RCA Contract

Music producer Rick Jarrard had recently started working with RCA when he met Harry Nilsson in January of 1967. After several meetings and auditions with Nilsson, Jarrard offered Harry a contract with RCA (although Jarrard actually had no authority to offer such a deal).


So Harry’s deal got okayed. But I certainly overstepped my bounds with that, in their eyes. However, in my eyes, that’s what I was there for, to discover and sign new people that I felt had a good shot. And that’s what I did.

-- Rick Jarrard[1]


Harry signed a contract with RCA on January 19, 1967. It was a one-year contract (with a seven-year option) that provided no money upfront and a four-percent royalty on U.S. sales (two percent elsewhere).[2]


Nilsson's RCA contract expired while Nilsson was working with John Lennon on the Pussy Cats album. Nilsson spent several months in early 1974 lobbying RCA to renew the contract. Finally, in April, John Lennon and Harry met with Kenneth Glancy, President and Chief Executive Officer of RCA Records. As Harry recalled when interviewed by Dawn Eden, John Lennon teased that he might sign with RCA as a ploy to get the company to renew Harry's contract:


So I went down to RCA. We'd been up all night long and it was now 10 in the morning. Both still drunk, with shades, hats, dark jackets. The secretary said, 'Mr. Glancy, uh, Harry Nilsson and John Lennon are here to see you, sir.'
'What?' Boom! Door opens immediately. We walk in. There we are, you know? In every office, heads are turning to look at us. He said to John, 'Hi! How are you doing, sir? Would you like a cigar?' John said, 'No, thanks. I'd take a brandy.' So we had a brandy, and John said, 'Look, it's about Harry. You know, you've only ever had two artists on your label: Elvis Presley and Harry. He told me what you're paying him. Look, for that money, I'll sign it. You've got an artist! Pay the two dollars! "Pay the two dollars' was like saying, pay the parking ticket, rather than fight City Hall. He said, 'I'll sign with you, for that kind of money.'
When the guy heard that, his mind went 'Bing!' Dollar signs! So he said, 'Well, we'll have to get the contracts together.' I said, 'No, no. They're on the 10th floor. They're in Legal. Ask Dick Etlinger, in Business Affairs. He's the guy.' So he calls up and says, 'Do you have the Nilsson contract? Could you bring it up here?' Because he didn't want to look like an asshole in front of John.
They brought up the contract. I said, 'All you have to do is affix your signature where it says "President." Just write your name on it.' He said, 'Okay,' and he did it, right in front of John. John made me $5 million that minute. I looked at John for a minute and I almost cried. Then I said, 'I'd like four copies.' I gave one to John, one to me, one in the hotel safe, and I sent one out to California. An that's how I got to be a multimillionaire. Thank you very much, John!

-- Harry Nilsson [3]


In 1978, Nilsson asked RCA to let him out of his contract. "I told the company, 'Why did you give me all this money if you're not crazy about what I'm doing? Let's make a deal: I'll give most of it back, and you let me out of the contract." When the contract was ended, Nilsson forfeited the almost $1 million in advances he would have received for the two remaining albums.[4]



Roger Smith (January 19, 2022)

In today's dollars, the $1,000,000 Nilsson gave up is the equivalent of about $4,000,000.

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Title Summary
One Last Touch of Nilsson This article is from Goldmine Magazine (Vol. 20 No. 9 Issue ...
Colin Richardson's 1978 Interview with Harry Nilsson Thanks to the kindness of Colin Richardson , his April 10, ...
Rick Jarrard James Richard Jarrard was born in Waycross, Georgia , on ...
Harry Nilsson Harry Edward Nilsson III [1] was born on June 15, 1941, in ...
Harry Nilsson on Money ... to Forbes magazine about his RCA contract guaranteeing ...