During his 30 year tenure with WWE, Jim Johnston crafted some of the most iconic wrestling theme songs in history.
While what a wrestler does from bell to bell is obviously vital, that wrestler’s overall presentation can make or break them as a performer. And a huge part of that presentation is their entrance music.
With the right theme music a performer can be taken to the next level. While having the right music for the right character is essential.
Over the course of his career, Jim Johnston created theme music for the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Vince McMahon and hundreds more.
However, Johnston’s time with WWE would come to an end in 2017. Since leaving the company, the composer has been unable to use any of the music that he made while he was there. Something which he says comes down to the thorny issue of ownership.
In a new interview with Chris Van Vliet, Johnston explains that it all comes to down to the fact that the music is owned by two people. Himself and WWE. Or composer and publisher. Meaning that Johnston would need WWE’s permission if he wanted to allow the music to be used on TV.
“Every piece of music has 2 owners, the composer and the publisher. In a situation like mine, I’m the sole composer and WWE is the sole publisher. There are 2 ways at looking at it. Either I won 50% and they own 50%. But the music industry is 200%, I own 100% of the composition side and they own 100% of the publishing side. The weirdness to that system is if you’re the publisher, you have all the power.
For example, Ford could come to us and say they want to use Stone Cold’s theme for the new F150. I could say great idea, and the publisher says no, and they are not doing it. Along with that, I can’t do anything with my own music, because they are the publisher. I have to go to them and get permission to sell it. If not I am dead in the water. It’s very weird not to use my own music for something. Post WWE, I found myself where I have to recreate a reel of music which is mine. Even a few songs that were my songs, they are mine. But the master is owned by WWE. So I can’t use that recording. This is what is happening with Taylor Swift, she is re-recording the masters. There are a lot of unfairness’s in the music industry.”
Due to his long tenure with company many have expected Johnston to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. However, once again things aren’t quite that simple.
Elsewhere in the interview, Johnston said that the time for an induction has probably passed, and that he’d be uncomfortable if he were to be asked to be inducted.