Future 25: Amy Jackson Helps Artists When the Music Industry Doesn't - Rolling Stone
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Future 25: Amy Jackson, Amy Jackson Consulting

The wife of the late trumpet player Wayne Jackson found her calling when investigating unclaimed royalties of his work, and now helps other artists navigate the labyrinth of music’s payments system

Courtesy of Amy Jackson

In late 2017, Amy Jackson received a curious piece of mail. Her husband, renowned Memphis trumpet player Wayne Jackson, had recently died, and she requested a statement for “Last Night,” a 1961 instrumental recorded when Jackson was a member of the Mar-Keys. Over the years, the song had since become a soundtrack staple, and Jackson wondered if there might be some unclaimed royalties for the 56-year-old tune. But when she opened the statement, she noticed a shocking omission: In the column where the various musicians’ contact information would be located, it simply said “Unknown.”

“I couldn’t believe it, because I knew all of those people,” says Jackson. In that moment, Jackson, formerly a paralegal, found her second calling: helping aging musicians and artists recover unclaimed royalty payments, a process that’s become more complicated than ever for a generation of artists unfamiliar with streaming services. She refers to “Last Night” as “the song that launched Wayne’s career — then launched my own career.”

The story of musicians not being properly compensated for their work is as old as the recording industry itself, but over the past year and a half, Jackson has been vital in her community to change that narrative. Her first client — longtime friend Susan Marshall — had sang backup on Primal Scream’s 1994 Give Out But Don’t Give Up, an album that had earned decent international royalty payments for Wayne Jackson. “Would there be royalties for her?” Jackson wondered. The answer, after some investigation, was a resounding “Yes.” ‘I truly believe she would have never known about [the royalties]” says Jackson, who describes her job as “part detective; part Good Fairy.”

Jackson’s clients include everyone from Norbert Putnam, who played bass on records by Elvis Presley, to the vocal group the Masqueraders, whose songs have been sampled by Kanye West and Curren$y. In her first 18 months, the total amount of money Jackson has discovered for her several dozen clients reaches six figures. With streaming, most individual payments are small, but that doesn’t make them any less important for elderly musicians. One recent payment was $32; another was $900. In an industry that perpetually preys on uninformed musicians, Jackson is determined to do the opposite. “These people have been taken advantage of,” she says. “My mission is to be a force of light.”


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