Steve Jordan, a drummer, began working as a studio musician while he was still in high school in the 1970s. By age 19, he was performing with the “Saturday Night Live” band and touring with the Blues Brothers.
But he said he had quickly realized that if he wanted to be financially successful, he’d have to do more than make music. He’d have to have control over that music.
“I knew early on that I couldn’t have all my eggs in one basket and be a successful musician,” said Mr. Jordan, now 64. “You have all these musicians out there who are not paid what they should be. If they’re just hired to play on a song, they don’t get royalties. They’re not the composers, and they don’t get royalties even though what they played are the hallmarks of the song.”
He struck a co-publishing agreement in 1989 with Warner Chappell Music, a music publishing company. “That enabled me to get a better royalty stream,” he said.
So when the pandemic shut down live performance and most in-person collaboration among musicians, Mr. Jordan had an asset — his publishing rights and other royalty payments — that he could borrow against, allowing him to continue to invest in his own music production company.
Royalty payments have long been an issue in the music world. Record labels usually took the lion’s share. The move to streaming, which broadened audiences but sharply curtailed revenues, cut further into many musicians’ earnings.