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So you want to be in a rock band?: Beware of skeptical CD sales overseas

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | January 21st, 2008

Continuing on from last week's rant regarding the numerous ways in which musicians are being swindled, here's an overview of some of the latest emerging scam artist tactics that are even more cleverly disguised than those previously discussed:

Overseas album distribution offers
If you've decided to go it alone like many indie bands these days, this opportunity will likely come a-knocking at your door. Because greater CD distribution (in theory) means greater potential for exposure and profit margin, receiving a retail distribution offering from an overseas company seems like an offer you cannot refuse.

These scams typically involve the request of a bulk number of discs (sold at a wholesale discounted rate) in exchange for upfront cash. These overseas retailers offer visibility in their small chain of stores, and guarantee sales. Unlike authentic independent retailers who usually take the albums of unsigned acts on consignment, this deal is extra tempting because it has the allure of offering upfront money.

At this point, I hope you're starting to see the pattern - any business deal (especially the music industry) in which there is an offering of upfront money should make you run screaming (well, maybe not screaming, but run) in the opposite direction. Regardless of how talented and amazing your act may be no business (that is worth working with) will ever offer you upfront cash without enforcing some sort of collateral, so that the onus for sales/partnership is equally on you.

Embracing the best elements (note the sarcasm) of fellow ploys, this alteration on the 419 scam is not only a money laundering endeavour, but also because no contractual agreement is devised in these offers, your CDs (at least some cheap copies) will likely end up again being sold on the streets. Additionally troublesome is the fact that if no sale terms are agreed upon, this retailer could, in theory, charge as much or as little for your disc in his/her shop(s) without entitling you to any royalty share of the sales. By the time you've realized that the cheque issued to you was either fraudulent or part of a money laundering scheme, you've already sent off your CDs, and there is no way you'll be getting them back. The cash provided to you is completely worthless, and you've just lost a whole bunch of inventory that was expensive to manufacture in the first place.

To avoid finding yourself in this sticky situation, ensure that you:

1) NEVER give anyone your music without a contract outlining the terms of sale, length of sale terms, commissions to be paid, and obligations of the involved parties.
2) If payment is to be provided upfront for your goods, request a certified cheque or certified money order (this means that the money physically has to be in the merchant's account at the time the cheque/money order was processed) and do NOT send any of your product until the cheque/money order has been approved by your financial institution (I recommend waiting at least one-to-two weeks).
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