Mel Shaw and his Freedom For The Song
It is hard to believe that it has been twenty five years since the "Two Cents Too Long" songwriters and publishers copyright campaign successfully played a part in the passage of Bill-C60 on June 8th 1988. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the passing of the law.
Mel Shaw, who headed up and directed the campaign, will be publishing a book entitled, Freedom For the Song. The self-penned book will chronicle the entire happening from the inside, beginning with the first meeting with CMRRA General Manager Paul Berry, and CMPA President, Greg Hambleton, to the Celebration of Songwriters debut evening. It will be a thorough and factual book with perspectives by industry participants, the artists,and the songwriters who stepped up to be counted. The forward will be written by Oscar Brand, the writer of "Something to Sing About".
Freedom For The Song is scheduled for publication through Voice Magazine Books in 2013 in time for the 25th anniversary celebration. The company was started in 1961 when Mel Shaw began to be active publishing and editing the Canadian Voice Magazine in Calgary ( it was published every two weeks until 1964.) The newly activated company will concentrate on Canada's Music Business Books and has other titles scheduled for 2013. They will come out in soft cover and will also be available in eBooks.
Martin Melhuish wrote on the current newsletter of the Canadian Music Publishers Association “It's hard to believe that it was a quarter of a century ago that the CMPA was in the midst of a battle for copyright reform relating to mechanicals that were only paying two cents a song at the time. Mel Shaw, a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee and the founding president of CARAS, and the second president of CIRPA, was the Director of the Copyright Change Committee during that period (1986-1987) and he feels that the initiative, which played a large role in the passage of Bill C-60 on June 8, 1988, is of significant enough import to be worth documenting. Four years ago, Shaw recalled this period and his meeting with Mark Altman of Morning Music Ltd. as part of a profile on Altman in the CMPA magazine, Music Publisher Canada. "This was Mark's passion and he was so knowledgeable about the history and the process and he said: 'Okay, here's what we're going to run with!' He came up with our slogan: 'Two cents, too long.' It was Greg Hambleton, President of CMPA at that time, who urged me to talk to Mark. Legal Counsel Paul Berry was also instrumental in a lot of this." The campaign was a huge success and it became a milestone in the history of CMPA as the two-cent compulsory license gave way to direct negotiations between the CMRRA and the CRIA on the rates and terms of mechanical licensing.
The book starts with the year 1986, when Canada had a law in effect that limited royalties for a songwriter to one cent for every recording sold. This restriction on growth for creative individuals was in place since 1924 and it was an antiquated law that had not been altered since it's inception. Changing this to benefit all songwriters had been a lengthy and involved complicated reality of over decades of endeavoring to move the government to change, prior to the next election and the next.
Reached at his home on Nashville, Tennessee, Shaw had this to say “In 1986, was contacted by the president of the CMPA, Greg Hambleton and Paul Berry head of the CMRRA about developing a plan of action that could influence the Canadian government to change. I agreed to direct and create a campaign for the "Two Cents Too Long" initiative. With the time passing, this epic undertaking should not fade into obscurity.”
“I know after twenty five years that it is time for a true factual presentation to show what transpired to abolish the compulsory royalty law that brought Canada in line with the royalties paid out to songwriters in other countries. Freedom For The Song will preserve for generations past and generations in the future the facts about the historic songwriters campaign that changed the law and eliminated the compulsory rule as it pertains to royalties on records sold.”
The music industry trailblazer Shaw went on to say, “Both young composers and older, will know what transpired years before to benefit all songwriters. The new writers will be able to recall the initiative shown by fellow songwriters that contributed so greatly to the change in Canadian law.”
It is the intent of the book to compile and publish information from all sources of media as it pertained to the campaign starting with the press that was published in RPM, Toronto Star, Ottawa Journal, The Record, Billboard in the US and other Canadian papers. New interviews will take place in Ottawa and Toronto to bring the industry perspective up to date.