Longtime Encinitas singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin did well when the Eagles released his "Peaceful Easy Feeling" in 1972 and "Already Gone" two years later. Both were top 40 hits. Every time the Eagles rereleased the songs (on "best of" or live albums), Tempchin earned songwriter royalties. The Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 sold 27 million copies, making it one of the ten best-selling albums ever, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
Last year, the Eagles used two of his songs, "Somebody" and "It's Your World Now," for Long Road Out of Eden, their first studio album in 28 years. The record debuted at number one on Billboard's Top 200 album chart when it was released in November.
Tempchin says the legal protections for songwriters have made him a good living.
"It's been a bonanza over and over and over again."
Six years ago, he and fellow songwriters Jackson Browne and J.D. Souther sued the music-publishing company Warner-Chappell Music for underpayment of royalties they said they were due for four tracks used on the '71--'75 compilation. The suit asked for $10 million. When the case was settled out of court, Tempchin said he was "satisfied" with the confidential settlement.
With the arrival of the digital music free-for-all, Tempchin now wonders if the bonanza is over.
"A lot of people believe that the creators of music don't need to be paid anymore.... If people are downloading albums for free, no one is getting paid.... Through most of my life, the copyright laws were working and songwriters were getting paid. But now that's all changing."
Jack Tempchin distributes his latest solo album Songs through tempchin.com. He appears every Tuesday with his band Rocket Science at the Calypso in Leucadia.