John Oates Warns Performers to Understand Copyrights

Brenda Pike
June 7, 2011
John Oates
Berklee president Roger H. Brown presents Oates with a plaque of appreciation.
Music Business/Management professor Stephanie Kellar was the MC for the clinic.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

John Oates is a perfomer, not a music industry executive, but his clinic in April was hosted by Berklee's Music Business/Management Department. However, there's a reason performance and music business is a very popular dual major at the college: the industry is rough and performers don't want to be taken advantage of. Oates's experiences as half of Hall and Oates were especially instructive for Berklee students: he never received a publishing royalty for any of the songs he'd written until five years ago, having given up the rights to them in favor of an advance check.

"We are living proof of the old rock 'n' roll saying, give 'em a bottle of wine and a Cadillac . . . and take everything for the rest of their lives," he said. "It wasn't a bottle of wine and a Cadillac, but it wasn't much more."

In reaction to that early experience, Oates has published his own music for years. For his new album, Mississippi Mile, he worked with PS Records.

"A deeper understanding of publishing and the rights and the ramifications of copyrights is absolutely essential for any songwriter or performing artist to really understand," he said.

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