Down Under and the Unintended Consequence.

Justice Peter Jacobsen yesterday awarded Larrikin Music 5% of Down Under‘s publishing royalties, dating back to 2002.  He remarked that Larrikin’s bid for substantally more than 5% was “excessive, over-reaching and unrealistic”, because of “the significance of the bars of Kookaburra to the overall musical qualities of Down Under”.  Yay!  He noticed!

I’m willing to hazard a prediction, though.  This will prove to be a very bad idea on Norm Lurie’s part, he of Larrikin Music managing director fame, for the following reasons:

  1. The song was already played out.  We’re all sick of it.
  2. The song’s golden era in ads and movies is long over, and was over long before 2002.  If there was a gravy train, Larrikin missed it.
  3. The amount of money, unless you’re a gigging muso, is not that much.  Certainly not what’s being quoted in the SMH, which is an unattributed guess at the total amount of money the song has made since 1979.  I’ll bet the legal fees are horrendous, on both sides.
  4. The case has been too public.  Now, if Down Under turns up in anything new, most of us will taste ash in our mouths, and remember, “Oh, that’s right.  Larrikin will get 5% of this.  Bastards.”

In today’s SMH, Men at Work’s flautist Greg Ham is concerned about “the way I’m going to be remembered – for copying something.”  I think history will be very kind to Greg Ham, but not so kind to Larrikin. 

Meanwhile, expect to hear even more of Icehouse’s Great Southern Land

Ganggajang’s Sounds of Then,

Goanna’s Solid Rock,

Warumpi Band’s My Island Home …


2 thoughts on “Down Under and the Unintended Consequence.

  1. I’ll be thinking of the 95% that still goes to the real songwriters…… I don’t suppose Norm realised what a bad look it was going to be for the company he represents, and I would think that while Greg the flautist is going to be remembered for coming up with a fabulous hook Norm will be remembered for less joyful contribution to the history of the song.

    Inside the music industry everyone thinks it’s ridiculous – especially when there are real and egregious breaches of copyright that go unpunished.

    Everyone outside the music industry thinks it’s ridiculous just because it is.

  2. Mr. Lurie told Melbourne newspaper The Age: “Of course it would be disingenuous for me to say that there wasn’t a financial aspect involved, [but] you could just as easily say what has won out today is the importance of checking before using other people’s copyrights.”

    Music is often made using complex, layered statements. Sometimes these statements go unnoticed – note that this particular reference went unnoticed for many years before Norm Lurie found it.

    To me, this is what can make music a sophisticated, multi-dimensional experience, and Mr. Lurie’s victorious money grab is definitely a step away from that. Who ‘won out’ today? Definitely not songwriters. Colin Hay lost, and the writer of ‘Kookaburra’ is dead.

    I’d say money won out.


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