Drawing of Rodriguez by 6-year old boy from France

Email received from Laure in France:


My little son Lubin, who loves Rodriguez, has wrote a letter and made a drawing for him.
Could you give us a postal address to send it?
Thanks a lot

Have a good day,



Rodriguez Drawing

Rodriguez Drawing

Rodriguez Letter

Rodriguez Letter

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Posted in News

What Likely Happened to the Royalties for “Sugar Man”?

A tale of record business chicanery

The 2012 movie “Searching for Sugar Man” belatedly made a minor star out of the musician Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. Its basic premise is that somehow his records became hits in South Africa but everybody thought he was dead, so they went looking for him. In fact, he was alive all along in Detroit, pursuing a modest career as a day laborer. Rodriguez was signed to the independent label Sussex Records. One of the dramatic highlights of the film is when the interviewer confronts Clarence Avant, the label’s owner. “What happened to all of the royalties?” the interviewer asks. Avant becomes visibly agitated and is unable to offer a satisfactory answer to the question. In fact the mystery of the missing royalties is not that difficult to assess. While it remains hypothetical, this note sets forth the most likely scenario.

Rodriguez signed a contract with Sussex obligating him to deliver an album, with options for more. At least one of those options was exercised, because the label put out two of them: “Cold Fact” in 1970 and “Coming from Reality” in 1971. Rodriguez evidently was recording a third album when Sussex dropped him, meaning that it exercised an option but then decided not to proceed. As was standard at the time, the contract paid Rodriguez a royalty rate on net sales of records equal to 10% of the wholesale price, with deductions for packaging, free goods, discounts and other similar sales inducements. Sussex paid for all recording costs, including studio, side musicians and producer. Those costs were “recoupable,” meaning they could be recovered by the label at the contractual rate, before any further royalties actually became payable to Rodriguez.

Being an independent label, Sussex was reliant upon an unreliable network of independent record distributors to bring its records to market. This was a day and age long before the advent of internet streaming, digital downloads, even the CD. Records were physical goods made out of vinyl. Tower Records just was starting. While there were some small chains like Discount Records and Wherehouse, there were no major record store chains like Musicland or Transworld (there aren’t any now, either). Most stores bought either directly from a distributor or through intermediaries known as one-stops, i.e. the small store made “one stop” to buy all of its product requirements. Record distribution was doled out by territory, with each distributor jealously guarding its turf. There were plenty of inside deals, kick-backs, payola, hookers and color TV sets.

A label’s ability to get its records distributed, and get paid, depended solely on the clout of its artist roster. The label also needed a continuous flow of product so the distributor was incentivized to pay, because it knew the label would have more records coming later. At the time, Warner Bros. Records was independently distributed — this was before the creation of WEA Corp. — and it got paid. But this was the exception, not the rule. A small independent label with a one-off record didn’t stand a chance. If it got paid at all, it got paid very little. Furthermore, it had no effective mechanism to remedy any payments deficiency. It was inexpensive, relationship-disruptive and most likely personally dangerous to pursue any shortfall.

Sussex’ position wasn’t helped by the fact it went out of business in 1975. When a label goes out of business it’s a green light for distributors to embargo any and all cash. In fairness to distributors, that’s also the signal for retailers to return any unsold quantities of records back to the distributor, knowing the label will not be in a position to market or promote them further. The distributor then will have to credit the retailers for the amount of the returns. If the distributor already has paid the label, then returns credits will be at the distributor’s expense, further disincentivizing the distributor to make any further payments.

Sussex was in a particularly vulnerable position because it was sub-distributed by another independent label, Buddah Records. Buddah either advanced funds to Sussex on a line-of-credit basis, or paid Sussex an overall label advance, which Avant retained without parsing it out to any of the label’s artists. Buddah also charged Sussex a high distribution fee–greater than its actual costs to distribute. It also made a margin on manufacturing costs. Avant was in a condition of subservience to Buddah and had to beseech it for money on a regular basis, much of which became unaccountable. Buddah got to recoup these amounts before it had to pay anything further to Sussex.

Compounding the problem, Buddah treated Sussex as a single accounting unit, that is, it cross-collateralized sales by all of the Sussex Records artists before it was obligated to pay anything to Sussex, even if funds advanced had been recouped. So, if Sussex had one hit artist but nine failures, then Sussex never would see any money on account of the one hit artist, because its net sales were absorbed by the other artists’ losses. This created tremendous cash flow issues at Sussex, which didn’t have enough resources to adequately market, advertise and promote its artists–even less so one like Rodriguez. “Sugar Man” is a catchy tune but it was off-template for the times. While I don’t doubt there was plenty of chicanery at the Sussex level, one need not necessarily hypothesize this was so, because Sussex wasn’t getting paid, Rodriguez wasn’t selling, and there’s nothing either Sussex or Buddah could do to drive Rodriguez records through the system. Rodriguez sold in miniscule quantities, far less than required to recoup the amount of recording costs Sussex incurred for the two records and some sessions for the third.

The situation internationally was not much better. This was a day and age long before the multimedia international conglomerates that now dominate the music business, such as it is. Labels licensed out rights on a haphazard, patchwork quilt-like, territory-by-territory basis. As part of its distribution deal, Sussex assigned all of its international rights to Buddah. Buddah in turn shopped all of its international rights (including the Sussex rights) around the world. For a modest advance, it licensed all of its albums for the entire continent of Africa to a company in South Africa. Buddah kept the entire amount of the advance without paying any of it to Sussex.

Africa was not considered a major territory. Many labels were unsuccessful in licensing any rights there at all. If a record became popular, record companies in South Africa simply would start printing copies of the record. Who was going to stop them? Surprisingly, though, the South African licensee did a good job in stimulating local enthusiasm for Rodriguez. Selling records is like blowing on an ember; you hope it conflagrates into a fire, but more frequently it just goes out. Through whatever combination of cultural taste, the tempo of the times, good marketing and promotion, some disc jockey liking it or other mysterious concatenation of circumstances, people started buying it. Buddah’s contract with its South African licensee obligated the licensee to pay royalties to Buddah after the amount of the advance was recouped. The South African company, however, never made any such payments. There’s no business reason why it should. What was Buddah going to do, go down to South Africa to sue it?

Even if money trickled from South Africa to Buddah to Sussex, Rodriguez’ contract with Sussex obligated it only to pay him half of the domestic royalty rate. No such payments ever were made or received. So, as a practical matter, there was no way to extract foreign royalties either. The South African company even put together a compilation album, “At His Best,” combining masters from Rodriguez’ two released albums with some of those from the unreleased third album. No payments were made to Buddah on account of that record. Since it had continent-wide rights, the South African licensee may have sub-licensed the Rodriguez masters to other companies in Africa. It also may have sold finished goods records to distributors in other territories, such as Australia. Sensing action on the project in much the same way sharks sense blood in the water, other companies throughout Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia started manufacturing and distributing records, even though they didn’t have a license. What was there to stop them?

The situation for music publishing should have been somewhat brighter, but it wasn’t. Rodriguez’ musical compositions were published by Interior Music. Under a typical music publishing deal for the time, music publishing revenue was split 50/50 between the songwriter and the music publisher. If there was a composer and a lyricist, they would share the songwriter’s 50% equally, i.e. 25% each. The two primary sources of music publishing revenue were mechanical royalties on account of sales of records, payable by the record company to the music publisher; and performance royalties, payable by radio stations to the publisher’s affiliated performing rights organization on account of radio airplay. Interior Music appears to have been owned by or affiliated with Avant. Mechanical royalties are set by statute. At the time, the statutory royalty rate was $.02 per song (two cents per song). A record with 10 songs on it therefore would have attracted a mechanical royalty rate of $.20, payable by the record company to the music publisher. Rodriguez’ record contract, however, may have provided that compositions that he owned or controlled would be licensed at a rate lower than the statutory rate. It also may have been cross-collateralized with his music publishing contract, i.e. music publishing royalties would not be payable until recording costs and other record company advanced costs had been recouped. Even if not, Sussex never paid mechanical royalties to Interior. Why should it? Both were owned by the same person, i.e., Avant. Interior never paid Rodriguez his share. Interior was affiliated with BMI. Rodriguez should have been able to collect performance royalties directly from BMI. However, due to limited radio airplay, because of limited promotion, because of limited money, no performance royalties were reported or collected.

The situation with foreign music publishing royalties is more complicated. Rodriguez should have been able to collect them. However most likely they never were paid by the applicable record company licensee, sub-licensee or whatever company simply undertook to release records on its own account.

In conclusion, while there may have been duplicity at Sussex, most likely the reason why Rodriguez never got paid royalties is because there were no royalties to be paid. Avant’s defensive reaction to the question about royalties in “Searching for Sugarman” suggests that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If the scenario I’ve outlined is even remotely accurate, a better discursive strategy for him to employ would have been to look the interviewer straight in the eyes and tell him just that.

Posted in News, Searching For Sugar Man Film


Sugar and James

It’s going to be a very sweet Sunday afternoon in Hout Bay when James Stewart and Stephen “Sugar” Segerman bring their exciting new show, ‘A Spoonful Of Sugar And James’ to SuikerBossie on 5th May. Following a series of sold out, and critically acclaimed, early performances, this entertaining show is looking to move to larger theatres in the near future, so this is a good opportunity to catch this performance from up close.

James Stewart, the well-known South African singer-songwriter from The Usual, and ‘Sugar’, the man behind the rediscovery of Rodriguez, and the film, ‘Searching For Sugar Man’, share their stories, with some classic Rodriguez, South African, and James Stewart original songs mixed in.

The show begins in the late afternoon (6pm) and the ticket price of R270 per person includes a typically delicious SuikerBossie meal of a mini-soup, gourmet burger and dessert. Tickets are already on sale at Web Tickets so book now:  http://bit.ly/SugarJamesSuikerbossie or www.webtickets.co.za

James Stewart


082 807 9544 | james@music-alchemy.com | www.music-alchemy.com

Emmy nominated, multi SAMA award winning, chart topping singer, songwriter and music business entrepreneur.

Posted in News, Performances, Searching For Sugar Man Film

A Spoonful Of Sugar & James at Alma Cafe 12 April 2019

Spoonful Of Sugar And James

It’s been called “The Greatest Music story of the past 50 years”, the story of this wonderful and talented musician and his journey to his well-deserved and long-overdue fame. But enough about James Stewart ;) In this innovative, informative and slightly irreverent show, James joins Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, the person behind the rediscovery of Sixto Rodriguez and “Searching For Sugar Man”, the Oscar-winning documentary about the whole story, as the two music journeymen tell their respective tales and play and sing some of the most seminal Rodriguez and South African classic songs.

This Friday!

Sugar and I promised ourselves we’d do a short run and see how it goes…. it’s been amazing.

A Spoonful of Sugar & James intertwines and connects seminal South African songs with a story so seemingly fantastical it seems unbelievable.

Booking is as always absolutely essential by phone on  021 685 7377. 50 seats only.

James Stewart


082 807 9544 | james@music-alchemy.com | www.music-alchemy.com

Emmy nominated, multi SAMA award winning, chart topping singer, songwriter and music business entrepreneur.


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Posted in News, Performances, Searching For Sugar Man Film

A Spoonful Of Sugar And James at Noordhoek on 28 February 2019

A Spoonful of Sugar And James

It’s been called “The Greatest Music story of the past 60 years”, the story of this wonderful and talented musician and his journey to his well-deserved and long-overdue fame. But enough about James Stewart. In this innovative, informative and slightly irreverent show, James joins Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, the person behind the rediscovery of Sixto Rodriguez and “Searching For Sugar Man”, the Oscar-winning documentary about the whole story, as the two old friends tell their respective tales and play and sing some great Rodriguez and South African classic songs.
Catch these two on Thursday 28th February at Café Roux in Noordhoek (7.30 for 8)

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Posted in News, Performances, Searching For Sugar Man Film

A Spoonful Of Sugar And James


It’s been called “The Greatest Music Story of the past 50 years”, the tale of this wonderful and talented musician and his journey to his well-deserved and long-overdue fame. But enough about James Stewart”!

In this innovative, informative and slightly irreverent show, James joins Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, the man behind the rediscovery of Sixto Rodriguez and “Searching For Sugar Man”, the Oscar-winning documentary about the whole story, as these two old “choms” share their respective stories and play and sing some great Rodriguez and South African classic songs.

For 20 years, Sugar, as he is popularly known, has been involved in the rediscovery of, and resurgence of worldwide interest in, Sixto Rodriguez. This legendary and internationally acclaimed American folk-rock singer-songwriter, who was a huge success in South Africa from the ‘70’s onwards, was believed to be dead but was found alive and well and living in Detroit in 1997. Since then his career has gone from strength to strength following a series of international tours, the re-release of his albums, and the success of the Oscar-winning film in 2013.

Since then, Sugar has travelled around South Africa, and overseas, giving talks and answering questions about the whole Rodriguez story. He attended the Academy Awards ceremony in 2013, followed by the publishing of his best-selling book in 2015, titled “Sugar Man – The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez”, co-written with his fellow “Musical Detective” in the story, Craig Bartholomew Strydom. For the past 15 years he has also been the owner of Mabu Vinyl, the Cape Town record shop featured in the Rodriguez film.

James Stewart, the Multi SAMA award-winning, EMMY-nominated, chart-topping, singer-songwriter, cut his teeth in classical music with the usual childhood distaste, and then “surfed passionately and messed around with synthesizers” in his early teens. The following decade would see him form his own band, abandon a law career and take a leap into the great unknown. As singer-songwriter for The Usual, he achieved fame with enduring classics like ‘The Shape That I’m In’ and ‘Like A Vision’. Since then ‘Shine’, ‘A Man Like Me’, and many other solo hits, have found their way into hearts and homes across South Africa.

Hear James tell his side of the story and play a selection of songs by himself, Rodriguez and other South African artists.

Listen to these two musical journeymen connect the dots between their respective adventures.

Catch these two on Saturday 9th February at Franschoek Cellars (3-5pm) and then on Thursday 28th February at Café Roux in Noordhoek (7.30 for 8)

James Stewart
Email: james@music-alchemy.com
Phone: 082 807 9544


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Posted in News, Performances

Rodriguez Live at The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Los Angeles | mxdwn.com


Rodriguez Live at The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Los Angeles

On a Saturday night, many gathered for a performance of the legendary singer-songwriter and Oscar winner, Rodriguez, at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on the Cal State L.A. campus in East Los Angeles. Searching for Sugar Man documented Rodriguez’s story of being a Mexican-American songwriter whose two early ’70s albums bombed in America, but who wound up finding a huge audience in Apartheid-era South Africa. Sixto Rodriguez had no idea he was a legend there until a group of fans found him on the Internet and brought him to the country for a series of triumphant concerts.

A little before 8:00 p.m., attendees were enjoying the reception right outside the theater, complete with a taco stand, beverages and a DJ. But those who were seated promptly at 8:00 p.m. were treated to a stunning performance by singer-songwriter Vera Sola.

“Hello Los Angeles,” Vera Sola greeted the seated audience. “We’re about to have a discussion…” she trailed into song. She played a solo set with plenty of arpeggiated guitar and deep vocals. She wandered and slinked about the stage, never missing a beat as she pierced the audience with her intense gaze. She performed songs from her upcoming album Shades and took time between each song to share a little bit about them. “A lot of these songs are funny,” she shared after a particularly dark love song, “Small Minds,” to which the crowd laughed. But the highlight of her set was a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” where she turned disco into folk and showcased the full range of her vocals, from trembling to belting. The crowd cheered during and after the song and she replied, “That’s how I do a disco song.” She performed a couple more songs, each with their own unique story—one about a woman she met in Mississippi named Honey, and another dedicated to her sister with powerful lyrics like, “got the universe inside my body.”

While the audience waited eagerly for Rodriguez to take the stage, a performer by the name of S.K. took the stage, guitar in hand, and performed a couple original songs including “Don’t Go Changing” and “Solution,” as well as a couple covers the crowd got into including Jewel’s “Who Will Save Your Soul” and New Kingdom’s “Mexico or Bust.”

Shortly after, Rodriguez took the stage with the help of his posse, and the crowd cheered as loud as they could. Rodriguez took a seat and was left solo with his guitar on stage. “I always check the tuning—trust no one,” he shared as he re-tuned his guitar. Some phrases he repeated throughout the night included, “I was born in 1942,” “I’m a musical activist” and “I have a few words for the commander in chief,” just to paint a picture. The crowd took the liberty of speaking back to Rodriguez whenever there was a pause. “Rodriguez for President!” One man said, which was followed by cheers. He played a few covers throughout the set, opening with Elton John’s “Your Song” and “Sixteen Tons” by Merle Travis and later playing The Doors’ “Light My Fire.” He performed mostly solo, sometimes accompanied by tambourine or maracas.

Rodriguez shared openly about his political views and activism, sharing that he’d ran for mayor of Detroit, his city of origin. He also shared his distaste for current events, “how about the 300 priests in Pennsylvania?” The crowd groaned along. But he also kept things light at times, joking, “I want to be treated like an ordinary legend.” The crowd hooted and cheered along to songs like “The Establishment Blues,” moving their heads along to the rhythm. “Would you like to know my thesis?” Rodriguez asked the crowd, who were on the edge of their seats hanging on to every word… ” O.R. Oppression will result in revolution!” One audience member replied, “help us, Rodriguez, you’re our only hope!” “Power to the people!” He replied as he got ready for the next song, “You’d Like to Admit It.” About halfway into the set, he put down his hat and put on goggles, which he left on for the rest of the set. “It was only when I left Detroit that I realized people smiled,” he chuckled. The crowd started shouting out the cities they were from… “Berlin!” “East Los!” and Rodriguez looked around the audience, listening with intent. Some sang along to “Sugarman,” one of the more popular songs of the night. Stage lights danced around the audience. After the song, Rodriguez warned, “Sugarman is a descriptive song, not prescriptive. Stay off drugs!”

The stage lights made it appear as though he was playing in a pool of water with flowers bobbing on the surface, adding a soothing element to his folk style performance. Before going into another popular song, “I Wonder,” he shared some words of wisdom: “It’s not kill or be killed, it’s live and let live.” The crowd sang and clapped along. He closed the set with “Forget It,” and everyone waited eagerly for an encore, which they received. He closed the night with a final, “I love you guys and my love is real,” leaving his message of love in the air all night.


  1. Your Song (Elton John cover)
  2. Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis cover)
  3. Inner City Blues
  4. Cause
  5. Let’s Think About Living (Bob Luhman cover)
  6. This In Not A Song, It’s An Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues
  7. You’d Like to Admit it
  8. Sugarman
  9. Rich Folk Hoax
  10. Sandrevan Lullaby – Lifestyles
  11. I Wonder
  12. Somebody To Love (The Great Society cover)
  13. Forget It


  1. Light My Fire (The Doors cover)
  2. Street Boy

Photos by Mauricio Alvarado

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Posted in Performances, Photos, Reviews & Interviews
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