Henry Stone on Record Royalties: “Art Rupe From Specialty Was Tough”
“I wasn’t basically that heavy in the manufacturing business until the 1970s.
I was a distributor. I built my Tone Distributors into a big company that took up a whole city block in Hialeah. I was also making records because I dug em’, because that was my passion. I always loved to make records, yknow. Some people play golf, I made records.
But I wasn’t like Art Rupe from Specialty who that’s all he did. Lew Chudd from Imperial, that’s all he did. All they did was make records all day, and they paid the artists very little. Even Motown paid their artists not too much, whatever the deal was at the time. Half a cent on a million sold is $5,000, and then the artists wouldn’t get the money cause it took that money to record. Every artist until this day has gotta pay for their own recording. You advance them the money. And if you spend $10,000 on the recording, that was charged to the artist.
Otis Williams and The Charms, I think I had them on a 3 cent royalty or somethin’ like that. They worked too and did a lot of gigs. They had their gigs. If a group had a couple hit records, they went out and did gigs and had a lot of shows and that’s how they really made their money. Cause most of the money that hit records would generate, the record companies recouped yaknow…
Art Rupe from Specialty had a whole guide that he gave his people on how to find an artist in the street, sign em’ to a deal, and cut a record. In those papers, he’s offering a half cent royalty contract. For every record sold, he’s offering the artist half a cent royalty.
So if a guy had a million selling record and could have $5,000 or $10,000 comin to him, whatever the deal was, a half a cent was very unusual, that was unusuallly low, it was usually 2 or 3 cents a record for an artist if I remember correctly. But half a cent? Art Rupe from Specialty was a real tough tough wheeler and dealer so he coulda had it, if he said so that’s what he did.
But that’s not what I did. Ask any of my artists to this day. If anybody lost money, it was me, cause I was always putting it back into the company to make more records.”
- From a 2013 interview where Jake Katel asks Henry Stone about Art Rupe’s Specialty Records contracts and field guide for producers on his label
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