September 2006

Ok, so I researched the new “digital media distribution” mechanism that was proposed to me. It’s an MLM that essentially preys on musicians, and, like any Ponzi scheme, on vulnerable people and their friends, and their family.

I am taking a really interesting business course at UCLA at the moment on writing better business plans for independent features. One of the things that is most often stressed is honesty when finding investors. I find it serendipitous that this ancillary challenge, that is the allure of a get rich, while solving the unpaid musician dilmma is presented to me by someone who I trust and support, in the very ailing industry within which I am involved.

At any rate, I hope none of you get suckered in. I am even going to be cordial enough to those who have become involved and not list the company/model’s name. But in case some kind of MySpace/Open Your Own Music Store/Make Money Selling Others People’s Music thing comes around, but costs you more than you can justify – please read this excerpt from a document presented by the Federal Trade Commision:

PREPARED STATEMENT OF
DEBRA A. VALENTINE, GENERAL COUNSEL FOR
THE U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

on

“PYRAMID SCHEMES”
presented at the
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND’S
SEMINAR ON CURRENT LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CENTRAL BANKS
Washington, D.C.

May 13, 1998

“Here are some tips that consumers and business might find helpful.

1. Beware of any plan that makes exaggerated earnings claims, especially when there seems to be no real underlying product sales or investment profits. The plan could be a Ponzi scheme where money from later recruits pays off earlier ones. Eventually this program will collapse, causing substantial injury to most participants.

2. Beware of any plan that offers commissions for recruiting new distributors, particularly when there is no product involved or when there is a separate, up-front membership fee. At the same time, do not assume that the presence of a purported product or service removes all danger. The Commission has seen pyramids operating behind the apparent offer of investment opportunities, charity benefits, off-shore credit cards, jewelry, women’s underwear, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and even electricity.

3. If a plan purports to sell a product or service, check to see whether its price is inflated, whether new members must buy costly inventory, or whether members make most “sales” to other members rather than the general public. If any of these conditions exist, the purported “sale” of the product or service may just mask a pyramid scheme that promotes an endless chain of recruiting and inventory loading.

4. Beware of any program that claims to have a secret plan, overseas connection or special relationship that is difficult to verify. Charles Ponzi claimed that he had a secret method of trading and redeeming millions of postal reply coupons. The real secret was that he stopped redeeming them. Likewise, CDI allegedly represented that it had the backing of a special overseas bank when no such relationship existed.

5. Beware of any plan that delays meeting its commitments while asking members to “keep the faith.” Many pyramid schemes advertise that they are in the “pre-launch” stage, yet they never can and never do launch. By definition pyramid schemes can never fulfill their obligations to a majority of their participants. To survive, pyramids need to keep and attract as many members as possible. Thus, promoters try to appeal to a sense of community or solidarity, while chastising outsiders or skeptics. Often the government is the target of the pyramid’s collective wrath, particularly when the scheme is about to be dismantled. Commission attorneys now know to expect picketers and a packed courtroom when they file suit to halt a pyramid scheme. Half of the pyramid’s recruits may see themselves as victims of a scam that we took too long to stop; the other half may view themselves as victims of government meddling that ruined their chance to make millions. Government officials in Albania have also experienced this reaction in the recent past.

6. Finally, beware of programs that attempt to capitalize on the public’s interest in hi-tech or newly deregulated markets. Every investor fantasizes about becoming wealthy overnight, but in fact, most hi-tech ventures are risky and yield substantial profits only after years of hard work. Similarly, deregulated markets can offer substantial benefits to investors and consumers, but deregulation seldom means that “everything goes,” that no rules apply, and that pyramid or Ponzi schemes are suddenly legitimate.”

From:
http://www.ftc.gov/speeches/other/dvimf16.htm

———
Don’t get “Burned” especially not at the expense of musicians who ultimately are the fodder.

For both sides of the story check this out:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/blog/310#comments

I guess my search for the new music market model continues…

My shoulder was so cramped last night after recording acoustic guitar for nine straight hours in a cramped little sauna.

Josh and I hauled the studio down into the basement where there is a 4×6 sauna, and set up the AKG 414 through a Studio Projects mic pre and recorded my dad’s beautiful sounding acoustic. The wooden panels that cover the walls and ceiling of the small room were superior to the matte sound foam of a typical “dead room” because it contributed to the wooodsy sound of the guitar, acting almost like a resonant booster, like wine aged in oak as opposed to steel barrels.

Over the course of one night and one whole day we tracked all of the acoustic guitar tracks for the record, which is, in my estimation, the most significant hump to have overcome; so much of the rhythm and character of these songs was developed on that instrument. Suddenly the songs sprang to life, filling in the rhythmic nuances for which Ryan, the drummer, had so eloquently left room, filling in the contrapuntal harmonies against which the melodies take on a third dimension.

At first we were concerned that, due to the nature of my acoustic/drums/bass three- piece as established at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, the acoustic parts would be “overplaying” – filling in too much precious “white space”, but mixed far back enough, they simply gave the songs an airy texture that glued together the rest of the parts – electric guitars, keyboards and so on.

Finally, at the end of the night, we had probably too many drinks, and I awoke feeling like I should just go back to bed. Which I did. When I finally managed to get on my legs, I felt this incredible sense of relief and satisfaction – finally after so long, the dreaded meat of the record has been committed to wax. Of course, the lead vocals will prove challenging, but as I explained to Josh, vocals are an emotional challenge, whereas acoustic guitars are technical and so much drier and exacting a process, and thereby exhausting and daunting. Now that’s all in the past and we can move on to more creative gestures.

As I went out for some fresh air, I was almost hit in the face by a Monarch butterfly. I guess all those fat fuzzy caterpillars that Sage and Jadie were observing eat plants whole last week at Cawaja Beach finally underwent their metamorphoses. Not to overstate the obvious metaphor, but I noted that I am going back to sobriety today. Like I did for a decade before turning thirty and deciding to loosen up for a bit. Except now I feel loosened up regardless. Also, I felt this cloud that has been hovering over my being for the past year or so, go away. I realize that seems like a lot to have happen over the course of ten fever dreamish hours, except that it was in fact the end of a very long road. I am now re-learning how to stand. How to walk. How to breathe. I am in a new land, and I have no idea how to speak the language. I am even a little reticent, but I am anxious to get the hell out of wherever I just was. It was like an excorcism. At one point I practically fell to my knees to pray and expel whatever demon I felt was parked behind my left eye. Long story. And not one I really want to expunge here. But you get the idea. And it was parked there for a long while.

Oh yeah, and I received an interesting call from Los Angeles yesterday. Something that may present a solution to the query I raised in my blog entry concerning the near future of digital media distribution methods and where the market will eventually settle. You know, that whole “I know you love good music, and I am doing my best to make some, but how am I going to make a living from it and how are you going to feel like paying for it when you know that the artist is lucky to get an even marginal share, and what’s more why bother when you can get it for free” conundrum.

I am not divulging what that potential solution is yet, because I need to investigate it further, although I may fill you in on it sooner that the mass media do, because after all, this blog is called my Culturepin, and so I have some sort of self-imposed duty to fill you in faster.

xo