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Indie Sector Alert: Fleecing The Indie Community: The Song Shark Controversy
Posted on Wednesday, July 30 @ 09:24:20 MDT by roadrash
 Indie WatchdogJust when you thought it was safe to go back into the industry a new scam comes along again, creating distrust among the indie community. Scams are nothing new in the business and many have been exposed and dismantled, but today's technology makes it easier for crooked minds to think up new twists on old themes. In the music trade they're called "song sharks." A song shark preys on hopeful musicians and bands, playing on their egos and their desires for fame and fortune, ultimately draining the bands' production funds and leaving them with little more than credit card debt.


Fleecing The Indie Community: The Song Shark Controversy; Part I
By John Foxworthy, MusicDish.com


Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the industry a new scam comes along again, creating distrust among the indie community. Scams are nothing new in the business and many have been exposed and dismantled, but today's technology makes it easier for crooked minds to think up new twists on old themes. In the music trade they're called "song sharks." A song shark preys on hopeful musicians and bands, playing on their egos and their desires for fame and fortune, ultimately draining the bands' production funds and leaving them with little more than credit card debt.

Recently, I was asked to look into a new company called 97 Radio, who is also suspected of being affiliated with Talent 2K. For a minimum fee of $597 this company claims that they will shop your music to radio stations and record labels, guaranteeing a signing or they will refund your money. This promise peaked my interest and I felt obligated to do a more in-depth investigation, where I reaped some interesting results. Reports from the artists and the company conflict and bring into question the legitimacy of the allegations and the operations. In my quest to get down to the bottom of this controversy, I contacted hundreds of artists as well as 97 Radio's Thomas McManus (Office Manager) and Talent 2K's Carlo Oddo (Owner).

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Of course, my first step was to contact the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB, 97 Radio was only launched in September of 2002, with Michael Anthony as the owner, so there's really no history on the company as it's too new. More interesting still, the company also does business as 97 Radio By Oddo. Carlo Oddo says he sold the company to Anthony and operates only Talent 2K. A whois search at Network Solutions on 97radio.com produced no name, just 97 Radio as the Administrative Contact and a Victoria Martin as the Technical Contact. Their street address is listed as being in Beverly Hills, California when the company is actually based out of Sun City, Arizona.

My next step was a Google search where I found Song Shark. This site directly affiliates 97 Radio with Talent 2K through several anonymous letters from artists supposedly having dealt with Talent 2K and 97 Radio. Oddo defends his company against the allegations presented on the site. He also directed me to a site called Song Sharks, which rebuts the testimonies on Song Shark and redirects suspicion upon David Hooper, the alleged owner of Song Shark and organizer of 2NMC. I found out through a new search on the BBB that Talent 2K had its BBB license revoked in January 2003 for non-compliance with BBB standards and policies.

The BBB states that Talent 2K's " ... membership in the BBB was revoked due to a failure to cooperate with the Bureau's efforts to promote voluntary self-regulation and a failure to support the principles and purposes of the Bureau by engaging in activity that reflects unfavorably on the Bureau and its members." I also turned up a whois search showing Victoria Martin as the Technical Contact. In addition, both companies are contained at the Sun City street address, according to their web sites.

McManus responded by stating, "97 Radio and talent 2K are separate companies. 97 Radio focused on radio and Talent 2K on labels. They were, at one time, owned by the same person. 97 Radio has since been sold to Michael Anthony, and all employees are different. Anyone is welcome to visit our office to see for themselves."

Carlo Oddo corroborated this statement.

When asked why the BBB revoked his membership, Oddo replied, "I'm sorry I can't talk much due to pending legalities, but I will tell you I was blackballed by them. When this happened, we had a trial of board members from the BBB. They testified before we even arrived. I have had my problems with the BBB. They demanded I refund someone that I got signed and I was upset. I argued with the lady and was suspended the next day. I have her on audiotape lying if you'd like to hear it. People need to know the BBB is not government. Here is a little about the BBB credibility: http://www.edu-usa.com/ocr_bbb.html. I work with the biggest names in the music industry. The BBB has no clue about what we do. I make stars. I don't play games ... I don't listen to BS."

According to feedback I received from artists that have signed up for 97 Radio's service, many feel that the company did not follow through with their obligations and in many cases were completely neglectful. These artists say the company even sent them bogus reports showing radio station play stats and "interested" record labels. When asked by one artist for a list of the cities where these stations were located, 97 Radio's reps allegedly evaded the issue or ignored it altogether.

McManus says it would never happen: "This has never been brought to my attention. I would need more info to answer this correctly. But send bogus reports? Never would happen. Bands pay us to send their music out and that is exactly what we do. Again, I must remind you it is up to the people on the other end to play them, not 97 Radio, and the reason we do not provide the contact is because the bands call them and upset them. That is why they are using a service.

"As you know labels and radio do not want to hear from artists, only attorneys or managers. And once a band does this, we will terminate their contract. Everyone says they won't contact them but trust me they all do. I lost some great contacts for this reason. Bands need to learn more about the music industry to be protected and to just gain knowledge. Most bands think they know but they don't. Every band in the world should read 'Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business' by Donald Passman. Best book ever."

97 Radio's method of operation is to contact the artist by phone or email, after which an aggressive sales pitch ensues. The artists are told how good their music is and in many cases feels the A&R rep hasn't even listened to any of their tracks. Some bands even stated that the rep couldn't even remember their name or genre ... McManus' answer?

"All demos are sent to us from clubs or radio throughout the U.S. with a recommendation. We do listen to all of them. I do not hear them, all the people in my A&R do. Maybe they spoke to someone in the wrong department. The way I listen to demos is by recommendation only. If I like it I call them, if I don't ... garbage can. When listening, I don't listen for production much, I listen for hits on any level or any style."

These same artists have also charged 97 Radio with overtly unprofessional practices, charting everything from substandard grammar and spelling to accounts of rude or defensive behavior, unbefitting their definition of a promotions company. Thomas McManus denied the charges stating, "This is false. I have had 2 clients make false claims about our company, and yes I will defend my company's actions to the fullest. I have never been unprofessional to anyone at anytime and I am sure any one I have spoken to can attest to this."

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright ? Tag It 2003 - Republished with Permission


Fleecing The Indie Community: The Song Shark Controversy; Part II
By John Foxworthy, MusicDish.com


One of the biggest complaints is that the record labels that actually do contact these artists want additional money to start a contract. When the artists decline the offer and the contract terms are up, 97 Radio refuses refunds. Many feel that maybe 97 Radio has some "twisted agreement" with pay-for-play studios in order to make more money or look like they are actually providing the promised service. At this point I had no real evidence to show anything other than lazy business practices. That's when I received an email from a poster in the Music Law Forum looking to take legal action. He was contacted by Deftone Records; who wanted to sign him to their label for an additional fee. We've all heard of them ... haven't we? The name sounds familiar because there are several variations of it out there, including the most famous: The Deftones. This brought a new twist into my investigation.

McManus denies any connection with Deftone and called these accusations "Libelous." He also went on to say, "I do not make it rich on $500.00, When we get someone signed is when we are making the big bucks, and the bands we get signed love us. Fact is, it is hard to get signed and we advance bands farther then they have ever been or in most cases ever will be. I just think people like feeding on negativity. Most of the bands that complain about us are not even clients. If these bands took as much time writing and perfecting their craft as they do making ridiculous claims maybe they could make hits. It takes hits to make it in this business. Bottom line: if you don't have them make them. Bands should be honored to get calls from us because we only call the good bands. They should ask the bands we turn down how they feel."

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I went back through my research and found Deftone Records to be synonymous with 97 Radio in several references, some even being good referrals for the company. When I looked into Deftone Records there was no contact information available from the BBB, other than an address in Hollywood, California and phone number. The company's web site has the same info and specifically asks for no walk-ins. My whois search is where I turned up a great clue: Victoria Martin is once again the Technical Contact. I contacted Vincent Malnotti, who owns Deftone Records, and asked for some answers. His reply stated that these answers were for me only and not to post them on any web site, anywhere. He also accused me of being the perpetrator of the charges.

In researching the company's web site, I found another interesting coincidence between 97 Radio and Deftone Records; a band called WPOD, however, a post on the Music Law Forum implies that WPOD doesn't even exist, so I investigated that aspect of this case. WPOD is featured on the 97 Radio web site as an up-and-coming act that will be getting radio play. The only link to information on WPOD, a.k.a. White Punks on Dope, goes directly to a Hotmail account from 97 Radio and Deftone Records.

A Google search turned up many results on WPOD, but none of them were about the band. I found a tour schedule on Deftone Records' web site that has several European Festivals with dates to be announced and a long list of dates for some US venues. I compared the US venues, on a tip, to those of the Vans Warped Tour and the dates and locations matched exactly. The band, on the other hand, is not on the tour. As for the European dates, they follow Metallica and numerous other huge international acts to many rock festivals around June and July of 2003, and WPOD isn't on any of them.

I asked Malnotti about the validity of the band and the corresponding Warped tour dates.

"Not Warped ... I wish. Small, small clubs until the record is done. And, there will be no web presence until it is done. We will not have any leaks to Kazaa, etc."

He also went on to add that Deftone Records is putting up a site, yet still wouldn't provide me with any contact info on WPOD. He said only that they could contact me. McManus found humor in the question of this band's existence.

"LOL, I laughed at this one. Yes, they are real and they will have a CD out soon everyone can buy. And I believe Deftone is making a site for them. Trust me they will hit and kick everyone's ass. Tour dates, I don't know. You have to talk to their tour manager. Once we place a band we are out of the daily operations."

Has 97 Radio fabricated a band complete with tour dates to support its own track record? Are 97 Radio, Deftone Records and Talent 2K all the same company?

I present a theoretical scenario: For a fee of $597 to $25,000 97 Radio will, according to their own statement, .".. guarantee that we will get your music to top record company executives, from major and independent labels, that will sign your project." Their contract, conversely, states that they don't make this guarantee. They also offer a "special" of $350 that offers twice the services of the $597 package, which is meant "only for the artist on the contract."

What about radio play? 97 Radio does their thing, finally getting the artist a deal with Deftone Records, or another pay-for-play label. According to the terms in the contract between the artist and 97 Radio, "It is also understood that at the presentation of a recording contract, that there will be no refunds (Contracts signed or unsigned)." Not many bands are willing to shell out the extra cash after paying 97 Radio nearly $600 and will likely decline a pay-for-play record company. Does this void the refund clause because a deal was presented?

"Yes. Technically any offer does," states McManus, "but we do not stop at the first offer we shop for the duration of the contract. Like I stated above, we want them to sign for money. 97 Radio makes money in that way. Sometimes it can even lead into personal management. And again, we do give refunds. As with any business we do not want upset clients. I have no idea what any company may offer. And we do try to steer clear of any pay-for-play. But we get labels coming at us like crazy asking for material. If we have something that fits their criteria we are going to send it."

So far the BBB has no complaints regarding 97 Radio or their lack of response regarding refunds.

Talent 2K has been accused of using tactics such as falsifying testimonials and laying claim to launching the careers of acts like Linkin' Park and Good Charlotte (who are also participating in the same European festivals as WPOD) to potential clients, so why wouldn't they also fabricate a ghost band if they are indeed the same company as Deftone and 97 Radio? Some artists have even reported seeing 97 Radio on their Caller ID when accepting calls from Deftone Records and have accused them of using aliases when calling to make it seem like there are more people in the company. McManus says this is completely untrue and guesses maybe one of his reps may have called to tell the artist about Deftone. Carlo Oddo contends that he would never use an alias, as he's proud of his real name.

Some believe all three of these companies are the same operation. The verbiage in their legal agreements, the grammatical errors and even many paragraphs on the companies' sites are either verbatim or at least consistent with each other. Even the positive input posted on sites like Song Shark and the Music Law Forum have the exact same habits regarding the punctuation and misspellings, implying that the same person wrote them. There are also many striking similarities in the web design on all three sites.

McManus: "Actually, they are a lot different. And this goes back to the past ownership issues. Bottom line is, John, people pay us a retainer to send their music out. There is no magic in this; no hidden trick. Every band we don't get signed thinks conspiracy, or bands we haven't even shopped. If someone pays me to send their music out I will copy and send it out. We have in-house graphics that make the CDs look great. We also create their bios that are worth 200 bucks alone. Most PR firms will charge 200 to 300 bucks for the bios we create for FREE. People need to focus on the good not the negative all the time. Talk to signed bands. The Internet is full of libelous garbage that pollutes the world.

"John, if a client is not happy with 97 Radio I will refund them. If bands do not appreciate the hard work we put in we'd rather not have them on-board with us. If someone reads garbage on the net they need to speak with me or with clients before making any accusations. I ask you to contact the people in question to check their legitimacy or read their contracts. Our contract is so simple and it is signed at artist will most of the time with their attorney giving go ahead with the service. We have to follow all rules of our contract same as the bands do. If there are unhappy people ever I want them to call me or please stop by the office, client or not."

Of all of the information I obtained from these three companies and my other resources, perhaps none was so interesting as the fact that Vince Malnotti's and Carlo Oddo's emails to me were also copied to the same attorney at lawyer.com as well as legal at their respective domains. Whether or not these companies are indeed linked as one remains to be seen. I was impressed, however, with the companies' candor and willingness to address these issues personally. Thomas McManus even offered to put me in touch with his contacts at 3 major labels for testimonials, which I will use in my follow-up. Until the dust is cleared and there is one definitive answer, the controversy will remain a case of "he said, she said" and we'll never know for sure if it's just jilted clients or truly a scam.

Author's note: All information regarding this case is available by emailing roadrash@garageradio.com. Some names and locations will be omitted due to sensitive personal information.

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright ? Tag It 2003 - Republished with Permission

Note: Read the Follow-up: "Fleecing the Indie Community: The Song Shark Saga Continues."

 

 
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