Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have picked up quite a few things from you about the music industry during the vinyl era.

Still, there is one phase of the recording business that intrigues me: the wisdom of B-sides.

Many artists seemed to routinely release two prime sides, essentially giving consumers two hits for the price of one.

Immediately coming to mind in this regard are: Elvis; Beatles; Rick Nelson; Beach Boys; Connie Francis; Brenda Lee, and Everly Brothers.

Conversely, some folks, most notably Phil Spector, put dreadful instrumentals with senseless titles on the B-side so all of the attention by radio stations and juke box players would go to the A-side.

How drastically different is the payoff between a double-sided hit and a single-sided one, assuming equal unit sales?
—Andrew Davidson, Oakland City, Ind.

DEAR ANDREW: First let's review the two primary types of rights involved: mechanical and performance.

Mechanical rights allow for recording and distribution (without visual images) of music on a record, compact disc, or tape. Mechanical rights or a mechanical license must be obtained in order to lawfully make and distribute records, CDs and tapes.

Without even asking first, one can choose to record their own rendition of previously published and copyrighted works, as long as licensing is eventually arranged. This easy-to-get license provides for compensation to the copyright holder(s).

Performance rights, also known as public performance rights, provide for a performance in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances are gathered.

Now, who better to enlighten us on B-side wisdom than my friend Connie Francis, one of the stars you mention.

Here is what this delightfully congenial superstar, whose 62 nationally charted titles include 15 double-sided hits, says:

“In the days of two-sided singles, it could be a bit of a guessing game.

“When they were sure one side was going to be a big hit, most everyone would put a song on the B-side which they published. This is because of the mechanical rights.

“You see, it can't be proven either way whether a music store customer bought the record for the A-side, the B-side, or both. Some people actually bought hit singles more for the tune on the B-side.

“To allow for this, the B-side publishers and songwriters got as much money as those responsible for the A-side, except when it comes to performance rights, which belong to the individual publisher, writer, artist, and whatever. Nearly everyone did it this way.

“My father would argue with me about this practice. He would say: “You're not a publisher. You've got to give the juke box operators two good songs, and forget publishing. You are a singer!”

“A couple of times when I didn't listen to him, I was wrong.

“I always tried to give the people two good songs, but at times we ended up with a B-side that wouldn't have been my preference. It was used simply because we published it.

“One example is “Plenty Good Lovin,'” the B-side of “You're Gonna Miss Me.” Though I co-wrote it with Howard Greenfield, I thought it was a lousy song. But we put it on the record because we published it.”

IZ ZAT SO? As for the other artists mentioned in today's question, here are the number of double-sided U.S. hits (Billboard and Cash Box) for each: Elvis (53); Beatles (27); Rick Nelson (22); Brenda Lee (16); Everly Brothers (13); and Beach Boys (6).

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