MISCELLANEOUS PAY-TO-PLAY COMPANIES
OUR DISCLAIMER: There are so many companies springing up it's hard to keep track! These are the ones that have either contacted my band Girl Trouble, through spam myspace emails, or have contacted our friends from the "Stay Away from Pay-To-Play" myspace site. We still believe it's best to keep the harder facts on our own page. These companies have all contacted musicians first, we did the research below, and we're sharing our opinion. THIS IS OUR OPINION! Our band personally finds these companies totally unnecessary. But in the end, it is always up to you to make the call. Read through the whole thing or select the appropriate section. We always link wherever possible to prove we're not making this crap up! Keep rockin', Bon/Girl Trouble
(These sites change drastically, so bear in mind that some links etc, might not work. Google is your friend. Always use it!).
CD COMPILATIONS - SHOWCASES/A&R REPS - OPENERS FOR NATIONAL ACTS - A & R PUBLICITY FIRMS -
LOCAL PAY-TO-PLAY COMPANIES/CLUBS
THE PAY-TO-PLAY CD COMPILATIONS/ ZINES
Musicians are spam emailed from a site representing themselves as an up-and-coming national record label. They typically mention flattering interest in the first song listed on a band’s myspace player. These companies claim connections to major labels that can get the band national attention by signing up to be on their CD compilation. They normally will feature the band on the cover of their “web” magazine which only appears on the company website. This service costs anywhere from a couple hundred to $600, with each band receiving 50 CD copies. Twenty mismatched bands are featured and the company produces only enough CDs to give each band, keeping the profit for the company. These are much like the Song-Poem offers (aka vanity releases) found in old pulp movie magazines (check out the fine website from Phil Milstein - absolutely fascinating and heart breaking).
BEFORE YOU READ THIS SECTION, CHECK OUT THE INFORMATION ON Rose Cora Perry's fantastic BLOG:
SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROCK STAR? We thank her for allowing us to share this.
SCROLL DOWN TO THE FIRST SECTION ENTITLED: THE CD COMPILATION
|ILLUMINA RECORDS / ROCKERS FOR LIFE: Start off with the Illumina Talk site and be sure to check the blogs
Illumina Records has been contacting every band with a request to do the "Rockers for Life" Compilation to benefit an anti-drunk driving campaign. The above myspace site should fill you in on this operation. It's pay-to-play and from the unhappy bands appears to be pretty shady. Also check out...
UPDATE - JULY 2010: The owner of Illumina Records lost an $85,000 sexual harassment lawsuit with former employee.
We’ve been getting email invites to be on a compilation called “Rockers for Life” (benefitting an anti-drunk driving organization) by a company called Illumina Records. The email actually mentioned one of our songs off myspace that they’d like to use. We looked at the website and it was sort of generic. When we didn’t respond, Ed Grasmeyer (Director of A&R) sent us a second email only two days later asking us why we hadn’t written back. He wrote to say that he hoped we hadn’t misinterpreted his email as spam and that he was very interested in using our song for this worthy cause.
We’ve gotten lots of requests to be on various comps (we’ve probably been on about 20 or more) and since it seemed for a good cause I wrote back with info on how we do things and questions about his company. Apparently that did it. I never heard back from the guy. I was kind of pissed that I’d wasted my time even responding to the guy! RED FLAG.
So the other day I get the same spam email, this time from Nicole Van Eden of Illumina Records, with the same pitch. This time she claims she played our song for the big head honcho and they both love it! Wow, what a thrill.
So I decided to really check them out. After the most rudimentary googling I discovered these guys are like a plague, first operating in a few cities and now expanding to 40. It’s a pay-to-play comp. They charge $600 and bands are actually falling for it! Supposedly they send you 50 copies of the Rockers For Life compilation CD. According to the bands that were unfortunate enough to fall for this scam, a generic CD with 20 mismatched bands nobody has ever heard of isn’t a real big seller. In addition, many bands claim their names were even misprinted on the CD.
Illumina also claims for your $600 investment that they’ll send this CD to 100 labels and radio stations, get you thousands of new myspace friends, have their hot-shot graphics team make professional posters and you’ll appear on the cover of CUSP magazine! The cover of CUSP? Where do we sign up? (7/09 - Recently this has been changed to the 1LoudStreet.com Music Guide. It's just a more jazzed up version of Cusp. or read the whole booklet here)
I’ve read accounts from many different sources. The promised promotion is nil with hardly any myspace hits, other than from bands wanting to know if Illumina is a rip-off. The high quality posters are only electronic and look like generic crap. And CUSP Magazine? It’s a generic looking internet example that only appears on the Illumina (and Illumina related) website. It doesn’t appear to be in published paper form.
Much like Emergenza (pay-to-play BOTB Euro-Fest) Illumina Reps are all over the blogs attempting to do damage control, claiming they are only there to help bands (yeah, empty their wallets of $600!). The most disgusting aspect of this pay-to-play scam is that they claim to be contributing to some anti-drunk driving organization. Start complaining that you are getting ripped off and they’ll shame the band: “How could you be so inhuman as to be against helping get the word out about the horrors of drunk driving?” True brilliance! Whether they really do contribute to any drunk driving campaign is unknown, but at this point I’m skeptical.
IF ILLUMINA RECORDS CONTACTS YOU, MARK THEM AS SPAM. Don’t accept a friend request from these guys. Goggle them instead and see what others are saying.
ALWAYS REMEMBER: Never pay money to a “label” to be on any compilation CD. No legit label will ever ask you for payment to be included on a comp. Your song is the only contribution you should make. If the label asks you for money...IT’S A SCAM! -bon
Even more info, there's a brand new anti-Illumina myspace site that will help with everything you want to know! And then read through this blog and tell me you still want to work with this company. Remember, real companies don't have time to keep posting comment after comment on random blog sites trying to defend themselves. Run!
QUICKSTAR PRODUCTIONS / CHILL OUT:
And again, google this company. You will find many forums discussing Quickstar.
ORIGINAL POST: We got two we'd never heard of from David D'Alessio of Tucson, Arizona. Being on the acoustic end of the spectrum, David is getting spam that hasn't gotten to us yet, although it no doubt will. The first one is QUICKSTAR PRODUCTIONS. They also have myspace sites. Quickstar (or Quickbuck as David calls it) has different package comps you can pay for in several different genres. "Chill Out" is for acoustic acts, "Vs. the World" is for indie, "Eleventh Hour Confessions" (who came up with these titles!?) for emo and "Downtown Metal"...well you get the idea. Even though the prices are lower ($150-$200) than dealing with Illumina, obviously these guys are really trying to get as many acts as they can. Love the references to Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Watch out for any company that sends flattering spam email that starts off with "I was very impressed with 'Your Song Here'." Yeah, right. Read David's blog and see that no matter what kind of music you play, there will be some company attempting to ruin it.Hey David,
I heard your song "Love Is On The Way" on here and I was very impressed with it. My name is Joe Bird, a project manager with Quickstar Productions. We are putting out a compilation CD titled " Chill Out: An Acoustic Compilation " and we would love to have you join us. This CD is going to be used to promote acoustic artists from all over the country. Being a musician for over 17 years, I already know the level of talent in this area and therefore I aim to share this talent with the rest of the world.
“Chill Out: An Acoustic Compilation” will be professionally produced, glass mastered, shrink wrapped, full color, and retail ready. The compilation will be sold through the artists on the CD and will also be distributed digitally in more than 300 mp3 retailers worldwide. This includes all the big stores you are use to like iTunes, Napster, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Vcast, etc. Quickstar Productions will pay the artists 50% of profits for these downloads. To further help the musicians on the compilation, Quickstar Productions will also send out promotional copies to various contacts at Record Labels (Vagrant and Dog House Records being only a few), Internet and College Radio Stations, Management Firms, etc. Included with the promotional CD’s will be a booklet giving more information on each artist. The booklet will feature brief bios, contact information, and a picture. This will be used to help promote each and every artist on the CD.
To have your song included on our upcoming compilation CD, “Chill Out: An Acoustic Compilation”, please visit our website to download the submission forms. We ask that each band purchase 50 CD’s at cost ($150) to help us cover the manufacturing, production, and shipping expenses included with this Compilation. Our recommended retail price for the CD is $7. 99, but of course you can sell them for whatever price you choose. If you sell them for our recommended retail, you take in $400. This is a great way to get more merchandise to sell at your shows and also a great way to target other fans in your genre.. Since we plan to release this CD in the Spring of 2008, we ask that all submissions be returned by March 15th, 2008. Please contact us with any questions or concerns and we hope to hear from you soon!
Joe Bird / Quickstar Productions LLC
NEW WRINKLE 8-8-08: So Girl Trouble got one of these spams. They were "very interested" in using our song "Commotion" which is the song we'd just put up as a memorial to our recently deceased dear friend, Pat Bostwick, who played a mean harmonica on that track. Using a tribute to our deceased friend for their generic email invite...grrrr. Here's the kicker. Quickstar is now going the "Illumina" route and the comps are now being produced to help some kid with Primary Aclerosing Cholangitis. Nice...
SKRATCH MAGAZINE Currently Out of Business (7-28-11): Skratch Magazine started in LA, in 1996 the way it should be done, xeroxed in somebody's garage. It gathered a good reputation as the big indie freebie magazine (this article is from 2004) . Times change. Unfortunately it seems that Skratch has forgone their punk paper beginnings and gone totally cyber. According to their own definition Skratch is "a regularly updated online music magazine chock full of interviews, tons of CD reviews, killer show reviews, amazing photos straight from the pit, new music from some of the hottest bands around the world and in the scene today". In other words you can't buy Skratch at your magazine store anymore because it exsists only on the internet. Skratch's info on their advertisers is about as generic as you can get!: "Loyal advertisers include companies such as record labels, concert venues, clothing companies, skate companies, tattoo/body piercing shops, internet based companies, skate shops, ,rehearsal/recording studios, vintage/retail clothing stores, distribution companies, lifestyle shops and many, many more." How about tossing out a couple names?
They have a mysapce site with over 89,000 friends. They want bands to be on their comps, for a price of course. The details of this arrangement isn't really discussed on the website or what you'll really get out of it of it so I'll post it for them. In their blog notice how Skratch mentions "this is mostly an MP3 comp". So what does that mean? Are they saying you're paying to be listed on their website. Tell me, what's so "punk" about that!? Anyway, here's the stats/contract below (I've lost track of who sent it and if it was you, email me and I'll give you credit). And check out the testimonials page (a handful of testimonials, one is from a 2004 OC Weekly article, and I can't get the links to work). Actually this message board has valuable insights that you should check out.
Anyway, here's the hard stats/contract (...and I've lost track of who sent me this. Whoever it was, email me again and I'll give you credit). They got this when they sent Skratch their music.
email music to: Mp3s@skratchmagazine.com
Song License Agreement for:
5000 CDs distributed for FREE at select Warped tour dates!
Absolute Deadline: pending. call 714 639 5000 now!
Select your comp package (all prices are USD):
Package A_____ * $650.
Add $10.00 for shipping – the 20 cds we send you.
Indicate your method of payment, date of payment and any addt’l notes:
Licensor grants to Licensee the non-exclusive right to duplicate the
Licensor shall pay the amount of $__________ to Licensee for placement
on “Skratch Mp3 sampler, Vol. 40 Warped Tour. cd². All 5,000 SKRATCH compilation CDs pressed are promotional copies and will be free to the public therefore Licensor shall not receive any mechanical or sound recording royalties or payment of any kind whatsoever from Licensee for use of the song.
A total of 20 CD’s will be given to each band or label for being a part of the compilation. Licensor shall retain all copyrights to the song. Payment in full, submission of “mp3” song on CD must be turned in by deadline agreed upon. Send all materials regarding compilation to
Attn: “Skratch Mp3 sampler CD, Vol.39 TOC ED,
Licensor (your band name and/or full name):
Licensor understands and agrees that song sequence shall be at the sole discretion of Licensee. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFO (4-6 words per line please, this info will be listed in the liner notes):
**Please TYPE in all information. (This ensures that we get all of your information correct
BAND CONTACT PERSON: ______________________
(please specify How/from whom/name/etc):
CD SAMPLER REPRESENTATIVE: Tory
SERENDIPITY SOUNDS: David D'Alessio (see above) also send us a heads-up about this one that it based out of Chicago. Serendipity Sounds has a myspace. Unfortunately there was a good post on Sonicbids but they now block their forums unless you are a member (which seems counter productive, but whatever). Here's one post where somebody got wise to this one. I love it when you look up a pay-to-play company and they haven't been on their website since 7/16/07. We're listing it here in case the start up again.
DAN JANSSEN PRODUCTIONS
NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
GREEN LIGHT FIRM
DAN JANSSEN PRODUCTIONS aka "2/20 Productions" aka "Slave to the Metal" aka "Exposed Music Festival": CHECK OUT NEW INFO BELOW) 2/20 Productions (just changed from Dan Janssen Productions) pay-to-play company is located in Kent, Ohio (Ohio - pay-to-play capital of the US: Gorilla, 1K Entertainment, etc). These shows are organized in conjunction with One Eye Management (or “managment” as they are misspelled on the official posters) based in Nashville, TN. Many of the companies mentioned have some connection to Dan Janssen. One Eye has no website and less than 300 myspace friends so at the moment they don’t seem to be the industry powerhouse they are claiming to be. But come on dude, at least check for spelling...
They have just launched a new 220productions.net website and are currently running two pay-to-play showcase schemes: the “Get Your Rock On” Festival and the “Slave to the Metal” Festival. Our friends in the popular Olympia WA band The Dirty Birds (who can get shows anytime they want) forwarded me their copy of the spam email that many bands in Washington received (I've highlighted the important buzz words) for the Get Your Rock On music festival:
----------------- Original Message -----------------
I'm looking for Bands to participate in The "Get Your Rock On" Music Festival/Tour/Talent showcase at Studio Seven in Seattle, WA on July 18th and 19th. Please read this entire message and reply with your telephone number if you are interested in participating!
-Presented by Dan Janssen Productions, The Music Factory and One Eye management.
This is a HUGE industry showcase and oppourtunity for bands possibly to have your demo submitted to Major Labels such as Capital, Universal, Warner Music Publishing, Atlantic Records and more.
Its being hosted by one of the midwests largest entertainment/artist development companies The Music Factory
Members of the The Music Factory have worked with or signed bands such as Cherry Monroe, Collective Soul, Seven Mary Three, Saving Abel, Matchbox Twenty, and Buckcherry. As well as being responsible for over 100 million in record Sales worldwide. They also have major music contacts for such companies as MTV and 20th Century Fox.
Music Factory website and more info at:
-Sponsered by Northcoast Studios(northcoaststudios.net), Jungle Recording(www.myspace.com/junglerecording)
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PERFORM AT THIS EVENT YOU MUST SEND YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER WITH A REPLY MESSAGE. WE WILL CONTACT YOU SOON.. THANKS!
Here are the “buzz words” in this introductory email that you should always be on the lookout for. The Dirty Birds have been around long enough for the Red Alert lights to go off, but new bands may not be so experienced to spot this. I’m going to give you a couple of things to consider when you get one of these:
Some of the email reads:
“This is a HUGE industry showcase and oppourtunity for bands possibly to have your demo submitted to Major Labels such as Capital, Universal, Warner Music Publishing, Atlantic Records and more. ...Its being hosted by one of the midwests largest entertainment/artist development companies The Music Factory.”
1. “HUGE industry showcase” is normally code for “crap rip-off show”. They always throw in the words “industry” and “showcase” and expect all the bands to come running. You should RUN...run away when you see these words being tossed around.
2. It’s an “oppourtunity” even though they can’t spell the word “opportunity” correctly.
3. And the biggie: “for bands to possibly have your demo submitted to major labels”. This is an old advertising trick. The key word here is “possibly”. That doesn’t mean they are going to do it. They aren’t promising anything. That means it might possibly happen...or it might possibly not.
4. Having your “demo submitted Major Labels” is usually code for putting your CDr in an envelope and mailing it.
4. The Music Factory may be a big deal but their myspace seems newly started and has less than 500 friends. For one of the midwests largest entertainment/artist development companies, that doesn’t seem very impressive even if they have reps that are responsible for 100 million record sales...probably to CAPITAL Records.
However, the Slave to the Metal Festival is the one that they seem to currently be putting more energy into. Dan has partnered up with Fuse TV's, Mistress Juliya (that's her, Dan and his other friend John who runs FaceDown Entertainment) to take this festival to bands in the US over and over again. Here are three great blogs that can tell you more about how these shows went, better than I can. Be aware that these three bands did not play at the same show. Do you notice a theme here?
First, a Portland band called Proven played one in January. This is a re-post to their original blog.
The next comes from Ulcer, a band from Land O'Lakes, Florida. Check REPLY on June 19, 2009. They played a show in St Petersburg.
And last is a blog from the guitarist in the band Painbreak, who played Slave to the Metal fest in Memphis also in June.
Originally I felt I needed more evidence that ticket selling is what this company promotes. So I emailed a band from Chicago who’d done both of the shows, just recently the “Get Your Rock On” showcase in Milwaukee. They told me that they sold 43 $10 tickets and were expecting to get their measly cut ($1 per ticket) of $43 mailed to them. In other words they’d just paid $387 to play this event. If you do the quick calculation and assume that all 10 bands typically on these bills can sell the same amount of tickets, that’s $3,870 per night. Even accounting for expenses, I’m willing to be that Dan Janssen Promotions is coming out way better than the $43 the bands get. I asked this band if it was a contest and they told me that “neither show was a contest so there were no prizes of any kind”.
FUN MATH PROBLEM: MULTIPLY $10 x 40 TICKETS x 10 BANDS x 31 SHOWS
THE EXPOSED MUSIC FESTIVAL
SLAVE TO THE METAL HAS CHANGED THEIR NAME TO THE EXPOSED MUSIC FESTIVAL! As happens often with companies like this, there has been another name change and a "new" company (which appears to be the same format, and same organizers, under a different name). They are starting over again. This company doesn't have a business listing in New York where their Facebook claims is the current location, but 2/20 Productions is the "general manager" and "booking agent". Scott Sykora who ran some of the Slave to the Metal shows and was the drummer for Dan Janssen's old band Last August is listed as the press contact. The official website is exposedfestival.com (watch out for the blasting music from Scott's other band, AmericanRockStar). And be sure to check out the video from Dan Janssen (although most people can't get past "chisel monkey"!). This is what they do when they run their festivals.
SEE THE DISCUSSION OF THE EXPOSED MUSIC FESTIVAL ON TALKBASS.COM This post is the most eye opening:
CAN'T SELL THE TICKETS/CAN'T DO THE SHOW: Below is a couple of recent screen shots from one of two bands who got bounced off the Exposed Music Festival Show in Seattle. Their name (withheld here) was on the official Exposed Music Festival flier and in the local music paper calendar but two days before the event, they were sacked for no ticket sales.
They had these requests all over their facebook site so it wasn't that they weren't trying to sell the tickets:
Unfortunately this band lives about 3 hours from the venue - which makes ticket selling a little more difficult. They were not happy campers and here a few of their thoughts:
THE SUCCESSFUL P2P MUSICIAN:
HERE'S A BLOG ABOUT HOW THE BAND LAST AUGUST GOT FAMOUS DOING PAY-TO-PLAY SHOWS. I've seen this blog linked from other pay-to-play sites as a way to defend this practice, but when it comes right down to it, you can't find much on Last August. Try it.
THE SUCCESSFUL MUSICIAN SCENARIO
All this bragging can sound impressive until you actually dig around and check out the facts. When a P2P promoter/company owner starts to discuss their success as a musician as a way to endorse the pay-to-play practice, I expect to see evidence of this all over the internet. I strongly urge you to ask these same questions:
1. Are they still in a band and performing? Why did they give up a very successful music career they describe to run a promotion company?
2. If they are no longer playing shows, how long was their band together? When did they break up and why?
3. How many records/CDs did they release? What were the labels and have we heard of them? Are their albums still available today?
4. How extensive was their touring? How many cities did they play? Did they tour nationally or internationally?
5. If their band name is “googled” what comes up? If you can barely find any information on the music career you are using as an example of your success, were you really that successful?
NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL (NYIMF) out of business: NYIMF claims to be from New York, but their main showcases are often held in Las Vegas. This one appears to be winding down, even though they still mention upcoming events in 2008. It's worth mentioning just for the amount of money musicians were paying to participate ($1500 and more!). This company also works with aspiring filmmakers. Here's the guy that runs the showcases (special tip: Be sure to check out the Gallery on this site!). There was a great link but UNFORTUNATELY SONICBIDS BLOCKS GUESTS FROM SEEING THEIR FORUM. Too bad, because it was a valuable resource for this kind of crap. There was a post from "Fran" where the band The Sciannas were sent a letter entitled "CEASE & DESIST FROM USING OUR NAME FROM BEING ON YOUR WEBSITE IMMEDEATELY". I just about wet my pants. I wish it was visible. It's the kind of stuff you couldn't make up. MORAL: There is never a reason to spend this kind of cash to be "discovered".
GREEN LIGHT FIRM (INDEPENDENT A & R): Here's a good one from the Seattle band, The Bullet Club. They got this spam email and I'm just going to repost the whole thing so anybody that hasn't gotten one of these phony emails (bands on the Moon) can see how guys like this operate. The Green Light Firm has a bunch of different affiliates (recently they've taken down all their "contacts". Now they have two friends and one is Tom) such as The Fidelity Entertainment Group and Covert Management. From looking at their tiny website they seem to be mostly interested in critiquing and evaluating you for $150. Wow, that sounds easy. I'm going to add my own critique to their email (in black type)...and I won't charge them a dime.
"Hey Bullet Club,
WELL THEY STATE RIGHT ON THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE THAT THEY ARE NOT A SCAM. And I love how they claim that if you've even been approached by their company you are one of the ELITE. WELL, JUST READ IT FOR YOURSELF.
UPDATE 2/10/10: The GreenLight Firm has changed their name to The GLIGHTFirm (oh we'll never figure out they are the same company, especially when google has this which brings you to the new website:
A & R CONNECTIONS: A & R Connections (9-4-08: Their official website doesn't work. They may have shut down this website but I'm still listing it) is a pay-to-play company that hosts showcases (pay-to-play shows) where you'll supposedly receive time with an A&R rep. The Seattle band, Stabbingback, has an amazing blog devoted to a protest against this company by the band Stabbingback. It's a very informative must read for anybody contemplating dealing with this company. When it mentions "payment options" on the registration form, that's not a good sign. They have a myspace site (although currently a lot of the comments are about free ringtones) and here's their "mission statement" that I'll post (with my bitchy comments)...
The A&R Connection is the most reputable music industry resource (even though you've never heard of us) dedicated to helping artists achieve their goals (for a price, I'm sure). We provide direct access to the top music industry executives in the industry (and they would be...?), allowing artists to get their music heard!
The demand for quality music is phenomenal. We are in constant contact with the top labels (who are...?) across the globe, assisting them in their search for the stars of tomorrow (Oh God, not that old "stars of tomorrow" line).
A&R Connection offers artists the most effective way of marketing there talent (FYI, this is probably just a typo but the correct useage is "their" talent, a possessive pronoun). We specialize in showcasing (ah, the old "showcasing" line) local area talent to the top record label executives (who are?) in an up close and personal (oh yeah!) setting. The A&R Connection takes pride in every program that we offer. With our Interactive site, Unsigned Artist can now create a password protected profile (it's called myspace, it's easy to use and free to everyone), and upload there music, (again it's "their") pictures, and bios promoting there (somebody needs to go back to grammar school!) art to the Top major record labels in the Industry (and again, these would be?) as well as there (okay, now this is just ridiculous!) fans. The Record labels will be able to leave them comments (because record label execs have plenty of time to leave expert comments and ratings for new bands) and actually rate there (I'm giving this author a D grade so far!) music in different categories! Also fans will be able to become members of A&R Connections, and search for the hottest Unsigned talent in the world, joining there (okay that's it, it's an F for you!) favorite bands email list, receiving show dates & times as well as album release’s. All of our memberships are free!
Our service provides one of the highest response rates available in the industry (where can I see this rating?). We are dedicated to the success of aspiring singers, rappers, songwriters, musicians and performing artists. Promoting the talent of tomorrow (talent of tomorrow, stars of tomorrow, suckers of tomorrow...), helping there (could somebody help you with grammar?) career, obtaining awareness in the Music Industry.
You will find the A&R Connection to be accurate (except for spelling), resourceful and informative with today’s Music. We are committed to providing artists with the most accurate (con job) and up to date information available. Browse all the following web pages to see how we can help you (waste your time)!!!
PAY-TO-PLAY OPENERS (for national acts)
These companies offer bands a chance to play before a big headlining act. This will be an amazing opportunity for your band to get a huge crowd, play with your idols, brag to your friends, meet some stars. Your band would be perfect for this show. It's all available...for a price. Sell a big quota of tickets and it's yours. How low can they go? This one is a good example. This seems to be festering in Arizona but don't count it out in any city. And there's one old "DIY" band listed that needs to have their punk rock membership cards revoked. Doesn't being a headliner mean you can draw the crowd without having bands pay-to-play for you?
|ND PROMOTIONS: Our friend Matt of the Complainiacs sent me a link to a most unfortunate story by a band from Tucson, AZ called The Distortionists. Apparently a local company called ND Promotions (former rave club promoters, ND stands for Night Dance (here's ND Promotions myspace page), who decided to run a pay-to-play company when the techno thing fizzled out) is not playing fair in Arizona. Dangling the "opening for big acts" carrot and hooking it into the pay-to-play practice is popular in the birthplace of pay-to-play, The Sunset Strip. These two fine blogs by Distortionist's bass player, John Hayes, can give it to you better than I ever could.
On NOT Playing O'Malley's 12/5
HELLFIRE:I A Josh of the Tucson band, Ding Dang Doo sent me this one. This is like a rash in Arizona!...These guys go under two names HELLFIRE and HELLFYER (although with only two myspace friends, one being Tom, it doesn't seem like this one is used much). Josh writes:
I got an e-mail from a place called HELLFYRE PRODUCTIONS (their official website actually just takes you to myspace) in Phoenix AZ (we live in tucson about 1.5 hours away). We are setting up the Agent Orange show up here in Phoenix and we think your band would be a good compliment to them, give us a call as soon as you can (it seems there is a re occuring agent orange show theme here in az i hear they are coming back to tucson again and nd promotions is doing it). So on the off chance this shit is ligit I give them a call. My first clue was that someone other than the guy who emailed me answered the phone.
UPDATE 7-17-08: I've already discussed Hellfire but I thought I'd add this latest wrinkle. I found a myspace blog where a band is playing with the 80s metal band Testament @ The Rialto Theater in Tucson in August 2008. The only catch is that in order to open for their idols, this band must sell 200 tickets at almost $20 a piece! That's $4,000! I certainly don't blame the poor band for wanting to play with their heroes. And any company like Hellfire that forces the bands to sell tickets is not worth more discussion. It's Testament that I take issue with. Wasn't Testament sort of a big deal back in the day? Don't they draw well enough to carry their own show? Do they really need their local support act to hand over thousands of dollars so the theater will be full? How embarrassing! It certainly sends the wrong message.
PUBLICITY "A & R" FIRMS
Not being an up and coming songwriter, other than for my own band, I was not aware of this practice. Several people warned me about some A & R firms that seem to be more than willing to take an awful lot of your cash for their services. These companies promise many things: more publicity with major labels, shopping your songs to TV and movie studios, publishing, critiquing, evaluating, consulting, changing your image...they appear to do it all. We’ll list the most controversial of these (with links to big discussions on message boards) and it’s up to you to make the call. No matter what the opinion is, one thing is certain, it’s damn expensive. So here are the ones we’ve been warned about that our friends wanted to mention. It’s up to you to make the call.
BEFORE YOU READ THIS SECTION, CHECK OUT THE INFORMATION ON Rose Cora Perry's fantastic BLOG:
SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROCK STAR? We thank her for allowing us to share this.
SCROLL DOWN TO THE FIRST SECTION ENTITLED: THE MEDIA AND MARKETING HUSTLE.
A & R SELECT
DANIE CORTESE AGENCY
RAINMAKER PUBLIC RELATIONS
HITT MUSIC GROUP
TAXI A & R
|BUT FIRST, LET'S LOOK AT SOME RED FLAGS: This is one realm of showbiz that I don’t come up against very often but lots of our friends sure do, especially aspiring songwriters. These companies usually spam email or do mass myspace “friend requests”. Whether they do any good or not, one thing is for certain, they charge a whole lot of cash for their expertise. I’ll go over the companies that we’ve been alerted to. It’s up to you to make the call but first I’ll give you a few of my own personal red flags:
1. THEY CONTACT YOU: Legit companies don’t send flattering spam myspace emails and friend requests. In addition, many of these emails have a sense of urgency to lure the victim (er...potential client) into acting quickly without any research. "That television commercial needs your song and they need to know ASAP or they'll have to go to the next best choice!"
2. LARGE FEES - UP FRONT: Legit companies normally charge by the job, taking a percentage you agree upon after the work is done not before they even start. Real reps take you on because they believe you have potential and they can benefit (take a percentage) from working with you.
3. NO GUARANTEES - They want the money but they won’t guarantee any results. They won’t sign any kind of agreement and one company rep compared it to signing up for membership in a gym. “You get to use their website, features”.
4. THIS ISN’T ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO YOURSELF: Writing bios? Image consulting? Sending out CDs? Make an effort people! Nobody needs an image consultant...and if you do, go home and think about another “career”.
5. DENFENDING THEMSELVES ON THE INTERNET: No real company CEO has time to check around on message boards doing damage control, defending themselves from unhappy clients. If anything looks unprofessional, arguing about how you are not a crook is probably right up there at the top of the list..
6. WHEN CHALLENGED (OR EVEN QUESTIONED) THEY GET TESTY: Or sometimes even down right nasty! Check some of these message boards for specific incidences where the company rep has gone off the deep end.
7. THEY PROMOTE...THEMSELVES: Looking at these websites it’s easy to see who they are most concerned with...and it ain’t you.
A & R SELECT: This company is based out of Los Angeles. Of course they also have a myspace site where they've probably been spamming from. They've got an interview with an actual A & R rep from Epic named Chris Foitle and he thinks A&R Select is awesome. Chris is also a rep for Atlantic and thinks another company called A & R Live Hookup is awesome too. He also likes Hollywood Pop Academy.
Let’s see, well, they used to have a D rating from the Better Business Bureau (Business D as described by the BBB: We have enough concerns about this company [or example, their offer, customer complaints, advertising, etc.] that we recommend caution in doing business with it) but they've recently pushed it up to C (which still doesn't look that great). However the concerns section pretty much tells it all:
Most complaints allege the company fails to refund monies after requests for cancellation. Many complainants allege the services offered are misrepresented, or are not provided. Specifically, customers contend that the company offers representation, licensing agreements, publicity campaigns, image consultations and sends music to record labels. Some complainants allege the company fails to get their songs in a movie soundtrack, commercial or video game and make their music available to fans as ringtones, or through other internet music sources. Other complainants allege after 6 month subscription they wish to cancel their membership, however, the customer’s bank accounts are automatically charged without authorization for an additional 6 months. A few complainants allege the company fails to return phone calls.
It looks like one of those phony "opt out" membership deals where people don't realize they've signed to keep being re-newed for the fee until they contact the company. David D'Alessio hipped us to this one. He says he actually talked to the rep and they were definitely interested in "placing his material". David claims the only concrete thing he really offered was some bio-help and web design. The price tag quoted to David was $499. As he puts it "owch"! This is what David wrote:
"The standard model has been that if a song-pitcher is interested in your material, he/she works for free until the song is placed. I believe they call that PUBLISHING. Why would you pay a publisher to simply have your song on file? YOU WOULDN'T! You only pay when you get placed! (where they take 50% + of synch licenses etc)."
Like all the others, they need that money immediately to submit your song which is going to fit perfectly into some big Hollywood project they’ve just heard about. You don’t want to miss this opportunity! They charge anywhere from $200 - $500, depending on how much attention you want paid to your material. These guys seem very anxious to forego any email correspondence and get you right on the phone. Talking over the phone seems to be pretty popular with all these firms. It works best because there will be no paper trail/evidence of anything and a smooth talking rep is better able to talk you into signing with them. He/she can better answer any concerns you might have (ie quickly argue and give a rebuttal to any critisms or complaints) or convince you that you are going to miss an opportunity of a lifetime if you don’t act this minute.
BUT AS USUAL - THE BEST INFO ON THIS COMPANY IS OVER AT CD BABY (THE BEST RESOURCE FOR THESE COMPANIES)
|DANIE CORTESE AGENCY: The Danie Cortese Agency is based in Toronto, Canada. This company spam emails songwriters on myspace (notice how her top friends are Madonna, Kelly Clarkson and Jay-Z). There are some red flags on message boards (once again...CD BABY anyone? - and notice how Danie is on there trying to defend herself) but nothing really compares to the price list. Nancy Frieko, who warned us about this one, was able to finally worm it out of the company after about four emails.
This is what the Danie Cortese Agency is offering:
Radio Release Publicity Campaign - 1 single - Gold Package
If you want some creditials, you can check out the Danie Cortese bio to see what a success she’s been in the industry.
GIRL TROUBLE REALITY CHECK: Now this is where I’m going to give you a little editorial on my guidelines in dertermining if somebody really is a biggie in the music biz. First, notice the six degrees of separation. They KNOW somebody, that KNOWS somebody. Danie went to the same school as Shania Twain, her co-producer is a good friend of Daniel Lanois of U2, her publicist worked with “Paul McCartney” and “Jimi Hendrix” (and why do these names need quote marks around them?). The bio claims she got write-ups in “some of the most pretigeous magazines, newspapers, and print media all over the world.” Damn, that IS impressive!
Here comes the Girl Trouble reality check. Our band never made it, we aren’t that famous, our success has been moderate at best. We’re not complaining - we’ve done okay after over 20 years, but we certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable charging anybody for our expertise. When I read these bios of people who are asking for your money for their expert opinion/services, I expect it to show up on a search engine. I expect their name to be all over the damn internet. According to her bio, Danie Cortese had actual hits on the charts. I’ve personally never heard of her but that doesn’t mean she’s not tops in her field.
So I google “Girl Trouble” and randomly one of our songs to see what comes up. Actually, to my surprise there’s quite a few pages of stuff and only a small percentage is linked to our website. Doing the same with Danie Cortese and any one of her hits ("The Best Places to Kiss", "Damn, You're Good" or "Blame it on the Shoes"), only leads me back to her website and one CD listing on Amazon. That’s it. Now if you can’t hold up to the dubious success of Girl Trouble, you haven’t really done very well, no matter how many write-ups you got in “some of the most pretiqeous magazines, newspapers, and print media all over the world”.
MORAL: If your music career can’t hold up to Girl Trouble...YOU ARE IN A WORLD OF HURT!!!
RAINMAKER PUBLIC RELATIONS: Wow, here’s one that even Girl Trouble got spammed with, like we'd need this service? We got a spam myspace “friend request” that read “Rainmaker PR would love to be friends with you. We help indie music get heard!” Yeah, well for a price. But certainly not before we check it out. This company is owned by Rhonda Kelley from Boston. She’s all over the internet, mostly promoting herself (and no, that’s not a photo of her on the Rainmaker site, it’s supposedly performance artist Cynthia Von Buhler).
When you open the official Rainmaker site a quote pops up from P.T. Barnum "Without Publicity, a terrible thing happens...nothing." Yeah, that old P.T. Barnum! Didn't he also coin the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute?" A little ironic if you ask me.
Here’s what they do and here’s what it costs.
So for over two thousand dollars (and that’s only for six months, not counting expenses which is probably another $500 at least) they will write us bios, send out our CDs and get us reviews in such press outlets as “Rollingstone”. Here’s a little warning signal for me: The way to spell Rollingstone is Rolling Stone! Are you kidding me? Who doesn’t know (whether they are in the music biz or not) that Rolling Stone, the music magazine that started in 1967, is TWO WORDS?! This isn’t a real confidence builder. Here’s even less of a confidence builder. It’s all the ranting over on CD baby with very specific stories of what Rainmaker has to offer and what you can expect from Rhonda Kelley (of course with Rhonda herself chiming in). Wow! Thanks for the offer but I think Girl Trouble will pass on this golden opportunity.
HITT MUSIC GROUP name changed to Song Placements: FIRST- Check out this discussion.
Hey Girl Trouble,
I had a really good link about somebody that worked with them but alas, THIS IS ALL THAT IS LEFT... scroll down to the lawsuit letter.
And here's one of their glowing endorsements (The band Not an Airplane from Modesto, CA, that did not agree to share their "success story" and are not happy).
And of course when you google (and PLEASE always do a lot of google searches on every one of these companies) it doesn't give one a very good sense of security when after typing in the company name, the suggestions are as follows...
TAXI A & R: This company is so controversial probably my just this listing this now will force a massive amount of posts from their reps (and we don’t even have a message board!). These guys do more damage control than Emergenza and that’s saying something. Some people absolutely love this company as a valuable way to head to fame and fortune (including a lot of the people that work for them) and some people think it’s a big waste of money. The message boards have been deleted as it normal with forums discussing companies like this. Here are a few that still exsist:
THOMASMOEN.COM (This is the most extensive information you'll find anywhere! Read thoroughly!)
The one really fascinating thing I read was also from songwriter Jay Pounders posting on the Songwriter101 site (who already had 28 rejections!). Apparently TAXI lists opportunities in catagories so the songwriter can submit the correct style of song for that specific aplication. It reminds me of the old Washington state job bank I used to go to when looking for food service jobs as a teenager. “An Independent Publishing Company” was looking for “Alt Country/Americana/Folk Artists in the range of Joe Ely, Jay Farrar and Neko Case.” Neko?!! Are you shitting me? Our Neko? Anybody who knows Girl Trouble knows about how Neko practically grew up with us. She was nice enough to name us as three of her influences in the now defunct Harp Magazine. Here’s the bottom line and I'm telling you this from personal knowledge. Neko would have never fallen for one of these A&R firms to get where she is today. Want to be like Neko? Then go out, write songs, perform in all sorts of clubs, work your ass off, meet people, make connections with other musicians, go on tour, keep plugging away and never ever give up. That's how she did it.
LOCAL PAY-TO-PLAY COMPANIES
|I have decided to discontinue the Local Pay-to-Play Listings. In the beginning there were only a few local companies and clubs expecting bands to sell tickets. Unfortunately with the example of many national companies more and more local promoters are deciding this isn't such a bad idea. They watch the national companies come in, rent the club and sit back as musicians show up with money in hand to turn over. Local promoters and clubs see it as a way to offset their lack of actual promotion. Bands lining up to bring them money...what a great deal for them! If the national companies can convince young musicians that pay-to-play is just a normal way of promoting, every club and every promoter in every town will take advantage of it. There are just too many of these local promoters to list now. So this one is up to you. REMEMBER: No local show should suggest ticket selling...EVER! When you allow yourself to be used in this way, it not only makes your music worth less, it eventually ruins your scene. Avoid these shows at all costs!|
RETURN TO TOP OF PAGE
JOIN US ON MYSPACE - STAY AWAY FROM PAY TO PLAY