Dear Rich: My Dad is a musician who played on some records in the 1970s that still get played on the radio. I'd like to help him investigate any money he is owed for these old recordings. How do I go about it? I'm so glad you asked. The short answer is that you may have to hire someone to help you with your investigation. According to the Dear Rich staff, determining whether your Dad is owed money depends on several factors. These include: (1) whether your Dad contributed to songwriting, in which case he may be due money from a music publisher or a performing rights society, (2) whether your Dad performed as a union musician on sessions, and (3) whether your Dad signed recording agreements with record labels as a featured artist (or member of a band).
You can review some of this information on your own. For example, societies such as HFA, BMI or ASCAP should be able to verify whether your Dad is listed as a songwriter. If your Dad was a union musician, he may be entitled to payments from the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund. If your Dad signed recording or management agreements, you need to review them to determine how payments are to be made (and to see whether they expired). You may also need to track the change in ownership of the record labels as the business has been in turmoil during the past 15 years. (And, finally, there are Sound Exchange payments from digital broadcasting as discussed in a previous entry.) Ultimately, you may need to hire an attorney who specializes in tracking down payments or hire one of the companies that specialize in these types of investigations (although we have not tried their services and cannot vouch for them).