“Macho, macho man. I’ve got to be a macho man.” The Village People
Mention the Village People, and thoughts turn to jam-packed stadium crowds lifting their arms above their heads to spell out Y-M-C-A. And invariably, those of us of a certain age recall the eclectic archetypes who comprised the Village People and made them so iconic–the sailor, the police man, the Indian Chief, the biker. With songs like “YMCA,” “In The Navy,” and of course, “Macho Man,” the “People” left their indelible mark on American culture. Their music has joined “Shout,” “The Macarena,” “The Electric Slide,” and “The Hokey-Pokey,” in the Pantheon of wedding and bar-mitzvah music.
Now, one Village Person is trying to get his due, financially speaking, and he’s cleared the first hurdle. Long ago, the People signed away their copyrights. But as reported in the New York Times, http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/village-people-singer-wins-a-legal-battle-in-fight-to-reclaim-song-rights/ , a long-dormant provision of the Copyright Act let’s musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Eagles, have a do-over. The law says that after 35 years, an artist who signed away rights as a youngster, often on unfavorable terms, can “recapture” those rights by following procedures set out in the Act.
And that’s what Victor Willis, the YMCA’s “cop,” has done. He’s won the first stage of a legal battle, with a Federal court ruling that he is entitled to terminate his portion of the YMCA’s publishing deal for “YMCA” and 3o-plus other songs.
An appeal could follow. Or, Willis can try to strike a new and better bargain. But whatever the outcome, one thing’s for certain: when it comes to dealing with similar efforts by musicians to terminate their deals and reclaim their rights, record labels can no longer afford to brush them off.
On the TV show “Different Strokes,” diminutive Gary Coleman famously was prone to exclaiming “What you talkin’ about Willis.” Now when the YMCA’s Willis and others talk, the record industry will listen.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You’re a local band until you get a record contract, then all of a sudden Bruce Springsteen is your competition.” Sammy Llana, The Bodeans