Fleecing The Indie Community: The Song Shark Controversy
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the industry a new scam comes along again, creating distrust among the indie community. Scams are nothing new in the business and many have been exposed and dismantled, but today's technology makes it easier for crooked minds to think up new twists on old themes. In the music trade they're called "song sharks." A song shark preys on hopeful musicians and bands, playing on their egos and their desires for fame and fortune, ultimately draining the bands' production funds and leaving them with little more than credit card debt.
Recently, I was asked to look into a new company called 97 Radio, who is also suspected of being affiliated with Talent 2K. For a minimum fee of $597 this company claims that they will shop your music to radio stations and record labels, guaranteeing a signing or they will refund your money. This promise peaked my interest and I felt obligated to do a more in-depth investigation, where I reaped some interesting results. Reports from the artists and the company conflict and bring into question the legitimacy of the allegations and the operations. In my quest to get down to the bottom of this controversy, I contacted hundreds of artists as well as 97 Radio's Thomas McManus (Office Manager) and Talent 2K's Carlo Oddo (Owner).
Of course, my first step was to contact the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB, 97 Radio was only launched in September of 2002, with Michael Anthony as the owner, so there's really no history on the company as it's too new. More interesting still, the company also does business as 97 Radio By Oddo. Carlo Oddo says he sold the company to Anthony and operates only Talent 2K. A whois search at Network Solutions on 97radio.com produced no name, just 97 Radio as the Administrative Contact and a Victoria Martin as the Technical Contact. Their street address is listed as being in Beverly Hills, California when the company is actually based out of Sun City, Arizona.
My next step was a Google search where I found Song Shark. This site directly affiliates 97 Radio with Talent 2K through several anonymous letters from artists supposedly having dealt with Talent 2K and 97 Radio. Oddo defends his company against the allegations presented on the site. He also directed me to a site called Song Sharks, which rebuts the testimonies on Song Shark and redirects suspicion upon David Hooper, the alleged owner of Song Shark and organizer of 2NMC. I found out through a new search on the BBB that Talent 2K had its BBB license revoked in January 2003 for non-compliance with BBB standards and policies. The BBB states that Talent 2K's " ... membership in the BBB was revoked due to a failure to cooperate with the Bureau's efforts to promote voluntary self-regulation and a failure to support the principles and purposes of the Bureau by engaging in activity that reflects unfavorably on the Bureau and its members." I also turned up a whois search showing Victoria Martin as the Technical Contact. In addition, both companies are contained at the Sun City street address, according to their web sites.
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McManus responded by stating, "97 Radio and talent 2K are separate companies. 97 Radio focused on radio and Talent 2K on labels. They were, at one time, owned by the same person. 97 Radio has since been sold to Michael Anthony, and all employees are different. Anyone is welcome to visit our office to see for themselves."
Carlo Oddo corroborated this statement.
When asked why the BBB revoked his membership, Oddo replied, "I'm sorry I can't talk much due to pending legalities, but I will tell you I was blackballed by them. When this happened, we had a trial of board members from the BBB. They testified before we even arrived. I have had my problems with the BBB. They demanded I refund someone that I got signed and I was upset. I argued with the lady and was suspended the next day. I have her on audiotape lying if you'd like to hear it. People need to know the BBB is not government. Here is a little about the BBB credibility: http://www.edu-usa.com/ocr_bbb.html. I work with the biggest names in the music industry. The BBB has no clue about what we do. I make stars. I don't play games ... I don't listen to BS."
According to feedback I received from artists that have signed up for 97 Radio's service, many feel that the company did not follow through with their obligations and in many cases were completely neglectful. These artists say the company even sent them bogus reports showing radio station play stats and "interested" record labels. When asked by one artist for a list of the cities where these stations were located, 97 Radio's reps allegedly evaded the issue or ignored it altogether.
McManus says it would never happen: "This has never been brought to my attention. I would need more info to answer this correctly. But send bogus reports? Never would happen. Bands pay us to send their music out and that is exactly what we do. Again, I must remind you it is up to the people on the other end to play them, not 97 Radio, and the reason we do not provide the contact is because the bands call them and upset them. That is why they are using a service. As you know labels and radio do not want to hear from artists, only attorneys or managers. And once a band does this, we will terminate their contract. Everyone says they won't contact them but trust me they all do. I lost some great contacts for this reason. Bands need to learn more about the music industry to be protected and to just gain knowledge. Most bands think they know but they don't. Every band in the world should read 'Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business' by Donald Passman. Best book ever."
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