Stott helps form Musicians Against Deception and The Scammies Tour


March 5, 2012

This April, a new coalition of six indie bands and performers will hit the road to protest the exploitation of independent musicians. Musicians Against Deception, consisting of Amber Blues, Babydriver, The Mike Montrey Band, Anne Stott, Syka, and Their Planes Will Block out the Sun, is currently booked to play four northeast shows from April 13th to April 22nd, with more dates being added. The Scammies Tour is their answer to the kind of abuses and scams that DIY musicians and bands experience regularly, but rarely discuss. Until now.

All of the artists in Musicians Against Deception have first-hand experience being ripped off; they formed the coalition based on their negative experiences with a startup company that went by Indy Radio Media. In 2011, all of them were contacted by a woman calling herself Tiffany Driver, who claimed that for a fee of $295, Indy Radio Media could give them a promotional campaign (including press releases and social media and Internet marketing) along with a slot at a live showcase at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn during the CMJ Convention in New York City in October. But Driver, who found her victims on Sonicbids and Reverb Nation, didn't give any of them what they paid for; some of the artists never received a press release, and the live showcase never happened for any of them. Driver, who has yet to refund anyone's money, hasn't been heard from since then. "Clearly, Tiffany Driver- if that is her real name - did wrong by a lot of people," the Massachusetts-based Stott asserts. "And this is a story that needs to be talked about."

Stott (www.annestott.com) is the person who deserves credit for the coalition coming together. When no appearance at Pete's Candy Store came about and Driver quit responding to her e-mails and phone calls, the singer/songwriter went to Indy Radio Media's website (indyradiomedia.com) and found the names of artists Driver had worked with. "Anne was the initiator," recalls Jimmy Clark of Amber Blues (www.amberblues.com). "I was going to wash my hands of this, call it a day and say 'OK, I got screwed.' But then, Anne contacted me. She sent out a mass e-mail that had about 20 people on it, including Amber Blues; in her e-mail, Anne described what happened to her with Indy Radio Media and asked if the same thing had happened with anyone else."

After the members of the Mike Montrey Band, Amber Blues, Babydriver, Syka (which is the name of both singer Syka and her band) and Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun responded to Stott's e-mail and described their own bad experiences with Indy Radio Media, the coalition was formed. And the coalition's goals include not only bringing attention to what Indy Radio Media subjected the artists to, but also, educating other independent artists about the things they can do to protect themselves in the music industry.

"A lot of people take advantage of musicians," notes John Falcone, drummer for Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun (www.theirplanes.com). "Indy Radio Media promised us two months of promotion and a gig. We got no gig, and we got no press release."

Nor did singer Syka's band (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lV-Gabx6N3Y) get either a showcase at Pete's Candy Store or any type of press release. Stott did receive a press release but says it was "horribly written."

"Hard-working musicians and songwriters are already scrounging by as it is, and it's ridiculous how easily artists can get scammed if something looks legitimate on the Internet," notes Syka's New Jersey-based lead singer. "Indy Radio Media was able to set this up and scam all these different artists. A showcase during CMJ is a big deal for us, and to be scammed out of it was a major disappointment for these artists."

Tommy Palmer of the Boston-based Babydriver (http://www.myspace.com/drivemeababy) says: "We were so excited to be playing a slot during CMJ, and when we realized that we weren't, it was one of the lowest points in our career. We had invited all these industry people, and to find out two weeks beforehand that the slot wasn't happening was just devastating. That part of it, for me, was even worse than losing the money. The biggest blow, for us, was not playing CMJ."

Clark stresses that many of the artists who were victimized by Indy Radio Media were not new to the music industry. Amber Blues, for example, have been together for over a decade; Stott and Mike Montrey have been fixtures on the East Coast music scene. And if seasoned musicians can be taken advantage of in that way, Clark says, less savvy or experienced musicians could be even more vulnerable.

Mike Montrey, leader of the Mike Montrey Band (http://mikemontrey.com), says that even if Tiffany Driver and Indy Radio Media didn't set out to scam the artists from the beginning, the end result was that they were still ripped off and didn't get what they paid for.

"If I had to cast a vote on what really happened here, I don't think the thing was meant to be a scam from the beginning," Montrey says. "I think it was a company that thought they might be able to do something during CMJ, and as it started to not work out, they were left with taking people's money and not finishing the job they were paid to do."

Clark points out that Indy Radio Media not only victimized the members of the coalition (and perhaps some other musicians who haven't yet joined the coalition), but also, was unfair to CMJ and Pete's Candy Store because they used their names to do something dishonest and underhanded. "Technically, CMJ and Pete's Candy Store were abused as well because their names were used in this injustice," Clark observes.

And because Indy Radio Media used Sonicbids and Reverb Nation to find its victims, the members of the coalition are hoping that those companies will join forces with them in fighting this type of abuse. "I don't blame Sonicbids or Reverb Nation for the actions of Indy Radio Media," Stott asserts. "I don't think they're at fault. But I would like to see them be a bit more proactive and speak out about this issue. Sonicbids and Reverb Nation are the places that people like Tiffany Driver are using to find people like me, and I would like to see Sonicbids set up a webpage for their members to trade information about stuff like this. It would be a real service to artists if Sonicbids would set something like that up."

The music industry, Stott points out, has changed a great deal in recent years. Major labels have smaller budgets and smaller rosters they once did, and many artists are using the Internet to go the do-it-yourself route. But unfortunately, Stott says, cyberspace has its share of people who are anxious to exploit or take advantage of artists—and that is why this coalition is speaking out.

"The music industry used to be so sewed up in the big labels," Stott explains. "Either you had a record contract or you didn't. In a way—with the Internet and the kind of breaking open of that system—it has left a lot of room for smaller acts to kind of have their own careers and do things independently. The DIY movement is fantastic; it's amazing. But at the same time, it has opened the door for bottom-feeding exploitation that doesn't get addressed very much."

Indy Radio Media's website is still online, but the coalition fears that Driver—perhaps using another name or the name of a different company—will take advantage of other artists in the future. Palmer advises artists to thoroughly check out the background of any promoter, agent or publicist they consider working with. "My advice for any musicians would be to be wary of anyone who seems to be interested in you and isn't a mutual connection you met through someone else you know," Palmer cautions.

Standing up for a worthy cause comes naturally for Stott, who has a background in political organizing. And she looks forward to continuing to build the coalition and helping independent artists protect themselves from the darker side of the music industry. "I'm really excited that everyone in this group of artists is on board to do something about this," Stott asserts. "I just love it when it is possible to make something good out of something bad. And hopefully, Musicians Against Deception is going to get the word out that artists need to pay attention and be careful who they work with."

Confirmed Tour Dates:

Friday, April 13th Milky Way in Jamaica Plain, MA
Saturday, April 14th Gulu-Gulu Cafe in Salem, MA
Saturday, April 21st The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ
Sunday, April 22nd Sullivan Hall, New York, NY
More dates being added.

For more information, please contact Anne Stott at info@annestott.com or Jimmy Clark at jimmyamberblues@gmail.com.

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