Escondido music instructor Linda Menendez locates songwriters and musicians for Rhino and Sony Records, companies that pay her to track down outstanding royalty recipients and deliver accrued funds.
"It's pretty cool to see the reaction on someone's face who's been living in a trailer in Wisconsin, with no idea his music got picked up for a movie [soundtrack] or some Pebbles or Nuggets compilation, and I hand him a check for ten grand!"
Menendez receives a commission of 5 to 10 percent of the royalty amount, plus basic traveling expenses.
"I was looking to deliver a $15,000 check to a guy who recorded an obscure Christian rock album in the '70s under the name JamMaster Jehova, Life Saving. He called it that because his musical ministry would save lost souls and because he spent his life savings on it. He pressed 10,000 copies and only ended up selling a few hundred to religious bookstores before he donated all the unsold albums to thrift stores. His biggest distributor was the Salvation Army, and they don't pay."
Home Sweet Home Records does pay, though the label didn't come into existence until after JamMaster Jehova (real name Brian Benoit) gave up his dreams of a musical ministry. The Christian label released Benoit's songs (copyright-clear due to the songwriter's business naïveté) on numerous devotional compilations.
"My client [Home Sweet Home] kept aside the standard residuals.... Unfortunately, I couldn't track him down through Social Security, DMV, or law enforcement [records], and the address on his last tax return was no good anymore.
"I did find a marriage license placing him in Northern California. I went up there, and he had already moved, but I knocked on a neighbor's door, and he gave me [Benoit's] new address.... I got $1200 for the delivery, and his wife made me a terrific roast beef dinner."