GORILLA MUSIC MANAGEMENT - THE COMPANY
GORILLA MUSIC MANAGEMENT AND THE FOCOTheory Agency
In June, 2013 the FOCOTheory Agency merged with Gorilla Music Management. The FOCOTheory Agency was founded by Lance Waste (aka Lance Williams), the vocalist for the Cleveland, OH band Darling Waste. Lance Waste is now also a Gorilla Music rep (here with the other Gorilla reps) and his band Darling Waste is listed on the Gorilla Music Management artist roster. It is unclear why this band would need to be on the GMM roster considering these industry credentials.
RESEARCH ON GORILLA MUSIC MANAGEMENT
I thought Gorilla Music Management was an interesting new development in the continuing saga of the Gorilla Music Empire. However, checking through their official roster of artists, I also noticed that their clients seemed to change rapidly. Bands that were featured one month would suddenly be missing from their webpage the next. This peaked my curiosity.
During the process of trying to find out about this new management opportunity, I happened onto a band called The Shots. Maybe they seemed more interesting because they are young guys playing a style of music that my band knew well - grunge. I’m always fascinated when a group, who were probably just born at the time, is influenced by all the bands I used to play with. I like what they have going on. The Shots were part of the Gorilla Music Management roster but like many others, suddenly they weren’t. I decided to take a chance and see if I could find out what happened. I was happy to discover that they would be willing to tell me all about it and answer my many questions.
In July 2013, Brad and Chad allowed me to ask them all about their experience being part of the Gorilla Music Management roster. I think it’s important to get this information from bands that have gone through this process and I appreciate the trouble The Shots took to answer my questions. My questions will appear as NPTP.
NPTP: Thanks for doing this, guys. So can you tell me what was your first contact with Gorilla Music?
BRAD: Jason Roth contacted us and he told us the same thing all Gorilla Representatives tell the bands they talk to “I really like what you guys are doing. I would like to create something out of it...blah blah blah...I want to create a future business relationship that won't come out of anyone’s pocket. You have nothing to lose here"...and crap like that.
NPTP: How does Gorilla Music Management approach you about being managed by them?
BRAD: They messaged us over the computer via email. The dude (Jason) actually emailed us for a year before we even "joined", trying to get us on his roster. He told us it was because how our music is different and you don't hear it anymore and crap like that.
NPTP: Seems like to effectively manage somebody they would need to meet with you and see your band perform. Did Jason Roth ever meet with you?
CHAD: No, we never met Jason. He never saw us in the flesh. He only saw our videos and listened to our tracks. That’s pretty much it. Jason was only praising what he’d seen on the internet from us.
NPTP: I’m assuming they want you to pay for this management opportunity. How does this work?
BRAD: Jason first was telling us the fee is $295 per month. That’s why we could not do it. Almost $300 a month is a house payment, man!!! But after waiting a year he lowered the price down to $200 per month. $200 did not seem bad, being as every business we talked with always wanted $500-$800 for studio time and shit. We looked at this as "Hey this may be a good deal since the price is dropped."
Each payment was for the month. Jason got $200 the first month and “locked it in”, as he would say. The second month we did not have the money in the bank to make the payment. But before hand we thought we would be able to make the payment on that day. So we told Jason we would most likely be able to do it. Come that day we checked the bank account and there is not shit in the account. The account was actually in the negative of what Jason took out. He put the account at -$200.
NPTP: I’m unclear about this. Are you saying that their accounting was incorrect as to how much money you had paid? Did you have to have a bank account for payment?
BRAD: No, okay, so it was the weekend. And Jason called up to make sure we would have the payment ready for that Monday. We really thought we would have the money that day, so we told him we would most likely have it. Come that Monday we just could not get it. So we called Jason up about not being able to make the payment that week. He answers and says “It’s already done, man! No problem! I'm on vacation. Talk to you guys in a week.” Our reaction was “Wait, there was no money in the bank for him to take out, but he said it was already done.” So we checked the account and what do you know? He over-drafted the account. Very bad timing. Gorilla Music did always keep accurate track with what we paid though.
NPTP: So it was direct deposit and did the bank charge extra for being overdrawn?
CHAD: Yes payments were made by direct deposit and yes, the bank charged us extra for the overdraft.
BRAD: We were promised Experience (which we got some experience with this rip-off, now we know). Jason Roth said he had hook ups to major record labels and that he could get us merchandise designed for a small fee along with the monthly payment. He said we were going to start getting shows in our hometown Sumter, which never even happened.
We did get a copy of the “educational” book out of it (Rock Your City, The 5 Steps to Being the Biggest Band in Town by Gorilla Music co-owners, John Michalak with Dan Cull). Jason repeated a lot from that book. He told us how our songs were not catchy, they did not get through to him, that they needed hooks and needed to be catchy. (We all wondered how he would do if he was forced to sit behind an instrument and play some good rock & roll!) Our songs and our music are fine. It’s not about what everyone likes, it’s about what you like. And if you like it, there are others out there that like it as well. This is the world we live in called preference.
THE SHOTS VIDEO
CHAD: Yes Jason did repeat a lot of stuff from the book. Since we had the book, most of the stuff he said we’d already read before hand. He was like trying to, as he would say, “spoon-feed” our music to the people and package ourselves. He asked questions such as “what words would you use to describe your live performances, your songs’ messages, your stage presence, your appearance or image? And what would you address your fan base as, give them a nickname to make them feel like part of what you have going on?". That’s what he asked us over one of the calls.
It was confusing. One day Jason would praise our music and after another payment he would start downing it. He said we need more hooks in our music, even though we had songs full of hooks. He acted oblivious to the fact that we were actually altering the progression of our songs to, as he would say, “spoon-feed your music to the people”. All that hassle and change he wanted was for nothing.
Oh and another thing Jason said was "If you can't make it in your hometown, you can't make it anywhere in the music industry" i have to disagree in our situation. Our hometown mistakes us for a bunch of junkies, you know up to no good. So our hometown can be kind of useless for shows.
NPTP: What a pile of crap. Yeah, Kurt Cobain just blew up in Aberdeen before he came to Seattle! And of course Janis Joplin was a superstar in Port Arthur Texas before she went to San Francisco. And we all know how huge Jimi Hendrix was in Seattle, hell in the US, before he went to England. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about and it’s unfortunate bands are paying him to spread that around.
BRAD: What convinced us was all of Jason's words. He stayed in contact with us for a whole year, even while we were ignoring him. He made us believe we could “change the music industry.” We honestly expected to play more shows away from here and meet new people. We did not expect them to be bullshit shows.
NPTP: When you agree to join Gorilla Music Management do they expect you to sign up for a number of months or is it just by the month?
BRAD: They expect you to sign up and go through a three month period where they work with you and see if they can get anything going. During the three months they do not manage you, they just call you and talk to you over the phone on a certain day each week for “coaching”.
NPTP: Did they want you to sign anything?
BRAD: They never pushed signing anything on us, so we never signed anything. They did show us two different contracts. The first one that stated “100% money back guarantee” got Pepsi spilled all over it and was lost. The second contract was shown to Grady (lead guitarist) over email and that contract read that the payment was nonrefundable.
NPTP: As part of the Gorilla roster who did you deal with? Did you ever deal with the Gorilla Music owners?
BRAD: We only dealt with Jason Roth & Lance Williams (aka Lance Waste - Darling Waste/FOCOTheory Agency). We never met or talked to Gorilla Music owners Dan Cull and John Michalak (the MFs that wrote the Rock Your City book. That’s the book that says songs are important in the first five chapters and then turns around and says the audience does not care about your songs at shows!)
NPTP: Did you play a battle of the bands or showcase for Gorilla Music before getting the opportunity for the management deal?
BRAD: No, they didn't put us on a show or anything. We did not have a show for about a month. Darling Waste (Gorilla Rep Lance Waste’s band) was throwing a CD release show in Myrtle Beach at The Sound Hole. By then we’d paid maybe a little over $200. We were already paying Gorilla for representation, they were working on "merch and other ideas" though this was not a Gorilla sponsored event. We still did the show, and we were told that there would be a good amount of people there. By the time we went on, guess how many people were there? Only five people and those five people were the artists that performed before or after us. But we did get free food from Shelly the owner there.
CHAD: At that first non Gorilla show in Myrtle Beach with Darling Waste, all the people left after we set up . And like the picture you posted before, we played to a crowd of...5. sad sad sad. We did get a few people off the streets to come and watch but they walked away cause we were getting pissed during the set. It was Lance's gear; the sound system and microphones and stuff. He is a fail of a sound guy. It sucked.
BRAD: Oh yeah they wanted us to sell tickets. Bands on the Gorilla Music roster are expected to sell their tickets for the Gorilla shows they are scheduled to perform at. Gorilla takes half of the pay, so what you would make in total from a show is split down the middle. At the time, Chad even said , ‘Why couldn't Gorilla Music sell tickets if they knew so many damn people and had so many hookups?” But they did say if we had merchandise all the money that we made off merchandise would be ours.
NPTP: How generous of them. So what was your Gorilla Music show like?
BRAD: Our first official Gorilla show was at the Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, NC. We sold about five tickets (the same as every other band) but they did let us pick our time slot. One dollar from every ticket sold went to The Ronald McDonald House Charity. Just think about it. Every ticket was $10. Take away $1 that’s $9 a ticket. So we did our math and multiplied $9 x 5 = $45, and we divided $45 by 2 , which came out $22.50. We, as a trio, had to Split $22.50 by 3, which equals $7.50 each. And The Shots drove 2 hours and 30 minutes from Sumter, South Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina at this first (and last) show hosted by Gorilla Music.
CHAD: The Tremont show we played to maybe 30 random people by the end of the set but they weren't up at the stage. The crowd was scattered. And that’s all Gorilla Music Management got us, except for a show on the 28th at the Tavern in Myrtle Beach which, based on the other shows, we have decided to cancel.
NPTP: Yeah, seems like it would be tough to sell tickets to a show 2 1/2 hours away. Did GMM get you anything else? If Jason Roth claimed that being popular in your hometown would make or break you in the music industry, did you get a show in your town?
CHAD: Jason tried booking us shows at Legacies and The ChuckWagon and Shuckers (Sumter) but the venue managers couldn’t deal with how persistent he is, so they told him to f-off. They denied the booking of the shows. Those services were useless.
NPTP: Gorilla Music Management offers special deals on some of their services. I understand you took advantage of having them make a logo design. How much did they charge and what did you think of the result?
BRAD: They charged us $235 that month which included the logo design. They made two different logos (WHICH SUCKED DICK in our opinion). They kept talking about making T-shirts and all that good stuff. On that month we decided, “OK, let’s try to get them made”. So the extra $35 for the logo design, along with the $200 monthly payment was paid. After that the total payout for the three months was: $635 (this was in the 3rd and last month).
BEGINNING OF THE END
NPTP: How was Gorilla Music Management to work with? Did you feel that they were doing a good job for you?
BRAD: They seemed excited to work with us, but we all felt deep down inside that they were not doing anything for us. There was hope but then again the truth was very obvious. When Jason Roth started telling us how to write songs, it made it clear that something was going wrong. The dude was contradicting “Rock Your City” (the bullshit book) and then using references from it.
NPTP: At what point did you realize that all this money wasn’t worth it?
BRAD: Right before we even went to that show in Tremont. We were actually going to back out from Tremont and not show up, but we decided to do it for the sake of music.
NPTP: When you decided to stop working with Gorilla Music Management, what happened? Was there any pressure to stick with them? What exactly did they tell you?
BRAD: Well it was this month, we told them we could not make anymore payments anytime soon. Then Jason Roth said “Well I believe we have enough to get something going where you guys won't have to pay anymore until you start making money.” (We thought, “Okay, that sounds good. We paid $635. It has technically broke us and you are going to keep us on your roster for free.”) But this did not happen. A few days later Lance Waste hit us up and says, “Well you know our company does not work for free. Our service is not free. You can't be on the Gorilla Music roster without paying.” So we left it at that.
Our lead guitarist, Grady also asked Jason about the refund that was stated in the first contract (the one that was destroyed). All Jason had to say was "We are a nonreturnable company. We can put you guys back on the roster when you get your money situation handled and we can work together some more." And that was it.
BRAD: I personally would not suggest doing business with Gorilla Music. They got a total of $635 out of us, and all that was for was representation and for some shabby logo they made for $35 (when we create much better ones for no cost). It is our opinion that these guys appear to be in it for your money. They only got us one show, they did not expand our fan base and they did not help us make money. They only took money and expected more. Total pay out: $635, total earned: $25. This experience was a total bust. We could have done a hell of a lot more than Gorilla Music Management has, but we trusted them. We feel like we were taken advantage of. They did cut us good deals on their "prices" but that seemed to be more an effort to reel us in. That’s what they do best. They are like politicians.
Now we are going to try this on our own. We have faith we can do so much better. We all have learned that it was within us all along. We should have just stuck with the DIY concept. We have always had that, but i guess we just wanted to see it for what it is worth. We wanted to test it to see if it would get anywhere. Now we know what to do and where we stand. For everyone in a band our advice is, every band is way more powerful than all these companies. These companies are living off of us.
NPTP: I want to thank The Shots for making the effort to share this story with me. I wish them all the success in the world but more than that I wish them the satisfaction being together and making music. Because ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.