Formerly with The Byrds
“The Future of Digital Music: Is There an Upside to Downloading?”
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
July 11, 2000
Hello, my name is Roger McGuinn. My experience in the music business
began in 1960 with my recording of “Tonight In Person” on RCA Records.
I played guitar and banjo for the folk group the “Limeliters.” I
subsequently recorded two albums with the folk group the “Chad
Mitchell Trio.” I toured and recorded with Bobby Darin and was the
musical director of Judy Collins’ third album. In each of those
situations I was not a royalty artist, but a musician for hire.
My first position as a royalty artist came in 1964 when I signed a
recording contract with Columbia Records as the leader of the
folk-rock band the “Byrds.” During my tenure with the Byrds I recorded
over fifteen albums. In most cases a modest advance against royalties
was all the money I received for my participation in these recording
In 1973 my work with the Byrds ended. I embarked on a solo recording
career on Columbia Records, and recorded five albums. The only money
I’ve received for these albums was the modest advance paid prior to
In 1977 I recorded three albums for Capitol Records in the group
“McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman.” Even though the song “Don’t You Write
Her Off” was a top 40 hit, the only money I received from Capitol
Records was in the form of a modest advance.
In 1989 I recorded a solo CD, “Back from Rio”, for Arista Records.
This CD sold approximately 500,000 copies worldwide, and aside from a
modest advance, I have received no royalties from that project.
The same is true of my 1996 recording of “Live From Mars” for
Hollywood Records. In all cases the publicity generated by having
recordings available and promoted on radio created an audience for my
live performances. My performing work is how I make my living. Even
though I’ve recorded over twenty-five records, I cannot support my
family on record royalties alone.
In 1994 I began making recordings of traditional folk songs that I’d
learned as a young folk singer. I was concerned that these wonderful
songs would be lost. The commercial music business hasn’t promoted
traditional music for many years. These recording were all available
for free download on my website http://www.mcguinn.com on the
In 1998 an employee of MP3.com heard the folk recordings that I’d made
available at http://www.mcguinn.com and invited me to place them on
MP3.com http://www.mp3.com. They offered an unheard of, non-exclusive
recording contract with a royalty rate of 50% of the gross sales. I
was delighted by this youthful and uncommonly fair approach to the
recording industry. MP3.com not only allowed me to place these songs
on their server, but also offered to make CDs of these songs for sale.
They absorbed all the packaging and distribution costs. Not only is
MP3.com an on-line record distributor, it is also becoming the new
radio of the 21st century!
So far I have made thousands of dollars from the sale of these folk
recordings on MP3.com, and I feel privileged to be able to use MP3s
and the Internet as a vehicle for my artistic expression. MP3.com has
offered me more artistic freedom than any of my previous relationships
with mainstream recording companies. I think this avenue of digital
music delivery is of great value to young artists, because it’s so
difficult for bands to acquire a recording contract. When young bands
ask me how to get their music heard, I always recommend MP3.com
Sorry to say MP3.com is now off the web.