In working on different projects this week, I was faced with trying to "fix" three examples of "orphaned" music. The first, a work from forty years ago, the second sitting only twenty years and the third, just over five years stale. All three classifiable in the good to important works range.
One, an album, is by a highly recognizable LMHOF member, one project involves two LMHOF members in "cameo" roles and the third, a set of songs from a group with more than one future LMHOF member. And all three have different, yet similar back stories of how they became "orphans."
The good news. After sitting, virtually unknown, for twenty years, one final album of an LMHOF artist will finally begin to see daylight in the coming months. The decades old problems were soothed by simply contacting the party in actual authority on the recordings, then working and talking in good faith.
The oldest of the three works is seemingly on the path of daylight after being locked in a dark room. And, the third is somewhat clarified, with some of the works now straightened out enough to see daylight, while yet others from the same project remain confused, but with positive communications.
The point is, that I personally know of at least three other similar situations, and I'm sure that there are probably dozens of these situations involving top level Louisiana artists.
The question is: Who should be doing something about these, and other, types of situations? The musicians' union? Not really, it's just not their territory. Publishers? Not really, many of the "orphaned" songs have never been published or registered. The artists? Well, in many cases, these "orphans" are created in messy "divorces" between the artists and groups responsible for creating them. Record labels? Well, first of all, in some cases, they are a part of the problems and, in works past five years old, they probably can't return the kind of profit they're looking for. The state? The Louisiana Music Commission was abolished after years of admitted inactivity, basically for lack of leadership and vision.
So who's left? Apparently, organizations like the LMHOF.
But, without full support from the state and, at least some, funding from the state, the job can only be attempted at a hit and miss level, by anyone. The State of Louisiana needs to acknowledge that Louisiana's music is an industry, and treat it as an industry; an industry that can be profitable for Louisiana, not simply in dollars on charts, but in good will, incentives for tourism, worldwide visibility and recognition and, most importantly, employment and better pay for our musicians and artists.
We need to first create a basic and viable industry structure, then, maybe an overview or "holistic" approach can be successful.
Author Mike Shepherd is the President & Executive Director of La Musique de Louisianne Inc., The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame, a 501c3 dedicated to "preserving Louisiana's greatest renewable natural resource" www.LMHOF.org