For decades, I made several failed attempts to gain the rights back to my 1st album. It was both frustrating and at times debilitating, but something I refused to give up on. All along, the record company refused to re-release it, but at the same time, they wouldn’t sell it back to me so I could put it out, either. So, the album just sat there in limbo since the early 1980’s….
However, as many of you now know, I was finally able to gain all legal rights back to my first album. I achieved this through a US government law that allows me (and every other artist) to legally terminate the rights of the record company 35 years after the original date of publication. The termination process for the first Skafish album has been successfully completed and is properly filed and documented by the US government. On August 2, 2015, I let everyone know that I now had complete legal ownership of the album.
I am currently in the process of trying to create a project timeline to be able to re-release the record. However, I can’t finalize the time frame until the re-mastering is finished. Until I see what needs to be done, I don’t know how long the entire project will take.
There have been a tremendous amount of expenses and legal bills that I have already paid just to get the rights back. So many people have asked if there was anything they could do to help with the re-release of the first album. So I decided to extend an open invitation to everyone to be able to support the re-mastering project if they wanted to.
Since I first opened that door on March 5, 2016, I have been so grateful for the support I’ve received. The cost to re-master the album and get it ready for a vinyl, CD and digital release is approximately $1000.00. As of today, I have received $400.00 toward that goal. We are 40% of the way there and I am confident that this can get done.
If you’ve already contributed to supporting the project, you have been a Godsend. Your generosity has really touched my heart, deeply. If you’re someone who is considering supporting the re-mastering project, your help would be greatly appreciated. And, anything at all helps to move it forward.
Just so everyone knows, all the money donated will be used solely to re-master the album. I will keep you posted.
Someone recently asked me what they could do to help get the first Skafish album re-mastered if they couldn’t donate money? It was a fantastic question, so I decided to talk about it a bit here in a post. Of course, financial support will get this project completed faster than anything, but there are still many things that you can do to help bring awareness to the project and help to move it forward.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS: Leave a great review: If you bought one of my albums, or listen to my music, please leave a positive review. People need to know why and how you have connected to my work and what it’s all about. It really helps to spread the awareness about the music and what I’m doing, which then helps to build the interest and the momentum needed to move the 1st Skafish album project along.
Spotify: We all know how essential Spotify is, because it’s a place where people can stream and listen to music for free.
It’s really important tofollow me on Spotify. That’s because Spotify won’t give me control of my artist page until I have more than 250 followers. Having control of my artist page means I can directly communicate with fans there and let them know about the 1st album project.
Create and add my songs to a playlist. This helps to raise awareness of me as an artist and exposes the music to more listeners. Keep in mind that any increased awareness of me helps to promote the first album project overall.
If you can, share your Spotify listens of my songs on Twitter and social media as you’re listening. It’s a great conversation starter.
Spread the word and follow me on social media:
Follow me on social media, connect with me and tell a friend. The bigger my following, the more people I can get the word out to and the more chance there’ll be of getting the necessary support and funding for the re-mastering and re-release of the album.
It is important for people to know who I am, especially in relation to Chicago music history. If you were there back in the day, let people know how influential my band and I have been. Speak out about the context for the first album historically and how groundbreaking it was considered.
Let people know that I finally own the first album: Spread the word that I now own all legal rights to the album. A lot of people never realized that since I didn’t own it, I couldn’t put it out. I’ve got it back now and I want it out there – people need to know that. If the money is there, the plan is to re-release this as soon as possible.
Encourage others to help: Let everyone know that I’m trying to raise the necessary funds to re-master the record. If that can be done, then I can pursue the next steps to re-release it on vinyl, CD, and digitally.
Share the link on the re-mastering project: Please share the link on why I’m re-mastering the album so people can learn the back-story and find out what’s currently going on with the project. That post also lets people know how they can help.
I am really thrilled about the project and I want to see it happen. So many people have told me that they’re excited, too. Share your excitement – it’s contagious!
To everyone who is sharing and supporting this project, thank you so much for your continued involvement. — Skafish
In my original post, “First Album News,” I talked about how I need to re-master the first Skafish album. One of my fans who loves the record didn’t understand why I needed to do this. He commented that he thought the record sounded just great as it is, so why in the heck would I re-master it. So, let me take a minute to clarify the re-mastering process and why it absolutely needs to be done.
First, here are the things I am NOT planning on doing in the re-mastering process:
1-I am not going to remix the album. Sometimes, people remix a record in an attempt to make it sound better, or different. I won’t do that. You’ll still be able to hear everything as you always have. The synthesizers won’t disappear and the drums won’t be louder, etc. I know in my heart that it is better to leave well enough alone.
2-I am not trying to change the sound of the original recordings. The album was recorded in 1979 and what recording technologies were at the time are just fine – and they will remain. I won’t add any fancy bells and whistles. There won’t be any pitch correction on the vocals, lol.
3-I am not trying to modernize the record. Since this record was quite different for its time and is still unique by today’s standards, it will be left as it is. It has never been nor will it ever be a trendy record.
This album stands on its own, as it was then and will always be. It is what it is – plain and simple. The fans who bought the record back then loved it for being outside the norm and that is one of the reasons why this album remains special decades later. It is an individual piece of art that should not be tampered with – and now that I own it, you can trust that I won’t let that happen. Now, here are the reasons why re-mastering is absolutely necessary:
Ideally, I want to ultimately re-release the first Skafish album on vinyl, CD, and in digital formats. To release the album in today’s technologies (which have obviously changed from before), re-mastering is essential. And, I actually need two masters: one to reproduce vinyl records, and one for CD and digital release. Done correctly, the actual mastering techniques and sound needed for each format are somewhat different.
To manufacture new vinyl records, there has to be a new master to reproduce from. Any old masters are now obsolete. And, the process is quite complex. Even though I am not going to attempt to tinker with and alter the sound, there are technical specifications that are vital to making vinyl records correctly. One example of this is that the treble and bass levels need to be absolutely correct, so as not to cause distortion or skipping.
For CD and digital release, a master was never done. As you may already know, that’s because the record company who used to own the first Skafish album never bothered to release it on CD or digitally. So, there needs to be a master, even to just be able to reproduce the album on CD and digitally, as well as getting those formats to sound as authentic as possible.
When it comes to the sources to master from, I have some options: I have two unopened copies of the album that have never been played. Many mastering experts feel that mastering from never-before-played vinyl can actually be notably better than doing so from tape. In fact, I learned that a Rolling Stones re-release was re-mastered from vinyl, versus tape, because the vinyl actually sounded better.
I also have reel-to-reel tape copies from the studio that were done as dubs back in 1979. Those tapes have already been digitized and might be a source to master from.
The reasons these sources are important is because I do not have the original master tapes to the album. That’s because the record company won’t give them to me. As some of you may know, legally fighting to get the rights back took decades and was extremely expensive to get done. However, acquiring those rights does not force the record company to turn over the master tapes. I could sue them, but it would be tremendously costly and at this time, the money isn’t there to launch such a costly lawsuit that could take years to resolve in court. That would also mean it would take that much longer until I could get the first album out there. Since it was originally released 36 years ago, I think we’ve all had to wait long enough. That’s why I am choosing to focus on getting it out there sooner.
I am sure that between the never-before-played vinyl and the tape copies I have, a state of the art master can certainly be made.
As the producer of the original recording and the person in charge of the re-mastering project, it is my commitment to honor the original art and intention of this album and give the fans what they want. Those who have this record often tell me just how much they love and cherish it. I frequently hear from fans how they still have their original vinyl copy and listen to it often.
At this point, I am trying to raise the necessary funds to do the re-mastering project. Some of you have already donated and that means the world to me. If I can indeed raise the money needed, I can complete this part of the project. If you’d like to support the project, you can use the link below to buy me a cup of coffee! (Account name is La Befana Records.)
Thank you from the bottom of my heart and spirit!
I wanted to let you know first that we are now offering the WHAT’S THIS FREAKIN’ $%&!? T-Shirt for sale exclusively through our Bandcamp store. This limited edition item, specifically designed to promote the What’s This? 1976-1979 album, has only been used for promotional purposes before. We have LIMITED QUANTITY AND LIMITED SIZES available.
T-shirt lettering says: WHAT’S THIS FREAKIN’ $%&!?
We only had 300 made, and after they’re gone, that’s it. No more will ever be manufactured.Currently, we have 200 T-Shirts left to sell. Normally, we would sell this T-Shirt for $25, but we are happy to offer this item to you at the introductory price of $20.
The T-Shirt is:
Black T-Shirt with white, distressed lettering
Machine washable and tumble dry
In a sealed plastic bag with air holes for freshness
Over the years, people have asked me repeatedly why the first Skafish album wasn’t available. It has even gone to the point that I have received negative online reviews for other records I’ve released, simply because those records were NOT the first Skafish album. Some even took it as far as claiming that I was blocking the re-release of my debut LP, and accused me of being ashamed of it. Of course, those assertions are beyond ludicrous, to say the least. I love the first Skafish album and all that it stands for!
I’ve never tried to dodge the issue about the first album, but I refused to be specific — and that was solely because of ongoing legal issues I couldn’t discuss at the time.
However, I now have some news to report. Things are settled enough for me to let you know that I have finally gained complete legal ownership of my first album. Trust me when I tell you that my efforts to get this done have not only been painstakingly difficult for decades, but quite expensive as well.
From the questions and comments I frequently receive, it seems that many of you would be highly interested in this album being re-released. So, I will start working on it. My intention is to see what I can do to get this wonderful record out there for all the fans who have loved it for 35 years. I still get emails from people who have just discovered the album. That also leads me to believe that the music will connect with people hearing it for the first time today. As soon as I have more to share, you will be hearing from me!
If you’d like to support the project, you can use the link below to buy me a cup of coffee! (Account name is La Befana Records.)
I am thrilled this compilation finally was able to be born! Featuring the first underground/punk/new wave/alternative/indie recordings by a Chicago artist (dating back to 8/76), liner notes by rock legends Cheap Trick, and so much more, this is a timeless document of the multidimensional rebellion that has always been Skafish. Enjoy!
I wanted to take a moment to let you know that for the first time, you can purchase Skafish Holiday Collectibles from my newly redesigned holiday website.
If you’d like a personally autographed “Tidings of Comfort and Joy – A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas” CD, I will be happy to sign the front panel to you or someone you want to gift the album to. I’ll also sign the rear panel of the Digipack as well. Each autographed CD is brand new and I remove the shrink wrap before signing it for you.
If you’re a poster collector, I can personally autograph a limited edition, never-before-sold promotional mini poster for the “Tidings” album. To make sure you get your poster intact, they are rolled and shipped in a secure, heavy craft paper tube.
If you’re looking for the album without the autograph, new, shrink wrapped “Tidings” CD’s are also available.
Because everyone loves a bargain, I’m happy to offer you a 10% discount for multiple purchases of the same item in your order from my holiday website. When you buy from me, you’re directly supporting both me and my work. And I truly appreciate the support!
Selling directly to my fans is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and now that it is a reality, you can expect to see more of this coming up. That includes my current albums, new releases as well as my back catalogue.
Many of you already know that I have quite a large back catalog of both unreleased and previously released material that is currently unavailable. With some of it, like What’s This? 1976 – 1979 and Bootleg 21-35, I’ve been able to successfully get it out there. At the same time, there are still many other compositions and recordings I’m in the process of trying to release, including my first and second album.
From time to time, I go into the archives and check out how something hits me again. Earlier this spring, I decided to listen to several unreleased tracks I recorded back in 2003-2004. I wanted to see how they hit me and if they might be worth getting out there. These are tracks which I recorded at home, where I did all the singing, instruments, production, recording, arranging, and most of the engineering.
One of them really caught my attention more strongly this time. It’s a cover of the Monkees classic, [I’m Not Your] Steppin’ Stone. Recorded by everyone from Paul Revere and the Raiders to the Sex Pistols, it’s a song that I feel has a lot of edge and still holds up well today. It also takes me back to my childhood when the Monkees television show captured such a free-spirited, idyllically cool and fun vibe. When I used to watch the show, I thought to myself, “I’m too weird to be in a band like this, but wouldn’t it be fun?”
So I started the wheels turning in my mind. I thought that it could be a great idea to get the track mastered, do a video, and release it as a single – just for fun. Doing a video, even if that was just a simple performance clip, was crucial. But I knew that I had to have a video, so people could check the song out online, especially on You Tube. If not, how would anyone hear it? Recent studies show that 91% of all people listen to a song on You Tube before buying it, and discover their music there.
So I started researching who owns the copyright to the song and how to get in touch with them, so I could request a video sync license. You may already know this, but everyone is supposed to get a video sync license, in writing, to be able to put up a video when doing a cover of someone else’s song.
I discovered that the publishing is owned by EMI, who is actually owned by Sony/ATV, one of the largest publishers in the world. In mid-June, 2014, I put in a call. I was surprised that my call was returned within an hour by a helpful and nice lady. In that conversation, I explained my situation and told her that I am an independent artist, without financial backing from any outside entity (such as a record label), who wanted to post a low-budget promotional video to my cover version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” After a lengthy conversation, she told me how to contact their license request hotline, and that they would be able to direct me on how to complete the process. She indicated that they always like to grant licenses, and even added that I might be able to get it for free!
Once I filled out the request form online, I was contacted via email by someone named Ryan Saylor who was supposed to assist me in this process. We started an email exchange, where I explained my situation again. What was odd, though, was that Ryan’s emails kept asking the same questions I had just answered. “Where will the video be shown?” was one of his responses to an email where I had just answered that very question. Like I had just written to him, I wanted to post the video online on my You Tube channels, Vimeo, Daily Motion, Skafish.com, my blog, my Facebook pages, and on my social media accounts. After several emails, he told me it would cost me $1250.00 per year, EVERY YEAR, to post the video online. Keep in mind that I wanted a license in perpetuity, not just for one or two years. So, at ten years, that’s $12, 500.00. At thirty years, it adds up to $37, 500.00. That’s just to post the video online, not sell it in a DVD package or make money from it directly.
I wrote back and told him I didn’t have that kind of budget for this. I asked if we could negotiate, and that I heard in some cases the license could be had for free. He didn’t write back. I waited for weeks, and then I put in a call to him and left a message. I even told him to just please let me know, yes or no, either way, so I could either proceed with this project or move on to something else. Still, no response….
At this point, we’re going on almost two months and I decided to call the lady I originally spoke with again. She got in touch with Ryan and he told her several times that he was going to call me – but he didn’t. Days later when I spoke with her again, she told me what Ryan Saylor said the terms would be, which was quite startling.
I was told that I can post the video to You Tube for free, but only on You Tube. That term is based on a deal that Sony/ATV and You Tube struck. It supposedly allows anyone to post a video of a cover song from the Sony/ATV catalog on You Tube. However, it was made clear to me that they don’t really like people knowing about this “deal.”
So, to recap these “terms,” I can only post a video on You Tube. I would not be able to post anywhere else, such as Vimeo, or even my own website. It wasn’t clear whether I could embed the video from You Tube on other sites. I also have no idea whether I could run ads on the clip, or if Sony/ATV would puts ads on my video.
However, here’s the real shocker: They refused to put it in writing. No contract, not even an email stating that I could post it for free on You Tube. HUH? Are you kidding me? That leaves me completely vulnerable to copyright infringement lawsuits, trouble with You Tube (all they would have to do is ask me to show them proof that I have the rights to post the video), and the idea that at any point, Sony/ATV might have a spat with You Tube and force my video (along with any others done this way) to be yanked. I would have zero recourse.
Keep in mind that Sony/ATV is one of the biggest publishers in the world. They explicitylty know that contracts are a necessary part of doing business. Everyone at that level in the music industry knows that there needs to be a written agreement for this type of thing. When I put up my video on You Tube to “Disgracing the Family Name,” which I own entirely, You Tube made me prove to them, in writing, that I was the copyright owner.
So I was left with the reality that the agents of Sony/ATV won’t, can’t, or aren’t willing to put it in writing. After over two months of phone calls, emails, waiting, and several unsuccessful attempts to have one conversation with Ryan Saylor, I had no choice but to give up the project. There was no way I was going to put up a video of my version of someone else’s song without a written agreement, especially because of You Tube’s rules.
I would love to let you hear the song, but unfortunately, I would have to buy a license from Sony/ATV for that, too.
Of course, it’s disappointing, but there is a bigger issue at play here. As many of you may know, there is a compulsory license law that allows someone to do a cover song. Meaning, if a song has been already released, even just once, anyone can do a cover of the song, as long as they get the license and pay for it. So even if I got a free license to post a promotional video to “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” Sony/ATV would have made money from every copy of the song I sold.
I believe that we need the exact same thing for video. If there could be a compulsory license with a uniform fee, everyone would have the chance to put a video out there, the artistic community would be more enriched, and the copyright owners would get paid — it’s a win-win for everyone.
Well, until then, I am working on my next project – and of course, I’ll keep you posted.
Check out the new article written by Kyle Long and just posted on how I was the first performer in Indiana and Chicago to challenge sexuality and gender norms — and the negative reactions it caused. Hope you enjoy the piece — Skafish