Vol 2, Issue 12: Alternative Sources of Revenue Pt III: Licensing & Songwriting: An Overview

It’s wasn’t until "1234" made its debut in Apple’s 2007 advertising campaign for their latest iPod Nano that Leslie Feist, more commonly referred to solely by her surname, became a worldwide phenomenon. Despite the fact that she had been performing in and out of many notable acts since the 70s, had previously toured with the likes of The Ramones, and had released two solo albums previous to her current effort, The Reminder, for Feist, it was a licensing agreement that finally sealed the deal. This kind of a story, according to music industry experts, is not uncommon.

*To view Feist's Apple Ipod commercial, please visit http://youtube.com/watch?v=tkpdJ_0ubXI

In fact, Steve Thomson of Backstage Productions, a Canadian independent music publisher, informed me that the licensing of a single song, if picked up by the right client, can set a songwriter for life! So why, then, aren’t more musicians taking advantage of this aspect of the industry? Well, it’s NOT as easy to navigate as one may anticipate.

In addition to the fact that one literally needs to apprise themselves of a dictionary’s worth of technical jargon, success in music publishing is highly dependent upon connections, and therefore, tends to be restrictive in many ways. As unsolicited material is generally NOT accepted, making it as a new aspiring songwriter is anything but easy. To make matters worse, resources regarding this area of the industry are limited, and it would seem that, based on my own personal experiences trying to track down songwriters and music publishers alike for interviews, this is no coincidence. However, my persistence finally paid off! Based on my findings, I hope that I will be able to shine some light on this rather contentious employment avenue from both an indie and major perspective. But, before we get started, a review of some key definitions is required.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish the difference between licensing and songwriting:
Licensing is the act of granting permission to a purchaser (which may include: a media/production company, ad agency, cd compilation manufacturer and/or film producer) to feature one of your originally written and recorded compositions in a creative project whereas there is a promise of remuneration for your contribution. Payment may take the form of an upfront flat rate per song or royalty payment depending upon the success of the project. In some situations, the licensing of a song is granted to a purchaser free of charge if there is promise of potential exposure, which may in turn lead to further commercial success for the artist.

Songwriting, on the other hand, again involves the granting of a license of an original composition by an artist, but, the purchaser is free to edit and re-record the work for the project. Songwriting purchasers most often include: established recording artists, media/production companies, and ad agencies.

Either avenue can involve exclusive or non-exclusive agreements, and fees will vary depending upon whether or not you have representation. However, it’s important to note that the practise of selling song ownership has long been out of use. Whether you license material off of your current band’s album, or write songs for fellow artists, as the original songwriter, you will maintain the ownership of all of your song(s), will be credited for all of your contributions, and are able to both release your songs commercially through your own means concurrently with your licensing efforts and/or grant licenses to a variety of companies for a single track unless specified otherwise by an exclusive agreement.

So then what exactly is a music publisher? According to the Canadian government, the primary role of a music publisher is to act on behalf of authors of musical works as an intermediary between the artist and the marketplace. Aside from finding advantageous placements for their songwriters’ compositions, music publishers, whether independent or major, are additionally responsible for negotiating contracts on behalf of their songwriters, and fulfilling all of the necessary paperwork to ensure that their songwriters are receiving compensation in the form of royalties for their efforts.

Within Canada, there are four main types of contracts that outline royalty and ownership splits between the music publisher and its songwriters, but the two most commonly in use are the standard music publishing agreement (50/50 split between the publisher and songwriter), and the co-publishing agreement (songwriter is entitled to 75% of the gross royalties earned). For more information on the kinds of available publishing agreements, please visit:

One last area that we need to conquer prior to delving too deep into the realm of licensing and songwriting, concerns royalties (I promise I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible). In Canada, there are three basic forms of royalty payment that are issued: mechanical, synch, and performance fees:

1) Mechanical royalties have been set at the industry standard of 8 cents per song, and are awarded based on commercial sales. This means that the more the project on which your song is featured sells, the more money you will be paid for your contribution, and if you have multiple songs featured on a project, you will collect profits for each track.

2) Synchronization royalties (more commonly known as synch fees) follow more of a play-pay method in which payment is dependent upon how frequently your song is aired in conjunction with a video project. Synch royalties would be awarded to you if one of your songs is used as "theme" or "background" piece for a commercial, movie, news track, video game or DVD. Currently, synch fees are negotiated on an individual basis.

3) Finally, performance royalties are paid directly to original artists for the live performance of their works at various venues including clubs, radio, and tv stations, and internet webcasts.

For the purposes of this article, I will not be discussing where the details of the monetary exchanges in each of case, but if you would like more information regarding royalty payment in Canada, please visit SOCAN’s official website located at http://www.socan.ca/

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/


Vol 2, Issue 11: Alternative Sources of Revenue Pt II: Tribute Acts & House Bands

Last week as part of the kickoff to this month’s exclusive series on alternative sources of revenue for musicians, we explored a "day in the life" of music teachers, and special events performers. Continuing with our theme of potential part-time supplemental music related gigs, we will now venture into the world of tribute acts, and house bands.

Tribute Acts
To get an inside look at the world of tribute acts, I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak with Mike Dimoulas, frontman of Hotel California, the original Eagles tribute band, and his agent Roger LaPointe of The Booking House, "the undisputed leader and supplier of quality tribute acts since 1983"; other notable acts include Shania’s Twin, Practically Hip, HELP!, and Mandonna (an all male tribute to the material girl).

A tribute performer of over 20 years, Mike has seen many original acts come and go, and though he’s an avid writer of his own material (as are many of his fellow bandmates), during our interview, he openly conceded to me that it’s much easier to make it as a tribute artist. To this he added, that even though he is performing compositions written by other greats of the past, Hotel California’s dedicated and supportive following still allows him to experience the glory of being a "rockstar".

Acknowledging an unfulfilled niche in the tribute act arena, Mike conceived of Hotel California back in ‘86. His band’s consistent club gigging and touring of the festival circuit, both in Canada and the US, are a testament that his original inclination was indeed correct; that the guitar solos, inspirational lyrics, and challenging harmonies of The Eagles appeal to all.

According to Mike, there is a relatively small difference between cover bands and tribute acts; the variation being that the latter typically go "all out" in terms of mimicking the moves and the look of the band to whom they are paying tribute. However, being a perfect "look-a-like" is not a prerequisite. So long as the act is well rehearsed, professional, and has a dynamic stage performance, they should go far. Apparently, there are even festivals whose sole purpose is to celebrate tribute performers (who knew?) which would indicate to me that tribute acts get a lot of support from the music industry, and accordingly, have been able to create their own little monopoly.

Typically, Hotel California plays about two to three shows per week with 80% of their concerts taking place in the States, particularly in rural areas. The attraction to tribute acts is distinctly strong in smaller towns because, as Mike points out, most of the major original acts only hit the capital cities along their tour routes. Each standard show consists of several 45 minute sets a night, or for a theatre setting, a one hour set usually suffices. LaPointe also mentioned that performance engagements may be more extensive if the original act is on the road concurrently. Most original acts, who are "tributed", are welcoming towards the extra-exposure that is resultingly propagated.

In terms of payment, the per gig capital that independent original acts generate pales in comparison. With going rates between $1000 to an upwards of $25,000 for the top impersonators per show, along with opportunities for merch sales, the life of a tribute act can be quite lucrative. However, keep in mind, these rates refer to tribute acts who have agents negotiating on their behalf, and each band member is paid on a salary, after the agent has taken his/her cut (generally 15-20%). Self-employed tribute acts and cover bands may be expected to play just as many sets for as little as $80 to $125, the standard gig price imposed by the AFM.

When it comes to getting shows (and representation), the strength in one’s salespitch ultimately comes down to two factors: 1) being an "original" tribute act (pardon the oxymoron) meaning a tribute act of a popular, but not overly copycatted artist (ie: we don’t need any more Cher or Michael Jackson wannabes) and 2) having a professional looking performance video. Similarly to original independent artists, tribute bands need to build up their reputations, and over time, booking shows generally becomes easier once they’ve created the necessary "buzz". Developing one’s connections and looking for opportunities that will generate exposure is essential.

Obtaining agency representation is as easy as sending in photos, audio clips, and/or a live video. Again, if you’ve got "the goods" to back up your press pack, a live audition and in-person meeting will likely be co-ordinated, and shortly thereafter, you’ll be shimmy-ing your way up to the rock-n-roll impersonators hall of fame. However, prior to taking on your "alter-ego", LaPointe suggests checking out the current trends to ensure that your tribute act idea is in-line with what is popular.

The Booking House is presently seeking Hannah Montana’s doppelganger. Think you’ve got what it takes? Submit a performance video and find out! For more information on Hotel California and/or The Booking house, please check out http://www.bookinghouse.com/

House Bands
Congruent to the lives of those in tribute acts are house band performers. Though house performers may be afforded more leniency when it comes to playing their own material in conjunction with their cover sets, they typically maintain a permanent residence at a specified local venue or circulate regularly amongst two to three venues in their hometown, hence the name.

Some of London, Ontario's community house performers include Alison Brown, Village Blues Band, and Reverend Freddie & The Distillers.

According to Greg Simpson, local religion teacher, part-time musician, and accomplished producer, if one is interested in actively pursuing part-time opportunities as a house performer, the best way to get one’s foot in the door is to start participating in open-mic events such as those hosted weekly at venues such as Scott’s Corner, Rockwater’s, and The London Music Club. If you are able grab the attention of the crowd and impress the club owner with your ability, it may just lead to your permanent placement.

In fact, the exceedingly talented local singer-songwriter Samantha Hooey can credit her participation in several open-mic gigs to the jumpstart of her own in-town recognition, which includes two back-to-back nominations for "Best Singer-Songwriter" at the London Music Awards, 2006 - 2007.

Undoubtedly, the key to the success of house bands is diversity. With repertoires of literally hundreds of different songs and styles, professional house bands are able to entertain built-in crowds with a different show(s) every week. It is important, should you choose to pursue this avenue, to ensure that you are a competent player who is able to learn and memorize a wide variety of songs, often on limited notice or by the request of fans.

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/


Vol 2, Issue 10: Alternative Sources of Revenue Pt I: Music Instruction & Party Performance

Although in these past few weeks, I’ve demonstrated many of the horrors that take place in the music industry through my examination of popular scams, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For every rip off artist out there, there is also an opportunity upon which aspiring professional musicians can capitalize.

Many moons ago, musicians, well any artists really, were able to generate profits from solely performing and marketing their original material, but unfortunately, a lot has changed, and even some of the top grossing artists of our day are so far in debt to their record labels that they are struggling to make ends meet. But, this doesn’t mean that success isn’t possible, it just means that in today’s day and age, we, as musicians, cannot afford to wait for our big break. Instead, if music is truly in your soul, I suggest that you rock til your heart’s content, but in order to satisfy creditors, treat your craft as more of a part-time gig while pursuing other more stable employment.

Now, don’t get your panties in a bunch yet... I’m not suggesting that you pack up your guitar, and go work for corporate America. Quite the contrary, actually. Rather, I recommend that you take full advantage of all of the unconventional musician jobs out there. From licensing one’s music to teaching private lessons to playing in a cover band on the side, there are a multitude of avenues that artists can pursue on a part-time basis in order to supplement their income. Simply put, you can have your cake and eat it too.

And if your moonlighting in one of these alternative musician positions becomes successful, well then, you’ve created an even bigger springboard off of which you can launch your personal material. Think of all the possibilities. To give you a sense of all of the exciting off-beat musician oriented jobs out there, I’ve been conducting interviews with fellow artists who have dabbled in each one of these fields and were willing to share their experiences with you. Listen up, you may just learn a way to utilize your talent that had never occurred to you before, that is...until now.

Teaching Music
Teaching can be a personally enriching and rewarding experience, but the benefits do not just stop there. Scheduling is flexible, it can be quite financially lucrative (average going rate is between $25-$40 per hourly lesson), and you will rarely fall short of finding employment opportunities whether you’re working as a freelancer or as an employee of a music academy.

There are students of all age ranges who want to pick up a new instrument, and unlike other teaching positions, being a music teacher does not necessarily require having formal credentials (though it will help). Often, playing experience, professionalism, and customer service abilities are all that you need. As a bonus, usually the preferred music lesson nights fall on days of the week that don’t produce large turnouts at venues, so it will not interfere with your original act’s touring schedule.

Developing lesson plans is generally fairly simple with the vast amount of resources including theory books, and websites at your disposal. Additionally, by catering your lessons to fit the needs of each student, you may in turn diversify your repertoire, and improve your playing ability. A major advantage to becoming a music teacher is that, unlike several of the other alternative sources of revenue that I will be discussing, it does NOT require a great deal of start-up capital.

Jesse Tomes, a London Ontario based freelance guitar instructor says that getting your first student is as easy as asking around your friends and acquaintances to see if they know of anyone looking to learn your instrument(s) of expertise. If that doesn’t generate any results, there are several discussions boards and/or social networking sites such as the Facebook "marketplace" section in which individuals post want ads for teachers and as well, you can post your own ads (free of charge I might add) advertising your services.

But, if you just don’t have enough time to squeeze in looking for students, as mentioned, getting hired by a music academy is possible as well. Though music academies take a percentage of their teachers’ earnings (varies, between 10-20%), remember, in this scenario, the students will come to you, and thus, there will be less leg work in terms of promoting one’s services.

Some of the more notable music academies in London, Ontario include: The Royal Conservatory of Music, Walters Music School, Noteworthy School of Music, & Yahama Music School.

Special Events Performance
Believe it or not, in the current music marketplace, Adam Sandler’s character in The Wedding Singer , would have had a pretty sweet gig because when it comes to spending money on entertainment for special events, celebrators don’t seem to believe there is such a thing as being too lavish. There have been several occasions throughout the career of my band, ANTI-HERO, in which we’ve been approached to play everything from bar mitzvahs to fashion shows to wedding receptions to birthday parties, and every time there’s always been a tempting sum of money offered in our direction.

Though typically these types of events employ cover acts or DJs, if you’ve worked rigorously at developing a die-hard fanbase, a reputation for being a solid live act, and having a strong online presence, you may just find yourself at the other end of one of these offers. But, as mentioned in a previous edition, I always advise bands not to become immediately swayed by the offer of cold-hard cash, and to inquire about all of the pertinent details relating to the gig (just as though it were any normal show) prior to accepting the invitation, because there is a common overseas party entertainment request scam that has been circulating online for the past year or so.

Although it would be impossible to depend on special event performance offerings as a stable auxiliary income unless your band became a working tribute act or got signed to a party planner talent agency, playing one or two of these shows every few months can set you for quite some time. With usual payments starting at $500 with professional lighting, sound, and stage equipment provided, a band is able to make a killing with very little effort exerted on their behalf.

There are NO promotional concerns as these are private "invite-only" parties, drinks and food may be complementary, and often, to include in goodies bags given out to their attendees, celebrators will purchase mass amounts of your merchandise in advance, leaving you with nothing but straight profit. There is one slight downside for the pure-blooded original act however, often adding cover songs to your setlist is required. Though it’s a small price to pay for the exposure, and financial rewards, some bands are adamant about maintaining their reputation as original songwriters. Additionally, unlike a standard gig, you may be required to play up to three sets in a given night with breaks filled in by a DJ and I can tell you from personal experience, this process can be exhausting, especially when good old granny has had one two many drinks and will not get off the dancefloor, even though it’s pushing 4 am.

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/


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Vol 2, Issue 9: Music Industry Scams, Pt II: Getting Screwed in Places You`d Least Expect!

Considering the phenomenal number of cons in existence, it’s no wonder that you often hear stories about musicians who have been eaten up and spat out by the industry. Irrespective of efforts made on the behalf of industry professionals “in the know” to educate up and comers, artists continue to make easy prey and likely targets for those callous enough to want to feed off of those who truly cannot afford to lose what scarce resources they possess. I say with regret that these problems do not appear to be going away, but rather increasing in number, and the only advice that I can truly offer relating to this matter is to become uber-skeptical, and meticulous when reviewing terms for any opportunity that appears to offer “a chance to make your dreams come true” (This ain’t DisneyWorld kids!) Continuing on from last week’s rant regarding the numerous ways in which musicians are being swindled, here’s an overview of some of the latest emerging scam artist tactics that are even more cleverly disguised that those previously discussed:

The Media & Marketing Hustle
Getting exposure is an absolute must for any rising band, but paying for press (which is always pricey) is counter-productive considering that most media outlets will offer you reviews, interviews, and more for FREE, so long as you have your act together, and a good story to tell. But, for some reason, this seems to be a little known fact. I’m not quite sure who proposed the rather absurd idea that an indie band could only get coverage if they either a) hired a licensed publicist or b) paid news outlets directly, but suffice it to say that it couldn’t be any further from the truth.

I single-handedly managed to obtain feature interviews, cd reviews, and even magazine covers for my band ANTI-HERO without a spat of media training for over three years, and I never paid a cent. News outlets were happy, even excited to provide us with coverage because it gave them something topical that was “underground” and edgy which in turn encouraged readership.

The thing about this scam that I find most discerning is if you are paying a given press outlet to provide you with coverage, how can that outlet maintain an objective stance and if they do not, then essentially, you are paying people to be your fans?! I’d prefer the truth, be it good or bad, but perhaps that’s just me.

Another mutation of this scam usually rears its ugly head through social networking sites like Myspace in which “marketing” companies contact artists offering exciting new ways in which they can increase their webpage visits, plays, and fan requests. Aside from the obvious fact that an artist could perform all of these functions independently with a bit of elbow grease, this is a scam (and a rather scary one at that) for a few reasons. First off, these companies demand payment by credit card, and access to your profile (including your email address, password, and pertinent information), so essentially you’ve just provided them with a means for identity theft. However, if their service legitimately does check out, and isn’t just a means to steal your likeness, I still don’t have good news. At best, these services work as 24 hour spammers sending out mass emails to random strangers who may or may not be interested in your music. Although your plays and visits may increase as a result, you’ll likely piss off more people in the process because let’s face it, everyone HATES being spammed.

And finally, the last variation of the “media” hustle comes in the form of radio or zine requests for free cds. This is a particular tricky one to detect, even to the trained eye, because it plays on the very fact that many warranted radio stations and/or zines commonly request bands to provide complimentary copies of their albums for airplay or cd reviews respectively. So how do you tell the difference? Well, this one requires a bit of detective work.

Although bands commonly become “tickled pink” at the notion that a radio station wants to spin their disc or a zine wants to provide them with free exposure, I cannot emphasis enough that it is absolutely essential to check out some background info on ANY media outlet prior to sending them anything for free. Firstly, you need to ensure that this so-called media outlet actually exists, because commonly in this instance, you are just receiving an email from some guy in the basement of an apartment who's managed to create quite a nice cd collection for himself by duping bands. Check for a website (and no Angelfire accounts do NOT count), call letters (if a radio station) and any business information you can find. Make sure that the name of the person who actually sent the message is listed on all of the company’s promotional materials including their site because it’s also possible that the media outlet in fact is real, but the person emailing you is using a company’s name illegitimately.

Secondly, although this may seem like a no-brainer, check and see which genres and similar bands have been offered airplay/coverage by the outlet in the past, if you recognize none of the acts and/or your act does not seem to fit into the “sound” they are promoting, it’s likely a waste of cash (you’d be surprised how fast postal bills can add up). Aside from squandering your dough on unnecessary mailing fees, your cd may actually end up becoming pirated on a mass scale to unguaranteed internet sites. I’m sure some of you are thinking, well that’s not that bad – it’s still relatively cheap exposure? Perhaps, but consider this, what if they decide (which they likely will) NOT to credit you as an artist, anyone could lay claim to your music, and because it’s being transferred on the “internet blackmarket”, your claim is just as worthless as anyone else’s.

If your name is not attached to what you do (and you’re in it for commercial success), you won’t be attaining much fame, now will you? As a side note, a great way to mitigate unwanted high cost bills relating to sending out press materials is to create an online secret press page (more on this in a later edition).

Warning Signs: Beware of any media outlet or marketing company requesting your material or offering their promotional services if they possesses any of the following characteristics:
1) They request an upfront fee for coverage, and/or even potential consideration for coverage
2) You’ve never heard of past clientele or artists receiving airplay/writeups.
3) Your music does not fit into their genre of focus
4) Any credit card information, account identities and passwords are required for them to work on your behalf.
5) They have no website, corporate information, or company letterhead.
6) They are located at an international location at which you’ve never received any previous promotion
7) The request for materials or offering of services appears to look like a form letter with no direct address to a specified recipient.

Overseas Album Distribution Offers
If you’ve decided to go it alone like many indie bands these days, this opportunity will likely come a-knocking at your door. Because greater cd distribution (in theory) means greater potential for exposure and profit margin, receiving a retail distribution offering from an overseas company seems like an offer you cannot refuse. These scams typically involve the request of a bulk number of discs (sold at a wholesale discounted rate) in exchange for upfront cash. These overseas retailers offer visibility in their small chain of stores, and guarantee sales. Unlike authentic independent retailers who usually take the albums of unsigned acts on consignment, this deal is extra tempting because it has the allure of offering upfront money.

At this point, I hope you’re starting to see the pattern – any kind of business deal (especially in the music industry) in which there is an offering of upfront money should make you run screaming (well, maybe not screaming, but run) in the opposite direction. Regardless of how talented and amazing your act may be, no business (that is worth working with) will ever offer you upfront cash without enforcing some sort of collateral so that the onus for sales/partnership is equally on you.

Embracing the best elements (note the sarcasm) of fellow ploys, this alteration on the 419 scam is not only a money laundering endeavour, but also because no contractual agreement is devised in these offers, your cds (at least some cheap copies) will likely end up again being sold on the streets. Additionally troublesome is the fact that if no sale terms are agreed upon, this retailer could, in theory, charge as much or as little for your disc in his/her shop(s) without entitling you to any royalty share of the sales. By the time you’ve realized that the cheque issued to you was either fraudulent or part of a money laundering scheme, you’ve already sent off your cds, and there is no way you’ll be getting them back. The cash provided to you is completely worthless, and you’ve just lost a whole bunch of inventory that was expensive to manufacture in the first place.

Warning Signs: To avoid finding yourself in this sticky situation, ensure that you
1) NEVER give anyone your music without a contract outlining the terms of sale, length of sale terms, commissions to be paid, and obligations of the involved parties.
2) If payment is to be provided upfront for your goods, request a certified cheque or certified money order (this means that the money physically has to be in the merchant’s account at the time the cheque/money order was processed) and do NOT send any of your product until the cheque/money order has been approved by your financial institution (I recommend waiting at least 1-2 weeks).

Seeking New Talent

Believe it or not, despite all of the scams I’ve outlined, the entertainment biz actually has a number of agencies including The Better Business Bureau, AMIS, and AFM working to protect the needs and rights of talent by legitimizing business ethics and standards that all registered professional entertainment companies are required to adhere to. Irrespective of these agencies “fighting the good fight” on our behalves, entertainment biz scammers, especially bogus record labels and booking agents, continue to prosper by placing calls for new talent in what appear to be legitimate means of advertising like well-respected local newspapers, or industry websites. If you pursue one of these listings further, without offering very detailed information about your act, the record label or booking agency will immediately be intrigued by your band, and want to engage in business negotiations. Usually, no audition is required, and representation can start immediately…well, after a hefty cash deposit which is justified as signifying your commitment to your band.

The company in this situation is able to get off the hook of offering any financial support for your band because remember YOU came to them, meaning that you need them more than they need you and also, because this is a simple money grab, these so-called record labels are not desperate, if you are not willing to hand over the moula, someone else will (they’ll tell you that you obviously aren’t very serious about pursuing your career, and to contact them if you change their mind).

I urge you to especially beware of any overseas booking agencies wanting to initiate a European tour for your band in which all they require to demonstrate your commitment, again is a “little” cash, and of course copies of your passports (sound familiar?)

This scam works on the myth that record deals = salvation, and from my rather dissatisfying experiences with them, I can tell you for a fact that this is anything, BUT the truth.

Warning Signs: To avoid becoming another artist wallowing in debt from this mistake, here are a few things you should know about REAL record deals
1) There will NEVER be an expectation on behalf of the artist to pay upfront money for representation (except in the slight case in which you need to get new cds pressed depicting the label’s logo). If any money exchange is to be had, the record label should be paying YOU!
2) Contracts, paperwork, all of that legal mumbo-jumbo that you hate is a MUST. Get their promises and responsibilities outlined in writing and get it all legally reviewed.
3) Record labels do NOT advertise or openly seek new talent through this means as it would welcome far too many amateurs. If there is a label that you are sincerely interested in (again, please do your research first before contacting anyone), their website will likely have information regarding their demo submission policies. FOLLOW these policies. Sending unsolicited material to companies who do not accept it, will only wind up with your unopened package arriving back in your hands (even if your envelope is really exciting!)
4) Record labels, booking agents, managers etc work on a commission basis wherein if you do not get paid, neither do they. Standard going rate is between 10 – 20% of your sales + payment.
5) Any decent record label, booking agent, or manager prior to signing any act will require an IN-PERSON AUDITION + business meeting (lawyers present) to ensure that you are able to deliver on-stage (they don’t want to put their name behind a band that doesn’t have their shit together), and to make certain that you are all on the same page.

If you happen to find yourself in a situation in which you are randomly approached by a label outside of one of these ads, to smoke out any potential rats, make sure you ask the following questions:
1) Do you have a website?
2) How long have you been in business?
3) Do you have client references?
4) How many people do you represent?
5) What types of opportunities do you offer? What are your commission rates?
6) Are you registered with the Better Business Bureau or any other consumer protection agencies?

*On the other side of things, if you happen to fall victim to one of these shady dealings, (hopefully not after reading this article), both the Artists’ Legal Advice Services (416-367-2527) & Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services (1-800-889-9768) can offer you advice, and even pro-bono court representation to right the wrongs committed against you.*

The Party Favour
Much to my chagrin, I recently discovered that this was in fact a scam through an online forum while doing research for this piece. Admittedly, another one, for which I was almost taken, “the party favour” offers your band what seems, at first, a simple request on the behalf of a devout fan.

Initiating his/her correspondence with abundant flattery, the party favour scammer begins by requesting the services of your act as paid special guest performers at an upcoming large catered affair for his/her significant other as you are their all-time favourite band. So far, so good, but wait, they’re from the UK and you’re stuck here in London, Ontario – you think to yourself, they must have made a mistake. Continuing with correspondence, you offer clarification on your location to ensure that they know you are not, in fact, from London, England.

The scammer responds by stating that (s)he is indeed aware of your international location, but not to worry, (s)he will make all of the necessary arrangements for your (and your equipment’s) safe arrival and departure, accommodations and food will be provided, and you will be sent a cash advance to cover your expenses upon confirmation. Wow, sounds like a pretty sweet deal? You get to travel to another country, free of charge, just to play a quick set at a fan’s birthday bash. I hope you’re thinking at this point that there must be a catch, because there most certainly is.

Not to imply that your band may not be worth all of this trouble, but we’re talking a pretty good chunk of change here, and I’d have to wonder, if the party planner is as wealthy as (s)he appears to be, why wouldn’t (s)he just hire a professional DJ or entertainment troupe from his/her district or for that matter take his/her spouse out to a major concert event and get backstage passes? I know, I know, you’re their FAVOURITE act, but if that’s so, then why is this the FIRST time you’ve ever been contacted by this person – they have no record of previously buying merchandise from you, nor have you ever played or promoted your act in their area. It’s possible that they discovered you online, but to say that you are their favourite act without ever having seen you perform previously, seems a little strange to me – what if, for that matter, you’re a really shitty live act (let’s face it, producers do a lot more than they are given credit for) or worse yet, as there is no previously established relationship, couldn’t you pretty much just take the money from the cash advance and run? Granted people are generally more trustworthy than they should be, but when it comes to cash, I doubt someone would be stupid enough to invest that much money without some sort of guarantee.

So what’s the catch? Well 1) if they are making all of the travel arrangements, they will require copies of all of your band members’ IDs (I hope the identity theft lightbulb just went off in your head) 2) The cash advance that you will be sent will mysteriously be made out for more than your agreed upon fee and the party planner will insist to make it your duty to cash the credit note at your bank (you just gave him your account information unknowingly), and to reimburse the over-drafted amount to another previously unmentioned individual who is taking part in the party preparations (you just completed a money laundering transaction for the party planner, good for you!)

Aside from the fact that you could end up being indicted for participating in a federal offense, you also just gave away your identity. At this point, the party scammer could create a series of fake IDs based on your details and continue to commit criminal acts, or if you really get off the hook, (s)he could proclaim your death! Oh, what fun!

Warning Signs: To avoid ending up crying at someone else’s party, I suggest you avoid any party favour invites that resemble the following:
1) The party planner is from a far-off location and remarkably, all of your expenses are being offered to be paid for upfront.
2) You nor have any of your band mates previously been contacted by this individual. Most devout fans that want you to make special appearances at their personal engagements will speak to you quite regularly, and establish a relationship with your band as a loyal fan.
3) You cannot book any of your own travel arrangements
4) The promised bank note or cheque arrives made out to you in excess of the agreed upon fee for your services. IMMEDIATELY, return this money and do not try to cash it. In the best case scenario of this scam, the bank note is fraudulent and the money doesn’t actually exist. Because it takes banks about a week to process international money orders and because you are already an established regular banker, you will be granted the sum before the pending transaction has been authorized based on your credit. About a week later, the bank will notice that the credit note was denied, and in that case, you will not only be responsible for repaying back all of the money + a fee for the “bounced” transaction, additionally, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do to the local authorities as to why a fraudulent bank note was in your possession.

The Fan Swag Grab
I’m especially fond of this particular tactic (more sarcasm) in which a supposed young child makes a request on behalf of their dying and/or disabled parent for either a free copy of your act’s album or complimentary merchandise because it is the only thing that will apparently ease their parent’s aliment. Don’t get me wrong, I value my band’s fans a great deal, and go to great efforts to ensure that they are happy and satisfied with our products, but at the same time, if I honoured every request for free merchandise, I’d be so far indebt that my band would NO longer be able to produce any new swag, thereby defeating the purpose of having merch at all.

Merch, for bands, is our lifeblood – aside from its obvious promotional value, the profits generated from it are used to provide bands with essentials that they cannot afford to lose including food, travel, and recording money. If bands give everything away for free, they can, as it were, no longer exist.

As I do not feel it is fair to treat one fan more favourably than another (not to mention this will likely result in your act LOSING fans), in this instance, I really must promote an “all or none” mentality.

Regarding the kid, and his/her sick parent - After almost falling for this ploy in which I decided, prior to sending anything, to check out the customs laws pertaining to the destination territory, I discovered that the request (in my case for t-shirts) was actually an illegal dealing in which, if I were to send the merchandise, I could end up implicated in a crime! Now I know this seems a little far fetched, but I advise you, if you ever receive a request for free merch from a supposed fan to research the mailing/custom laws regarding the territory to which they expect you to send the package (this information can easily be obtained through your national post office's website).

If, as it was in my case, the destination address has a long list of items that are NOT legally allowed to be imported into the country through personal mail such as cds, and t-shirts, I would hope at this point the little red flag in your head has come out to slap you in the face.

On the plus side of things, the rationale as to why these importing/exporting laws were developed in the first place was to diminish the amount of illegally mass-produced products being sold on the blackmarket. Remember, all it takes is one copy of your album, and/or t-shirt in their possession to use as a “model”, and then these con artists have the ability to produce as many blackmarket copies as they want depriving you of any potential profits.

The success of this scam is dependent upon the fact that most of us (at least those of us with half a heart) will feel pathos for this child and his/her ill parent, and so, without question, we will send our products for free. I get that – hell – I almost fell for it too! But I urge you to be wary when it comes to peculiar requests such as these, as the likelihood of them being sincere is unfortunately not in your favour.

Warning Signs: If you receive an urgent request for free merchandise from a so-called “loyal” fan, your suspicious should become aroused if you notice any of the following details:
1) You’ve never directly met this person and/or played or received promotion in their territory (How would they have heard of you?)
2) If the letter is not directed personally to either your band’s name, management company, and/or name of your band leader (It’s likely a mass emailed form letter)
3) If the letter contains a sympathy provoking story that explains your merchandise is somehow essential to the success of their “dying” and/or “sick” relative
4) Most obviously, the very fact that a so-called loyal fan is not willing to pay for your merchandise should be a cause of your immediate concern. Would you ever demand free merchandise from one of your favourite artists? I know I wouldn’t – I’m proud to support them!

One Final Note on Scam-Related Incidences
Although the following anecdote outlines a situation which would not be considered a scam, it is still something to which I would like to draw your attention. Most bands, like my own, scour the internet looking for hundreds of various websites on which we can create bandpages and hopefully gain new fans. Usually these websites have terms of service agreements which you are required to read prior to initiating membership. Because these terms of service tend to be lengthy and composed of unintelligible legal jargon, the whole reading process is generally skipped, as we assume there is nothing these websites can really do with any of our personal information or band-related materials. WRONG!

Upon initiation of these memberships, you are legally bound to these terms of service, regardless of whether you’ve read them or not, and unfortunately I am ashamed to disclose a situation in which this came back to bite me in the ass.

Seeing as I have literally signed my band up on hundreds of sites without having any problems in the past, I assumed stupidly that all of these terms of service agreements must be pretty standard and nothing harmful towards my band could occur as the result of any acceptance of membership. Well, early last year, it came to my attention that one of these websites (which is associated with a well-known Canadian newspaper) used my band’s likeness in a large promotional print ad campaign in order to promote their services, WITHOUT our permission and WITHOUT crediting us as the artist depicted or our photographer.

Now yes, this could be considered free promotion, but because our band name was not even listed in the caption, I’m sure many people got the impression that it was just a bought stock photo illustrating a fictional band. We got absolutely nothing out of this ad, while the company had much to gain.

After bringing this matter to the attention of the editor of the website (and newspaper), I was informed that the website’s terms of service agreement detailed that the music and/or likeness of any artist members could be used at the sole discretion of the company for any promotional purposes, at any time, without crediting the original source. I continued to pursue this matter as far as I could, but because I signed the user agreement, it was assumed that I read it, and any resulting consequences that arose due to my lack of reading were my fault entirely. Evidently, there was nothing I could do about it, and this was a situation in which I sadly had to admit defeat - just a little “food for thought” for the next time you sign up on a site like Garageband or Mp3.com.

In conclusion, I hope I have not dampened your spirits too much by relaying the music industry’s unprecedented number of scams, but on the other hand, I hope that I’ve gotten your attention, and have demonstrated just how dirty this business can be. I cannot stress it enough – this is not a place for little fish as you are greatly outnumbered by sharks.

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/