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Category: Producer Tips
Widespread fraud is taking money, credit away from artists
Not Your Jukebox is known for often taking a negative tone. Despite what some have suggested in the comments section, we are not driven by bitterness (well, not completely anyway) but rather a desire to protect and elevate a culture that we (along with many others) spent over half a lifetime fighting to build from the ground up. A scene that was, among other things, built around fellowship in the face of adversity and a government that wanted to completely shut us down. That is why it is especially heinous when someone within the culture steals from their own and violates a trust that was essential to ensure the very survival of the music.
In this particular case, the accused, one Thomas Vitali, is a prime example of just such a violation, a violation that is a cancer in the already compromised immune system of dance music culture. His crime, you ask? That of giving himself writer’s credit to songs that he had nothing to do with the making of. This just one of many violations alleged against him, including claims that he has also outright taken music created by others, changed the title of the track, and released it under his own or someone else’s name.
If you aren’t fluent in the intricacies of the music business, you are probably wondering why putting his name down as the writer of a song is that big of a deal, or maybe even ultimately what difference it makes. It is a big deal because two things happen: 1) it gives him an element of control over a song that he absolutely should not have and 2) it allows him to syphon off money from the actual creator(s) of the music whenever the music is sold, streamed, licensed, etc. Not to mention that this is straight up copyright infringement, fraud, and plagiarism.
Your next question should be, “How did he even do this?” I’m glad you asked. As it turns out he bought up some labels, primarily the once respectable Baroque Records, which gave him access to an entire catalogue of music to manipulate. From there he updated the metadata sent to distributors with his name in the “written by” section.
Fortunately some of the artists effected by this discovered it took steps to have Baroque removed from sites like Beatport and Traxsource and even the original distributor, but the problem is that other labels continue to license the tracks for compilations and Thomas keeps moving to unwitting distributors, even utilizing various ISRC codes (basically a songs digital fingerprint) and pseudonyms.
While Thomas did not respond to our requests to discuss this matter, he has had some discussions with some of the artists effected, to which they have shared. One artist in particular, Hector “DJ Huggie” Merida, shared some screen shots of his conversation, which to no surprise, is very similar to the accounts provided by other artists.
I want to pause here and clarify a couple of things. Thomas references “88 listeners a month”, this is in regards to Huggie’s Spotify listeners. Thomas claims that he himself has over a million, yet all of his social media pages maybe add up to 600 fans. I find it hard to believe that these Spotify listeners (which he claims makes him a “real” artist) are actual fans and not just paid-for streams. Either way, if he is getting that many streams and adding his name to tracks that don’t belong to him, there are a lot of artists not getting paid money that is rightly theirs. Further, it got cut off in the screen grab, but Huggie provides a couple examples of the tracks that demonstrate exactly what Thomas did wrong.
Here you can see, the song (as listed on Spotify) says it was written by Thomas when it definitely was not, in fact it was originally released before Thomas bought Baroque, meaning the data was changed, keep this in mind for later. This is one of hundreds of examples. In between threatening legal action and calling everyone an assholes and an idiot, he does go on to try to explain how this happened when talking to someone defending Huggie:
Here he tries to pass it off as mistake in the metadata resulting from the distributor. This is 100% false. A label has to provide the metadata to the distributor. So unless he is a complete incompetent idiot (the jury is still out on that one) there is no way this was a mistake, it was deliberately supplied by him to the distributor. Further, since the music has already been published BEFORE he bought Baroque, HE CHANGED THE DATA AFTER HE BOUGHT THE LABEL. Let’s play his game, let’s say it was a mistake, it would be easy to fix, easier than attacking everyone rightly asking “WTF?!”. So why hasn’t he fixed all the effected music?
I also find it interesting that he constantly threatens legal action, no legitimate lawyer in their right mind would take this case or try to defend someone that is so blatantly stealing, committing fraud, and in breach of contract. This is theft, plain and simple. Based on his actions, I find it hard to believe that he invented this scam, leading me to think that other people are running this scam. If you have music out there, you might want to do yourself a favor and check to see that everything is on the up and up.
If you have any music on any of the labels owned by Thomas Vitali or on partnering labels that have released or licensed music from his labels you definitely want to check things out. I’d, at the very least, send a notice that he is in breach of contract and get the rights to your music back.
Here is a list of labels known to be owned by or partnered with Thomas:
Amplify Your Music,
Bondi Beach Records,
Bosphorus Underground Recordings,
Cherry Lounge Recordings,
DC10 VIP Records,
Flat Belly Limited,
Flat Belly Recordings,
Flat Belly White,
Galore Music USA,
Groove Control Records,
Ibiza Party Squad,
Planet B.E.N. Records,
Plusquam Domestic Special,
Plusquam Records Label Group,
Prog Dog Recordings,
Sick beatz Records,
Tech Factory Recordings,
Turning Wheel Records,
Weekend Music, WMG,
Weekend Warrios Day,
Distributors known to supply the effected music (along with contact info, hint hint):
Isolation Network / Ingrooves
+1 (813) 907-3128
Label Worx Limited
Digidis – Music Mail GmbH
+49 (711) 365-46900
Jürgen Wiesbeck Managing Director
+49(0)621 122 858 11
What is A&R?
I know it’s been a while since you’ve basked in the glory of the snarkiness you all come to
love expect from this site but I’ve been busy living life, as have all of you. As much as I wish it did, writing a free blog does not put food on the table. While you await my next rapier wit filled piece on the dance scene, I offer up an article I actually get paid for:
In this article I cover what A&R is, how as an artist you can improve your chances of getting signed as well as pick up any A&R slack because, let’s face it, few labels actually do any significant A&R anymore.
Artist, er plagiarist spotlight: David Herrero, the man who stole from Underground Resistance
Even if you don’t know David Herrero by name, there is a good chance you’ve heard his productions or have seen him DJ somewhere. With releases on such venerable labels as Cr2, Nervous, and Defected that have been supported by the likes of Marco Carola, Loco Dice, Nic Fanciulli, Richie Hawtin and many others, as well as having played at internationally known clubs like Space Miami, it’s pretty obvious that David has quite a bit of experience in the underground music business.
So why then, with all this experience, would he sign a track to Chus & Ceballos‘ label (Stereo Productions) with an unlicensed vocal? Cornelius Harris, vocalist for Underground Resistance, is wondering the same thing. In a recent post on Facebook, Cornelius made his feeling clear to the label owners:
“Hey Chus & Ceballos, I have to be honest, discovering that you took my voice and used it for one of your tracks WITHOUT contacting me or anyone else associated really pisses me off. Take that crap down NOW. No joke.”
We at Not Your Jukebox concur with Cornelius’ sentiment and are wondering what would drive someone to do this. Especially someone who, per his biography, “live[s] for music” and when he goes to the studio, its “with the same excitement as the very first day.” Until David explains himself, we have a few theories of our own:
- He didn’t produce his own track. Given the sheer number of productions with his name (nearly 600 releases on Beatport), and in light of the known and rampant use of ghostwriting in the industry, we find it highly suspect that he would actually have that much creative juice running through him (especially after listening to several of his tracks).
- He didn’t realize that he didn’t have or need permission to use the vocals. There is always a chance he is just an idiot, even despite his proclaimed longevity and knowledge in the industry.
- He just plain old-fashioned thought he would get away with it. He would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those meddling
Personally, I think it is a combination of all three (keep in mind, the original track is titled Transition and David’s is Make Your Transition, I mean come on). Unfortunately, in the end, I suspect we won’t hear from David and that the offending track will eventually be erased from the internet as much as possible. Even Chus & Ceballos’ reply to Cornelius was a meek and garden variety, ‘whoops we had no idea’. But I am curious, how many other people have been ripped off by this “artist”?
Feel free to let David know your own thoughts on the matter. At the very least, you can always, gently, educate him it is never a good idea to mess with Underground Resistance and that maybe he should offer Cornelius an apology.
Seems there is another very similar rip off by Gonzales & Gonzalo on KD Music.
The original track:
The offending track:
Access is why you will never be a rich and famous musician
There is a myth involving the music industry that seems to persist from generation to generation. The myth that, when it comes to music, the cream always rises to the top. That is, the best music/artists will always get signed to a major label, get played to the masses, make it to the top of the charts, become a sit sensation, etc., etc. That the music constantly getting played on the radio or that finds its way onto a movie soundtrack is the best of the best. This is simply not true; the sheer amount of pedantic crappy pop music that constantly assaults our aural peace is proof of that. Naturally, artists and labels generally don’t want to dispel this myth, as they benefit financially from the illusion that things like constant radio play means that the music is popular and thus worthy of your money ala download sales and concert tickets.
The reality is that determining which music/artists that get to ‘rise to the top’ is primarily an issue of access. Access to the right people and the right funds is what drives the music industry (or any industry for that matter).
It’s all about who you know (or networking, networking, networking)
Every industry has gatekeepers. There are gatekeepers everywhere you turn. As if dealing with them wasn’t challenging enough, figuring out who the ones are that can provide any actual help is damn near impossible. The guy claiming to love your sound and absolutely will get you signed and make you rich and famous usually turns out to be some coked up blowhard looking for a new drink ticket hookup. Meanwhile, that slightly awkward guy you just accidently bumped into and made him spill his drink because you were too distracted by that coattail-rider putting dollar signs in your eyes and didn’t even offer an ‘excuse me’ like your poor mother taught you, is a major label rep who just wrote you off.
The good news is that no single gatekeeper can make or break you. There are many paths to success, but they ultimately all rely on your network. Who you know and, more importantly, who knows you. You can have the best music in the world, but if the right people don’t have access to it, it will mean nothing in terms of a career. Now, if you are just making it for yourself, or for that one hipster and his bragging rights for finding your unknown work after an all-night smug fueled search, driven by the constant worry that he won’t be allowed in the gluten-free locally sourced vegan coffee shop without scowls and jeers from the artisanal baristas unless he produces something previously undiscovered, then this need not apply to you. But if you want to build an audience, and make a career in music, then you need a network.
Not only is your network crucial for exposing your music to “important” people in the industry, as well as building your audience, it is vital for you to improve and refine your crappy pop music so that you can build a bigger and wider audience and move on up the ladder within the industry. There are no overnight successes, despite what you may hear, there are just people that have access to better networks.
Money money money money, money
If you don’t have access to money (whether it be yours or an investor) you aren’t going to be that chart-topping artist that you promised all your ‘haters’ you would become. Money makes the world go ‘round, and the music industry in no exception. Aside from needing money for obvious things like equipment, accessing listeners (you know, the ones that actually pay for your songs and for those overpriced tickets to your show and gives you value as a selling artist to labels and venues) costs money, mainly through both direct advertising and indirect advertising (like radio play or those crappy CDs playing in stores that retail clerks have to listen to all day long and then die a little inside when you ask them what song is playing right now because they have no idea and they just want you to buy that damn shirt so they can go refold all those clothes you just messed up looking for that perfect black V-neck).
One of the advantages of being on a label used to be that they essentially acted as an investor. They would take care of getting the music beyond your own small fan base and activate their hype-machine to get your work exposed to the mass market, just like any other business and product, all to maximize their return. Given the, now, low return from digital sales and the extreme saturation of available music, this model has changed and you basically have to already be profitable before you will be taken seriously. Further, everyone has all but relegated to compete for listeners online (usually on the same limited sites and social media platforms). To make matters worse, the algorithms that expose content to people on these sites are always changing, making it even harder to get exposed without any kind of substantial investment.
Think of it this way… Beatport, one of the more popular digital retail outlets for dance music, has over 4.6 million songs just in their Progressive House genre alone. When they first started 11 years ago, you could search and sort by artist, the site is so saturated now that it no longer remains an option. Further, let’s just use a safe round number and say that you are competing with 1,000,000 other artists worldwide for attention. This means you have a .0001% of making into the top 100. Want to be a top 10 artist you say? Well, then that would be .00001% (and this is all assuming of course that your music isn’t complete crap, which, odds are it is).
The truth is that the odds you are going to be a superstar are very low, sorry to be the one to have to break it to you. Unless you are one of those lucky few that just happens to make the right kind of network, or have the right amount of funds to invest millions in advertising, you might want to start making friends with that hipster after all.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know that there are always exceptions to the rule and that there are examples of your sister’s cousin’s ex-roomate’s, former dog’s owner’s lover that made it to the big time after being discovered in the ghetto while doing dishes in the back next to the toilet. There is a reason those stories stand out, because there are extremely rare. Being at the right place at the right time can play a role when extreme talent is involved, but access to a good network is still key even in those cases.
Disclaimer part 2: I’m not trying to discourage you from making music or following your dreams. Ultimately I just want you to be realistic about your goals and how to get there. If you have real passion for the music, and you have a vision that you really want to share, share it. Now, if you are just trying to be famous for the sake of being famous, I am actually trying to discourage you. The music industry is saturated with enough meaningless crappy songs, quit.
How to become a successful music producer
Step 1: Don’t take yourself too seriously.