Most artists are pretty happy moments after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but when Steve Miller came into the press room following his speech and performance, he was fuming with anger. He ripped the organization to shreds while addressing the press, and continued with his anger when speaking with Rolling Stone. We sat down with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President and CEO Joel Peresman to hear his side of the story.
Prior to the evening of the ceremony, did you know that Steve Miller was upset?
No. We really had no issues with Steve. There were some things they brought up earlier about wanting his band to come, which we took care of. His band had a table and they were able to sit at and enjoy the show before and after their performance. I know there were some issues going back and forth about the standard TV release, which we do with every act every year and it never seems to be a problem. There’s always that little back and forth you get leading into a show.
I want to go through the things he said backstage. He said, “When they told me I was inducted, they said, ‘You have two tickets – one for your wife and one for yourself. Want another one? It’s $10,000 – sorry that’s the way it goes.’ What about my band? What about their wives? They make this so unpleasant.”
Steve Miller’s band wasn’t being inducted this year. Steve Miller was inducted. We unquestionably took care of his band and his band was given a table they were able to sit at before and after the performance. I’m really surprised he goes down that path being that he’s on the board of other cultural institutions, and he should have an understanding of how cultural institutions work. They do fundraisers and when you do fundraisers, you have rules in order to actually make money. You don’t just give away tickets for free.
He said, “They need to respect the artists they say they’re honoring, which they don’t. I don’t have any of my paperwork signed. I have no licensing agreements with these people. They’re trying to steal footage. They’re trying to make me indemnify them.”
I really don’t know what Steve is referring to on that. For 30 years when we’ve inducted artists, we create clip packages to show images of them as they come up to the accept the award. Whether Steve was being tough on giving us rights on that stuff or whether he wanted approval, I’m not really sure what he’s referring to. Our legal team and rights team reaches out to all the inductees. Steve seems to be the only release that wasn’t signed before the performance.
Do you know what he means by, “They’re trying to steal footage?”
I have no idea when he means when he says “steal footage.” We spend a lot of money every year licensing footage that is used in the clips packages as well as music rights we pay like every other award show does. If an inductee owns the footage and they’ll give it to us for free? That’s fantastic. Again, we’re a nonprofit organization. Wherever we can cut costs and save money, that’s money we can make that goes to support the museum. Steve should know that being involved with other cultural institutions.
“I encourage the [Hall of Fame] to more inclusive of women.”
If you look over the past few years, we’ve inducted women basically every year. We’ve had women nominated or inducted every year for the past number of years. Once the nomination process goes out to the general voters, it’s up to them to who they feel should be inducted and why they should be inducted.
“I encourage the Hall of Fame to be more transparent in your dealings with the public.”
I have no idea what he means. As far as being transparent in our dealings and finances with the public, all our financial statements — our 990 statements — are a matter of public record.
“The whole experience should be completely redesigned and become much more artist-friendly, starting from who you can invite, what you can do, how long you can play, what you can say. The whole thing is sort of an amateur production and doing this is harder than doing a 20-city tour.”
[Laughs]. This production has been refined over the past 30 years. One thing that Steve needs to consider is that he’s not the only person being inducted that night. There are other inductees that we need to be respectful to and give them time to perform and speak. No one ever edits what people say. We try to give people a time limit and we work with them on that because we don’t want to be there for six hours. It’s disrespectful to the other inductees and the fans that come if you let people go on and on and on. Everyone gets three songs. Again, everyone would love to do extended guitar solos for 20 minutes, but it’s being disrespectful to the other inductees and the people that come to the event. To be clear, we’d never, in any way, edit someone’s speech.
I can’t tell you the amount of thank you notes we got from people in Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, the guys in Chicago and N.W.A. They all sent e-mails saying how much they enjoyed the experience and they’re glad they came. Some said they were embarrassed for the comments that Steve made.
Do you ever edit speeches?
Absolutely not. We give them a suggestion of time to work with, but in no way would we ever edit anyone’s speech.
“This whole industry fucking sucks and this little get-together you guys have here is kind of like a private boys club and it’s kind of a bunch of jackasses and jerks and fucking gangsters and crooks who’ve fucking stolen everything from a fucking artist, telling the artist to come out here and tap dance.”
[Laughs hysterically.] At the end of the day, Steve Miller, unquestionably from his musical legacy and influence, deserved to be inducted. That he feels this way I feel badly for him. But, again, we’re thrilled and happy he was inducted. He deserves to be inducted. We’re happy to have him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“The most important thing is the fucking board of this organization really needs to enlarge their gene pool. I think you understand.”
I don’t understand? Have more women on it? If he means that, we have women on the nominating committee. There’s a lot of women voters. I don’t know what he means by gene pool.
Are you disappointed and surprised about all this?
It’s sad. This is a night where we’ve had bands that have broken up, and hate each other, and with a few exceptions, are able to get back together and celebrate for one night and realize it isn’t about them, it’s about the fans that wanted to see them get inducted. It’s about the fans going to the museum in Cleveland for years and have been going, “Why isn’t Steve Miller inducted?” For one night, look at it as a celebration of your legacy and how important you are to rock and roll.
That’s what we try and celebrate and overall we’ve tried to do that year after year. But at the end of the day, you can’t make people happy. It’s sad the overarching story is one person’s unhappiness when he should have looked at the night as a celebration of his music and just gone from there.