Tell Us Your Music Business Horror Stories!

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Have you experienced a copyright catastrophe and lived to tell about it?

Last year, we asked CD Baby artists to share their tales of musical terror. Most of these involved embarrassing moments on stage, creative differences, drunkenness, and the like. But a few of the more interesting plot lines were about trouble in the realms of intellectual property law.

Have you ever been the victim of copyright infringement? Ever been ripped off by a label, manager, or promoter? Ever had trouble getting your band name trademarked? Ever had someone steal your idea? Ever needed to take action to prove the law was on your side?

Contact the law offices of…

Just kidding.

Instead, please tell us about your experience in the comments section below so the whole CD Baby community can learn from your cautionary copyright tales.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

Sell your music on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Rhapsody, Napster, Spotify, and more!

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  • I have been ripped off by tunecore when they said they could get my music on the top radio stations for $400. That company is a scam artist trying to find desperate artist to get there voices heard. CDbaby is awesome.

    • Hey Will, thanks for sharing. But was it really Tunecore that promised you radio play? They are a digital distribution company. I hadn't heard that they were doing any radio promotion. In any event, professional radio campaigns cost thousands of dollars. To get sustained results on commercial stations, I can't even imagine how much that costs. Tens of thousands of dollars, probably.

      • Yup. A few years ago we spent a few hundred on a promo company and could only afford club DJ promos (they play it and supply feedback of how the track went down). Radio promo was a whole other league of money, and this is tiny UK.

      • ianmcgrady

        last I checked 50k

  • Juapi

    Right now I'm in the process of trademarking my band's name, In Dependence, but they want to deny the trademark because there is a musical group with the name Independence Jazz Reunion. They say that there is a lot of similarity on both names. But I'm still trying to trade mark it.

  • cdbaby artist

    I have very tight control of my inventory and know the names of everyone who has ever purchased on eof my CD's. That's why I found it disturbing to see some clown on Ebay listing my CD for sale, and claiming a copyright on promo copy I wrote myself too. I believe this guy is ripping artists off selling copies of their work that he has reproduced somehow. If he hasn't reproduced my CD, how did he get copies without me knowing about it or being paid for them and if he did buy them from me, how can he turn around and sell them unopened and NEW for less than I charge?
    http://shop.ebay.com/jmurr335/m.html?_nkw=&_a

    • He might just plan on ordering some from you if anybody orders from him. I've seen people do this. It's not really illegal. And rarely do they sell any because the price is so marked up.

      • Spekki

        Totally. A couple of weeks ago I found discovered that my 2007 cd was available on a French website for £124! I’m pretty certain no one is going to buy that – especially as you can buy them here and on my website for about £5…

    • DaveytheK

      Many reviewers and DJs make a little money on the side by selling promo copies. It’s very common, and maybe not ethical, but it’s pretty much accepted practice. These guys make little or no money promoting indie artists, so I decided not to get uoset when I see my CDs on Ebay or in the record store (remember record stores?) for a buck.

    • ianmcgrady

      report the sale to ebay as infringement on your copyright?

  • Simon

    I play in The Slants and our horror story has become national news/front page headlines in the Oregonian.

    Despite everyone in the band being of Asian American descent and playing for a large Asian American fanbase, the US Trademark Office declined our trademark registration under the premise that our band name is offensive to a major amount of Asians. The evidence? They quoted urbandictionary.com and a few other questionable sources.

    We just responded to their 5 page rejection letter with a 250 page return full of evidence from the Asian community, legal experts, national surveys, media coverage, and linguistics experts showing that our name is not offensive.

    Here’s the Oregonian article: http://www.oregonlive.com/music/index.ssf/2011/03/portland_band_the_slants_and_t.html

  • My all time most embarressing moment on stage was at a solo gig, when I first started playing and wasn’t very good, there was just one person watching and at the end of each song he ‘clapped’ by patting on the bar. Thinking he was being too lazy to clap properly eventually I joked “There’s nothing like the sound of one hand clapping.” To which he replied, “but I’ve only got one hand” he held up his arms to prove it. I was mortified, there was still half an hour to play, I think it was the longest half hour of my life- he stayed to watch the whole set.

  • This is about video rather than music, but I posted a trailer on YouTube and within less than 24 hours, I happened upon it on someone else´s web site! Yes, they did include my name (because I had included my name as part of the title of the trailer). And yes, they also included a link to YouTube, but it still set me back a bit. Now, I try to remember to imbed my logo on anything that I post on YouTube. And of course, I put the copyright symbol and our web site in the ending credits along with the names of the actors, musicians, etc.

  • Venting Musician

    I have a tale of strange coincidence… Or is it?

    Started a band back in 2005 and had my friend’s sister draft an original logo for us. She’s an art student at the local university and made a red/black logo that’s a circle with a stylized backwards letter R and forwards E. The design is simple but the way the letters fit together and curve with the circle make it somewhat unique. She swears that it’s an original design.

    Two years later while drifting through youtube I discover a band out of Poland that has the exact same name as my band… Playing some pretty big gigs… Here’s the strange part. My band consists of two guitarists, bass, drums, an accordion, and a trumpet… Their band consists of a vocalist/guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, bass, drums, and accordion, and a trumpet as well! The difference being that we’re an upbeat rock band and they’re a slow folk band.
    To make matters worse I found their website and their logo is a black/white circle with a backwards R and forwards E with the same curves as ours… Beyond the addition of an arrow at the end of each letter it would be a black and white of our logo. To make matters worse our fans are looking at their videos and asking questions about our tour through Poland, wondering why we suddenly went folk, and a few websites like grooveshark have them listed as the primary users of our shared name, mixing up our music and fanbases! I saw comments from people saying things like “I thought you guys were supposed to be rock,” and “This isn’t the band I used to know” and was pretty much powerless to do anything because some websites don’t allow multiples of the same band to exist. (either grooveshark or last.fm still won’t let me make a separate page for them/us) Unable to speak Polish we didn’t do anything for a few years but it appears that they disbanded a few months later.

    Another interesting addition to this story is the fact that a local festival invited us to play and when we got there we discovered that their logo which is on tee shirts, banners, and posters looks identical to ours as well… I know what you’re probably thinking: My band’s logo is too simple perhaps. But let me add that it is a carbon copy of our logo (I printed off a copy of each and put them on top of one another). Even the thickness of the lines they used matched ours! They just changed the color scheme. It’s pretty irritating to have people ask why we ripped of the festival’s logo, but otherwise I don’t think it’s worth fighting about.

    • Amazing 🙂

      Our band is Crashtv (ex band, now we just do remixes under this name, about 90 so far, some released, some not).

      There’s a band in India called the same doing light rock (whereas we do hard… anything). As a band crashtv go back to our first release in 1992 (?) and two albums since, so well established, and a long time on that stupid internet ‘band name register’.

      I did contact them and politely suggest their same name was causing some confusion, especially on Youtube. They never replied.

      Not a remotely funny story, and no one died. Some would say it’s not even remotely interesting.

      I’m just saying I understand when you kinda get hijacked as a name (albeit a tiny one in our case).

      Peter

  • Jeffn9

    With my last band, Science Hill, we got signed to small indie label who got us distribution through BCD Distribution (I think they are now Deep Distribution if they are even still around). Long story short, they took care of all of our digital distro and we still haven’t seen a penny from those sales to this day.

  • Eek! If your music is still distributed through them see if you can send a cease and desist!

  • Setra

    My entry into the music business was being ripped of by a producer. I was in a recording studio in New York several years ago, recording a remake of Aretha Franklin’s Daydreaming. A producer in another studio in the facility heard the music as he was passing my studio. He knocked on my door and asked if he could purchase my track for his artist. I said, “Sure!” We met a few days later to work out the details. I was to get concept credit and the musicians who worked on the track with me were to get credit as well. Also if they kept any of the background vocals, I was to get credit for that as well. The producer (whose shall remain nameless) asked if I wanted a point on the album or a buyout fee. Since he was purchasing the track for a new artist, I opted for the buyout fee. We signed the agreement, I got my check and went on my merry way.
    The producer said he’d let me know when the new artist’s album was about to drop. I never heard from him again.
    I was also dancing at the time and from time to time would get a call from my agent to audition for a music production. A few months after I’d sold the Daydreaming track, I got a call from my agent to go downtown to audition for a music video producer who was looking for dancers. I auditioned and got the gig. They said they wanted a dancer who looked like a younger version of the artist and I fit the bill. I danced to the song, they filmed it, and I left.
    On the way home, I decided to stop into a music store that was right downstairs from my building. I liked to just look at the CD album art, to get ideas. I noticed a CD with the name of the artist whose video I’d just come from dancing for. I flipped it over to see the song list. Daydreaming was one of the songs.
    “Hmmm, interesting,” I thought. I bought the CD and took it home, popping it into my CD player as soon as I got home. My voice jumped out of the speakers singing, “Daydreamin’ and I’m thinkin’ of you!”
    I immediately scanned the credits and the only place my name could be found was “background vocal arrangement.” No mention at all of my even performing the background vocals. Yet, as I continued to listen to the track, there my voice was on every chorus.
    I called an attorney that I knew. I wasn’t successful enough yet to have my own attorney. He asked me to send him the agreement. He called me after he’d received the agreement and had a chance to look it over.
    “I called the label” he said. “From what I can tell, the album’s not really making any money. Ordinarily, we’d ask for them to pull the album, make the credit corrections, and re-release it. However, seeing as how they’re not even promoting it any more and are not doing another production run, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
    “Can we sue them,” I asked. After all, the producer has to sign a document when he submits a track to a label stating that the music is free and clear of all encumbrances.
    “We could,” the attorney said, “but I think it’s a losing situation. And not one that I would be willing to undertake without a substantial retainer.”
    I contacted a few other attorney, and all said pretty much the same thing. Not worth the fight.
    I chalked it up to a lesson learned. At least I got the payout fee and, since the album didn’t really sell, I probably made more money than the artist.

  • Brazilbeat

    I got the fright of my life when he found a photo of myself gracing the cover of a CD released internationally by the Discovery Channel and on sale at Real Groovy Records in Auckland, New Zealand.

    The ‘Brazilian Voices’ CD was a compilation of contemporary Brazilian music, released in 2005 as one of a six-part Discovery Channel “Musical Explorer” series.

    I felt like my soul was stolen. No one ever asked permission to use my photo on the cover of this product. It was shocking.

    The photo shows me playing a djembe drum and has featured my band’s website (www.brazilbeat.org) since 2002 as well as being used on press releases, flyers, posters and other publications and promotional materials. Copyright is reserved on all pages of the BrazilBeat Sound System website.
    It was obvious they stole the photo from my website because you can see that the CD ‘cover is low resolution. I can’t use this image anymore to promote my music. Discovery Channel exploited my face and my talent to sell a music product. My artistic persona was compromised. It’s so difficult to be an independent musician without suffering something like this.

    After coming across the CD we sought legal advice in NZ, and subsequently engaged the services of a North American attorney, specialist in copyright law, to pursue Discovery through its corporate headquarters in Washington DC. Months of wrangling with the company and thousands of dollars in legal bills later, there is no settlement. Discovery Channel removed all references to the product from its sites and merchant sites.

  • Six years ago when I was still very new to recording/writing etc. I wanted to put together an EP to pitch it to a connection through a friend. In a bit of hurry to find a good engineer/producer, I took the recommendation of my guitarist at the time, and recorded with his old engineer. I paid $40 an hour and it wound up sounding like crap. He would do shady things too, like saying “everyone” doubles their choruses seven times to give it the right punch, in order to draw out the process. I wound up going in debt 3 grand for it, and only 6 months later as my ears grew more skilled did I realize how bad it sounded.

    Thankfully, after that , I started recording with a kid from my high school who goes to Berklee for engineering. Even at the beginning, a few years ago, his recordings sounded better than the EP from hell at a fraction of the price, and since I’ve stuck with him and recorded tons of hours with him over the years, I get now-sounding Sony quality recordings for a mere $20/hr, and it’s allowed me to learn how to produce music well enough that I’m starting to get hired to produce other band’s music for them.

    http://www.noahsilvermusic.com if you feel like giving a listen.

    p.s.
    That first engineer wound up spending all that money on crack. No joke.

  • Flummoxed

    As a long time recording artist with a full 19 albums, 5 singles and my twentieth CD under way, I can honestly say I’m flabbergasted at a current publishing fraud situation that the performing rights society to which I belong (ASCAP) seems to be a party.

    Sometime ago, I was offered a “publishing deal” by Ganzic Muzik to change my music to BMI in order to get airplay on an internet radio station. (Lastfm, I believe). When I got the paperwork, it was apparent that that I would forgo my publishing so I wisely refused to sign the documents.
    Apparently, someone at Ganzic Muzik changed/forged my signature and thus my publishing rights on SEVENTY THREE songs of mine, which were registered under Earthstay music at ASCAP.
    To my horror, I discovered this when I checked/added songs to my catalog at the ASCAP website in order for my songs to be added to PumpAudio’s library.
    I contacted Greg Potter at ASCAP by phone immediately, told him the situation in February of 2010 and was told to email the details of the situation and was assured they would change the publishing back to Earthstay Music, which is my publishing company.
    I followed up with several emails and have heard nothing, and it has not been changed to this date. Emails remain UNANSWERED.
    I don’t have the funds to get a music attorney, which is probably what I need to rectify this ridiculous situation, but it exists nonetheless.

    Kind of a shame to have put my life, my time, and needless to say tons of money into my music only to have someone else try to reap the rewards.

  • Greentree

    The first time we toured Taiwan, we were wonderfully treated. We performed at marvelous concert halls, stayed at 5-star hotels, did a National Press Conference… At the conclusion of each concert, we signed CDs for fans for up to two hours! The kicker: every one of those CDs we signed was a pirated copy!!! We earned not a penny from the sales. But we had such a good time, and the concerts paid so well, that we went back again…

    • Sounds like in that case it was better they had your music than not. Thanks for the story. Sounds like a great time!

  • Bradley Sowash

    In the 80's, I paid $2,500 as a retainer to a "well-connected" entertainment lawyer to shop my demo to labels. The only thing I received was a logo stamped napkin from a NYC restaurant with a note in it saying that he had discussed my project with a nameless record company exec over lunch. That's it – a $2,500 napkin!

  • Danielafreedman

    My “friend” was throwing a party in Hollywood which he asked me to join. It was for annimators and other people in the biz. I’d brought along some drawings from my musical “Pearl and the Pumpkin”.
    I was introduced to Naomi Greenberg who worked for Nickleodeon. She liked my ideas especially the underwater theme and drawings. She said she’d be in touch. About six months later I was asked a series of questions about copyright etc. of my show. My “friend” seemed excited, but wouldn’t tell me what was up. About six months after that “SponguBob Square Pants premiered on TV. It was a Billion dollar idea that I helped start and I never received a dime! They have all the lawyers and all the cloat.
    How many ways can you say F*** you in Hoolywoodese.

  • Dadler

    I’m a Christian songwriter and I had my first big breakthrough song by having my song “It is Good” being recorded by international worship artist Ron Kenoly on the Integrity Label back in 2001. He recorded it live in Italy and had a CD and video of the song distributed internationally. So when it was scheduled to come out, I ran to the store to get a copy. I was excited to see the title on the CD but when I opened up the credit sheet, it said “It is Good” – written by Ron Kenoly, published by Integrity Music! Both writer and publisher were wrong. I was devastated. I called up the company and they gave me an apology and say that these things sometimes happen and that they’d be sure I got my royalties and that they’d fix the info in the next printing. But there was already a ton of CD’s and songbooks out there with the wrong info. Major bummer

  • Lately’s Captain

    So last year my band was playing a gig at some dive bar that we never should have played to begin with. We were one of many bands that night and when it came time for us to play, we started setting up diligently. I noticed immediately that the “sound man” was also the owner of the bar / bouncer / manager / whatever else needed to be done around there. Typical. One difference – he was extremely overweight and very sweaty. Not thinking much of it at first, we proceeded to sound check. He had us set up in very specific places and wouldn’t let us move. I noticed immediately that my mic was right in line with the front speakers. Inevitably it started squealing. Since I couldn’t move back (literally no room), I suggested to the sound man that he move the speakers forward a bit. He ignored me. They squeaked more. I suggested again. He ignored me. They squealed piercingly. I suggested again (mind you, ever so politely every time). By my third suggestion he slammed his hands on the sound board and stared yelling “Get the f*** off my stage you diva! You’re not playing tonight! Get the f*** out of here! NEXT BAND!” I was shocked! I started shaking and my band and roadies jumped on to the stage and started packing up, no questions asked. Turned out that the dude was hopped up on speed. Nice and classy.

  • Ouch!

  • Did they fix it for the second pressing?

  • Maybe he did you a favor in the end. Sounds like a real $#%^$@#*!

  • Glad you found a more suitable engineer!

  • Wow. Sorry you're having to wade through the legal muck on that one. Let us know if you ever get any resolution.

  • Wow. What a series of events to lead up to that. Like you said, you probably DID make more money than the artist, so there is that small consolation. Thanks for sharing.

  • Yeah. In the pre-internet days, an Indian band with the same name probably wouldn't have been a big deal. But now…

  • My band fired our agent and while they were suing us for a breach of contract, we discovered they had been selling our cd without paying us.

    Then I remembered something that struck me as odd (but didn’t make the connection until then)… previously, I was at a music store that carried our cd and the clerk told me that when he scans our cd, it reads “miscellaneous music”. We couldn’t afford a countersuit so we just cut our losses.

    Lesson learned: follow the money and count every penny!

  • Vinkelheimer

    Here’s a bit of contract language that musicians should watch out for – it’s related to the issue of “work-for-hire.” I wrote some music for a publisher here in Nashville (a print publication) and found out later that I had signed away my performance rights for the music because in the contract it was (illegitimately) called a “work-for-hire.” To learn more about this, please visit StopWorkforHire.com. The web site relates to graphic artists, but the principles are the same because they relate to all types of intellectual property.

  • Lb4311

    I was about 8 yrs. old and i had to play a pipe organ for a vietnam Christmas service…i am of the african american culture and i didn't know their language…so you can imagine how that gig went.

  • I met this producer over the phone from a friend. He sweet talked me, telling me how awesome my music is and saying that I should do another record, or re-produce the one I have. After two weeks he dropped the bomb that his services would cost $25 K. Of course I couldn't afford it. So I asked about a radio tour. He said that would cost $15 K. Again, couldn't afford that. He then said he'd do a modified, local radio tour, and that would cost $7, 500, and that he and a radio promoter in the Seattle area would hawk my stuff to local radio for that price. Couldn't do that either. I then dipped into my savings to see what he could do for $3 K. He said he'd give me music advice for a few months. The first piece of advice he gave me was to revisit the radio campaign- for the original $7, 500.
    Moral of this story- be careful who you work with- A LOT of these people in the industry have no real interest in you, just your money!

  • I am four years late to this thread, but yes, I have been a victim of copyright infringement. I wrote and recorded some demos of fully, completed songs in 2004-2005. I started a band and decided to rerecord the songs with the newly added pianos/2nd guitar parts. However, nothing on the songs changed structurally, melodically, or musically other than adding the piano and 2nd guitar parts over top of the existing songs. Long story short, after we disbanded due to a crazy, sociopathic piano player, among other band drama issues, I found out years later that he copyrighted all of my music. He even removed my vocals from the original master CD and had another girl rewrite completely new lyrics/melody over my music. I spoke with her and told her the truth about the songs, along with showing her the original versions, and she bailed out of that project. He did it again another time, this time with new born Christian songwriters, over my music, but I haven’t heard that yet. Anyhow, I was browsing Spotify and iTunes, and there it was, my CD, The Edwards “Psychoromanticism.” I saw it before on CD Baby and emailed them, but never got the situation remedied. I am not under any record contracts, publishing deals, etc. The fraudulent copyrighter paid 1/5th of the recording expenses with the band, lost his gig when we disbanded, and starting selling my work as if it were his own. CD BABY, please do the right thing and get my music off of iTunes/Spotify/Amazon and so forth. I am currently seeking counsel to get my music back in my name from this crook. I will spend thousands on music that isn’t making anyone money, but its my music. There was never even the slightest hint of giving my music away to anyone else. That is my heartbreak, blood, sweat, and tears in every lyric and chord of those songs. Here is the link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/theedward

    • That sucks. What a painful creative ordeal. Sorry to hear about it. Please write to us at cdbaby@cdbaby.com with all the copyright details and we can have our copyright dispute expert look into it for you.

      @ChrisRobley