Season 3 — Episode 301.2 August 17, 2022
Irwin Chusid and Outsider Music
In part one, Irwin Chusid notes how Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys would be considered an “outsider” musical artist.
It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that one of the most popular and respected songwriters in pop music could be considered an “outsider.”
But, as Irwin will be the first to tell you, he’s not wrong.
Part two of our interview with the Godfather of outsider music, Irwin Chusid, is now live and available wherever you get your podcasts (and below).
During this episode of Abandoned Albums, Irwin walks us through his love of radio and his discovery of the quirky art — and mind — of illustrator Jim Flora before taking us on a deep, educational dive into the world of music rights and licensing.
Even for the MENSA set among us, the world of music licensing is, on its best days, a brain-numbing and complicated chore to figure out. Like trying to figure out the popularity of a song like “Baby Shark.”
Somehow Irwin makes music licensing easy to understand — not “Baby Shark,” which remains a mystery (and we admittedly didn’t discuss it).
It can be very complicated and expensive to license music, as Irwin notes in his re-telling of his experience with The Langley Schools Music Project. It can also be relatively straightforward.
The way Irwin recounts the story of Lizzo’s label wanting to license a sample of Raymond Scott’s song “Nescafe” is one of those relatively easy ones. As he tells the story, you can sense his ambivalence. When he rejects the use of the song in Lizzo’s song “Tempo,” — her label pushes back, encouraging him to re-think it.
“Fine, we want 50% of the publishing AND 50% of the Master royalties.”
Anticipating a rejection for asking so much, Chusid is surprised when they say yes. And you can understand why they said yes. They almost had to because without Scott’s “Nescafe,” Lizzo’s “Tempo” wouldn’t exist — it’s the song’s spine.
Lady Gaga’s inclusion of a sample from Sun Ra’s “Rocket Number 9” in her song “Venus” is less straightforward. It’s the story of the worst part of the music business and is what led to Irwin becoming the administrator of the Sun Ra estate.
Chusid is an animated storyteller. You can hear his tenacity, frustration, boredom, and irritation in every sentence of every story. He wears them with a sense of pride because he knows those qualities, along with his doggedness, support not only him but also the heirs of these artists.