|News & Editorial Archives,
You Copy CDs?
am often asked whether or not there are ways for bands to prevent their
CDs from being copied and illegally distributed. Unfortunately, there
is no way prevent it. Despite copyright laws and
protections, audio CDs can be copied almost as easily as documents
these days. Most of the copying is being done by people who either
don't fully understand that what they're doing is illegal, or they do
understand it's illegal but they're out of touch with the impact of
Below is some information regarding the copying of compact discs. Some
of it is based on laws, and some of it is based on practical,
acceptable scenarios regarding intellectual property rights and
When you come into possession of a band's CD, whether you purchased it
or received it
as a gift, what you're actually receiving is a single-user license to
enjoy the music on that CD. You can listen to it at home, in your car,
on your computer, or on your portable music devices. You can rip the
songs from the CD to put on your MP3 player, and you can even keep the
CD at home and burn a copy of it for your car or boat.
What you absolutely cannot do, however, is make copies of the music on
that CD for anyone other than yourself. You cannot copy the CD for a
friend or make digital copies of the music and distribute them in any
way. That is the law.
If you decide later on that you'd like to sell the compact disc at a
rummage sale or on eBay,
you must delete all of your copies of the music from that CD from your
computers and MP3 players, and you must
destroy any CD copies you've made for yourself. When the CD transfers to a new owner, so
does the license to enjoy the music on that CD.
When someone makes an unauthorized copy of a recording for someone
else, it's called pirating. Piracy affects all aspects of the audio and
video recording business, but grass-roots bands, such as polka bands,
are affected the hardest; their market is typically very small to begin
with, which means every CD sale is an important one. When you buy a CD
from a polka band,
chances are you're merely helping
them pay off their enormous recording expenses as they aim to break
Recording an album is expensive. Studio time, talent fees, licensing,
and manufacturing costs typically add up to several thousand dollars. 100% of those expenses must be recovered
through album sales.
If you think making a few copies of a band's CD can't hurt, here's some
food for thought. Shortly after I released my Polka Pontoon CD in 2014,
practically every musician I ran into had a copy of it, and yet, very
few of them were registered sales. Most of those musicians openly
admitted they received burned CD copies from other musicians. I
estimate that there are literally more illegal copies of that CD in
existence than legal copies.
There are a handful musicians who purchased legal copies in bulk to
give away to their friends and fellow musicians, and if it weren't for
them, I would have ended up taking a bath on the project. Nonetheless,
the losses to piracy were so damaging that I would never risk making a
Since the pirating of CDs can't be prevented, my purpose for writing
this article is to help deter it. Now that you understand the impact
you have when you make an illegal copy of a band's album, I'm hoping
that you'll think twice and choose not to do it. The polka bands who
are still recording and releasing albums are selling to a market that's
much smaller than it was just fifteen years ago. They need every dollar
from every sale just to reach their goal of breaking even. Please don't
take a single sale away from them. Support your local bands by
purchasing only legal copies of their CDs.
► A Few Words for Those of Us Who
are Third and Fourth Generation Fans of Polka Music
generally been accepted that we were all born a few decades too late
since we missed the heyday of Polka music. When we talk about the
"Polka greats" we typically name musicians who thrived in the 50's,
60's and 70's. The best musicians of that era became household names
because Polka music was so popular at the time. Although the popularity
of Polka music is just a fraction of what it once was, there's
something that absolutely cannot be overlooked about the time we're
living in now:
Being a music producer means I get to work one-on-one in the recording
studio with some of the best singers and musicians around. After
working once again with Abby Broeniman, Mollie Busta, and David Austin
on the production of my latest CD, and being privy to their level of
proficiency behind a studio microphone, I am convinced that while the
heyday of Polka and it's biggest names have long passed, some of the
higest-caliber talent in the history of the genre is living and working
in our generation.
We will always remember and cherish the bands and musicians of the
past, and we may long for the by-gone days of overcrowded Polka clubs
on every street corner, but when we go out to hear some of the bands
performing today, such as Barefoot Becky, Gary Bruggen, Klancnik and
Friends, and Steve Meisner to name a few, we're not just hearing the
best polka music available today; we're hearing polka music as good as
it's ever been.
Whenever we wish we could step back into the 1960's to catch Johnny
Pecon or Eddie Blazonczyk in concert, let's not take for granted that
we need only look to our current generations of musicians and vocalists
to find equivalent greatness. Popularity adheres to a time clock.
Talent does not.
25, 2018 (Updated May 4th)
my experience, just about every bandleader seems to have their own view
of talent/booking agencies. In my personal opinion, I think they
beneficial service. I've never felt them to be a necessity to me
personally, because I
book 95% of my band's jobs myself, but I feel the extra 5% is a win-win
proposition for everyone — my band gets a few extra gigs that I
may not have had otherwise, and the booking agency gets a well deserved
Booking agencies typically have a clause in their contract that states,
in one way or another, that if they bring you into a new venue, and
decides to hire you at a later date without going through the booking
agency, you will continue to owe the agency a commission. Not
everyone likes this clause, but it makes sense to me that if a booking
is responsible for introducing your band to a new venue, it would be
unethical for the band to bypass the agency by booking future jobs
There are three booking agencies that I've been doing business with for
the past several years, and I haven't run into a single hitch working
with any of them... up until now.
first started playing at one particular venue several years ago, the
me directly. A year or so later, the venue hired me through a
booking agency. I don't know why they did that, because it meant
they'd have to pay out 20% more for the same band, but
ultimately their reasons were not my concern. This spring, however, the
venue decided to go back to hiring me directly.
When the booking agency
found out about this, they claimed that I owed them a 20%
commission. I explained to the booking agency that I am grateful for
jobs for which they hired me at that venue, but they are not
for introducing me to that venue. I had already established a direct
relationship with that venue before the booking agency ever became
involved, therefore, no commission was owed.
An employee of the agency made some rather accusatory statements which
I did not appreciate. I supplied him with specific dates clearly
showing how my
business relationship with the venue preceded their intercession, and
therefore superseded their claim to a
commission. I also said that I
was willing to chalk the entire matter up to a misunderstanding
and continue working with the agency.
They never replied.
Just last week, my band was hired to return to a festival that we used
to play years ago. The above booking agency introduced my band to that
festival back in 2005, so I emailed the agency to tell them we were
re-hired, and that I would be sending them a 20% commission check. I
also said I hoped it would allay their misunderstandings about my
character and business practices.
Again, no reply.
Despite the fact they screwed up and are apparently too narcissistic to
admit it, they'll still get their commission check from me, because I
play by the rules. It's just a shame that a "professional" booking
agency would stoop to such childish behavior.
Since this section of my website is a blog and does not provide a means
for others to post rebuttals, I don't think it would be ethical of me
to publicly state the name
of the above booking agency. I can say that it was neither Talent
Associates nor ACA
Entertainment, both of whom I've been pleased to work with over the
years. If you're interested in learning the name of the booking agency
that gave me problems, please email
My point for writing this article is to remind all of my fellow
bandleaders out there to be wary of the contracts you sign.
Understanding when you owe a commission is no less important as
understanding when you don't.
Out Compact Discs
you go to my music page, you'll notice that all of my music is offered
download, and my latest album is available on all of the major music
subscription services. In 2016, music streaming services
finally surpassed CDs to become the most
popular way in which people buy music, but CD sales have been declining
dramatically since the early 2000's.
main reason for the decline, as it pertains to polka music sales, is an aging target market. Whereas
polka music fans used to buy CDs to listen to at home and while
traveling in the car, many of them have now moved into senior
residences and no longer travel. They're not going out and following
bands like they used to, and therefore no longer buying recorded music.
Cookie-cutter, beer-drinking polka CDs still sell to the general public
Oktoberfests, but the discerning polka music market that once thrived
has dwindled to the point where it's no longer
economically viable for most local polka bands to manufacture CDs. Polka music distribution has always
behind the rest of the music industry by about fifteen years, so
compact discs will reign unchallenged in the polka market for
a number of years yet. But the bands that will be making most of the
CD sales are the traveling bands who can spread their points of sale
across multiple festivals around the country. Local bands, who once
relied on a thriving local fan base, are now facing up to a 75%
reduction in compact disc sales compared to just fifteen years ago.
My next recording, which I estimate will be released around the
beginning of June, will likely be my last compact disc release. From
then on, my music will be released via digital distribution only, which
means it will be available through online music streaming services and
nowhere else. There's always a possibility of an unknown factor causing
enough of a local sales bump to have me rethink my position on
manufacturing CDs, but I'm not counting on it. My latest album is being
enjoyed by music service subscribers all over the world, and that suits
me just fine.