12/17/07

Vol 2, Issue 8: Music Industry Scams, Pt I: Artists Beware!

The entertainment biz has NEVER been at a shortage in regards to talent-directed scams, and despite the wealth of literature out there detailing the typical con-artist approach(s), thousands, if not millions of would-be artists find themselves falling victim to these ploys all the time. Further, with an increasing allotment of the market focusing its attention on internet promotional tactics, sucking artists into the I’ll make you famous” line has become easier than ever through the concoction of mass spam emails. Unfortunately due to the competitive nature of the music biz and the general naivety of artists, musicians have a tendency to fall into the category of easy and vulnerable prey (myself included), simply because of the wide-eyed rockstar dream that we’ve been hoping to fulfill ever since childhood. But avoiding these shady dealings proves more difficult than one would assume.

Most of us would fail to realize that we are being scammed if the company that approaches us has a professional looking website, corporate office address, and/or snazzy logo, but with advances in technology, came easier and more widespread access to services and/or products that can make these scams seem legit. We no longer can rely on our simple skills of deduction assuming that an email or letter is ONLY a scam if it is full of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and/or is strangely composed entirely of capital letters much like those of the 419 Nigerian scam series that request the urgent cooperation of an anonymous individual in transferring millions of inheritance dollars through his/her secure bank account. Rather, we must not only turn to resources that can provide us with assistance in these matters (the internet is loaded with them), but increasingly, we must learn to trust our “gut instincts”, and understand that if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is (and that especially goes for the music biz). We, as musicians, tend to ignore these feelings because we want so desperately to be discovered and to have “made it”, however that causes us to walk dangerous ground considering today’s most popular scams work to steal two highly valuable resources from musicians that we cannot afford to lose: our money and/or identities.

The more exposure an artist gains, the higher likelihood that he/she will become a target because his/her contact information will become increasingly easy to obtain. The scariest part about this situation is of course, that if an artist’s popularity is increasing, he/she will likely assume that offers of representation (from labels, bookers, etc) will soon be on their way. And so, as one can imagine, when receiving a faux-offer, it is unlikely that his/her suspicion will become aroused.

To help you avoid descending into scammers’ traps, below I’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular ways in which artists have and continue to be taken advantage of, complete with “warning signs” that should immediately cause your red flags to rise.


The CD Compilation
Discovering new outlets for potential exposure (and new fan generation) is crucial to the career of any musician, but when it is at the cost of your own pocket-money accompanied by unlikely promises, this is a situation of which I’d advise you to steer clear.

Several companies constantly scour the net in search of hopeful musicians who are willing to supply a track for their CD compilation(s) which may or may not ever get produced. For a one-time fee, ranging anywhere from $50, to at times, $500, these companies will assure you that your song will receive priority placement on a comp disc that will be handed out to industry professionals at some of the top music conferences in the world including PopKomm, SXSE, & MIDEM.

What you don’t know of course is that the very same email praising your unique artistic ability (flattery always works to assist in persuasion) in order to gain your confidence in their project has been sent to thousands of other musicians (sorry kids, you weren’t specifically chosen for any particular reason, other than the fact that your email address was accessible and you looked like an easy target).

Additionally, for those of you who are unfamiliar with how music conferences such as PopKomm work, even if these cds really do get created, the ability to get them into the hands of industry professionals is a stretch, to say the least. Usually, upon attending a major music conference, record execs and booking agents have already arranged a schedule in advance of acts that they plan to see perform, and the booths that are set up in the registration areas (where cds and pamphlets are featured) are most often visited by fellow musicians NOT industry pros.

However, track requests are sometimes made on behalf of legitimate cd compilation manufacturers via email as well. So then, how do you tell the difference? Well, for starters, any company that wishes to legitimately feature you as an artist on a CD compilation will more than likely be looking to obtain a profit through its sales and therefore, as a featured artist you are entitled to a cut of these proceeds. If the CD compilation manufacturing company is the “real deal”, a royalty sharing agreement will be enclosed alongside the track request. If a royalty consent form is missing, this is likely another scam in which, once the manufacturer obtains a single copy of your song,(s)he will continue to reproduce it for profit, without compensating you for your work.

Warning Signs: If you receive a track request for a compilation that includes any of the following features, DO NOT issue the manufacturer a copy of your song:
1) a request for upfront money in order to be a featured artist and/or to reserve a desirable track number
2) guaranteed exposure and/or recognition among industry professionals
3) no licensing agreement or consent form is required
4) no royalty fees will be issued to featured artists despite the fact that the cd will be sold for profit
5) the cd will be given away free of charge (The exception to this rule is if the cd is created in conjunction with a charity in order to raise awareness. In this event, the cd will likely be given away for free in honour of a good cause and/or its supporters.)


The Ever-Popular “Pay to Play” Showcase
Along similar lines to the CD comp scam is the “pay to play” showcase hoax in which a concert promoter offers your band a performance slot at his/her upcoming event held at a large performance hall (commonly places like The Opera House, Toronto or The Knitting Factory, NYC) in which industry professionals are guaranteed to be present scouting new talent. The real effectiveness of these “pay to play” scams is derived from their distorted mimicry of authentic major music industry showcase events.

This scam works because of its tempting double-pronged approach: first off, bands are under the misconception that acts commonly get signed off of a single performance, and that since they are being given the opportunity to play to label scouts, they must be ready to take their career to that next level. Secondly, this con is appealing because bands routinely jump at the opportunity to play at reputable venues that they normally wouldn’t be able to book on their own because it gives them bragging rights. Just as the CD comp invitations are sent out randomly to acts that seem dupable, so too, are these showcase notices – don’t be fooled!

In order to demonstrate their commitment and so-called mass appeal, bands are required, on behalf of the “pay-to-play” promoters, to sell highly overpriced tickets to these events with the rationale being that if a band does not have an established fanbase, they will not be appealing to labels (not entirely true). Each band is given a set number of tickets that they are required to sell in order to reserve their showcase slot, and upon arrival to the venue, the bands are given instructions to provide the promoter with the money from the ticket sales along with any remaining tickets. If a given band does not obtain the set ticket sale rate, their performance privileges are revoked. Of course, this situation should present an immediate concern to bands: If promoters need to rely on the booked acts to sell tickets to their events, are they really skilled promoters? The obvious answer being no, but these promoters especially seem to have a way with words in which they can manipulate acts into believing that it is impossible for them to get signed, unless they bring a bus full of their fans to support them.

The other concern raised by these ticket sales relates to where the money actually goes. Most obviously the concert promoter needs to pay rental fees in order to schedule events at a given venue, however, considering the astronomical selling price of these tickets, there must be something else going on, and in fact, there is. Any band that has played one of these events knows that they do NOT get paid for their performance (regardless of how far they have travelled) as they are told to think of these showcases as opportunities that will be worth it in the long run, but are they really? I have yet to meet a single act that has been granted any kind of deal out of one of these events, and I happen to know, without a doubt, that these promoters are only interested in one kind of business: that being, taking advantage of bands.

“Pay to play” showcases are profitable ventures for shady concert promoters that all too often leave bands in a state of self-doubt regarding their abilities because they did everything “right” according to the promoter, yet they did not compel label interest. These acts indeed did do everything right: they made the promoter lots of quick cash with minimal effort exerted on his/her behalf (thanks to all of the bands selling the tickets for him/her!).

Warning Signs: If you receive an invitation to play at a showcase series that possesses any of the following attributes, you are likely being scammed:
1) the promoter requires you to sell tickets to your performance and bring a large fan base to support you (in reality, a great deal of legit showcases are actually closed to the public or held in international arenas in which this is not possible)
2) performance privileges will be revoked if a set ticket quota is not reached
3) the promoter guarantees that industry reps will be present for your showcase (even professionally organized showcases like CMW or SXSE cannot offer a guarantee of label presence. It is left up to the band to promote their act’s performance in order to generate “buzz”.)
4) the showcase is being hosted at a large concert venue or arena that independent acts usually do not get booked at

It is true that prestigious industry festivals and conferences often do not provide accommodations or performance payment to their selected artists because the opportunity to perform is seen as having potential long-term benefits that outweigh these costs. However an artist will NEVER be expected to pay to play at a real event, nor will they be expected to supply the crowd, especially since the performance application process is open to artists internationally, and no music conference in Toronto, for example, could expect a Finnish band to realistically bring all of their home town fans to their performance.

If you have been invited to perform at what seems like a major music festival and/or showcase, prior to accepting the invitation, I encourage you to see if the festival has any promotional materials and/or a website that you can review. It is important to consider how many years the festival has been running, the average attendance rate, previous performers, scheduled label attendees, and festival sponsors when deciding whether or not it will be worth your time. Remember that, if you are responsible for your own travel and accommodations, it may be an expensive endeavour, and thus, you need to ensure that it will most certainly be worth your money, and time.


Battle of the Bands Competitions & Online Independent Musician Award Contests
Hosted by infamously questionable companies like Supernova, local pubs frequently present battle of the bands competitions which appear, on face value, to offer lucrative prizes and acclaim to their lucky winners. However, what few know is that the entrance fees that bands are required to pay in order to participate are often worth more than the actual prizes!

While these competitions would likely not be considered scams in the traditional sense, I would argue that they do, in fact, fall into this category for two reasons:
1) because participants are often mislead in regards to the actual value of the awards and
2) because several of these events are fraught with speculation of being “fixed”.

I have heard, on more than one occasion, sad stories about bands that “rocked their hardest”, had the entire room up and cheering for them, yet still somehow failed to place among the top ranks, despite the fact that these competitions are openly noted as being fan-driven and placement is supposedly based on crowd rankings.

The customary top prize for a winner in one of these competitions is studio time. While this may seem like a great award, especially if your band has a cash-flow problem, what one needs to ask themselves is: what kind of studio would give away a recording session for free? Through experience I can tell you that the kind of studio that would is NOT the kind of studio that you want producing your album. Further, usually the small allotment of studio time granted only allows an act to record a couple of songs which may or may not include additional mixing and mastering (any band that has previously recorded something professionally knows that a piece is virtually “unreleasable” if it has not been mixed and mastered in order to properly align levels and song dynamics).

Other popular prizes include website design, a free instrument and/or gift certificate to a music shop, free publicity, free merchandise design, and a support slot for a headlining act and/or a performance slot at a festival. Again, although all of these prizes are tempting at first glance, I think it’s important to consider the reputation and current client list of the company that is offering the free services. If you’ve never heard of them, the actual award is likely not as good as it appears to be. In the case of the grand prize being a festival showcase slot or free publicity, I think it would be important to note the battle of the bands’ previous winner(s) to see if the awarded performance slot(s) and/or publicity actually did anything to assist the bands’ career.

On the same page, I also advise you to be skeptical of songwriting and independent music award competitions which seem to be growing in popularity over the internet. As an entertainment columnist, I consider myself fairly in-tune with the industry, and I can say decisively, that to this day, I have yet to recognize a single winner from competitions of this sort, and so I have to wonder how much merit they actually hold among industry professionals? Of course, one of their biggest selling points is that these competitions usually have celebrity music judges, and so it makes indie musicians feel as though they are one step closer to being “discovered”.

The other aspect of these contests that seems rather fishy is their big time cash rewards. Now it makes sense that their entry fees, as a consequence, would be very steep as these contests need to be able to generate their giveaway money in the first place, however what concerns me is: what if they do not get enough entrants to generate that kind of dough? Will the award suddenly drop from one amount to the next? And if these competitions are not relying on the entrance fees in order to generate their grand prize money, then why are the entry fees so steep considering that it’s a well known fact that independent musicians do not have that kind of money to burn? Though this line of questioning may seem like a kind of paranoia, when you are an independent musician trying to establish a career for yourself, every move you make needs to be done in a strategic manner, and at no juncture, can you afford to lose your precious resources.

Warning Signs: If you’ve been invited to play at a Battle of the Bands event and/or to participate in an independent musician award contest, I urge you to request more details, prior to accepting the invitation, if you notice any of the following features regarding either event:
1) pricy entry fees and questionable prizes
2) unknown past winners
3) unknown sponsoring companies with limited client lists
4) studio time as the top prize (how much time is granted, does this include mixing and mastering, is the studio reputable, and who has recorded with them previously?)
5) crowd ranking of the performers
6) unknown so-called “celebrity” judges


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

12/10/07

Vol 2, Issue 7: Setting The Record Straight, What it Actually Means to Have a Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Selling Album

Recently, while reading a copy of what I thought to be a credible and well-researched music magazine, I was greatly appalled when I stumbled across an article that inaccurately detailed the makings of a gold album, attributing this status to an independent band's latest disc whose sales had barely even scratched the surface. While 5000 discs may seem like a triumph for an indie act, I have it on good authority that not even 10,000 in sales will merit a band “a pat on the back” from a record label in today’s harsh and competitive market. After reading this piece it occurred to me that if a so-called entertainment journalist could make such a problematic mistake, I'm almost positive that several indie bands out there could do the same. And so, this week, I've chosen to tackle yet another beast of the music industry: that of, music recording sales certification, more commonly known as the album rankings of gold, platinum, and diamond.

Although each territory has enacted individual means for ranking record sales, almost all of these systems follow in the footsteps of the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) method which was pioneered in 1958 in order to monitor the sales of vinyl LPs. For the purposes of this article (and to avoid confusion), I will strictly be referencing figures that denote album rankings in our home territory cited by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), and the certification process as illustrated by the RIAA method. (If you are interested in comparing our sales expectations with those of other countries worldwide, I encourage you to conduct an internet search on “music recording sales certification” for more information).

Perhaps part of the confusion with which each of these sales levels represents, stems from the fact that the numbers pertaining to each rank have not stayed consistent over the years. While gold status was once awarded to artists whose sales exceeded 500,000 copies (or $1 million in sales) of a given album back in the 50s and 60s, today’s gold rankings are attributed to a significantly lower sales target; that of, 50,000. The impetus behind the modification of these sales targets is tied closely to the expansion of the music industry (well, consumerism in general) and more recently, the introduction of the internet and digital sales.

Initially, associations such as the RIAA did not quite know how to credit internet downloads of songs and/or albums in relation to physical cd sales largely because the costs of manufacturing, shipping, and retail cuts are eliminated, and thus, digital downloaders can afford to sell an artist’s work for a significantly lower amount, while still producing a profit margin. Additionally, the purchasing of album singles has recently expanded into a larger market (largely due to the hotly debated continual decline in the quality of albums as a whole over the past 10 years) with the internet acting as the perfect purchasing medium due to its ease and accessibility. But, with the introduction of the internet and digital downloads, also came the genesis of digital piracy making it increasingly difficult for artists to generate high sales rankings based on their internet music consumers alone. While one may have hypothesized that a gold album would have the same sales target whether generated through physical sales or digital sales, this in fact, is not the case. While 50,000 physical cd sales will merit an artist this ranking, only 20,000 downloads serves as the online sales equivalent, and a single itself may be ranked gold if it reaches a mere 5,000 units in sales whether through traditional or electronic means. With all of these varying numbers serving to entitle an artist to essentially the SAME rating, it’s easy to see how someone could improperly allot this status to a musical act!

So how exactly does the process of album certification work? Well, for one thing it is not automatic. Record labels are required to pay a fee (between $350 and $450 for RIAA members, and non-members respectively), on behalf of their artists, in order to have the artist’s album sales audited by the RIAA’s official accounting company of over 20 years, Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman. “The audit calculates what product has been shipped for sale, net after returns, versus product used for promotional purposes, for the life of the release. When certifying audio and music video releases, the independent auditor is careful to survey the entire music marketplace. An artist's gold or platinum award represents sales through retail, record clubs, rackjobbers, and all other ancillary markets that legitimately distribute music. Once a title’s sales has been audited and verified as having reached requisite levels, a formal certification report is issued and sent to the title's record company.” (As outlined by the RIAA’s official website). So then what’s the difference between the RIAA’s auditing process and submitting one’s sales to the Neilson Soundscan charts?

Although Canadian artists are strongly encouraged to issue all of their off-stage and retail sales to Soundscan for reporting, interestingly enough, the RIAA does NOT use these figures for their calculations in regards to album rankings. Why you ask? Well, according to the RIAA, they feel that Soundscan’s records are less reliable as their system is newer, whereas the RIAA has a history of over 40 years. Moreover, Soundscan figures strictly measure over-the-counter sales at music retail locations and off-stage sales, whereas the sales audits conducted by the RIAA encompass a far greater avenue of non-traditional music sales tracking including business generated from non-retail record clubs, mail order houses, speciality stores, direct marketing outlets, TV-advertised albums and internet downloads. So then what’s the point of issuing one’s sales via Soundscan at all?

Well, the simple fact remains that independent artists, more often than not, generate the highest amount of album sales directly after live performances, an avenue that the RIAA does NOT take into account for its calculation. If an independent act generates extremely high off-stage sales, then they have the potential of attaining powerful promotional opportunities as their sales records will be reported in the Billboard Charts. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that many independent artists (most, I’d argue) are unable to take advantage of the Soundscan database reporting system due to its extremely high membership rates and exclusionary policies regarding the necessity of being signed to a label that has been in business for at least two years and represents at least two acts with current releases. It’s also important to note that if an act does manage to get signed to a label with Soundscan reporting capabilities, all of their generated sales previous to their record label signing will NOT count towards their total sales of a given album (Sad, but true folks. A lot of artists get screwed this way.)

As I’m sure you’ve deduced at this point, the changes incurred within the album ranking system of the RIAA since its inception, along with the development of territory-specific sister companies with varying ranking standards, have led to a great deal of controversy in regards to what really are the top selling albums of all time. It is difficult for us to compare modern standards with those of the past also taking into account the phenomenal surge of the uniquely experienced consumerism of the 20th century. However, the important question that needs considering in today’s market is as follows: will these ratings be likely to decline as the problem of digital piracy persists? I can only assume that they will.

With an overabundance of supply, and a waning degree of demand, it would seem to me that artists today are facing a serious threat of being put into extinction. Can you think of any other profession in which rendered services are guiltlessly and unapologetically stolen by consumers? I didn’t think so.

For a further outline of each ranking’s sales targets in Canada, please visit the CRIA’s official website located at http://www.cria.com/


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

12/3/07

Vol 2, Issue 6: The Truth About Canada`s Grant Programs, and How They Actually Serve to Reproduce the Industry, Rather than Foster New Talent

For an ambitious indie rock band, there is nothing more like “music to the ears” (pardon the pun) than hearing about the artistic grant programs that the Canadian government has put in effect in order to “provide assistance toward the growth and development of the Canadian independent recording industry.” In theory, this goal of FACTOR, (The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records) seems quite noble as it’s based on the premise of need and merit. Further, it provides a sense of hope to independent musicians who greatly require financial assistance in order to take their career(s) to the next level through recording, and touring endeavours. However, from both personal experience and observation, I can tell you that neither FACTOR nor Videofact, the two central grants programs so crucial and intertwined with successful exposure in Canada's music industry do anything, BUT help new and independent bands who are not only worthy of such help, but as well, sincerely need it.

With impossible and even sometimes ridiculous grant application requirements (such as the stipulation for touring grants that denotes you must have sold at least 2000 copies of your album within your desired touring territory, or the recording grant condition that states you must have obtained a FACTOR-recognized distributor prior to the recording of the album for which you want funding), along with the favouring of applications submitted by record labels, the common allocation of funds into the hands of artists whom have held professional status in Canada's industry for, in some cases, over 15 years, and the lack of a restriction measure in place which would discourage the granting of funds towards artists who have already been past recipients of said monies, it would seem to me that the goal of FACTOR, and VideoFact seems rather focused on perpetuating a cycle of the same artists maintaining chart-topping success, rather than giving new talent a fighting chance as their so-called mandates would claim.

Additionally, rather than providing independent artists with advice on how they can better their chances of obtaining grants, standard form letters are issued to artists who are declined funding which in many cases outline “steps to improve one's application” that are completely irrelevant to the given case. I remember receiving one of these “advice” letters in which my band was instructed to work on obtaining media exposure and booking tour dates in order to add legitimacy to our Videofact grant application. Anyone who has followed my band’s history or has visited our website would be well aware of how extensive our media and booking portfolios are. Furthermore, enclosed alongside our Videofact application was a detailed copy of our press kit which outlined all of our career highlights and accomplishments –perhaps they just missed that (it was only in a big red folder marked ANTI-HERO). Might I also add that in another application, we hired a professional firm to outline our music video synopsis, budget, and storyboard to give our application even more edge, yet still, we were rejected.

What this suggests to me is the following about these programs: grant-issuing agencies do NOT review applications from artists who are not already established at a professional level and/or are not backed by a label to some degree. Evidence for this rather problematic finding can be seen in the grant recipient lists (available on FACTOR's & VideoFact's websites) that rarely (and I mean RARELY) contain artists of whom you've never heard (I encourage you to check out the charts for yourself if you do not believe me)! Further, the eligibility requirements of both FACTOR and Videofact’s programs reinforce this point as the reason as to why artists are applying for these loans in the first place is so that they can essentially garner more attention, establish a larger fanbase, and improve sales. Thus, the likelihood of an independent artist (with absolutely no label support) obtaining the goal of 2000 album sales within 18 months of its release, is, unfortunately in today’s industry, highly unlikely.

Again, as referenced in one of my first articles of the year, if Bon Jovi, an artist that’s been around for decades, was holding the top Soundscan slot with only 7,000 in cd sales, how can the record industry possibly expect a band without a well-established reputation, and without necessary promotional/marketing funds to sell that many discs in that allotted time period? It’s not impossible, but HIGHLY unlikely.

On the similar notion, in terms of the recording grants’ requirement of having a reputable distributor in place prior to the recording of one’s album: what I’m wondering about this, is first off, does the Canadian music industry sincerely believe that a distributor will just slap their name (and reputation) onto a record they’ve never heard or for that matter support an artist who’s never released a previous album, and so there is no way to judge their sell-ability? Not a chance.

So, what does this all mean for independent artists? Firstly, this biased selection process adds credence to my rantings about how truly difficult and unfair this industry is. Secondly, as an independent artist, it would seem that the Canadian music industry is fairly adamant in stating that you can only get so far on your own before encountering a situation in which you need an “inside man”. Thirdly and most importantly, the favouring of established artists indicates to me that the Canadian music industry is not as willing to take risks on new talent as it is a safer bet to invest in artists whom they know are able to generate money, which once again reaffirms the fact that business trumps talent in the music biz.

While there have been some recent developments in terms of trying to alleviate this major dilemma such as the offering of seminars by FACTOR that provide tips on how to prepare successful applications, along with the growth of independent firms that assist artists in undergoing the grant application process (as it can be rather hectic, time consuming, and confusing), this issue of course still remains.

I hope that in the future these grant agencies will begin living up to their mission statements, and start giving underdogs a chance. Who knows they may even be surprised by how much undiscovered talent there is out there? And perhaps, the monotony of mainstream radio will be alleviated as well.

By writing all of this, I do not mean to imply that these agencies have not benefited many artists in the Canadian music industry as they most certainly have, and I’m happy for the hard working well-deserving artists who have been grant recipients. The point I’m trying to make here is that there is an unequal treatment of signed/unsigned bands going on within this selection process, and I truly feel that independent artists need to be aware of this situation. Similarly, I hope that by writing this perhaps I can inspire a change in policy.

About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

11/5/07

Vol 2, Issue 5: Musician Associations, Paying Out of Your Bands Pockets for Protection

Whether you’re an independent act or the latest acquisition of a major label, being aware of the wide array of artist-oriented affiliations (and their services) that are at your disposal, is essential. Not only are there organizations that will assist you in protecting your art, but further, there are musician unions whose purpose is to promote and protect your rights as an artist. The latter form of associations go so far as to “attempt” to professionalize music as a career offering legal council, retirement pensions, and tour support.

Note here that I said “attempt” to professionalize music as a career because being a musician, in almost all accounts, is not seen by greater society as a feasible or stable career path for good reason: music is not a “safe” career choice, and most musicians have backup plans because they are aware of their limited chances of “making it” in this unforgiving industry. Often, those who do “make it” are manipulated, exploited, and/or taken advantage of by labels, promoters, and bookers simply because as artists, they remained ignorant to the inner workings of this industry. What one must understand is that most artists, unfortunately, fall into this category of “easy prey”, and the only way to alleviate this, and perhaps raise the standard of musician treatment overall is to create more knowledgeable musicians.

Thus, the importance of having associations that exist purely for the benefit of artists as a means to preserve artistic integrity, ownership, and intellectual property and a source of education and advice pertaining to the industry, is crucial.

And so without further adieu, listed below are the musician associations (in Canada) detailing the services they provide, their membership fees and a ranking based on my personal experiences with each of them. Depending on your aspirations as an artist, you may not find all of these associations applicable to your situation, but to be fair, I felt it necessary to provide an overview of all of the major organizations, so that you could make the judgment call for yourself.


1) The London Musician’s Association (LMA) & American Federation of Musicians (AFM)
http://www.londonmusicians.com/
http://www.afm.org/
Overview: The London Musicians Association is our local sub-sect of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), an organization whose main purpose is to help negotiate fair treatment and legal touring policies for Canadian artists wishing to enter into the American market. The AFM provides legal protection to its artists by mandating that for every gig in which they participate, a contractual agreement must be completed outlining the date, time, venue, length of performance, and compensation to be paid to the artist for their services. In the event that a band’s performance in the States does not qualify as a paying gig (i.e. music festival/conference), a supplementary letter, indicating that the band is partaking in this event purely for the exposure/potential contents it will generate, will be supplied to the artist.

These contractual letters are very important when traveling to the States as they assist in expediting the border crossing process. Additionally, these contracts can serve as legal proof of the agreed upon terms if an artist encounters a discrepancy with a venue owner/festival promoter. Further, if a discrepancy does arise, the AFM will provide legal council (if necessary) to resolve this matter free of charge to its members. Please note that to obtain a letter in either case, there is a charge of $25 US for processing.

Fees: There is NO initiation charge for students and/or musicians who are 20 years of age or younger, however said individuals will be required to demonstrate proof of their academic record/age. For all other musicians, a one time fee of $100 is charged to initiate one’s membership. In addition to the membership initiation fees, in order to stay active as a member, fulfilling a due schedule (which can be paid annually $128/year, semi-annually $74/every six months, or quarterly $42/every three months) is required. These dues not only provide artists with the ability to tour America legally and legitimately, but as well entitle members to additional benefits including: health care, pension, and lobbying rights. Each member of the AFM is invited to attend regular conferences to voice their opinions in regards to how the touring process can be improved upon. (Please note that there are NO group discounts with fees, so if your band contains seven members, this may be an expensive process.)

Critique: While I strongly believe in touring legally, and advocate the AFM’s intended mission, being provided with all of the proper documentation to cross the border does NOT always guarantee access and/or access without considerable hassle. I can recall several excursions to the States in which my entire band was AFM approved, and provided with the necessary legal documents and P2 temporary work visas, yet still we encountered lengthy interrogations from border officers and routine vehicle searches which usually resulted in us being held up at the border for several hours left scrambling trying to make it to our gigs on time.

Additionally, it’s important to note that when touring into the States, a Canadian band is not legally allowed to transport goods across the border (including their own merchandise), and if caught doing so, your merch may be subject to annihilation right before your eyes. Seeing as merchandise sales typically account for the majority of a band’s profits, getting your merch transported to every show is a MUST. Thus, additional shipping costs to transport your merch legally need to be planned for, and again these can costs add up fast.

On another side note, it’s important to realize that the AFM has set standards in regards to what musicians can receive as minimal compensation for their performances, and these fees are unfortunately highly UNREALISTIC for most independent artists. Consequently, if an artist-member of the AFM participates in a gig which does not pay at least the minimal standard for their performance, he/she may not be eligible for legal council in the event that a venue tries to rip them off. However, members such as myself are currently working with our locals in order to improve these standards and make them more reasonable and in accordance with today’s market.

Overall, I feel that the AFM offers a useful service to independent bands wishing to break into the American market, however, this can be a costly process! Thus, I do not encourage becoming an AFM member or touring the States unless your band has some serious financial backing, or if you are confident that you will be able to make up for your losses through touring.


2) Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC)
http://www.songwriters.ca/
Overview: A quick note on intellectual property/copyright law that you need to know first: Once pen is put to paper, or you’ve saved a copy of your song (lyrics + sheet music) on your computer, your creation is legally copy-written. HOWEVER, in the event that the rights to your song(s) were ever disputed and another songwriter claimed ownership (perhaps a disgruntled ex-bandmate), it would be very difficult to prove who wrote what down in their journals first, and in such a case, you could potentially lose the rights to your own work. The Songwriters Association of Canada is an organization that offers a solution to this very problem.

The SAC provides a service wherein once provided with a hardcopy of each of your original compositions, they will catalogue each song (or album) into a registered depository which records the original songwriter(s), the rights shareholders, and the date in which the piece(s) were submitted. A registered copyright is much more likely to hold up as proof of ownership in a court of law, and thus, ensuring that all of your music is protected in this fashion is A MUST. Other companies and/or entertainment lawyers can provide this same service for you, however, likely it would be at a higher cost.

Fees: Membership is open to any Canadian composer, lyricist, or songwriter regardless of professional status or genre and entitles you to the song depository for your original works, song assessment meetings with industry professionals ($25 + GST per song), as well as access to several helpful seminars and workshops to assist you in improving your songwriting. Voting members can either pay $60.00 + GST for one year or $100.00 + GST for two years. Associate members are charged $135.00 + GST per year. The only difference between the two memberships is that voting members are eligible to vote at the annual meetings of the members.

Critique: I personally think register-copywriting one’s music is a MUST for every musician out there, and that SAC provides an easy and reasonably priced method through which you can do so. I have not taken advantage of their services outside of the song depository so I cannot provide an evaluation for those, however in terms of their song depository and customer service, I have absolutely no complaints.

In terms of choice of membership, I personally do not have the time to go to the meetings for each of the associations of which I am a member, and so I opted to apply as a non-voting associate member. I do not recommend becoming a voting member of any organization, unless you are truly passionate about what the organization represents, and you are willing and able to attend their meetings in order to have a say in their new developments.


3) Society of Composers, Authors, & Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN)

http://www.socan.ca/

Overview: Contrary to popular belief registering your music with SOCAN does NOT copyright your works, rather SOCAN’s services pertain to public performance royalty rights and distribution and their system works as follows:

Firstly, SOCAN requires its members to register all of their original compositions within their directory. Next, once any of your pieces are performed publicly (whether at a gig where the cover charge exceeds $7 CA, live on television, or if your song is played on the radio), it is your duty to report this performance to SOCAN by issuing them public performance forms (provided on their website) detailing all of the pertinent information including the venue, the song(s) performed, and proof of the performance. Public performance forms from ALL of SOCAN’s registered members are collected, and four times a year, members who earn at least $5 in public performance royalty fees (per quarter) will be issued a cheque for their earnings. The royalty fees are accrued from the venue’s themselves.

Fees: Music creators (lyricists, songwriters, accompaniment writers) and music publishers can become members of SOCAN if the works they created and/or are representing have been published by a music publisher, recorded by a record company, or have or will be performed in a public forum licensed by SOCAN. Online applications made by music creators are FREE. For those who chose to apply on paper, there is a one-time processing fee of $25. Membership for music publishers costs $50 + applicable taxes, applications can be made online or on paper, and again this is a one-time fee.

Critique: SOCAN’s system is not as straightforward as it would seem as for one thing NOT every venue (smaller clubs and non-for-profit/college radio) agrees to issue public performance royalties, so even if you fulfill all of the above requirements, you may or may not receive any royalties for your performances. Additionally, royalty payment is decided through a lottery wherein major artists are almost always are paid first, and independent artists are provided with the leftovers, if any. Taking into account that not all venues pay, and major artists indefinitely get paid first, you may not receive any compensation for your performances until you reach a more notable position within the music industry.

Song licensing, whether through mechanical or public performance royalty collection can be a profitable endeavour for any musician, however, please be aware that in order for you to receive any royalty earnings from SOCAN, your material must be getting regular rotation on radio, OR it must be performed regularly on television broadcasts and/or at public concerts where the cover charge is more than $7. If you are not embarking on a major tour with supported publicity opportunities, you likely will not obtain enough royalty opportunities to accrue $5 per quarter. The average royalty fee is about 10 – 15 cents per performance/play, so although $5 does not seem like an unreasonable goal, please realize that it would take 33 plays/performances of one of your songs in order to receive a $5 paycheck at the higher rate of 15 cents per play/performance!

I have been a member of SOCAN for about five years now, and have received a great deal of press coverage, and have played literally hundreds of shows. To this day, I have yet to receive a single royalty reimbursement. However, now that memberships are free when you apply online (they weren’t when I signed up), I don’t see any damage in becoming a member. Even in the event that you are never issued a royalty cheque, you are not losing anything, and if one of your songs starts taking off on the radio, it’s always good to be prepared professionally to deal with royalty collection. It will show that you are not an amateur.


4) The Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA)

http://www.cmrra.ca/
Overview: The Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) acts as a negotiating representative for Canadian music publishers who are interested in licensing their material for usage in cd compilation projects (mechanical licensing), films, television, commercials, and other audio-visual opportunities (synchronization licensing). However, CMRRA does NOT research licensing opportunities for you, they merely assist with negotiating fair licensing rates of your music once you have secured the licensing opportunities. Moreover, CMRRA ensures that you will receive your entitled licensing percentages, whereas if you issue licensing agreements to various companies independent on a licensing agency such as that of CMRRA, there is no way to guarantee that these companies will actually a) pay you the agreed upon amount per song b) pay you your percentage of accrued royalties from sales/airplay.

Fees: As one could expect of most standard agencies in the entertainment industry, CMRRA takes a cut (6 - 10%) of each licensing rate they negotiate on your behalf as their commission, but aside from their percentage, there is no membership fee and the agreement is non-exclusive.

Critique: This service will only be helpful to those interested in licensing their music for use in commercials, movies, tv etc, but again just as with royalty collection from SOCAN, earning a lot of money through this means is not that easy. However, if you manage to get a song picked up by a major car or computer company who regularly buys advertising time in which your song is featured, you’ll be rolling in the dough!

I’ve been a member with CMRRA for just over a year now, and I have not used their service. I prefer (as I have my own lawyer, and a strong background in business) to negotiate my own licensing agreements.

Additionally, indie artists tend to be offered several non-paying licensing opportunities that are truly beneficial in terms of the exposure they provide, and in such a case being a member with CMRRA wouldn’t be advantageous.

While I think CMRRA offers a valuable service, I do not think it’s essential for music publishers to become members of this agency if they have the business-know how and legal council to manage their negotiations independently. Secondly, licensing opportunities tend not to be presented to you until you are a fairly established act, so for new indie acts, don’t worry about this one for now.
(*More to come on licensing in a later issue)


5) The Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA)
http://www.coca.org/
Overview: The Canadian Organization of Campus Activities represents both the post-secondary schools seeking entertainment acts to bring to their college/university for special occasions such as orientation week, and the entertainment acts themselves (musicians, variety/comedy troupes, djs etc) both independent, and those represented by booking agents.
COCA hosts several showcase conferences, both on a regional and national level in a given year in which representatives from each school are invited to see selected acts perform. The showcase acts are selected through an adjudication process in which only the acts which are gaining momentum in the industry and/or are seen as groups that have a wide range of appeal are typically booked (which most often does not include harder styles of music including punk or metal or anything that could be deemed offensive). The idea here is to allow showcase acts to demonstrate their abilities to who could be considered potential future employers. These performances often dictate the acts that are booked for the major upcoming celebrations of the next school year. Usually favourable acts from these showcases end up doing campus tours.

In addition to performing at these events, each act and school is required to set up a booth for the weekend at which other members are able to gain further information about your group or school. These events typically are thought of as “smoozing” (shameless self-promotion) opportunities.

Fees: In order to have access to any of COCA’s services, a talent group must first become an associate member which costs $275 + G.S.T./year. This membership entitles the group to a listing in the membership directory & buyer’s guide, a subscription to COCA notes, and eligibility to perform at showcases. A website link on COCA’s official site can be purchased for an additional $25 + G.S.T.

In order to appear as a showcasing artist at one of COCA’s events, an act/individual must first apply through Sonicbids ($30 USD + G.S.T.). This fee is non-refundable, even if your act is NOT selected. If your act is selected to perform, there is an additional showcasing fee of $200 + G.S.T plus a mandatory booth booking fee of $250 + G.S.T.

As you can see, these fees add up fast likely making it out of the realm of possibilities for many independently-represented self-funded acts to become members and take advantage of COCA’s offerings.

Critique: Though this process is expensive, if it worked as it is outlined in theory, it could be worth it in the long haul. However, from both observation and personal experience, I can tell you that the majority of the acts booked for campus tours are already represented by one of the two major booking agencies in Canada: SL Feldman & Associates or The Agency Group, and usually these acts are NOT the selected performers from COCA’s conferences.

While some bands have profited through their COCA connections, I have found that by and large they are NOT the independently-represented acts. Additionally, if one is determined enough, he/she would be quite capable of gaining all of the entertainment booker contacts for all of Canada’s post-secondary institutions online FREE of charge. It just takes a little research.

Lastly, while the college/university crowd may be appropriate for singer/songwriter types, or mainstream rock acts, acts such as the ones in my genre of hard rock tend to appeal to a younger demographic. So, in the event you are considering a COCA membership for its showcase conference opportunities, make sure you consider whether your genre will work in the college/university scene.


6) Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS)
http://www.carasonline.ca/
Overview: The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is best known as the host of the annual Juno Awards. According to their website, “[musician] involvement is key as CARAS relies on the active participation of industry professionals to uphold the fundamental Juno process; created specifically and solely to enhance our music industry through an annual, nationally televised awards show.” The chief reason to become a CARAS member is to enable you to take part in the Juno nomination and voting process. Additionally, CARAS members receive a discounted ticket rate for the Juno gala. Aside from its Juno-orientation, CARAS is also affiliated with MusiCAN, a government music grant funding program for young Canadians, as well as the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Fees: In order to be eligible for membership, you must currently be an active member in the music industry. Memberships run annually from August 1st until July 31st of the following year, and cost is $50 + G.S.T. per person.

Critique: I think it’s important to take an active interest in one’s industry, and to assist in selecting the artists whom you feel deserve honourable mention for their artistic contributions. My issue however lies in nomination criteria (much like the unreasonable demands you will soon learn about in Canada’s grant programs) which limits the entry of independently represented acts who although may not have attained financial success, they have still contributed a great deal of artistic merit to the music scene. Unfortunately, artistic merit does not constitute musical contribution or nomination-worthiness in the eyes of most music industry professionals.

On a side note, I find that generally Canadians are more apt to watch American music award shows rather than our own, as US bands tend to be more dominant in the industry as a whole, and additionally, the production quality between the two is pretty substantial in the favour of the US.

And finally,


7) Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA)
http://www.cirpa.ca/
Overview: CIPRA is a trade organization that specifically caters to the independent sector of the Canadian recording industry. Labels, managers, producers, studios, and distributors are eligible for membership so long as they fulfill the specific outlined criteria applicable to their field (please see website for more extensive details). CIRPA’s mandate is “to secure a strong and economically stable Canadian independent music and sound recording industry”. CIRPA hopes to achieve this goal by assisting with improving the “economic viability and well-being” of the independent music and sound recording sector in important areas such as: Canadian content, copyright law, international marketing, cultural industry policies, government and industry relations, music assistance programs, market research and development, and finally tax laws and tariffs.

Additionally, CIPRA recently signed an exclusive agreement with Musicrypt which enables their members to transfer broadcast quality digital files through its Digital Media Distribution System (DMDS) online to radio, press, retailers, and concert promoters eliminating the need to send out album hardcopies to media-related representatives which cuts down promotional costs substantially. The regular cost of this service is $3.50 per track/per destination. CIRPA members can take advantage of this service at the reduced rate of $2.95 per track/per destination.

Fees: Depending on one’s annual income, various voting membership packages are offered ranging from $200 + G.S.T. per year to $2000 + G.S.T. per year, and in order to qualify for voting privileges, you must be: a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, actively engaged in the creation, production, and distribution of records, supportive of CIRPA’s objectives, recommended for membership by at least one voting member, and finally, you must qualify into one of the aforementioned categories.Those interested in becoming non-voting affiliate members are only required to pay a standard rate of $200 + G.S.T. annually.

Critique: This association is more geared towards those on the business side of the music industry as opposed to actual artists as evident by their membership categories. However, being apprised of CIRPA’s efforts, especially those relating to government lobbying, Canadian content, and copyright law is essential as their decisions may impact your career in a serious way.


Please note that this list is not exhaustive. What I’ve attempted to do is provide you an overview of what I feel are the most vital musician associations in Canada.

If you are interested in learning more about the many services that are available to you as an artist, I strongly urge you to visit http://www.overhear.com/ and check out their resources page.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

10/1/07

Vol 2, Issue 4: The REAL Deal on Record Deals

I remember the day that my band ANTI-HERO announced that we signed a distribution deal and how much it got blown out of proportion. Friends of ours began writing us letters wondering when we’d buy them each a hot new sports car or generously donate money to their cause? My response to them and anyone else who seems to be under the misconception that we are throwing parties just to roll around in our billows of cash is this: just because you sign a record deal doesn’t mean that all of your prayers have been answered.

For one thing, there are different kinds of deals a band can sign which may or may not include thousands of dollars being paid upfront to the artist. However, even in this "best" case scenario, what the music industry doesn’t tell you is that if your act flops, you will now owe that money back to your label. Don’t think that this is an uncommon dilemma in which bands find themselves. You just never hear about it because it would ruin our idealistic view of what "being signed" really means, thereby encouraging more artists to go at it independently further crippling the major labels and their stronghold on the industry.Now, not to get into semantics, but let me clarify one thing.

The word "independent" and/or "indie" is commonly used incorrectly when referring to artists. Contrary to popular belief, "indie" is NOT a genre, but rather it refers to the independent status of a band meaning that they are self-managed/published artist, and that they embrace the punk slogan D.I.Y. as their mandate. Even if an act is signed to an indie label, what one needs to understand is that all indie labels have an major label affiliate for distribution purposes, and usually a booking/publicity company affiliate, so further, the lines between major and indie become blurred. In my opinion, a true indie band is one that provides its own booking, management, publicity, distribution, and struggles its way to the top without any label support.Thanks for letting me get that out of my system.

Let’s now go back to the types of deals a band may be offered, so that you can establish which type of agreement would best suit your act’s needs.

1) Distribution: A distribution deal will make your album(s) available in retail stores, downloadable on sites such as iTunes, and/or online for purchase. The availability of your album in stores in various territories will highly depend upon your act’s touring history. With a distro deal, no upfront money is offered to the artist. For that matter, your act may be required to take money out of its own pockets to pay for the re-pressing of your cds with the distributor’s logo and copyright information. In addition, your distributing label will receive a substantial cut of the profits from all of your cd sales including your off-stage sales (the cds you sell at shows). If your cd is recalled or returned, again you will owe your distributor money for the inconvenience you have caused them. So, be sure that your cd is gonna sell.

Pros: Having a major distributor affiliated with your band may assist with publicity and bookings. Having your music worldwide will assist your act in widening its fanbase.

Cons: In-store cd sales are at an all-time low (in fact, many major labels are switching to cataloging only), and with illegal downloading programs such as Limewire, it’s difficult to make any money from online sales. In addition, you will now be sharing your profits providing your act with less money to spend on other areas that need development.

2) Indie Label Representation: Signing to an indie label will provide you with distribution (though it may be limited to the areas in which your act tours), and likely booking and publicity services. However, booking and publicity services may be charged as extra expenses to your act. In addition, you will likely be required to continue to perform several of your own management functions to assist with the label’s efforts. There may or may not be an offering of upfront money, however, funds are limited so likely, it would not be a large amount. Indie labels often book tours and do promotions in which all of their artists are grouped together.

Pros: Less pressure to conform to current music trends. Higher likelihood of getting approved for grant programs.

Cons: Less funding for booking, and publicity than what a major label could provide you. You could get stuck in the stigma of only being successful when in conjunction with the other artists on your label. Competition is steep.

3) Major Label Representation: With major label representation, you get to focus on just being a musician. Your booking, management, and publicity is all taken care of. Your albums are available worldwide, and you will be provided with great opening and festival opportunities. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get signed to a major label as their funds have diminished significantly due to illegal downloading. They are becoming more choosy with the artists that they represent, and are more likely to sign acts that mimic what’s currently popular on the airwaves producing short-lived careers for their artists. If music is your livelihood, becoming a one-hit wonder would be devastating.

Pros: Unlimited opportunities in terms of marketing, and promotions. Worldwide touring opportunities, and distribution.

Cons: Loss of control over the marketing of your act’s image and sound. Due to the extensive rosters of major labels, your act may be shelved for anywhere from a few months to a year. If your act flops, you will be required to pay the label back all of the funds with which it provided you for marketing, recording, and promotion etc.

4) Strictly Booking or Publicity Deals: If an act wishes to continue to be independent, but requires additional booking or publicity services, they can sign agreements with independent firms that will assist with booking or publicity for a monetary fee and/or percentage of your earnings. Most bookers and/or publicists are unlikely to work with bands that are unestablished and do not already have record deals or at least distribution.

Pros: Several venues, festivals, and/or media outlets do not accept unsolicited materials from artists, and therefore having an agent work on your behalf may open up some doors.

Cons: This is often an expensive endeavour and firms cannot provide a guarantee that their services will assist you. Just because your act is offered a show and/or press through one of these firms, it does not mean that it is guaranteed to be favourable.With any opportunity, there will always be upsides and downfalls, but knowing what risks your act is willing to take, and what services best suit your needs will assist you greatly in choosing an appropriate career path.

Irrespective of what any record deal promises to deliver, remember this: just because they say they will provide you with all these wonderful services doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Most acts are so overwhelmed at the very proposition of being signed that they put themselves in a scenario in which they can easily be taken advantage of. As most artists do not have the funding behind them to go through legal proceedings in the event that their label screws them over, labels are aware of the fact that they can away with making empty promises.

Although the workload of self-management is overwhelming at times, I find myself satisfied in knowing that what my band has accomplished is entirely in thanks to all of our hard work. Being a true indie band is something that has worked for us, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s been an easy road.

However, on the other side of things, I hope that you all now understand that just because an act is signed, it doesn’t mean that a) they no longer have to work hard and/or b) that their career will be well taken care of. Perhaps I’ve become jaded from my experiences in the music biz, but I personally would never put my life into the hands of another to sit back and watch it run its course. My life = my music, and I don’t feel that anyone is capable of truly understanding what that means to me except for me.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

9/24/07

Vol 2, Issue 3: A Possible Solution to Digital Thievery: Well...not quite.

Continuing on with last week’s assessment of our music market and digital piracy concerns, it’s important to note, that although still rudimentary and somewhat flawed, new technologies are currently being refined in order to battle the formidable foe of major record labels: the internet. Whether or not, they will serve to be a permanent solution to this problem is yet to be determined. (I still argue that we’d be better off creating a new medium that cannot be read by computers, but that’s an entire issue on its own.) However, if you are an aspiring artist working on material in hopes of releasing an album one day, I would suggest keeping yourself apprised of such developments as they may prove to strongly influence audio formatting policies in the future.

A few years back, upon the brink of Napster’s short-lived popularity and lifespan as a free file-sharing service, British innovators at Fortium Technologies (previously First4Internet) seized an opportunity. Unlike the major labels who believed the issue of digital piracy would find a quick resolution commencing the shutdown of Napster’s services, the technologists at Fortium prepared for what they predicted as the inevitable future: a music industry falling victim to Napster copycat programs in desperate need of an audio-content protection solution. What has come to be known in today’s industry as XCP (the extended copyright protection system) evolved from Fortium’s initial efforts which took form in the highly controversial “rootkit software” of 2005.

For those of you unfamiliar with rootkit, here’s a brief history: Sony-BMG, completely enthralled by the very thought of an attempt to kick this “illegal downloading thing” where it hurts, preemptively jumped on board releasing over 50 titles (from various artists) with this relatively untested technology included on each disc. When a customer purchased one of the rootkit enhanced discs, and placed it into their computer drive, a software component named “Media-Max 3D” would, unbeknownst to them, be automatically installed on their computer. The purpose of Media-Max 3D was to prohibit consumers from reading the disc with any other music player such as iTunes or Windows Media Player which in turn disallowed the possibility of cd ripping, and limited cd burning so that users could only create about two extra copies of a given disc for personal use.

Although, I’m fairly certain most of you would be familiar with how P2P content-sharing systems work, the importance of Media-Max 3D’s function is this: by disabling the ripping process of a cd, a user is unable to retrieve audio tracks from that disc, convert them into mp3 format, and upload them to a file-sharing server, thereby (in theory) eliminating the possibility of illegal file-sharing/downloading.

Now here’s where things got interesting. Consumers began to notice malfunctions with their Windows operating systems shortly after listening to one of these enhanced discs on their computers. It was later concluded that Media-Max 3D was responsible for installing spyware (a malicious computer virus portal) onto all desktops with which it had contact.

Although this scandal remained fairly “hush-hush” to the wider population, several lawsuits were filed against Sony-BMG for privacy invasion, all of the catalog releases (estimated over 500,000) that included this technology had to be recalled and exchanged for standard discs, not to mention Fortium Technology’s name change (which couldn’t have occurred at a more opportune moment) which resultingly, deflected a great deal of the blame off of their company.

Since this unfortunate series of events, Fortium has made alternations to their digital content-protection software re-launching it as XCP. Though Fortium has assured both consumers and labels interested in licensing this software that, “the control program provided as part of the disc management system only resides on the CDR media and does not install any programs on the PC, ” potential users and buyers remain skeptical at best.

Irrespective of Fortium’s claim to having the grandiose solution (for a whopping $10,000 per license, and that’s not including tax, or manufacturing costs, mind you), another major issue in the fight against music piracy is still going unaddressed: that is, preventing users from uploading purchased songs from legitimate online music stores onto illegal P2P free file-sharing servers. There is NO way to police this, and all it takes is a single user to purchase tracks from a legitimate online music store, and allow access to his/her music library free of charge via one of the many (and growing) population of P2P servers. Additionally, recent reports have revealed that computer “hackers” have discovered a way to steal music directly off of licensed programs such as iTunes, so it would seem to me that Fortium’s invention really only solves a small piece of this highly complex puzzle. What’s worse is that as a globally interacting planet, we cannot seem to establish some sort of agreed upon method for internet governance or regulation. I hate to say it, but the solution seems very far off indeed.

However, the internet is NOT all bad. In fact, it has served as an invaluable tool to the benefit of many artists, especially independent ones, including myself, and I can sincerely say that a great deal of my band’s accomplishments would not have been possible without its advent.

Now, I hope that this further reflection on the current music industry has not dampened your spirits too much because in fact, right now is a very exciting time period for indie artists. I welcome you to check back next week to get the scoop on why it’s a much more lucrative and rewarding business when you decide to go it alone.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

9/10/07

Vol 2, Issue 2: Who's Really at Fault for Declining Sales, Heightened Piracy & Lower Standards of Music as an Artform?

When The Police have to cancel tour dates due to poor ticket sales, and Bon Jovi holds the top position on the weekly Soundscan charts for the number one selling new release with a mere 7,000 discs, it’s safe to say that the music industry is in quite a pickle. While the record companies are quick to point the finger at the escalating rate of illegal downloads as the primary cause of their dismay, there’s truly more going on here than meets the eye. If I can offer you, my fellow aspiring artists, one piece of solid advice, it’s this: go indie, or go home. Before I begin providing you with steps on how to attain a successful status as an independent musician, I feel it is essential to evaluate the current climate of today’s music industry.

With the recent closings of both the Sam the Record Man & Music World retail store chains, and the now defunct (once mighty) Castle Records, obviously credence must be given to the fact that illegal downloading is affecting retail sales in a major way. For that matter, the music industry, as we once knew it, is scrambling to invent new technologies in order to battle piracy, when truly, it would be a much wiser idea to accept the fact that things have changed, and that they will never be as they once were. Instead of challenging the movement towards digital, I’d argue they’d be better off embracing it, because one thing is for certain: the youth generation, the force driving this movement, is only getting larger, and more powerful.

However…we all knew this day would come. Not to get politic, but this situation, to me, is reminiscent of when Bush completely ignored the signs indicating the imminent threat of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, acted mystified by the event, and then once it was too late, tried to pick up the pieces acting as though everything could quickly retain normalcy by affixing a band-aid. Well, I hate to break it to Bush, and the traditionalist label owners still clutching tightly to their memories of vinyl, big hair, and sold-out concerts, but change is unavoidable, and as Darwin put it, “only the strongest, and those able to adapt to their new environment(s) will survive”.

But… how did this all get so out of hand in the first place? Why is it that music lovers are no longer willing to pay for what was once a precious commodity? Simply put, because it’s NOT worth it.

As a musician, and a music consumer, I have the unique perspective of seeing both sides of the argument. While I don’t agree with stealing (that’s what piracy is folks, whether you want to admit it to yourselves, or not), I also am sympathetic to the needs of the music consumer, and I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t bought a new album in about 10 years. Why, you ask? Because the quality, talent, and songwriting of our modern-day so-called “artists” does not even register in the minor leagues compared to what the musicians of the past were required to deliver. But…don’t be so quick to blame the artists themselves. It’s not as though the potential for genuine talent simply disappeared from our generation. The sad fact of it all is that music is no longer about music (read that line again if it didn’t make sense the first time).

Music, a once well-respected art form in which songwriters created stories about their experiences and offered inspiration, hope, and comfort to their listeners is now a commodity – a slickly pre-packaged trinket oozing with marketability and emulating every current trend in society from black eye makeup to disgustingly pretentious bad-ass attitude. The problem with this of course is that it lacks originality and genuine substance (the very things that good music is made of).

It’s All About the Money
It’s become painful to listen to modern-rock radio because you can’t tell one band from the next, the general consensus in terms of acceptable lyrical subject matter is appalling, well moreso pathetic, and everything just seems so damn predictable as though each song selected to be a single had “insert catchy hook here” and “time for a guitar solo/breakdown” slated in the sheet music before the piece was even composed. The rationale behind all of this was, of course: to make money.

Record labels believed, that if they continued to hire copy-cat artists who simply acted as puppets in their greed-driven attempts at success, that we, as consumers, would be too ignorant to notice. While it is unfortunate that many independent, and truly talented bands are suffering in the crossfire, I feel no sympathy for the record labels as truly, they are getting their just desserts. If they feel there’s nothing wrong with exploiting young na├»ve artists, and then shortly thereafter, ending their careers to make a quick buck, then there’s nothing wrong with stealing from major companies who could care less about the negative effects their messages, and efforts have had on society.

From a consumer perspective, I can appreciate the fact that shelling out the cash to buy an album doesn’t seem worthwhile when there are only three decent tracks on the entire thing. However, what consumers don’t realize is that the cycle of releasing sub-par music is being perpetuated by their very actions.

Underdeveloped Talent
Because record labels are losing so much money at such an intense rate, artists, are being forced to release new material more often, and consequently, the songwriting quality continues to diminish because musicians are no longer being granted time to develop their skills, and their art. It wasn’t uncommon five-ten years ago, for artists to wait anywhere from three to sometimes even seven years before issuing a follow-up record (which of course gave allowance for artistic development and experimentation). But, because of the industry’s threatening financial situation, record labels do not have the time, nor the patience to care about such things, and thus, will settle for what they can get.

Market Oversaturation
Further, there’s another force influencing this situation which I like to refer to as “the convenience factor”. Society, for whatever reason, (blame it on the media, generational differences, or a combination) continues each year to become more and more obsessed with the, “bigger, better, faster, now” mentality. Advertisers have noted that our attention spans are shortening, causing us to become bored and/or distracted at a quicker rate, thus propelling the need to consistently obtain new material items. Keeping this in mind, it’s no wonder that record labels expect new albums out of their artists every year, sometimes even every six months because what’s “new” doesn’t stay “new” for very long in such an oversaturated and overplayed market.

So how can artists contend with all of this when the labels, the ones with the money and manpower, are losing their stability? Well, no one said it would be easy, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

If major labels continue to plummet, no longer will our airwaves be flooded by the same ten bands that all sound like Nickleback. Musicians, again will have to pay their dues, win their own fans, independently promote their concerts, and earn every bit of their status by themselves.

Look at it like this: it’s a purification process, and a much needed one at that. Though “rockstardom” will likely never be as it once was, our current climate demands change, which I believe could be the beginnings to a major overhaul which will re-introduce art to music. Here’s hoping I’m right. I know there are more purists, like me, out there.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

8/24/07

Vol 2, Issue 1: A New Year, A Lot More Experience

Another year has passed, and though I’m only a little bit older, I’m a lot more experienced. Much has happened, some for the better, some for the worst, but either way, I’m here to share my experiences with you, so that you will be granted adequate and realistic knowledge regarding whether or not the pursuit of the “rockstar” dream is truly what it seems.

For those of you just joining me, I’m sure you’re curious as to what makes me an expert? Well, as could be expected, I was once just like you: a dreamer who wanted nothing more in the world than to rock the masses as my day job. Though in theory, it sounds monumental and insurmountable to say the least.

Let me tell you this:
1) there are no get-rich quick schemes in this industry
2) the only person you can put faith in is yourself
3) And finally, everything you think you know about the music biz, whether you were taught in school or you picked it up from some MuchMusic or MTV program, is either complete and utter BULLSHIT, the entire story is NOT being told, or you’ve simply become the victim, like myself, of wanting a dream so passionately that you have been blinded by your own naivety.

So back to the part about what makes me an expert? To get it out of the way, let me first explain that I would never claim to know all that there is to know, but I do feel that my personal experiences, both successes, and failures have provided me with concrete knowledge that I would like to offer you. Obviously, no two cases are alike, and there will always be exceptions to the rule, but, if I do know anything (which I hope I do), it’s this: I wish to god that someone would’ve given me the honest truth when I was started out, like what I’m doing for you.

So am I a philanthropist, a martyr, or is there something in this for me? Why am I offering such priceless knowledge free of charge? Well, what it comes down to is this…All I’ve ever wanted was to change the world in what little way that I could. Through my art, my music, offer some kind of hope, comfort, or inspiration to those in need, like my favourite musicians have done for me. While I realize that some of you may love me, others (likely more of you) will hate me, as long as I can help at least one of you with what I have to say, I’ll know that I was a successful artist at the end of it all. If not for art, then what for?

So, if you’re intrigued to read on, you’ll learn quickly that I’ve been a performing musician since the age of four, I wrote my first song at seven, I’ve fronted two successful bands who garnered significant industry interest and record deals, toured extensively across North America, started my own record label at 15, and did I mention I did this all on my own? I scratched and fought my way to the top against every feat you can imagine from inner-band quarrels to financial ruin to emotional despair to sexism. All of this I tell you so that you will understand two things: I’m quite serious in what I have to offer, and I’m not just some unqualified wannabe piddling out dribble who has nothing better to do that bitch and complain about the unfairness in the world.

I’ve held every role in the industry from talent to publicist to booker to legal advisor. So, if YOU wanna be a rockstar, keep reading, you may just learn something.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/