Jenny Keene met singer/songwriter Jason Mraz "...back in '99, when I was 16. I had just moved to San Diego. I knew him before he even started at Java Joe's. He was playing at the Newbreak [coffeehouse] in O.B. back then."
Keene says Mraz liked her poetry and that they wrote "Tonight, Not Again" and "On Love, in Sadness" together, two songs featured on Waiting for My Rocket to Come, Mraz's 2002 debut album. Mraz agreed to pay Keene 25 percent of the songwriting royalties from those songs.
To collect royalties from CD sales, songwriters often use a publishing company to collect or "administer" those royalties.
"One day at a show I met Jerry Lindahl," says Keene. "He was a friend of Jason's. He worked at Nettwerk Management, where his job was to place songs in movies and in commercials." Based on an oral agreement, Lindahl became the administrator for Keene; he would collect her royalties from the record company and then pay her after keeping a percentage.
Keene says between 2001 and 2003 she collected about $10,000 in royalties. "But the checks stopped coming a couple years ago. I haven't gotten any checks from Jerry since 2003.... I got an e-mail from Jerry last spring. He said he had a check for me. But he never sent it. Now he won't return e-mails or phone calls."
Contacted by phone in Los Angeles, Lindahl says he may have left such a message to Keene earlier this year and that he did have two checks to send Keene. About whether or not Keene has received royalties since 2003, Lindahl says, "I couldn't tell without looking for my records.... I don't want to talk about this. This is a private affair that is getting resolved.... I did this [publishing arrangement] as a friendly gesture, and it turned out to be the worst thing I ever did in my life." He says he got involved because Mraz "is my best friend."
Because there was no contract between Keene and Lindahl, there is some disagreement about Lindahl's 20 percent commission. Keene says she never agreed to it; Lindahl says she did.
"Some [publishers] do 10 percent," says Lindahl. "Some do 20."
Keene says, "It is completely out of the ordinary; 10 percent is the Hollywood standard."
Lindahl says Keene's expectation that she has another $10,000 in unpaid songwriting royalties is way off and that she is owed less than $1000. Royalties correspond with album sales, which usually taper off after the first 12 months of a disc's release. Lindahl says over one million copies of Waiting for My Rocket to Come have been shipped to retail outlets.