This article is copyright 1993 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in Down Beat, Vol. 60, No. 5, May 1993. It is used by permission of the author and, as needed, the publication. Some text variations may occur between the print version and that below. All international rights remain reserved; it is not for further reproduction without written consent.


The Business of Music, or--

"Court is Not Fun"

by Antonio J. García


Congratulations! You've just won the DOWN BEAT award for Best Jazz Arrangement, and directors are calling you to buy your great chart on "Body and Soul." Terrific! You sell a few copies; it gets recorded on a college CD and reviewed in DB's "CD Reviews."

But the person controlling the print rights to the tune learns you've been selling your chart and slaps you with a lawsuit. "You mean I can't legally sell my chart?" Not without permission, buddy--and probably cash!

Scenes like this occur all too often. Remember, the more successful and high-profile you are, the more public and legal scrutiny you will be subjected to. So learn about the business of music!

Maybe you're in high school, your rock band has been playing and making some bucks; and though you're all serious about music, you're casual about the group's legal status. But what happens when one crucial member doesn't show for the gig--or shows up in a drunken fit and wrecks the place--and the club owner demands his advertising, lighting, sound, and repair expenses be covered? ALL of you may be liable because of your "implied partnership": if you act like partners, you may be sued as such. So perhaps a "limited partnership" contract within the band looks interesting now?

Your career advances; you join Terence Blanchard's jazz tour at only age 17. But as a minor, who's legally responsible for your actions? Perhaps the leader or manager is. Later Terence digs your new tune and records it for release. Contract? Handshake? Royalties? Rights?

Oops! Your instrument is stolen from backstage. It's a good thing it's insured--or is it? Many homeowner's and renter's policies exclude instruments for professional use because of the higher risk. A contractual "rider" often has to be purchased to cover your axe on the gig.

Since you're making a reasonable income, the IRS knocks at your door. It seems they audited an old employer of yours who used to pay you cash "under the table"; and when he had to show expenses or pay taxes on the entire payroll for the gigs, he coughed up your name as receiving money. Hmm.... Did YOU declare the cash on your income tax form? Was it on Form 1040 (as an employee) or Schedule C (as an independent contractor)? Are your deductions and depreciations clearly documented? Well, at least you were aware of the "special tax break for performers" the IRS offers musicians making less than $15,000 a year (under specific conditions)--oh, you WEREN'T?

A regional theatre troup undertakes the premiere of a new musical. You get paid to orchestrate the composer's tunes for the pit band. And it's a hit and goes to off-Broadway! Money! Money! ...What do you mean "no more money; it was a 'work made for hire'"? Could that have been avoided?

Now you've moved on to a university teaching gig, and your students want to buy those generic "Real Books." So you find a connection and sell them yourself. What? Illegal? And when your lead trombonist wants to check out that latest Conrad Herwig recording, you dub him a cassette to keep. Copyright violation ? Given your professional relationship, yes indeed. Your student band performs at an off-campus dance hall previously employing union musicians. Infringing on union musicians' work? Probably! Violating federal labor laws? Possibly!

To get your jazz band to the Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival, you sign out a few school vans and line up graduate-student drivers. One van gets hit by an uninsured motorist--but the university insurance seems to extend only to accidents your school drivers cause. Can the grad student cover repair and possible hospitalization costs--and for how much are YOU liable?

You've had enough. Next trip is Disneyworld: you hire a bus and collect money from students towards the cost. But a hurricane shuts down Mickey's place; your hotel has no undamaged rooms available; and no one seems to be returning any money to you yet. The students and parents are looking at you with refund demands in their eyes. What must you do?

I have seen all of these scenarios occur (though names have been changed to protect the innocent!) So take action! Read books on music industry topics. Enroll in music business courses and business courses! Read the fine print on contracts, and consult legal aid if you're unsure. (Free legal assistance is offered to artists in many cities; contact your area's arts council.) Call the Copyright Office at 202/707-9100 and request the free "circulars" #1, 92, 102, and R21. Ask the IRS questions at 800/829-1040 and obtain free booklets as well; many arts agencies offer tax advice or publications specifically for artists.

And remember: DON'T ignore the issues raised here--I can guarantee you they won't ignore YOU!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Antonio J. García is a Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he directs the Jazz Orchestra I; instructs Applied Jazz Trombone, Small Jazz Ensemble, Music Industry, and various jazz courses; founded a B.A. Music Business Emphasis (for which he initially served as Coordinator); and directs the Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band. An alumnus of the Eastman School of Music and of Loyola University of the South, he has received commissions for jazz, symphonic, chamber, film, and solo works—instrumental and vocal—including grants from Meet The Composer, The Commission Project, The Thelonious Monk Institute, and regional arts councils. His music has aired internationally and has been performed by such artists as Sheila Jordan, Arturo Sandoval, Jim Pugh, Denis DiBlasio, James Moody, and Nick Brignola. Composition/arrangement honors include IAJE (jazz band), ASCAP (orchestral), and Billboard Magazine (pop songwriting). His works have been published by Kjos Music, Hal Leonard, Kendor Music, Doug Beach Music, ejazzlines, Walrus, UNC Jazz Press, Three-Two Music Publications, and his own, with five recorded on CDs by Rob Parton’s JazzTech Big Band (Sea Breeze and ROPA JAZZ). His scores for independent films have screened across the U.S. and in Italy, Macedonia, Uganda, Australia, Colombia, India, Germany, Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Israel, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

A Bach/Selmer trombone clinician, Mr. García serves as the jazz clinician for The Conn-Selmer Institute. He has freelanced as trombonist, bass trombonist, or pianist with over 70 nationally renowned artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Mel Tormé, Doc Severinsen, Louie Bellson, Dave Brubeck, and Phil Collins—and has performed at the Montreux, Nice, North Sea, Pori (Finland), New Orleans, and Chicago Jazz Festivals. He has produced recordings or broadcasts of such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Jim Pugh, Dave Taylor, Susannah McCorkle, Sir Roland Hanna, and the JazzTech Big Band and is the bass trombonist on Phil Collins’ CD “A Hot Night in Paris” (Atlantic) and DVD “Phil Collins: Finally...The First Farewell Tour” (Warner Music). An avid scat-singer, he has performed vocally with jazz bands, jazz choirs, and computer-generated sounds. He is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). A New Orleans native, he also performed there with such local artists as Pete Fountain, Ronnie Kole, Irma Thomas, and Al Hirt.

Mr. García is a Research Faculty member at The University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa) and the Associate Jazz Editor of the International Trombone Association Journal. He serves as a Network Expert (for Improvisation Materials) for the Jazz Education Network and has served as President’s Advisory Council member and Editorial Advisory Board member. His newest book, Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading (Meredith Music), explores avenues for creating structures that correspond to course objectives. His book Cutting the Changes: Jazz Improvisation via Key Centers (Kjos Music) offers musicians of all ages the opportunity to improvise over standard tunes using just their major scales. He is Co-Editor and Contributing Author of Teaching Jazz: A Course of Study (published by NAfME) and authored a chapter within The Jazzer’s Cookbook (published by Meredith Music). Within the International Association for Jazz Education he served as Editor of the Jazz Education Journal, President of IAJE-IL, International Co-Chair for Curriculum and for Vocal/Instrumental Integration, and Chicago Host Coordinator for the 1997 Conference. He served on the Illinois Coalition for Music Education coordinating committee, worked with the Illinois and Chicago Public Schools to develop standards for multi-cultural music education, and received a curricular grant from the Council for Basic Education. He has also served as Director of IMEA’s All-State Jazz Choir and Combo and of similar ensembles outside of Illinois. He is the recipient of the Illinois Music Educators Association’s 2001 Distinguished Service Award.

Regarding Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading, Darius Brubeck says, "How one grades turns out to be a contentious philosophical problem with a surprisingly wide spectrum of responses. García has produced a lucidly written, probing, analytical, and ultimately practical resource for professional jazz educators, replete with valuable ideas, advice, and copious references." Jamey Aebersold offers, "This book should be mandatory reading for all graduating music ed students." Janis Stockhouse states, "Groundbreaking. The comprehensive amount of material García has gathered from leaders in jazz education is impressive in itself. Plus, the veteran educator then presents his own synthesis of the material into a method of teaching and evaluating jazz improvisation that is fresh, practical, and inspiring!" And Dr. Ron McCurdy suggests, "This method will aid in the quality of teaching and learning of jazz improvisation worldwide."

About Cutting the Changes, saxophonist David Liebman states, “This book is perfect for the beginning to intermediate improviser who may be daunted by the multitude of chord changes found in most standard material. Here is a path through the technical chord-change jungle.” Says vocalist Sunny Wilkinson, “The concept is simple, the explanation detailed, the rewards immediate. It’s very singer-friendly.” Adds jazz-education legend Jamey Aebersold, “Tony’s wealth of jazz knowledge allows you to understand and apply his concepts without having to know a lot of theory and harmony. Cutting the Changes allows music educators to present jazz improvisation to many students who would normally be scared of trying.”

Of his jazz curricular work, Standard of Excellence states: “Antonio García has developed a series of Scope and Sequence of Instruction charts to provide a structure that will ensure academic integrity in jazz education.” Wynton Marsalis emphasizes: “Eight key categories meet the challenge of teaching what is historically an oral and aural tradition. All are important ingredients in the recipe.” The Chicago Tribune has highlighted García’s “splendid solos...virtuosity and musicianship...ingenious scoring...shrewd arrangements...exotic orchestral colors, witty riffs, and gloriously uninhibited splashes of dissonance...translucent textures and elegant voicing” and cited him as “a nationally noted jazz artist/ of the most prominent young music educators in the country.” Down Beat has recognized his “knowing solo work on trombone” and “first-class writing of special interest.” The Jazz Report has written about the “talented trombonist,” and Cadence noted his “hauntingly lovely” composing as well as CD production “recommended without any qualifications whatsoever.” Phil Collins has said simply, “He can be in my band whenever he wants.” García is also the subject of an extensive interview within Bonanza: Insights and Wisdom from Professional Jazz Trombonists (Advance Music), profiled along with such artists as Bill Watrous, Mike Davis, Bill Reichenbach, Wayne Andre, John Fedchock, Conrad Herwig, Steve Turre, Jim Pugh, and Ed Neumeister.

The Secretary of the Board of The Midwest Clinic, Mr. García has adjudicated festivals and presented clinics in Canada, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, and South Africa, including creativity workshops for Motorola, Inc.’s international management executives. The partnership he created between VCU Jazz and the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal merited the 2013 VCU Community Engagement Award for Research. He has served as adjudicator for the International Trombone Association’s Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, and Rath Jazz Trombone Scholarship competitions and the Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Ensemble competition and has been asked to serve on Arts Midwest’s “Midwest Jazz Masters” panel and the Virginia Commission for the Arts “Artist Fellowship in Music Composition” panel. He has been repeatedly published in Down Beat; JAZZed; Jazz Improv; Music, Inc.; The International Musician; The Instrumentalist; and the journals of NAfME, IAJE, ITA, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Percussive Arts Society, Arts Midwest, Illinois Music Educators Association, and Illinois Association of School Boards. Previous to VCU, he served as Associate Professor and Coordinator of Combos at Northwestern University, where he taught jazz and integrated arts, was Jazz Coordinator for the National High School Music Institute, and for four years directed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Formerly the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University, he was selected by students and faculty there as the recipient of a 1992 “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching” award and nominated as its candidate for 1992 CASE “U.S. Professor of the Year” (one of 434 nationwide). He was recipient of the VCU School of the Arts’ 2015 Faculty Award of Excellence for his teaching, research, and service. Visit his web site at <>.

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