By Austin Merrill
Johnny Troxler, it is extremely generous of you to submit to a detailed interview for THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC class at Vanderbilt University. The students have prepared many questions for you, including some that will take you back to the very beginning. With your permission, I’d like to get started.
1. Q: Briefly, what is your musicalbackground? Who were (or are) some of your musical influences? At what point in your life did you feel that you wanted a career as a performer? Did you change your priorities or lifestyle in any way? How old were you? (5 points)
First off, I want to thank the class for inviting me to give an interview. Jim Foglesong is an old friend of mine and its an honor to be able to help out Jim and hisstudents. I was one of those lucky people growing up who knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life from the beginning. My dad bought me my first guitar when I was 6 years old, and I’ve never stopped playing. Everybody in my family loves country music; that’s all we’ve ever listened to. It is my firm opinion that country music peaked in the 90’s, when you had guys like Vince Gill and GarthBrooks and groups like Alabama and Shenandoah. That whole decade had the perfect blend of traditional country twang and pop-driven edge. I knew even as a young kid that I wanted to be a part of the music I enjoyed so much. Of course, back then I thought being a singer would be all glitz and glamour. In reality it’s far from that, but I still love every minute of it.
2. When did you startwriting songs? At what point did you learn that a song was a copyright? What is the purpose of registering them and how is that done? What exclusive rights are provided to copyright owners? (10 pts.)
I first got serious about songwriting in high school. Around that time, my early teenage years, I realized that I needed to make myself as marketable as possible if I was ever going to have ashot in the music business. So, I slowly entered the world of songwriting. My first attempts at songwriting proved rather disastrous, but gradually I found my lyrical footing. I used to study the lyrics of great writers like Alan Jackson and Steve Wariner, and that helped a great deal. By the end of my teenage years, I felt confident in my ability to write unique and enjoyable songs,particularly songs that fit my vocal register well. As far as the copyright process goes, I was very informed even from the initial phases of my songwriting. All the credit for that belongs to my dad. Having a transactional attorney for a father meant that I knew all about song registration, intellectual property, and copyrights even while I was finishing my first songs. My dad made sure to teach mewhat he could about the music business, and I am forever grateful to him for that. It’s not difficult to register a song with the copyright office. Once I finish a song, I send an electronic copy to the copyright office, along with some paperwork and $35. Now there’s even a way to submit it online; it’s easy to do, but it’s also absolutely necessary. Registering a song gives me complete controlover it, and guarantees that something I write is never stolen from me. Copyright owners have the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display, perform (both traditionally and digitally), and make derivative works of the copyright. The exclusive rights I am guaranteed help me sleep easier at night, knowing that the fruits of my labor are legally protected.
3. What does your musicpublisher do for you? Who is a “songplugger? What does he/she do? (10 points)
My music publisher ensures that I am paid the appropriate royalties. In other words, when someone buys my CD, or a song off of my CD, my music publisher makes sure that I get my cut of the profits. I prefer working with BMG, since they’re partnered with my record label. A songplugger is basically a song salesman. A...