By Mike Seastrom


For many years, we had the great fortune of being enlightened by some real leaders in our square dance and calling activity about the subject of music ethics. Bill Heyman was instrumental in waking us up to the fact that sharing and copying music from others, as easy and innocent as it might seem, was highly illegal and even subject to hefty fines.

​The late Tom Dillander researched the issue even deeper to give us the information we needed on even more of the finer points concerning the organization, transfer, and use of music in the digital medium. So many of us had no idea of the laws and ethics that were associated with using music and making the change from 45 RPM records to cassette tapes, mini-discs, CDs, and to computers.

As digital technology has developed over the last 20 years, many of us have received pieces of music to use when we call. Quite often our friends and colleagues have approached us with a piece of music on a mini-disc, CD, or flash drive and said something along the lines of, “Try this, I think you’ll like it.” It seems so friendly to accept and perhaps offer something back in return. The problem was that because it was so easy and felt so friendly and harmless, we were “seduced” by the idea that anything so simple can’t be unethical. We all accept gifts thinking it just seems polite to do so, and it would be almost rude to not accept or even refuse someone’s offer. It would even be impolite not to reciprocate.

During the initial period of transition from vinyl to digital, many callers have encountered problems using and understanding new technology. Those of us who encountered callers in this situation have felt a fundamental desire to help. However, “helping” can be a very long-winded process, and most of us do not have the time to take this tedious route. Consequently, the easier route of just giving everything you have and letting them delete the files to which they have no right has been used. Unfortunately, this has created a situation where both parties involved have acted unethically, with no malice and no intention to defraud or deprive the distributors or the producers of their rightful reimbursement.

A general assumption has been made that no one suffers and that it is a victimless crime. This is, of course, not true and we have seen the amount of well-produced music for our dancers dwindle to a trickle. Good music producers have been losing money on their music for years, and although several companies are still using live musicians or have attempted to “weather the storm” with yearly music membership programs, it is clear that the decreasing quality and quantity in our music affects the quality of our calling, our dancing, and the numbers in our activity. Many callers are still using only old music recorded back in the 1980s and before. I don’t think they realize that the old-time sound just further projects the long held “Yee-hah image” as an activity of a by-gone era, only for old people who like old sounding music.

​After many written articles, meetings, and seminars with Bill and Tom leading the way, a Music Ethics Committee with Chairman, Paul Bristow and Vice Chairman, Wade Driver was formed. This committee was charged with developing a way for callers and others who use recorded and digital music to entertain others to do so in a legal and ethical manner. To accomplish this, it’s important to develop a way to get this valuable information out and update the information as changes and new situations occur. It’s equally important to provide a vehicle for those who want to be ethical and “do the right thing” when it comes to using music in calling, cueing, prompting, teaching, and entertaining others.

The Music Ethics Committee finished their final report in the spring of 2013. They proposed that a “Professional Guild” be formed so that any ethically minded professional entertainer could join, learn the laws and rules, get updates, and essentially agree to pay for all the music they use in teaching and entertaining. They also suggested that this “Guild” be independent of all other organizations to encourage everyone to join who wants to be ethical in their use of music.

Paul Bristow and his committee did an incredible amount of work and extensively developed the idea of how to form this independent organization they called the “Professional Recorded Instrumental Digital Entertainers:  “GUILD of PRIDE”. Paul’s committee went on to explain that this independent organization would be created to represent professional entertainers who use digitally recorded instrumental music that has been paid for in their performances. It would be set up so that the members could have a better understanding of what is “right” and what is “wrong” when it comes to the copying, selling, giving, and receiving of music in any form, but specifically in the modern digital formats that are now available.

​There currently is not a practical way to take firm legal action on those who are suspected of illegally sharing music, but from what we’ve seen on websites of those companies involved in making and distributing music, prosecution of those individuals violating music copyright laws is not far off. With the creation of a voluntary worldwide program, we will be able to get closer to solving the music piracy problem by giving those who use recorded music for teaching and/or entertaining  the opportunity to philosophically join others, be ethical, and “do the right thing” in regards to the music they use.

Final plans have been implemented in forming “The GUILD of PRIDE” including developing a website, recruiting an independent executive director, and gathering even more information to share. This will allow those who join to have access to the latest information and verbal tools to know how to handle a situation comfortably when music sharing is offered.

Paul Bristow’s committee felt that the vast majority of teachers and entertainers who use recorded music are good people, but all are being, “tarred by the same brush” when it comes to music piracy. “The Guild of PRIDE” is not a tool for the distributors or producers, but a way for music entertainers to now go forward and publicize their honesty and personal integrity for all to see. By doing so, hopefully the organizations that arrange dance events and book recorded music entertainers, will someday require membership in “The Guild”, as well as a BMI/ASCAP license, as criteria for all the callers they hire.