In the weeks since my original article was written and published I have received a virtual mailbag literally full of feedback regarding 97 Radio, Talent 2K and the entire funk surrounding them. Much of the reaction substantiated the results of my initial investigation, however, I was also able to obtain some very damning new information.
Fleecing the Indie Community: The Song Shark Saga Continues
By John Foxworthy, MusicDish.com
Where do I start? All of the responses to "The Song Shark Controversy" created a massive information overload, which resulted in numerous rewrites of this follow-up. Some was from 97 Radio/Talent 2K clients that were appalled at the companies' blatant misinformation, while others were bands researching the company before making a decision. Maybe some of the most interesting information came from my interactions with Carlo K. Oddo during and after my initial investigation.
Let's first recall Oddo's reply to my question of 97 Radio and Talent 2K and their relationship. His reply coincided with 97 Radio's Thomas McManus that the companies were both started by Oddo, but 97 Radio was sold to Michael Anthony. If that's the case then why were 97 Radio's BBB membership and web site both secured in the same month and launched shortly thereafter by "97 Radio by Oddo" with Anthony as the owner? Also, why have several artists reported seeing Talent 2K on their Caller ID boxes when receiving calls from 97 Radio? And, why would Carlo Oddo send me very aggressive emails defending comments I made about 97 Radio?
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After this email, Oddo also offered to fly me to Arizona and pay for a hotel to have me check out the operation. While the offer was tempting, I had to decline in the interest of true objectivity and on the advice of some industry folks I trust very much.
What about the major label contacts? Remember McManus promised these? Oddo sent them and I tried exhaustively to contact them with no results. I was given names, numbers and addresses of three A&R reps at different top 5 labels, but none of these people (or their people) wanted to discuss Talent 2K or 97 Radio and all three refused interviews.
Somewhere around the eighth rewrite of this article, I received an email from an artist, who I'll call "X," that actually signed with Deftone Records after 5 months into a 97 Radio contract. Of the entire corollary sent me due to this investigation, this was the most enlightening.
Up to now, obtaining information about Deftone Records has been one dead end after another. The gatekeeper is not willing to give any information other than the address to mail demo material and I haven't been able to get any intelligence on staff or even a pinpoint on their Sunset Blvd. address. What I do know is that almost every band contacting me about 97 Radio or Talent 2K has been offered a pay-for-play deal with Deftone. Those that have received contracts give accounts of promises like airfare and lodging to cities like L.A., Chicago and NYC to appear in live showcases.
Remember Vincent Malnotti? He's the Owner of Deftone Records and claims no relation to either 97 Radio or Talent 2K. However, "X" and other artists have reported seeing Talent 2K and 97 Radio on their Caller ID when receiving calls from Deftone... in X's case it was Talent 2K. X also indicated that he made the $1000 check to Deftone payable to C.K.O. Enterprises. Further investigation revealed that C.K.O. Enterprises is owned and operated by Carlo K. Oddo.
With all of these coincidences I had to run back over my research, which produced two names; Keegan James and Keegan Lowe. During my primary investigation, an artist that had dealings with 97 Radio gave me Keegan James' contact information. Nothing ever materialized from it so his name went into my archives. X's correspondence turned up the name Keegan Lowe from Deftone Records. Since Keegan is a very unusual name it sparked some new questions as to the actual identities of Talent 2K, 97 Radio and Deftone Records.
The investigation went back to formula for the purpose of identifying the origins of the companies' websites. I had one of my most skilled technical contacts run traces on the URLs for these three companies and found that not only had they set up their sites through Victoria Martin, but all three are set up on the same machine... on the same hard drive. Three months ago, I asked Vincent Malnotti why they all had the same technical contact and host. His response:
"Referral, and there is also about 5000 other companies using the same."
Another odd coincidence occurred when I checked the header information in the emails I received from Oddo and Malnotti after noticing a trend in their typing and grammar styles and in the actual signature at the bottom. Both messages were sent within an hour of each other. They were also sent from the same Internet IP pool, which suggests that they were also sent from the same geographical locale. For instance, if you use dial-up and connect to the same number every time, your IP address will change each time you connect, but only slightly. This was the case with Oddo and Malnotti and is not possible when connecting from two different states (unless one is connecting long-distance).
What about the rest of the questions in this story? Alleged phony radio stats, the quality of the product, music shopping, accusations from many other artists and bogus bands?
Another artist, who I'll call "Y," had comments to address the issues of McManus' quality graphics and radio stats. Y was able to contact some of the radio stations 97 Radio included on the play stats and not one had heard of 97 Radio. Many others stonewalled him. Y also saw the results of the product 97 Radio sends out to labels and radio. He stated that the CD labels were done in a very shoddy manner, using a standard Windows font on a clear-stick label applied to a standard CDR, which can be found in any computer retailer. Y's opinion was that he wouldn't even send such "crappy" material to a club manager... not a professional product at all.
As far as shopping clients' music, countless emails from bookers and other music representation firms indicate that they have taken delivery of unsolicited compilation CDs from 97 Radio featuring 18 artists or so with no names or titles attached to the tracks. After a while, they just quit listening and the CDs hit the circular file. One employee from an agency even saw one of her tracks on a 97 Radio CD that she hadn't authorized.
What about contentions that 97 Radio refuses refunds? This has been one of the biggest complaints by artists against 97 Radio. I have numerous emails from bands that have had to fight to get their money back. Some still haven't received refunds, and looking back on McManus' statement that "...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..." One has to wonder where the company's true intentions lie.
From all of the research I have compiled, and through McManus' own statement, the artists that complain aren't clients or were turned down. Out of a total of approximately 500 emails regarding this company, I wasn't able to find any evidence that 97 Radio ever turned down a band. Quite the contrary, in fact, 97 Radio contacts the artists... not the other way around. Artists that are undecided or need more time are bombarded with a barrage of high-pressure emails and phone calls to sign and in most cases are offered a deal with twice the services for $350. One band in L.A. has even turned them down on several occasions, but 97 Radio persists by phone and email.
Many other artists who've tried unsuccessfully to contact their reps at 97 Radio have been told the reps were fired due to drug use. Oddly, Thomas McManus gave me the same story regarding James Bennett, their VP of A&R.
Has anyone heard of WPOD yet? No. I always encourage readers to see for themselves and they will. So far there is still no evidence regarding the existence of the band WPOD anywhere on the Internet. I have received feedback from others solidifying that fact. My guess is that it's not to prevent trading on Kazaa.
Currently artist "X" is having no luck contacting Deftone Records after signing the contract (lawyer assisted, by the way) and sending the cash. His calls have gone unreturned and the launch date for his band's album has been postponed by a month. So far, all attempts to contact Keegan Lowe have been in vain and X feels like they took the money and ran, even though he can't fathom signing a legally binding contract that may go unfulfilled.
With all of the new developments in this case it's clear that McManus, Oddo and Malnotti have all lied in their replies to my questions. The surface of this case may not even be penetrated yet, so the real question is clear... is this a scam? According to my magic 8-ball, "all signs point to 'YES'." How does an artist avoid these types of situations? Do your research, surf the web and be vigilant. Don't take the first kibble of positive feedback as the gospel truth. There was plenty of good stuff about these guys out there, but the companies wrote it all. The most informative was found by asking artists that had dealt with one or all of these companies.
In the three months of investigating these companies, I have found enough information to substantiate the claims that something shady is afoot here. With too many facts suggesting a classic shell game - whereby you confuse your targets so that they do not know who the players are - it's impossible to ignore the ominous overtones of an elaborate con that may cost your band a lot of hard earned money. Remember this simple rule of thumb: Pay-for-play? Run away!
Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright ? Tag It 2003 - Republished with Permission
Note: Related Article: "Fleecing the Indie Community: The Song Shark Controversy"