HITS Daily Double
"It's always nice to get money without doing anything, but I guess many years ago I did do something."
——Marian McPartland after receiving a check for $3,079 in back royalties


N.Y. State Attorney General's Move Puts Nearly $50 Million in Artists' Pockets

David Bowie, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Tom Jones, Public Enemy and Marian McPartland are among the artists who’ll receive outstanding royalties from record companies after an agreement announced yesterday by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The settlement, which amounted to nearly $50 million, was the result of a two-year investigation that found the world's largest recording companies had failed to maintain contact with many artists and writers to pay them. Already $25 million has been paid out since his office began its investigation.

Among the more prominent artists due money are Bowie ($10,698), Parton ( $17,568), Nelson ($2,325, wonder if he’ll declare it), Jones ($16,399) and Public Enemy ($22,766; Professor Griff, call your manager). "It's not like it's hard to find them," Mr. Spitzer said. "You could go to a concert and throw the check at them onstage."

Money owed to artists now dead will go to their estates. When told that she would receive $3,079, 86-year-old jazz pianist McPartland was delighted: "It's always nice to get money without doing anything, but I guess many years ago I did do something."

Under the agreement, the five major music companies—WMG, BMG, Sony Music, UMG and EMI—must list the names of artists and writers who are owed royalties on their websites; place advertisements in leading music-industry trade publications explaining procedures for applying for unclaimed royalties (hint, hintwe’re currently booking ads); work with music-industry groups and unions to find artists who are owed royalties; and share artist contact information with one another.

Sony Music released the following statement, "We applaud the attorney general's efforts to focus attention on this area and sincerely hope that his announcement will encourage additional artists and their heirs to step forward and claim their royalties."

Bob Donnelly, an entertainment lawyer, said he brought the royalty matter to Mr. Spitzer's attention personally. Donnelly told the N.Y. Times that he had planned to file a class-action lawsuit against the music industry, "but every time we'd get a good plaintiff, the record company would offer to pay them."