Jeff Martin To Pay Royalties To US Guitarist For Unauthorised Sample

21 March 2016 | 10:48 am | Staff Writer

"It is my decision to pay in full all royalties of this song to Stephen Bennett."

Stephen Bennett & Jeff Martin

Stephen Bennett & Jeff Martin

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Australia-based Canadian musician Jeff Martin has agreed to pay potential royalties to respected Oregon multi-guitarist Stephen Bennett after conceding that he was unauthorised in his use of the American's recorded music in his song 1916.

Leading up to the admission, Bennett had accused Martin — best known for his work as the frontman of veteran rockers The Tea Party — of plagiarism in the song, which appears on Martin's 2011 album The Ground Cries Out, with Oz-bred project 777.

As Bennett recounted in a lengthy (and remarkably civil) Facebook post, in 1992 the string-smith released a track called Perestroika on his album Solos & Duets. The song was one of the first he had written for harp guitar, and was a key point in his early career, being included on a 1996 compilation (Narada's Guitar: Fingerstyle) — which Bennett says "went into international distribution, and I actually made some real money from it," — as well as the guitarist's own Best Of release that he put together ahead of an Australian tour with Tommy Emmanuel in 2003.

"Additionally, for 20 years or so, Perestroika has regularly been a segue piece on National Public Radios's Weekend Edition Saturday, playing at 9:19 AM Eastern Standard Time," Bennett elaborated. "I hadn't actually heard it on the radio for a couple of years until just a few weeks ago when there it was again, right at 9:19.

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"Wait, now I remember: I liked this the first time I heard it — when I composed and recorded it back in the early 1990s."

"My point in outlining the above is to demonstrate that not only did I compose and record the tune Perestroika, I have a verifiable association and history with this music. I composed and played every note that is in it. And lots of people know that."

However, Bennett says, that history did nothing to stop Martin from using the tune for his track 1916 — although at least "the liner notes for that CD cite me as 'inspiration'", Bennett said.

"I like [the song]," Bennett continued. "But then, that's not so surprising, is it. That guitar part sounds familiar. Wait, now I remember: I liked this the first time I heard it — when I composed and recorded it back in the early 1990s. And since the vocal line is the same as the guitar melody — I guess it's pretty reasonable to suggest that at the very least, I was the principal writer of this song.

"No, I did not write the lyrics, or add the drum or bass parts, but the signature guitar part and the vocal melody are mine."

Martin's apparent misuse of Bennett's music goes further still, the guitarist says, explaining that he is certain the guitar part that kicks off 1916 isn't just a note-for-note recreation of his Perestroika riffbut that it's actually the original recording.

"That guitar part that starts 1916 — that's my track of Perestroika from 1992," Bennett said. "What's more, that plays right through the entire song. That's ME playing on Jeff Martin's CD, although I was not asked if I would allow this — or listed in the credits."

Bennett says that he was never informed about the use, and that it wasn't until 2014, when a fan "came up to ask me what it was like to work with Jeff", that he became aware of Perestrokia's secret second life.

"Jeff did not deny the facts at all and assured me that things would be made right."

"I had no idea what he was talking about," Bennett wrote. "So this person directed me to 1916 on youtube. And that's how I learned about this.

"Naturally, I contacted Jeff a couple of days later. I laid out a set of conditions I expected to be met in order to rectify the situation that he had created. I explained that I had spoken to an attorney and that I had been assured that it was a completely winnable case for me to make.

"Jeff did not deny the facts at all and assured me that things would be made right. We had a number of email exchanges back and forth. He blamed the situation on his former manager."

"Jeff Martin has acknowledged everything I have said here," Bennett continued. "I have that in writing. But he has done nothing to fix it."

All that said, Bennett claims he was willing to let the whole thing slide — "I came to realize that the odds were that not much money had been made from 1916, at least not enough to warrant my spending the time, energy and money to file a lawsuit," he said — and move on, until "several days ago", when his attention was brought to apparent legal threats and takedown requests from Martin's current management over social media discussion about the use.

"In closing — and this is for you, Jeff — and your manager, rather than waving the possibility of legal action against those individuals merely discussing these facts, how about you go ahead and write to me directly," Bennett concluded. "I look forward to hearing from you."

"Unfortunately due to oversights that I will take full responsibility for, Stephen Bennett was not given proper credit."

Bennett didn't have to wait too long for that; in the wake of his post, Martin addressed the musician's concerns in a response of his own uploaded to Facebook, admitting, "The song '1916' from 'The Ground Cries Out' featured the composition and performance of Stephen Bennett's 'Perestroika', and was not properly credited on the album".

"Unfortunately due to oversights that I will take full responsibility for, Stephen Bennett was not given proper credit," Martin wrote in his explanation. "I am currently looking into royalties for the track, and whatever royalties exist, if any, it is my decision to pay in full all royalties of this song to Stephen Bennett."

The statement attracted a mixed response from Martin's and Bennett's fans, with several commenters praising Martin for his newfound transparency — to the public chagrin of Bennett supporters such as renowned finger-style guitarist Andy McKee — while others were not as easily placated. 

"All the praise he is receiving is pretty aggravating, to say the least," McKee wrote in support of Bennett.

"I don't understand how you can hear a track, write your own parts to it, record all your stuff over top of it, mix it, master it, release it, and then claim that you didn't know it was there," another commenter wrote.

Bennett has since shared Martin's post, but has not responded at this time. 

Hear both tracks, and read the men's posts, below.


Greetings to all who wander by this digital place ~So here’s one of the first tunes I wrote for harp guitar. It’s...

Posted by Stephen Bennett on Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The song '1916' from 'The Ground Cries Out', featured the composition and performance of Stephen Bennett’s 'Perestroika'...

Posted by Jeff Martin (Official) on Friday, March 18, 2016