This Article Originally Published March 2000
by Michael Laskow
TAXI members The Rosenbergs have been forwarded more often than not. They were chosen for our last "Best Of TAXI" CD that went out to every A&R person in North America. They're a band that works extremely hard and shows real promise.
Well, first let us say that there are a LOT of good people involved in this unfortunate situation . . . the producers of the TV show have been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic towards us and our music as have some of the folks on the record company side . . . both sides are a bit askew as is expected with a record company on one coast and TV show on the other . . . but they are held together by an unbelievably unfair performance contract . . . We (The Rosenbergs) are scheduled to perform on this week's show with possibly the Counting Crows . . . however, this will not be the case as the details of the last few days will explain . . .
We were asked and agreed to fly out to Los Angeles this Wednesday to tape the show . . . this occurred Friday at end of business at which point the Farmclub folks said they were faxing us the Performance Contract which we were to sign and return in fifteen minutes before they left the office we were expecting the standard two page release or maybe something a bit more . . . what we got was a twenty three page disaster allowing farmclub a sixty day exclusive option to pick us up and take everything we've worked for . . . sure, most bands figure they won't be the ones optioned but that's the danger . . . for ones who ARE . . .the bands lose both ways . . . if they're optioned, they enter into a six record deal which basically affords them no rights to anything that used to be theirs, ESPECIALLY the Internet rights. Meanwhile if there's any kind of "buzz" (and we *hate* that word) surrounding a band after their performance on the show, it will be all but gone by the time two months roll around and the band is free to talk to other labels . . . can u imagine a label waiting two months to talk to a band they saw on Farmclub? In one week, the label head that likes them will have been replaced by a Mr.Coffee, so forget about striking while the iron's hot.
Enraged as we are by the actual terms of the deal itself, it's not that unusual according to our lawyer who had quite a nice chuckle over it . . . Farmclub will own our website, and all Internet related sites meaning,(as our friend, Lavonne at GAS puts it) "They are free to put up beer commercials on your website" also, in a few years, when mechanical royalties are all but phased out because most music is downloaded off the 'net, we will recieve birdseed as payment: having virtually no rights to our digital domain . . . Farmclub is the sole approver of what songs we record, which producer we'd use and which studio meaning they could have us record in their own studio so we'd be borrowing money from them to pay them for the recording time . . . If a band member leaves, our royalties for that record diminish 25 percent and Farmclub may break up the remaining members . . . If our music ever gets used as a theme for a TV show or movie, Farmclub would own all the "sync" rights and as per the agreement get all the money sounds fair, huh? . . . Also, there is no mention of tour support or marketing budget for any of the six albums we're signed on to do not one dollar . . . so given this fact, they could actually have us record an album, release it for a week, say "It didn't do anything", pull it off shelves, send us back into the studio to record another one until they had a bonafide "hit" which they then would put on our oops THEIR website and the Farmclub website so people will come and listen for miles around and see the wonderful advertising links on their sites. Basically it's obvious (and we're not geniuses) that the TV show is a glorified ad for the website and the stage is a "demo deal" for bands . . . once they hit the stage, they are labeled suckers cuz if they're on there, they signed that Louie B. Mayer 1920's contract binding their lives to the studio for eternity for four minutes of airtime . . . remember, they may have a LOT of people contact them afterwards but they are powerless to do anything with them for sixty days and by then . . . well . . .
The thing that aggravates us the most about this is that we were interviewed by a company that claimed to be moving onward and upward with respect to band-label relationships in an Internet community that would only get stronger and become more of a "partnership" between the two rather than "master-slave"stuff . . . cuz if you ask us, what they're attempting to do to bands this millenium we now deem as "Cyberscrewing" . . . They are virtual wolves in sheeps clothing ready to take the unaware, eager songwriters and swallow them whole for breakfast and believe me, it's a buffet . . . I guarantee there won't be a shortage of bands on the show but NO band worth its weight will sign this agreement . . . the scary thing is the band that has nothing going on and figures it has nothing to lose will sign and then if they happen to hit it with a song, they'll spend the next ten years in court trying to recoup lost royalties and if they succeed, they'll owe twice as much to their attorneys . . .
Farmclub needs to take directions from Den music or Atomic Pop, etc . . . not that these are such great deals either but they are more of a "partnership" between bands and labels . . . which is what they are claiming to be . . . our attorney told me today that he has said to a couple of labels that are doing things like this "Don't do it don't draw a line in the sand and tell bands it's your rules and what you say goes because the Internet is an opportunity for bands to gain power and a record company that realizes this and works WITH a band will prosper exorbitantly more than one that just keeps screwing them throughout the decades whether it be with pen or mouse" . . . Let us reitirate that we've come in contact with some very good people working for this company and it's not their fault that this is the way it is . . . heck, even the V.P. of A&R said he hasn't seen the agreement as of today. BUT right now all Farmclub.com is succeeding at doing is driving the wedge between band and label farther apart . . . good job Jimmy . . . .watch and see the power of the Internet as this story makes its way to the desks of millions in the next couple of days . . . "Somebody's gonna get a record deal" . . . is that a threat?
- Maybe they should have signed the contract, appeared on the show, and then
filed suit claiming they signed the contract under duress
because they got it in the eleventh hour, had the TV exposure
dangling in front of them like the proverbial carrot, and
had no reasonable amount of time to have it looked over
by a qualified attorney. They could have had their cake
and eaten it too!
- If the band didn't like the deal, they might have considered simply turning it down, and telling the folks at FarmClub, "It just wasn't the right kind of deal for us. Would it be possible for us to run this offer by our attorney and appear on the show at a later date?" I'm concerned that other labels might be afraid to offer the Rosenbergs a deal now for fear that they'll offend them and end up being trashed in the pages of Rolling Stone. Hopefully, I'm wrong about that!
Well, there you have it gang. No clear winners on this one . . . so far.
I'd also like to mention that in the near future, you'll be seeing press about the TAXI band Fisher signing to FarmClub. Fisher's deal was not a result of the band posting their music on the website. It was a result of TAXI giving it to Tony Ferguson (VPof A&R at Interscope) last April. Tony tried to sign the band a couple of times to Interscope or its sister companies, but didn't get in the end zone. In December of '99 he played it for Andy Schoun, President of FarmClub. Andy played it for Doug Morris (the biggest cheese under Universal's umbrella of labels), and Doug ordained the signing. Fisher got a deal that they are happy with. We'll keep you posted!