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The disturbing reappearance of Global Village Music

This is one great source of Yiddish and Klez music I wrote for Whole Earth Review back in 1995. I was a bit less sanguine when I wrote an article for the KlezmerShack back in 1996 or so. Little did I know.

Here's what I do think I know. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Michael Schlesinger (sp?) started a company to make music from other cultures available in record stores. He got great distribution, so far as I could tell, such that I was able to find copies of some amazing LPs--the first Maxwell St. Klezmer recordings, the first Joel Rubin CD (for which I typeset some last minute copy for the cassette spine), the first Alhambra LP? Cassette?

At some point, around the time when I began noticing CD versions of these recordings and began seeking them out, I started hearing from the artists that all was not well. In fact, GVM seemed to be ripping them off. See this letter from the Jewish-Music list, from 1999: "outing" Global Village Music. At some point, Schlesinger stopped paying royalties. Then he made unauthorized CD editions of the recordings giving the artists nothing. My guess, based on a brief correspondence with him in the early part of this decade, is that he put his heart and soul into creating a business that went broke, and that he has been trying to dig out of a hole by stiffing the artists who once trusted him with their work. I don't really know. I did receive this today from one of the artists (another artist's email from today is represented below):

Michael Schlesinger, sole owner of Global Village Music, had a habit of ignoring contracts and never paying royalties to the artists he recorded. Several of us discussed engaging the services of a lawyer experienced in show business issues to sue him, but nobody wanted to invest the money in a project which would probably yield less than the investment. Sadly, Judy Frankel didn't live to see Global Village go out of business.

Today I (and other denizens of the Jewish-Music mailing list) discovered that several Global Village recordings have been available on iTunes since November. These are inferior and unauthorized versions of music for which the artists have not given permission, and for which they are receiving no royalties. I must request that any person interested in material originally recorded on the label contact the artists (many are listed on the KlezmerShack; I would be happy to help locate others) and purchase recordings through them. One artist that I do know wrote today, "Michael Schlesinger taught me some remarkable things about myself--including how I could live with an enormous injustice to my musicians and never succeed in overcoming it despite efforts and money spent." Should this matter be resolved to the artists' satisfaction, I will happily remove this post and replace it with one telling a more positive story. Based on the last 15 years, that seems unlikely.

If you purchase music through Global Village Music, you are screwing the artists whose music you like well enough to purchase. Those recordings are available without their permission and they are earning no royalties. Many have been mistreated by Schlesinger. Don't do it. And if you know anyone working for iTunes, or know how to contact iTunes management about this matter, please let me know so that I can pursue this further.