Ralph Peer was in the music publishing business for one reason: to turn a profit. He claimed copyright on all the songs recorded by the performers he found, and royalties from those copyrights added up to huge paydays. In the year before he met the Carters, Peer collected an amazing $1 million ($10.3 million in 2004 dollars) in royalties.
At the same time, Peer paid recording artist "Pop" Stoneman $3,600, a remarkable sum when the average family made $700 a year but still just a fraction of Peer's earnings. "Most of them expected to record for nothing," Peer once said. "When on top of this fifty dollars I gave them [a cut of the] royalties on their selections, they thought it was manna from heaven."
Peer provided the opportunity; his artists provided the talent. Without Peer, the Carter Family and their music never might have left Poor Valley, been immortalized in recordings, and made it onto the new medium of radio for nationwide distribution. Still, some might say the business relationship was unfair. A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter were the music's creators, yet Ralph Peer collected most of the material reward.
Do you think Peer should have shared a larger amount of the royalty payments with the artists he recorded?