Compilation Hell

It's 12:30 on a Tuesday night.... you can't sleep... you spent all day- nose to someone else's grindstone....come home and.... NAP!! EeeeekkkK!!!! You knew you shouldn't have snoozed during Jerry's All Star Urban Redneck Brawl. D'oh! Now you're at the mercy of... LATE NIGHT TELEVISION NOTHINGNESS!!!!!!!

ffftp[CH. 5] "The largest prune is located in this state?" "What is"ffffffffffttttp[CH 6.] "Our top story tonight"fffffffftppppppt[CH. 7] "But I hate getting up to pee. Is there anything I can do???"ffffffftttppppppppt[CH.8] "Now! You can own all your favorite hits on this 2 CD collection. 46 hits, by the original stars- for only $29.95. Act now, and we'll throw in this handy miracle comb!"fffffffftttttppppp[click].

Ahhhh, channel surfing. The wonders of the universe, coming to you via the infamous black box and boob tube; enough infomercialistic goodness to lull you into oblivion. And within all that fun, you're guaranteed to witness the dreaded "CD collection of your favorite soft melodies from 1973... AM Doldrums!!!"

Compilation CD's. Marketing tool? Scam? Publicity vehicle? Gamble? Maybe all of the above- in moderation, of course. Why do it? Why not? What will you gain from it... or loose. What are the gains and setbacks from these releases? We're going to take a look at some of these questions, from an independent musicians point of view (of course!). ..and then a cute little bedtime tale from your Uncle Bingo.

Why... Not?

First question: why appear on a compilation project? Well, increased notoriety for one..... expanded fanbase...... maybe it'll end up on a CD player owned by your favorite artist's aromatherapist's nephew..... hell, just one more thing to put on your musical resume. C'mon, every little bit helps.... at least that's what you'll be pitched from the perspective group organizing the CD.

Now, these are valid reasons. In fact, they're great reasons. "Geeze.. all I have to do is get my stuff on this disc, and it'll go EVERYWHERE!!!". It can't be that easy. Yup, you got it... it's not. Just like being on a label, you are at the mercy of the marketing guru of the project. If they do minimal pushing, you'll receive minimal response, and it will sit in his basement. If they know their stuff, and have done their homework, then it has a better chance of opening new doors.

Now, before we go any further, I'm not totally against compilation CD projects. I just think that before you jump in and send your stuff to Mr. Featherstone's production company for that "digital remaster" your tune "so desperately needs" before it can be added (for a minimal fee.. of course) to the project, that you should DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!! Find out who you're doing business with. Ask for names and contact info for the other artists involved. Is it a contractual agreement (be SURE to READ and UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING. If you can't, find someone who does.). I can't stress that enough! Ask for a business plan... marketing plan....ask ask ask. If they can't answer your questions, or refuse information to you- be wary. Mmmmm..Mongoose smell Snake.

Wampum, Denero, Pesos, And Other Forms Of Pocket Change

So things look on the up and up with these characters. You really want to join the project. Sound publicity plan.. good distribution of product.. the guy sounds genuinely fit in the noggin. So why does it cost so much money?

Well, nothing good is free... and nothing bad is, either. I was asked to join a project a few weeks back (as of this writing). It was from a semi successful distributor, who was going to do a disc in cahoots with a very successful music magazine. 8000 copies to be pressed... one freebie per issue was the plan. Sounds good, eh? Well, the cost was $300.00 per minute to be on this CD. So, let's do some math:

Average song: 4 minutes x 300 clams = $1200.00/artist or band

Max. length of a Compact Disc: 74 minutes x 300 = $22,200.00

Price per unit (8000 pcs.)= $1.31 (that is from a reputable replication advertiser.. who is generally overpriced.)

Replication cost: 1.31x8000 = $10,480.00

22,000.00 - 10,480.00 = 11,520.00

Ad rate (because he told you it would be advertised in that issue. [SIDE NOTE: I wonder why they would spend money doing a full page ad in the magazine that includes the CD? You know it's there- you got a copy for free!!!!]): we'll say $2,000.00 for a snazzy full page ad.

So, we're down to $9,520.00. Not bad for making phone calls and rounding up a bunch of starving musicians and giving them a chance at some exposure. Of course, the contact info (in the ad) would state that you have to buy your next CD (you DID record another one, right??? :) through his distribution company (hey- why not extract more $$ from the fruits of your labor!). Who said you can't turn a profit in this business??? ;)

Of course, I was interested, but when asking for a contract, I was given the cold shoulder. Upon contacting the magazine, they weren't too clear on this project, either. I declined doing the project.

Now, on the flip side....

If you figure that 10% of the 8000 freebies might generate sales (800), and each consumer (the formentioned 10%) purchases your latest release at (let's say) $5.00 (what you will make per sale). That is a total of $4000.00. Not bad. You can buy a "get outta jail free" card with that cake! Even 5% yields more than just breaking even. Of course, you could just flip a coin and...

In Our Previous Episode

What column would be right without a nice horror story to hammer the point home!

I was asked to do my first (and subsequently my worst) compilation CD project about 5 years ago. I had just finished an EP of guitar stuff. This guy (we'll call him Richard) called me up. He heard from a friend of a friend of his local postmaster about me, and my guitar pseudoaerobics. Wants to include me in his compilation project. Tells me stupendous strategies for this digital fiasco. He sends the info, I read it. I'm new at this, and still getting my footing. I say "yes" to this (and part with $350.00 of blue collar salvation) and sign a contract. It was a basic "we'll do our part, you own the song, don't try to screw us, we're not responsible for your failure."

Well, the disc came out.. and my song wasn't on it. Hmmmm.... there must be some mistake. I didn't even get a phone call! So I did the stupidest thing I could muster: I let it go. [fast forward 2.5 years]

I get a call from Richard. Seems that 3 bands were overbooked (overlooked, maybe??) on this project. He gives me this cock and bull story about the replication plant screwing up. (They were responsible for doing a complete 10 CD full color project and editing 3 bands off of the discs? Huh?? lame excuse?) Proceeds to offer me a free slot on the second project he's doing. Now, I had already written that first one off as an expensive learning experience, so I figured (since I'd paid for it over 2 years ago), Sure.. why not. So, a year later, the next wave of CD's come out. I've changed my song submission from the previous attempt.

Now, let's review a little legal thing: the contract. I signed a contract to do the first project with a certain song, for a certain price, for a certain duration. He had broken that contract by not fulfilling his obligation. Plus, the time limit had expired. I had not signed a new contract, nor an amended version of the original. I was included on this project by his word. So......[[ff another year]]

The disc comes out. I've just relocated to Los Angeles. I get my one lousy copy. I don't know what Dick has got planned for this CD, but I'm not interested anymore. He's got me listed on his website as part of the project (and he's got the scrotum to call it the "Official Joe Bochar Homepage". Now I've got a gazillion search engines pointing to a page that is not a true representation of me.) Now, I'm WAY too busy with moving, setting up a life, job, playing, and finishing a new CD (which was Orange) to pay attention, until........

I noticed 3 links on the "Official" page: one to order the disc (which goes to my old order page); one to join Joe's "mailing list"; and one to "email Joe". Now, the last 2 links go directly to his mail server. He also states that the song is from his compilation CD, and not from ANVILHEAD (the song was Cracker). Needless to say, I'm concerned......

He calls me up one day in the summer of 1999. He's got an idea. Since the CD is doing soooooooo well, he's decided to try to keep the project solidified with a new idea: a website strictly for the project. Ingenious, eh? ;) I told him I wasn't interested. He contacted me again in the fall. Dick said that he's been getting quite a lot of feedback about my song, and has an offer for me (as well as the other bands):

I would sign a contract (I can't believe he even wanted that!!!) that grants me permission to submit one new song every 30 days, to him, to shop to "record executives". Oh, another little side note... In a previous conversation, he was foolish enough to tell me that he was shopping band to labels, managers, and agents, and taking points from the deal as a "finders fee". 5 or 10, i don't really remember.

I told him no. He got pissy, snippy, and short with the remainder of the conversation (which lasted about 20 seconds). He contacted me AGAIN, 3 weeks later. Has ANOTHER idea:

Since I've been receiving email through his version of my webpage, and he doesn't want to "break up the group", he's offering us his services on the previously mentioned webpage (i.e.: 2 email links to HIS mail server) for a sum of $20.00/month. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

Okay Dickie: 20 clams a month to get email? I told him that it was insane. (Here's where it gets interesting....) He asked "How will people know how to contact you?" (Ummmm.... the search engines?) He told me that he had "so and so" from Sony records in his living room that evening. Okay. Whatever. I do not like name dropping. It means nothing... really.

I then ask him for all of the names and email from those links up to and including that day (since they're supposed to go to me). He didn't want to do that. I told him that I did not like the idea of being misrepresented (on the web), and the possibilities of someone answering for me. He then told me that I signed a contract with him for this project. At this point, the top of my head pops with a burst of steam, does a perfect 360, and lands back on my lid, while I shit a Chinese brick out my ear into the 4th dimension! I proceeded to describe to him all of the points that he broke in the original contract, and reminded him that I did not sign a new or amended contract for this project. I told him I didn't want to get into legalese with this.. I just wanted those names. He babbles about his brother in law being a lawyer, and all this smack. I just want my stuff, and to have the page removed from the server. He says it's in the mail.

Two weeks later, I get an email from him. He told me that he removed the 2 email links, would not update the order link (to my old site.. where I still have access to anyway), and didn't remove the page. He told me that I got my money's worth from him, and that's all I was getting. I called him and asked about the names. He lied to me and said he never told me he was sending me anything.

So, the moral: Do your homework. If it sounds too easy, then be wary.

The End Credits

Well, there's my horror story. A little lengthy (and I left stuff out!!), but nonetheless, a learning experience.

The gist of this was to point out that most everything in this business is a gamble. But you can narrow your odds down if you do a little legwork, and research who you are working with. Maybe that 8000 CD/magazine thing worked out great. I don't know. And I know it's not the last offer in the world, either. Ultimately, it's your music, your money, your investment. You decide.

Now, I just saw a groovy ad for this Polka CD collection. Digitally remastered!! And a remix of "After I knocked you down, I kicked you in the elbow". Think I'm gonna two-step it over to Mr. Tele and call toll free! [yawn]

Joe Bochar is an original guitarist originally from Rhode Island. When he's not playing with his guitar or Lego's, Joe can be found wandering the streets of Los Angeles, pedaling crack to lonesome, down and out 3-legged mice who suffer from fromagaphobia.

His latest project is "X", a self-produced instrumental guitar CD release.

Joe Bochar