Mudcat Café message #488696 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #35698   Message #488696
Posted By: GeorgeH
21-Jun-01 - 09:00 AM
Thread Name: The 'Celtic Music/Dave Bulmer' saga
Subject: The 'Celtic Music/Dave Bulmer' saga
Over in the Nic Jones Double CD thread Ralphie suggested I might point people at a summary of this saga. However I decided it was easier to summarise what I knew.

A brief summary

Mr Bulmer is clearly an exception to the rule that "no-one ever makes a fortune from Folk Music in the UK". He is also known for being rather litigatious (he can afford to be, unlike most if not all of those with whom he is in dispute). A degree of caution is advisable in recounting matters surrounding Mr Bulmer.

Bulmer runs (or ran, I've not checked that this is up to date):
   A recording company, sometimes called Celtic Music.
   A cd distribution company, sometimes called Celtic Music Distribution.
   A recording studio

Over the years, he has purchased the rights to an enormous quantity of the "back catalogue" of the British Folk Revival, especially from the 1970s and 1980s. It is probably true to say he owns a majority of the important recordings from this period. He has often acquired rights to this material by purchasing them from record companies "in receivership", which can possibly be taken as indicating that he has paid peanuts for these rights.

Most significant amongst his collection is the entire Bill Leader catalogue from the Leader/Trailer label, but he also owns a lot of small labels.

He has repeatedly declined to re-release most of this material. His argument has always been that he will re-release the material, in the course of time, when it is commercially sensible to do so. He has maintained that his purchase of the rights included having to buy up large stocks of vinyl, and that he wouldn't release things on CD until he had cleared those stocks. However there are clear cases where a particular recording is in demand, there is no vinyl stock left, and Bulmer has still declined to release on CD.

It also seems that Bulmer has been trying to charge 'over the odds' for his stocks of vinyl; I have seen a price of gbp 12 quoted for such a record, which would have been available for one pound when the label folded. However this may not have been Bulmer's doing.

There are 'well known' cases where artists have tried to obtain the rights to their recorded work back from Bulmer, and he has not been prepared to discuss terms with them. His argument has been that he is not prepared to 'split' the Leader/ Trailer catalogue. There has been at least the implication that he would be prep eared to discuss selling the catalogue as a whole.

Two specifics need to be mentioned in relation to this chapter of "The Bulmer story":

Bulmer was asked to either re-release the Nic Jones back catalogue (no vinyl available( on CD or to relinquish the rights to these albums, so they could be used to generate some income for Nic's family after his accident. Bulmer refused.

Pete Coe co-ordinated a proposal from those involved in the Banndogs LP (himself, Tony Rose and his ex-wife Chris, plus Nic) that they would all waive their rights in the recording to allow it to be published as a benefit for Nic. The suggestion was that Pete's recording company should make the release and so bear the production costs. Bulmer declined to participate and would not release the rights to the recording.

Chapter 2 of the saga is that there have been disputes between a number of performers who were under contract to Celtic Music, and Bulmer's company. Some of these have gone to the courts; a number of others have led to artists waiting, frustrated, for their CM contracts to expire (and, clearly, being unable to record during that period). As well as sitting on a large chunk of the history of the UK folk revival, Bulmer has at least contributed to the fact that significant developments in UK folk music have never made it to a recording.
It is widely believed that this is why Bulmer features on what is referred to as the "Musicians Union Blacklist". (As I understand it, this comprises advice from the union to its members that they should contact their local "union rep" before considering entering any contract with Bulmer).

It should also be mentioned that Bulmer insisted on putting what Dick Gaughan considered to be a totally unreasonable price on the Clan Alba CD, totally against Dick's wishes.

I belive that's about as much information as is in the "public domain".

Against this, it needs to be said:

   Bulmer has been "trickling" some of the "lost treasures" back onto CD release over the last few years.

   Bulmer has agreed to a number of tracks being included in various compilations, samplers, etc.

   Following Mick Tems' recent stroke, Bulmer did agree to release right to his back catalogue to allow "benefit" CD re-releases to be made.

   There are at least some artists who appear happy with the deal they have with CM - most notably Sid Kipper . .

George