The news that Bob Dylan, and before him Stevie Nicks, has sold his publishing to his song catalog, has prompted a deluge of conversation on Twitter.
And thus comes the news from David Crosby, veteran rock star of Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Byrds, that he’s selling his rights, too.
He wrote: “I am selling mine also …I can’t work …and streaming stole my record money …I have a family and a mortgage and I have to take care of them so it’s my only option ..I’m sure the others feel the same”
Crosby, who is always outspoken, says in other tweets on the subject that he’s the same age as Dylan, which is 79, and needs money.
Crosby wrote to a fan: “Streaming does not pay us for records an COVID has shut down all work live ….is that clear enough for you ?” In another Tweet he said: “If we could get paid for records and play Live we would not be doing it. None of us.”
It’s not like Crosby has voluntarily retired. He writes: “Writing still …recording too but seems like I’ve been forcibly retired.”
His comments proved a surprise to his Twitter followers, who imagine Crosby is a billionaire living behind a golden gate in a Neverland like compound.
But fans don’t realize many realities of being a singer in a rock and roll band. For one thing, Crosby was never a prolific songwriter. His “catalog” comprises a few older, beloved songs that were never top 40 hits. Unlike Stephen Stills (“Love the One You’re With”), Graham Nash (“Our House”), or Neil Young (“Heart of Gold”), Crosby doesn’t have a laundry list of pop evergreens that are played over and over on oldies radio. Crosby’s songs include favorites like “Wooden Ships,” “Long Time Gone,” and “Guinnevere,” from early CSN.
This doesn’t mitigate Crosby’s essential voice and the many well-received records he’s made. But his biggest income as a musician would have come from those Crosby, Stills & Nash tours that sold out arenas for decades. A CSN reunion tour was probably more important to him economically than to Stills or Nash, and definitely Neil Young. But with COVID knocking out touring for 2020, 2021, and who knows how much longer, Crosby is in a jam.
Crosby isn’t alone in the big world of rock and roll. For years, recording artists who were known for their voices and hits but didn’t write their songs have lobbied for a performance royalty on radio. When Crosby turns on the radio and hears “Marrakesh Express” or “Teach Your Children” or a Byrds record like “Mr. Tambourine Man,” he gets zip, zero zilch. Only the writers of those songs are paid. Crosby contemporaries like Judy Collins and Sam Moore have testified many times in front of Congress to get legislation.
But radio stations have mounted huge resistance to the idea. Why should they pay for the music when they get it for free? Meantime, performers suffer, especially when there can be no live performances.