank!" Or "You suck!" was also a big favourite."
In the years to come Waits would slowly build on his success. He would release an album every year, and do extensive touring.
Tom Waits (1976)(8): "I couldn't even begin to tell you how much I'm making, but I am making more than when I was driving a cab. I feel at times I'm residually in jeopardy with my record company. I don't pull in a lot of dividends. Most of the money I make is from personal appearances and I spend most of that on the band and the bus. I made it to 169 on the record charts and figured if we could only get to 200 it would be great. But I found out it goes the other way. No I don't know exactly how much I'm making."
In 1975 Frank Zappa and his long time manager Herb Cohen got in legal disputes (over revenues from their label DiscReet Records and Zappa wanting an album to be distributed by Warners). They both filed suits against each other with trials going on for years. In 1977 Zappa and Cohen went separate ways. It was a sign on the wall...
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet)(13) (on the Zappa/Cohen DiscReet lawsuits): "He's [Frank Zappa] locked out of one of the places he owns. He's in a big lawsuit. Not by Warner Brothers, but by an unmentionable jerk. I don't even want to mention his name. I don't think the press should have his name in it. I wouldn't want to give the unmentionable character fuel of any kind."
Frank Zappa (L) and Herb Cohen (R) at MIDEM, Cannes 1970.
As printed in “Lowside Of The Road: A Life Of Tom Waits" by Barney Hoskyns. Faber/ Broadway, 2009
Frank Zappa (L) and Herb Cohen (R), outside the Law Courts. Strand, London. April 1975.
From: "Mother! The Frank Zappa Story". Photography: unknown.
In late 1979 Waits moved from LA to New York City. He was disappointed, disillusioned and trying to get a grip on life. He was fed up with the music industry (maybe shaken awake by the Zappa/ Cohen lawsuits) and had just ended his relationship with Rickie Lee Jones. Waits was at the low point of his live. Within a couple of months however he was approached by Francis Ford Coppola to work on the soundtrack for Coppola's upcoming film One From The Heart. In April 1980 he returned to LA to work on the project at the Zoetrope studios where he met his future wife Kathleen Brennan. Waits was saved. Kathleen would open Waits' eyes, they were going to make a new start. Waits separated from Herb Cohen, probably early 1982. The same year he separated from his long time producer Bones Howe. In 1983 he changed labels (from Asylum/ Elektra to Island Records) to release the album Swordfishtrombones.
Tom Waits (1999)(9): "It was really Kathleen that said, "Look, you can do this. You know, I'd broken off with Herbie, and we were managing my career at that point, and there were a lot of decisions to make. I mean, I thought I was a millionaire, and it turned out that I had, like 20 bucks. And what followed was a lot of court battles, and it was a difficult ride for both of us, particularly being newly weds. At the same time, it was exciting, because I had never been in a studio without a producer. I came from that whole school where an artist needs a producer. You know, they know more than I do, I don't anything about the board. I was really old-fashioned that way."
This is where the Cohen-Waits collaboration ended. It's hard to determine how Waits and Cohen got along in these years. It is of course tempting to see Cohen as the evil business man (who's only in it for the money) and to see Waits as a victim (the struggling naive artist only focused on his works), but it probably isn't that simple. One should keep in mind that when Cohen decided to manage Waits, he took a considerable risk. At that time Waits had no apparent commercial potential at all. Still, Cohen supported Waits and gave him the freedom and means to further develop. It was Cohen who took care of all the complexities of having a debut album released. It was Cohen who kept promoting Waits regardless his hard to market albums. It was Cohen who booked Waits' tours. It was Cohen who got him his first television and magazine interviews. Waits for sure, not being the easiest artist to work with, underestimated the complexities of the music business. It's only fair to point out that Waits had responsibilities too. He went for commercial success but left the business risks and legal affairs to his manager. Still, Cohen ended up as an ordinary business guy, loathed and feared by those he had worked with.
Tom Waits (1999)(1): "The Eyeball Kid is a metaphor for people that get into show business, because they usually have some kind of family disturbance or are damaged in some way or another. I had a manager when I was a kid, I threw in with a guy named Herbie Cohen, who worked with Zappa. I wanted a big bruiser, the tough guy in the neighborhood, and I got it.Jonathan Valania: A knee-breaker? Tom Waits: You said that, not me. I got to be careful what I say about Herbie. I'll wind up in... court."
The Modern Folk Quartet (1990)(19): "Rebounding yet again, they [The Modern Folk Quartet] came up against another manager, Herbie Cohen, and this time they signed. But once more [Stan] White felt compelled to pour out his tangled feelings [a rant about agents as bloodsuckers]. In a showdown just short of a shootout, Cohen simply threw White out of The Unicorn onto the Sunset Strip, meaning out of the MFQ, and that was the end of White's career in the music business."
David Porter (1989)(21): "Herb Cohen wanted to get rid of Mark Cheka. Cohen said we [The Mothers Of Invention] could continue to give Mark a percentage, but he wanted to take over since, basically, Mark didn't know squat about the management business."
Linda Ronstadt (1975)(14): "Herbie Cohen gave me a perspective on the music business - how it was basically all bullshit. But he was older than me- he's 40ish now- and he intimidated me. I did everything he did and I related to him in a whiney, wimpy way. But he wasn't a musician and couldn't help me with the music. He had me on the road with any old kind of band, which is terrible, and if I needed a guitar player, his idea would be to call up the musician's union." ... "Here I had a situation with Herbie Cohen where I was still paying commissions because I couldn't get out of that contract- it was seven years or something horrible like that; I'm still paying him off..."
Wild Man Fischer message board(15): "He [Wild Man Larry Fischer] is extremely bitter about the music business, and especially the way he was treated by Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen.... Larry has a memory like an elephant. He can recall the details of trivial moments from years ago. Larry is not a violent person by nature, but has been violent a few times in the past. Larry got a terrible deal from Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen for his first album. He has reason to complain."
Glenn Phillips(16): "I literally could not record for a label at that time," he recalls, explaining that though Warner Bros. was interested, an active Grease Band agreement with then - Zappa manager Herb Cohen precluded any outside contracts. Phillips was undeterred. "I wasn't trying to be a pioneer as much as I was saying, 'Screw you, you're telling me I can't make a record, but I can, and I will.'"
Pamela Des Barres(24): "People like Herb Cohen ruined the business. He never gave a shit about the music, unlike Joe Smith or Jerry Wexler or people like that. He wasn't the slightest bit eccentric, he just stood around scowling."
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet)(17): "Herbie Cohen, Zappa's manager, reminds me of a red marble in a can of lard, Zappa reminds me of a cataract."
Bones Howe (2007)(31): “Herb was a real street guy. He pulled some things on me that I just called tuition. I thought, 'That's how you learn about this business. First time, you call it tuition. Let 'em do it to you again and you're a fool.'There were different layers of Herb Cohen. In some ways he was a sweetheart, and when my wife and I socialized with him and his wife Dee we always had a good time. But I didn't really feel like I wanted to get into business with him."
From 1981 on Waits and his wife went their own way. They wanted to work with new people, not to look back anymore. But Cohen, with his business instinct and his knowledge of legal affairs, cared to differ. In the years to come Cohen was going to cash in his investments. After Waits had left the Elektra/ Asylum label, songs from that period were released on several albums:
|Album||Copyright in the musical work
Copyright notice = �
|Publisher||Copyright in the sound recording
Copyright notice = (p)
|Bounced Checks, 1981 (LP & MC). Compilation album.||Elektra/ Asylum records (a division of Warner Communications, Inc.)||Fifth Floor Music, Inc.||Asylum records||Asylum Records|
|Anthology of Tom Waits, 1984 (LP), 1985 (MC). Compilation album.||Elektra/ Asylum records (a division of Warner Communications, Inc.)||Fifth Floor Music, Inc.||Elektra/ Asylum records (a division of Warner Communications, Inc.) for the US. WEA International , Inc. for the world outside of the US||Elektra/ Asylum Records|
|Asylum Years, 1986. Compilation album.||WEA Records Ltd.||Warner Bros. Music Ltd.||WEA International, Inc.||Elektra Records|
|The Early Years, 1991 (CD). Demo recordings.||Bizarre/ Straight Records||Fifth Floor Music, Inc.||Bizarre/ Straight Records||Edsel Records (a division of Demon Records Ltd.)|
|The Early Years - 2, 1992 (CD). Demo recordings.||Bizarre/ Straight Records||Warner Chappell Music Ltd.||Bizarre/ Straight Records||Edsel Records (a division of Demon Records Ltd.)|
|Step Right Up, 1995 (CD). Tribute album.||Manifesto Records, Inc.||Fifth Floor Music, Inc., ao.||Manifesto Records, Inc.||Caroline Records, Inc.|
|New Coat Of Paint, 2000 (CD). Tribute album.||Manifesto Records, Inc.||Six Palms Music Corp.||Manifesto Records, Inc.||Manifesto Records|
|Used Songs, 2001 (CD). Compilation album.||Rhino Entertainment Company||Fifth Floor Music, Inc.||Elektra Entertainment Group (The Warner Music Group)||Elektra/ Rhino Records|
The copyright notices for the above compilation and tribute albums, show the copyright in the musical work is claimed by: Elektra/ Asylum Records, WEA Records, Bizarre/ Straight Records, Manifesto Records and Rhino Entertainment Company. So these companies now actually own these songs. It is assumed Herb Cohen sold the copyright to these companies (Bizarre/ Straight being his own company), and maintained publishing/ administration activities through his Fifth Floor Publishing company. It must have brought him some big face money.
Tom Waits (1987)(11): "I must admit when I was a kid I made a lot of mistakes in terms of my songs; a lot of people don't own their songs. Not your property. If John Lennon had any idea that someday Michael Jackson would be deciding the future of his material, if he could I think he'd come back from the grave and kick his ass, and kick it real good, in a way that we would enjoy. Now I have songs that belong to two guys named Cohen from the South Bronx. Part of what I like about the last three albums is that they're mine. To that point I didn't own my copyrights. But to consciously sell them to get the down payment on a house, I think that's wrong. They should be embarrassed. And I rest my case..."
So it seems Tom Waits can not claim any copyright to these songs. He wrote them and he performed them, but he doesn't own them. Originally Waits must have had the copyright in the work of authorship but apparently he signed some buy-out agreement to carry over his rights to Cohen's Fifth Floor Music publishing company. It must have brought Waits a couple of bucks, or they might have done this on a royalty basis. But since then Cohen had every right to release these songs. He had the right to release the original recordings and he had the right to release a tribute album. As a matter of fact, releasing a tribute album is one of the few ways to still make some money out of owning the copyright in the work of authorship, as there are probably no more extra Waits recordings available for release. From Closing Time to Heartattack and Vine Waits' songs were published by Fifth Floor Music and Six Palms Music. After Waits left Elektra/ Asylum for Island and stopped working with Herb Cohen, his songs were published by Jalma Music. Waits's latest albums on Anti were published by a new company named Gibaldi Music (ASCAP).
Jalma Music (ASCAP) located at Lake Hollywood Drive in Los Angeles, was Island's publishing company run by Lionel Conway. Conway was Managing Director and President of Island Records until it was sold to Polygram in 1990. The Jalma Music publishing company is probably still owned by Conway (now president of Maverick Music) and one might assume this time Waits took no chances and has secured his rights properly. Fifth Floor Music Inc (ASCAP) publishing company (located at North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles) is still controlled by brothers Herb and Martin Cohen. Both brothers are (music) business attorneys for the law firm "Cohen & Cohen" and/or "Cohen & Luckenbacher" (also located at North La Brea Avenue). Both "Early Years" albums were licensed to Bizarre/Straight distributor Rhino from Third Story Music Inc. The albums "Step Right Up" from 1995 and "Used Songs" from 2000, were both published by Manifesto Records (also located at North La Brea Avenue and run by Evan Cohen, nephew of Herb Cohen).
Below are some of the publishing companies controlled by the Cohens (all located at North La Brea Avenue). Herb Cohen might also be involved in (Warner-) Tamerlane Publishing Co. (unconfirmed).
Cohen & Cohen (Martin and Herb) and/ or Cohen & Luckenbacher (Martin & N.N.)
|Fifth Floor Music, Inc. (ASCAP)/ Martin Cohen = Publishing: Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Judy Henske, Jeff Simmons||Katielu Music Society (ASCAP)/ Cohen & Cohen = Publishing Gene Autry||Mycenae Music Publishing Co. (ASCAP)/ Martin Cohen = Publishing: George Duke||Rug Music Company, Inc.(ASCAP)/ co Martin Cohen = publishing Ted Nugent||Third Story Music, Inc. (BMI)/ co Martin Cohen = publishing Judy Henske, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Solomon Burke. Mark DeCerbo, Earl Thomas, Rugburns/ Steven Poltz, Joy Eden Harrison, Buddy Blue/ Buddy Seigal Third Story Music (imprint of Third Story Music, Inc.)Bizarre Music Co. (BMI)/ co Third Story, Martin Cohen = publishing George LowellBarmpatomph Musik (BMI)/ co Third Story, Martin Cohen = publishing Judy HenskeRainwater Music Co (BMI) = publishing Sweetwater||Six Palms Music Corp. (BMI/ ASCAP) = publishing Tom Waits Doing business as Third Palm Music (BMI)/ co Cohen & Cohen = publishing Alice Cooper, Steven Poltz, publisher for Billy Robert's "Hey Joe"||The Kids Music, Inc. (BMI)/ co Martin Cohen = publishing Solomon Burke Frances Sunday Burke, doing business as My Sunday Music (BMI)/ co Martin Cohen = publishing Solomon BurkeElizabeth House Of Music & Victoria House Of Music (BMI)/ co Martin Cohen = publishing Solomon Burke|
|Co & Ce Records
= Pittsburgh-based label run by Herb Cohen and Nick Cenci (1965/ 1966: The Vogues/ Lou Christie). Out of business?
|Bizarre/ Straight Records
= run by Herb Cohen
|Bizarre/ Planet Records
= co-owned by producer Robert Duffey?
|Manifesto Records, Inc.
= (successor to Bizarre) run by Evan Cohen
So this is all pretty complicated, but it's obvious the Cohens have firm control over their copyrights. Herb Cohen (193?) was still musically active in 1993 (producer for Lowell George & The Factory). In 1999 he was present at the Dutch North Sea Jazz Festival (still managing George Duke.) Older brother Martin Cohen (1932), past president of the The Association of Independent Music Publishers, has cut his lawyering back to two days a week. He's currently residing with his wife Trish in the Hollywood Hills. Martin is probably still involved in lawfirms "Cohen & Luckenbacher" and/or "Cohen & Cohen". Till the late 1990's Waits still had legal problems with the Cohens to contend with.
Jay S. Jacobs (2000)(12): "The repercussions of his relationship with former manager Herb Cohen persisted. For a long time, Cohen had been claiming that Waits still owed him money for the original Elektra recording sessions. "[Waits'sl business manager called me up," recalls Bones Howe. "He said that [Cohen and Mutt, his brother and business partner] were trying to say that they paid the studio costs and they wanted to recoup those from Tom. I said, 'Wait a minute. Asylum paid the studio costs. I have the files on every record we made, so if you want the files, you can have them.' So I did help Tom with that lawsuit against Herb. And rightly so. I don't know what deal he made on the publishing or all the rest of that ... but that kind of thing is so typical of Herb and Mutt. I couldn't let them get away with it. [But], I must say, Herb made a great contribution to Tom's career as far as his stage persona and the production of his stage work and all of that goes. His live performance. Herb really did have a lot of influence and did help Tom. But I guess there's a time when you outgrow all of that." Later, lawyers for Waits and Cohen would lock horns over several other issues. Cohen planned to release another compilation of the Asylum tracks, but Waits was able to block that project. In the early nineties, Waits filed suit against Cohen because Cohen had allowed a Screamin' Jay Hawkins remake of "Heartattack and Vine to be used in a British Levis jeans ad. Waits sued and Cohen countersued. While the court ruled in favor of Waits, he was awarded only a fraction of the financial compensation he'd requested. However, he could take solace in the official apology he received from Levi Strauss and Company, which took the form of a fullpage ad in Billboard magazine."
Bizarre/ Straight Records at the corner of Cahuenga and Sunset, in Hollywood ran into money troubles around 1970 and Warners/Reprise took over distribution. Later, the third Zappa/ Cohen label, DiscReet Records (Sunset Blvd., Hollywood), was added, and the labels released albums until 1975, mainly through Warner Bros. Records distribution. In 1988, Bizarre/Straight, entered into a distribution arrangement with Enigma Records, which released albums by Tim Buckley, Alice Cooper, The GTOs, Lord Buckley, The Persusions, Captain Beefheart, and others. Enigma went out of business in late 1990. Distribution of Bizarre/Straight then went to Rhino (Used Songs) in 1991. Bizarre/ Straight started independent distribution of the label in 1993. Since April 1998 Rhino officially became a member of the Warner Music Group, giving the reissue and archival masters access to the Warner Bros., Reprise, and Elektra catalogs. Edsel Records (Brentford, Middlesex UK) was set up as a division of Demon Records Ltd. by Andrew Lauder in 1982. Later joined by Pete Macklin, Demon obtained an expanding group of labels and catalogues (Hi Records, Rounder Records). With Macklin as general manager, Demon was sold to Kingfisher in 1998. The Cohens don't seem to be involved in neither Edsel Records nor Demon Records. Both "Early Years" CD's were issued under licence from Bizarre/ Straight Records, so Edsel/ Demon did not actually own any copyrights. One wonders if there were legal reasons for Bizarre/ Straight to have the tapes released with a European company. Manifesto Records, Inc. (the successor to Bizarre/ Straight Records) began in 1995. The first release of new material on Manifesto was the album 'Step Right Up: The Songs of Tom Waits.' They also released the tribute album 'New Coat of Paint', in 2000. Manifesto Records is based in Los Angeles, and is run by CEO Evan Cohen (1960), nephew of Herb Cohen, and lawyer since 1985 for Six Palms Music Corp. Evan Cohen is known to be a kind person and devoted music lover. Let's hope he stands for a new generation of music business men. Elektra/ Asylum Records recording company was sold to Warner Communications Inc. in 1973. David Geffen left Elektra/ Asylum (Elektra Entertainment) in 1975 to become vice-chairman of Warner Bros. pictures. In 1980 Geffen agreed upon a joint venture with Steve Ross to launch his new Geffen Records (distribution by Warner Communications Inc.) Jac. Holzman sold all of his music interests to Warner Communications Inc. and continued his association with the labels he created for three additional years. While a part of the Warner Communications Inc. music group, Holzman helped to establish both the WEA Distributing Group and WEA International. Elektra Entertainment became more like a traditional company during Joe Smith's stewardship in the late seventies and early eighties. It was Joe Smith who in 1982 rejected Swordfishtrombones as he didn't feel it had the commercial potential. In 1990 Warner Communications Inc. merged with Time Inc. resulting in the world's largest entertainment and media concern. So the copyright in the sound recording (master tapes) of Waits' Elektra/ Asylum years is now actually owned by Time Warner Communications. Island Records recording company (Chris Blackwell) was sold to Polygram in 1989 (then the world's largest music company). The last album Waits did for Island was the compilation Beautiful Maladies. One could more or less see this as a good bye gift to Island as Waits would leave the label the same year for Californian punk-label Epitaph. Epitaph Records made a 2-album deal with Waits to be released on its Anti label. In the meantime both albums have been released (Mule Variations and Alice/ Blood Money). Songs from the latest two albums Alice/ Blood Money have been published by a new publisher named Gibaldi Music (ASCAP).
Tom Waits (2002)(23): "Record companies are no longer interested in maintaining or nurturing or supporting the growth of an artist... They want you as a cash cow on the day you get there. And then, when you stop making milk they want you on the barbecue right away."
Tom Waits (1999)(10): "They [Epitaph] are pro-artist, they're forward - thinking, and I like their taste in music, barbecue, and cars. It's a friendly place, independent label. As Wayne Kramer said, 'Most of the music on the label is 160-beats per minute.' In that sense, we are probably the oldest guys over there. It's surprising how many people at the label are musicians, and are still playing gigs. Frankly, it's more like a partnership. As a business, it's a muscle car all the way."
All in all it's tempting to assume that his not owning copyrights to his earlier works might have motivated Waits to completely change his style in the early 1980's. It might have contributed to Waits looking for a new musical niche and not wanting to look back anymore. That's the good side I guess. Until this day artists and songwriters get trapped by their own ignorance agreeing to something they just don't fully understand. Still artists are ignorant about music publishing basics and the inner mechanisms of what drives the income wheels in music. You gotta take care of business...
Record Exec Says Tom Waits Bio Defamatory
Katrina Brown. June 22, 2009. Courthouse News Service
Record company executive Herbert Cohen claims music journalist Barney Hoskyns and Random House defamed him by accusing him of embezzling royalties from Tom Waits in the biography, "Low Side of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits." Cohen, who says he discovered Waits when the singer was 21, claims he also has managed Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley, Alice Cooper, Linda Ronstadt and others. Cohen claims the book depicts Waits describing litigation against him involving stolen royalties; Cohen claims it never happened. Hoskyns allegedly quoted Waits as saying, "I thought I was a millionaire and it turned out I had, like, twenty bucks." Cohen denies ever litigating copyright issues with Waits, though he acknowledges he settled a lawsuit with the singer-songwriter in 1983. Media reports indicated that Waits filed that lawsuit because Cohen's company, Third Story Music licensed, two of Waits' songs for commercials without the singer's permission. Cohen also complains that Hoskyns' book claims folk rock musician Jerry Yester said that Waits' wife, Kathleen Brennan, told him that Cohen had stolen money from Waits. Cohen cites this alleged passage from the book: "'Kathleen told me Herbie had nicked a lot of money from Tom,' says Jerry Yester ... 'She was very smart and just had a lot of really good input.' To the likes of Yester, the news hardly came as a surprise ... 'What was so distressing was that Herbie had always been part of the family,' Yester says. 'It was like your father or your brother doing it to you ... Waits absolutely trusted Herbie to his core, and it devastated him when he found out that he had grabbed a lot of the royalties.'" (Ellipses are in the complaint.) Cohen also claims that the states that "cynicism was what enabled (Cohen) to help himself to money that technically belonged to the artists he represented." Cohen demands $1 million from Hoskyns and Random House. He is represented in Federal Court by S. Martin Keleti
- U.S. Copyright Law
- Copyright Society of the USA
- General information about Copyrights
- Music Library Association
- Music Publisher's Association
- ASCAP, BMI, SESAC
- Lionel Conway & Maverick Music
- Bizarre/ Straight Records
- Elektra Records
- Island Records
- Rhino Records
- Manifesto Records
- Epitaph Records & ANTI Records
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