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Image for All the small things: Why you should always read the fine print

All the small things: Why youshould always read the fineprint

How many times have you ticked a box, dismissed a new Facebook privacy “upgrade” or skimmed over terms and conditions on a streaming service? Sydney singer-songwriter BRENDAN MACLEAN discovers first-hand what happens when you don’t read the fine print.

On September, 30 2012 I received an email from music service Off The Record. Their mission statement asserts their dedication to “finding the hottest up and coming new artists around Australia and providing them with alternative avenues to getting exposure.” They deal in publicity, distribution and, as I found out, compilations.

The email

Hey Brendan – hope all is well. Really enjoying your tracks.

Well I love everything about this email so far.

Just wanted to see if you’d be interested in featuring a track on the upcoming compliation [sic] CD to come out on the cover of YEN Magazine. There are 30,000 copies distributed nation wide on every cover of YEN.

Yen! I love Yen, they’re like Frankie’s slightly frumpish but still groovy sister! Yes, my answer is yes!

Just to give you an idea of the Yen CD (if you haven’t seen one before): We have a range of big artists to small up and coming artist, last one we had had a range of artist from Lisa Mitchell down to artist like Charlie Mayfair, Richard In Your Mind and Cameras. This CD, Grimes is the opening track, it’s also the Xmas and 10th year anniversary issue so we’re working on making it very exciting. As well as featuring on the covermount CD each artist is featured in a two page editorial in the Magazine.

I am aware of all of these lovely artists. And even despite this man’s terrible sentence structure this is the most wonderful email to happen in the history of emails.

Details:
Publication: YEN MAGAZINE (National)
Title: TBC
Artist: Brendan Maclean
Track Name: Artist choice
Track# & Price: 13 – $700
Content deadline: Nov 2nd
Scheduled release date: December 5th

Wow! $700? They must really love my track! $700 in my pocket just in time for Christmas and major kudos from Yen Magazine: sign me up.

I’ve put some details below, to see the terms and condition go to [Contract URL]

Filling out the average name, address and phone number form on my iPhone I giddily swipe my thumb upwards and whoosh down past bundles of “We reserve the right to…” and “You retain the rights of…” technical jargon and smack the approve button. Why wouldn’t I? Yen like me, they really like me! And they want to pay me $700 for my song? That’s like 800 iTunes downloads or thousands of streams on Spotify. I hit confirm on the Off The Record contract page and head back to the rehearsal studio with a new bottle of Hendricks and a stupid grin on my face.

Then on November, 13 2012 “I got mail” again:

Hi Guys. Please pay 50 per cent deposit within seven days, balance within 30 days.

Come again?

Invoice attached. Balance Due: $770.

Oh God. I rush out from a recording session to phone in the blunder. I leave voicemails on three phones. I explain there has been a misunderstanding, I chuckle at my goofy mix-up and apologise. It is only my pride that was bruised. But then, looking back at the contract, I realise this isn’t going to go away.

Please Note $200 admin fee for cancellations.

What happened next…

Two days went by before Off The Record called me back. There was a soothing yet official voice on the line. I sprung into a purposely awkward but emotional speech about my clumsiness and how sorry I was to have wasted their (surprisingly expensive) administrative time. I cordially implied that I should not have to pay the cancellation fees as I had never really wanted their service.

“That’s fine Brendan” the voice replied, “Honest mistakes happen. You can just pay the money off over a longer amount of time instead.”

I doubled back and offered to pay out the cancellation,

“Sorry mate, it’s too late for that we’ve already printed the CDs.”

And upon hearing his best impersonation of what I think was supposed to be empathy, I sighed deeply into the phone and hung up.

From then on demands for payment became a daily occurrence in my inbox. I enquired with a lawyer to see if perhaps I could claim I had been misled: My argument being that my interpretation of the word “price” in the original email did not match the intention in the contract. The response was what I expected; the T&C’s cover them, not me.

The lawyer was right, of course. And not just that, the small print was littered with threats of late fees and the right to charge more if an artist withheld payment.

While I studied the contract, as I should have upon first being linked, I noted just how far down you had to scroll through the floating text box before discovering what direction the money was heading. It was at clause five. More than halfway through the contract I would have found that, as opposed to a $700 reward for my art, I was paying to be lumped in with a dozen local bands and a few major label artists – who I imagine either didn’t pay or who budget these things into their PR.

Like those poetry books where writers pay for their “big chance to be published”, a spot on this compilation means little to nothing for a local artist. Off The Record pumps out all sorts of these mix tapes, one for every genre. Then they team up with magazines and charge independent artists through the nose for the chance of “mass exposure”.

“Alas, a good month after the issue hit the street, I can count on one hand the people who have reacted to seeing my song.”

For all my moaning about my lazy screw-up ultimately the single was now going to appear on Yen’s compilation. Surely there would be some upside? Alas, a good month after the issue hit the street, I can count on one hand the people who have reacted to seeing my song, ‘Only Only’, on the comp. There has been no sales increase, no rapidly growing fan base, not a single person on my music page has even mentioned it. Pointless. Had I consciously signed up to their service I would have been asking for my money back.

Can I be mad at Off The Record? Probably not. If someone gives you a contract you should read it – but to say they come off squeaky clean would also be wrong. The original email was personal, positive and everything suggested that the $700 was going to be in my pocket. I later discovered that their initial contact was a cut and paste job with my name slapped at the top. And even after I accept that I had signed the dotted line/ticked the allotted box, the first personal notification I received about owing money came so late I couldn’t choose the cancellation fee.

As we all get used to agreeing to endless iTunes, Spotify and BandCamp contract updates it is evidently all too easy to breeze over a vital sentence or two and send a month’s worth of sales profits down the tube. My advice: stop, read, give it a day and read it again.

Brendan Maclean is a Sydney musician and actor. Follow him on twitter @macleanbrendan.

Comments

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47257
berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 16th Jan, 2013

I got one of these emails the other day.

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 16th Jan, 2013

I would really like to see the actual email that Yen were sending out.
From my perspective it really wasn't a question of reading the fine print but just plain blissful ignorance.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 16th Jan, 2013

Yeah that's what I was thinking. I think it's reasonable to assume that "price" means the price they're charging you, not the price you will be paid. I can understand making the mistake, but the issue didn't really arise because he didn't read the fine print.

Also, where did the additional $70 come from? Was that a late fee or something?

BrendanMaclean

BrendanMaclean said on the 16th Jan, 2013

happy to field that napoleon,

that's the whole e-mail printed in the article. for me when someone says "i'd love to have you on our record, price $700" to me that infers they want "my product."

very poor judgement from me? yes. but i certainly didn't spend $770 to for article material.

also offlick, the $70 came from gst.

nu_wave

nu_wave said on the 16th Jan, 2013

i had one of these emails once... they put the full spin around it with their best sales voice. shame on them to be ripping off people they should be supporting/

Oflick

Oflick said on the 16th Jan, 2013





I didn't think of that. I generally always assume that GST is included in the price given. Well, that would have been my mistake if I had agreed to this email.



A bit misleading I agree (perhaps even intentionally misleading), but a common sales pitch. But to me the word "price" implies you pay. The seller sets the price, not the buyer.

Oh yeah, and you mean "implies", not "infers". (sorry).

misscrystle

misscrystle said on the 16th Jan, 2013

Those scams / 'shoddy business arrangements' are all over the music industry - hello Emergenza? Surprised you wouldn't have picked that one up Brendan, and generally when they're paying you it's "fee" not "price". Bummer all the same, everyone makes mistakes... pity this one's expensive but hey at least you're getting some mileage out of it now.

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 16th Jan, 2013

On the flip side I think that Yen have themselves to blame for going ahead and producing the CD without even receiving a dollar.

BrendanMaclean

BrendanMaclean said on the 16th Jan, 2013

crystal:

completely reminded me of the emergenza crap. i've even been a moderator on unearthed warning people about them.

the very least i can hope for is that me screwing up this royally will at least shed some light on it.

dry heaving thinking about the arguments i've had at the people with emergenza. the front end loader response is priceless if you haven't seen it on their page.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 16th Jan, 2013

What happened between you and Emergenza?

Other than them being shit?

BrendanMaclean

BrendanMaclean said on the 16th Jan, 2013

berlin, oh nothing personally. i'm not that daft. (well apparently i am or i wouldn't have to write articles about it.)

when i did some work for unearthed i noticed emergenza spamming the living daylights out of 1,000's of artist. i followed them up asking to more clearly explain their policies, fees and services. they were obviously embarassed since they are an utter scam - and went on to offer me booze and tickets in return for me asking them questions and posting about them*. classy.

*i didn't stop obviously

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 16th Jan, 2013

But you took the booze right?

they are suuuch a scam.

dzzz

dzzz said on the 16th Jan, 2013

confidential

dear brendan maclean

good day and compliments. this letter will definitely come to you as a huge surprise, but i implore you to take the time to go through it carefully as the decision you make will go off a long way to determine the future and continued existence of the entire members of my family.

please allow me to introduce myself. my name is dr. (mrs.) mariam abacha, the wife of the late head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces of the federal republic of nigeria who died on the 8th of june 1998.

my ordeal started immediately after my husband's death on the morning of 8th june 1998, and the subsequent take over of government by the last administration. the present democratic government is determined to portray all the good work of my late husband in a bad light and have gone as far as confiscating all my late husband's assets, properties, freezing our accounts both within and outside nigeria. as i am writing this letter to you, my son mohammed abacha is undergoing questioning with the government. all these measures taken by past/present government is just to gain international recognition.

i and the entire members of my family have been held incommunicado since the death of my husband, hence i seek your indulgence to assist us in securing these funds. we are not allowed to see or discuss with anybody. few occasions i have tired traveling abroad through alternative means all failed.

it is in view of this i have mandated dr galadima hassan, who has been assisting the family to run around on so many issues to act on behalf of the family concerning the substance of this letter. he has the full power of attorney to execute this transaction with you.

my late husband had/has eighty million usd ($80,000,000.00) specially preserved and well packed in trunk boxes of which only my husband and i knew about. it is packed in such a way to forestall just anybody having access to it. it is this sum that i seek your assistance to get out of nigeria as soon as possible before the present civilian government finds out about it and confiscate it just like they have done to all our assets.

i implore you to please give consideration to my predicament and help a widow in need.

may allah show you mercy as you do so?

your faithfully,

dr (mrs.) mariam abacha (m.o.n)

BrendanMaclean

BrendanMaclean said on the 16th Jan, 2013

but also....

*books a flight to nigeria*

bboy

bboy said on the 16th Jan, 2013

cool story, did the contract also have a confidentiality clause?

UNWND Promotions

UNWND Promotions said on the 16th Jan, 2013

i paid for one of these compilations and understood straightaway that we would need to pay $300 to get our track featured in a time off compilation.

knowing the extent of their audience we were more than keen to do it. off the record had some of the worst email response time of any company we've dealt with. they told us to expect the cd in a particular issue of time off--never happened.

three weeks ago i received a shitty little cd in a plastic slip, that i'd wager was never featured in time off at all. this is now 8 months after they contacted us, and 6 months since we paid the deposit/expected the cd. it was held back that whole time because of "problems with artist content".

fuck off the record. straight up.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 16th Jan, 2013



good thing you followed up, I nearly nuked your account :)

laurafedora

laurafedora said on the 16th Jan, 2013

i agree brendan! reading things properly is a really good way of ensuring an adequate response is sent! sound advice.

grattan

grattan said on the 16th Jan, 2013

berlin, oh nothing personally. i'm not that daft. (well apparently i am or i wouldn't have to write articles about it.)

when i did some work for unearthed i noticed emergenza spamming the living daylights out of 1,000's of artist. i followed them up asking to more clearly explain their policies, fees and services. they were obviously embarassed since they are an utter scam - and went on to offer me booze and tickets in return for me asking them questions and posting about them*. classy.

*i didn't stop obviously

http://sphotos-e.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/422371_10151400584232090_118226652_n.jpg

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 16th Jan, 2013

Who are these people?

It makes me think of:

http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/33458681.jpg

Lance Uppercut

Lance Uppercut said on the 16th Jan, 2013

Maybe it's just me, but every time a free CD comes with a magazine/Drum Media I have either binned it or left it in the pile outside JB Hi fi.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 16th Jan, 2013

In regards to that facebook post from Emergenza:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_mDTLphIVY

cRAZY_tALK

cRAZY_tALK said on the 16th Jan, 2013

so what's actually a scam about the emergenza thing? besides them spamming every single band with the same message (my band got one too) i mean. it's not eloquently worded but it sounds like the $100 commitment fee paid by the band is refunded at the show and the bands get a percentage of the door. so what's a scam about this? is it only a partial refund or a ridiculously low percentage of the door? do only some bands that pay the fee get to actually play?

BrendanMaclean

BrendanMaclean said on the 16th Jan, 2013

oh good lord, if you think emergenza is a good idea you go for it buddy.

look forward to your article on faster louder in a few months.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 16th Jan, 2013



You play a terrible venue on a night in the middle of the week where the odds of you pulling enough people to get your deposit back are very slim.

if you can pull enough people in a shithouse venue on a tuesday/Wednesday you don't need Emergenza to get a gig in the first place. They fish for bands who are new and unexperienced and sell them on dreams of playing some shithouse festival overseas, knowing they won't be able to pull the people, band gets dick, Emergenza get cash, one punter who turns up to the shit venue gets fucked.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 16th Jan, 2013

Exactly.

These sort of legitimate scams are prevalent in many areas, not just in the music industry.

The basic premise is generally the same. Getting you to pay for something that on the surface sounds quite appealing but in reality is absolutely worthless or very close to.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 17th Jan, 2013

And now Brendan is asking for $17,500 to record a six track EP.

http://www.pozible.com/index.php/archive/index/14124/description/0/0

I had no idea recording six track EPs cost so much. I'm amazed so many bands can afford to do it.

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 17th Jan, 2013

And now Brendan is asking for $17,500 to record a six track EP.

http://www.pozible.com/index.php/archive/index/14124/description/0/0

I had no idea recording six track EPs cost so much. I'm amazed so many bands can afford to do it.

Not all bands have addictions to Pokemon cards though...

Mitchhh464

Mitchhh464 said on the 17th Jan, 2013

http://southparkstudios.mtvnimages.com/shared/downloads/images/season-15/1501/humanCentiPad01_press.jpg

TominaK

TominaK said on the 20th Jan, 2013

well, my band worked with off the record last year. i got a very similar email to the one you got, except it was concerning the time off publication here in qld and it costed $389.00 all up. i immediately realised it was for us to pay, but let me tell about these guys. first of all, they fucked us around for so long, even after we had paid everything, saying other artists hadn't cleared their payments and so on, dragging the release for more than 3 months. we did pay the 50% straight away and after that we were reminded for payments constantly. and as you said, there was absolutely 0 point: no exposure, not a single reaction. since then, i received another email from them just last week, saying they "just discovered" us and wondering if we would be interested in doing this, and obviously, i said no. and even though i was speaking to the same guy who i had to complain to when i was receiving no info about why the cd release was being postponed week after week, he still didn't realise we had been featured before. i am writing this just to let other artists know that these compilations are a waste of money and time. that might be common knowledge, but it wasn't to me at the time. invest in gear, don't bother with these releases.

CharlieR

CharlieR said on the 21st Jan, 2013

next this guy will be surprised when a record company takes their end from recording and marketing.

this guy is an idiot!

i've never heard of this him before, but now i have and think he's an absolute douche bag. i guess the exposure from this article is working!

good luck with your 'career'.

and guys, is this really worth publishing? some douche can't read an email properly. it's hardly fine print. it's right there in the email.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 21st Jan, 2013

Thanks Charlie, from Off The Record.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 21st Jan, 2013



In honour of his second inauguration today...

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-30BzUeT5QrM/UCBzXkpFDmI/AAAAAAAAAgU/TpjI_dSDtrA/s1600/Cool%2BStory%2BBro.jpg

craig123

craig123 said on the 21st Jan, 2013

Exactly.

These sort of legitimate scams are prevalent in many areas, not just in the music industry.

The basic premise is generally the same. Getting you to pay for something that on the surface sounds quite appealing but in reality is absolutely worthless or very close to.

Landmark .....

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 21st Jan, 2013



Landmark Education isn't worthless. It fueled one of the greatest threads in the general forum!

nos235

nos235 said on the 2nd Feb, 2013

only cost about $2000- $2500 for 30,000 discs, seems like a nice little earner for them if they get 15artists at $700 each (=$10500)

grattan

grattan said on the 26th Apr, 2013

http://sphotos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/44791_10151865911999746_406973865_n.png

Crompy

Crompy said on the 12th Mar, 2014

hi there brendan. you have every right to be mad at off the record. they approached me and told me they were interested in my track for their compilation cd that was going to be sent out to 5000 magazines including rip it up and others. i told them it sounded like a great thing but i was in debt and i couldn't do it. they said that it was an opportunity i really needed to grab and i had 3 days basically to decide whether i wanted to be in it. i decided to go with it and in good faith paid their bill by credit card. they said that i was the last person to be on the cd and thats why there was such a rush, giving me the impression they were going to get the cd out within a week. 3 months later they still hadn't released the cd. i approached them to ask for my money back. they refused. the best i could get from them was something in writing saying if they didn't have the cd out within another 3 months they would pay me a full refund. 3 months later nada. i contacted them again. they said they would give me a full refund. still months later they haven't, despite the guy's continual promises via email that he was going to get it sorted. the company is a total scam. they have robbed me of my money. i live in new zealand and there is not much i can do about it from here. i can't afford a lawyer. don't know if there's anyway i can get my money back if its in writing? would like any advice anyone could give me. what was the worst thing is i spoke to their manager and he just made excuses that he didnt have time to talk to me as he was running 6 companies. what a tosser! i'm sorry maybe we are naive but that doesn't give people the right to go round ripping people off. it is still a criminal activity.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 12th Mar, 2014

The only advice I can give (aside from talk to a lawyer) is that if the person who told you that you can get a refund was acting as an agent to the company (or in some cases simply presented himself as an agent to the company), then the company can be bound by his/her actions (even if he/she was completely wrong). Disclaimer: that's the advice of a law student with a mediocre GPA.

So try to talk to a lawyer. Maybe you'll get lucky; Someone might work pro bono and try to make a test case out of it (but don't get your hopes up).

Kesterton

Kesterton said on the 21st May, 2014

we paid $550 for a track on a cd compilation back in may 2013 and by late april 2014, the cd compilation hadn't eventuated. after many emails and phone calls that went nowhere, we sent off the record a 'letter of demand' and got a refund. i was fully prepared to go to small claims court if we didn't get the refund because i think its wrong for them to be behaving in such a dodgy manner in the music business.