THE PROBLEM DIAGNOSED
Let me make something perfectly clear: I have NEVER in my life paid to perform on stage, have my music played on the radio, or be featured on anyone’s project. Yes, most things cost money in this business. Whether it’s studio equipment/time, production, guest vocals, videos, photo shoots, graphic design, club fees for your own events, CDs, t-shirts, or promotion, you need to pay for a lot of stuff before you can expect to see any returns. It can be hard for new artists who come out of pocket on a consistent basis to understand where the line must be drawn. Unfortunately, this combined with scumbags looking to take advantage of the oversaturated market (when it comes to artists these days, there is much more supply than demand) leads to many well meaning people getting ripped off.
For any confused artists out there, let’s make the distinction right now. When it’s your own project, you should be paying for whatever’s necessary to complete it. When it’s someone else’s project, you should be paid for your contribution. It’s acceptable to do free work for someone when you see fit, especially when you’re hungry and looking to make a name for yourself, but remember that food costs money too. Eating should be a pretty high priority when you’re hungry. In any case, you should never give anyone money to perform at HIS show or appear on HER album. This means if a promoter asks you to “sell tickets” in order to perform at his “showcase,” you should respond with a clear and forceful, “Fuck you, pay me.” If you’re asked to pay to get your music on a mixtape or compilation album that will be “sent to radio” and “heard by major label A&Rs,” you should respond with a clear and forceful, “Fuck you, pay me.” Why? Because the fact that these cocksuckers are getting away with it is a major contributing factor to the music industry being in the toilet. One can argue this is a side effect of the industry already being in the toilet, but the fact remains that this is nowhere we want to be.
In radio, the practice of paying for play is known as payola. It has been outlawed because it creates an environment where only those able and willing to give obscene amounts of money to the stations are heard. Unfortunately, there are loopholes within the radio world and stations are able to get away with it using backhanded methods I won’t get into here. Outside the radio world, there’s no regulation whatsoever and it runs even more rampant. Back in June, I wrote a blog pleading with artists to show themselves some self-respect, and I am echoing that sentiment today. We need to not only dismiss these wack “promoters” for attempting to pull the stunt, but straight up pull their card and expose their sorry asses. Pause.
THE SOLUTION IN ACTION
Recently, I received an email about including “Dreams Come True” on an upcoming promotional mixtape distributed by the marketing company Triple F Unlimited. Upon inquiring for more information, I received a lengthy reply listing off the terms of the agreement, including a declaration that they would not pay out any royalties to artists, with this gem buried deep in the fine print:
Once your music is selected you will only have 5 days to make your contribution to the project! Each entertainer will be asked to pay $150 to defray the cost of the project, once his/her music has been selected for the CD! We encourage everybody to use PAYPAL, because it’s the fastest and safest. That way there will never be any shipping delays.
This is simply incredible. Their definition of the artist’s “contribution to the project” is not the music he/she created and licensed to them, but the money said artist will have to pay them to be on the project. Let’s be serious here. How does this dude say that to people with a straight face? Scratch that. How does this dude say that to people and not get punched in the mouth? Since this all happened through email, all I could offer was a written jab. Here was my response on behalf of the group:
No doubt, we’re interested in submitting our single for this very important release. We waive the right to receive any royalties for our appearance on this compilation, and grant Triple F Unlimited and all its subsidiaries the unlimited right to distribute, market, and promote our music and likenesses freely as they see fit. Please be aware that there is a $150 processing fee that is collected ONLY after our song has been selected for this mixtape. This fee is to be paid to us within 5 days of our song being selected. We ask that you utilize our Paypal account to make this fast and easy one time payment. We do not stand to profit from this payment, as it is simply to defray the asshole tax associated with pay to play scammers.
Thank you, and we look forward to a prosperous business relationship!