News & Editorial Archives, 2016


Band Contracts, the Long and the Short
October 15, 2016


In a nutshell, a band contract is a document that spells out the details of a public performance agreement, such as the performance date and time, location, and compensation. When it is signed by both the purchaser and the bandleader, the document becomes legally binding. Some contracts are very basic, while others can be pages long. My band's contract is only one page long. The top section covers all of the details (what, when, where, etc.) in an easy-to-read table format. The middle section lists conditions. The bottom section is where both the purchaser and I sign and date the contract.

The conditions in my contract are few, but they are important. For example, if my band starts late because stage access is blocked or someone is giving a really long speech, we still receive full compensation. If we are playing outdoors, we must be placed under some sort of shelter in the event of rain. And if there is lightning nearby, we can cease playing to protect ourselves and our equipment from damage. Another important condition states that if our performance is canceled on short notice, the deposit, or a percentage thereof, may be forfeited.

For most performances, your band's own contract will suffice. In fact, a lot of band jobs, such as public dances, are still booked on the honor system with no contract at all. Now and then, however, a venue will supply their own contract. These contracts are often ambiguous to cover everything from solo performers to theater troupes and may be several pages long, but, just because they are official-looking documents, don't sign them without reading them. I'm a shrewd reader of legal documents, and over the years, I've found a few venue-supplied contracts to contain some rather questionable conditions.

One summer a few years ago, a church festival hired my band to perform. I sent them my contract, but when they returned it, they included a rider with an indemnification agreement mandated by their insurance carrier. I read the agreement carefully, and that's when I discovered something fishy. Their agreement stated (in a long, legalese way, of course) that if any employee or volunteer of the festival intentionally or accidentally damaged any of my band equipment, I would be unable to sue them for damages. Could you imagine someone knocking a $5,000 accordion off the stage and being able to walk away harmless?

The other day, I received a venue-supplied contract to perform at a university for a private event. The contract was four pages long and listed twenty-four conditions. I read them all. Everything looked pretty standard, but one of the conditions stood out as peculiar. It stated that I, the artist, was responsible for performance royalties. I've never seen that before. The venue hosting the band is always responsible for the band's live performance royalties, not the other way around. That's what ASCAP is for.

Several years ago, my band was hired for a popular music festival. The festival supplied their own contract, and in the contract, they requested a 25% commission on all CD sales. My profit margin was thin to begin with, so a 25% commission would have made it useless for me to even sell my CDs.

If you find yourself disliking something you see in a contract, can you do anything about it? Yes, you can. Everything in a contract is negotiable. If there is something in a contract you don't like, you have the right to submit or request revisions before signing the contract. In the first scenario with the church festival, I submitted a revised version of their indemnification agreement stating that I did retain the right to sue for damages, and it was accepted. In the second scenario, I simply requested permission to strike the performance royalty condition before signing the contract, and it was granted. In the third scenario, I negotiated a 15% commission fee instead of 25%.

I was recently asked to sign a release form so that parts of one of my band's live performances could be aired on public television. On the release form, it was declared that the music I played I either owned or had "full authority to use for such purposes." In my opinion, the ambiguous wording reads too closely to a licensing agreement. The songs I played were cover songs, and I did not secure any permission for them to be recorded or distributed because that's the responsibilty of the public television network — the people who are doing the recording and distributing. So I wrote an addendum on the release form stating that the songs my band performed were cover songs, and I did not secure any form of licensing or permission for their recording or distribution. Why? Because if the public television network failed to secure licensing for the songs we peformed, and they were subsequently sued for copyright infringement, they could pull out the release form and claim that I authorized the recording and distribution of the music we performed.

You don't have to be a lawyer to review and question contracts and other legal documents. Anyone can do it. All you need is enough common sense to spot when something doesn't seem right.
 


Seven Weeks After Release, Album Reception in Polka Market Gaining Momentum

October 1, 2016


The time and money I invested into producing The Holidays In Music was truly a gamble. The CD is so unique in nature, there was, and still is, no way to know who its chief consumer will be.

As usual, I marketed the CD to the people who are already familiar with my music: Polka fans. I'm happy to report that the response has been nothing but positive. There seem to be a lot of Polka music fans who appreciate other styles of music, and what's interesting is how different everyone's tastes are. One person who buys my CD might rave about the 1940's ballad, another person might rave about the Volksmusik hymn, or the Sousa march, and so forth. This feedback is very important to me, because it tells me that my songs are reaching a broad spectrum of music aficianados. It also tells me that those of you who know me for my Polka music are not having reservations due to the lack of Polka music on this CD. Instead, you're opening your minds to explore the music I've created in all different genres. That means a lot, and I appreciate your intellectual generosity.

For the past two weeks, The Holidays In Music has been holding rank as the fourth best seller on PolkaConnection.com — not a bad accomplishment for a non-Polka CD if I may say so!

Outside the Polka music circuit, statistics are just beginning to report streaming radio plays. People from as far away as Norway and Indonesia are finding and playing my music, however, it's still too early to speculate the start of any sales trends. The digital distribution of my CD is an ongoing process that will take several more weeks, and the physical distribution to radio markets will continue over the next couple months.

Thank you all for your continuing support of my musical endeavors!



The Holidays In Music - Funny Outtake

August 29, 2016


This "blooper" is from one of the recording sessions for the Halloween Rag Medley:






"The Holidays In Music" Finally Hits the Marketplace

August 10, 2016


I'd like to thank you all for your enthusiastic response to the release of my new CD! Your support of my endeavors and encouraging words are what keep me motivated to continue creating music. I am humbled by your kindness and generosity.

There are a few common questions I would like to address:

1. What is downloading?  For those of you who don't quite understand what downloading is, when you download an album or a single song, you're not purchasing a physical CD. What you're purchasing is the music in a digital format that can be played on your computer and most mobile devices, such as your laptop, smartphone, iPad, etc. If you want to buy the physical CD online and have it mailed to you, the only place to order it is: PolkaConnection.com. The retail cost of the CD, with shipping included, is $16.88. If you want to save $1.88, you can purchase the CD in person for $15.00 wherever my band is performing. Mollie Busta also has the CD for sale for $15.00 at her public performances.

2. Did you really perform all of the music on the CD?  Yes, I did. Although I play several different musical instruments, there are plenty of instruments I don't play, like the violin, mandolin, theramin, and Vitameatavegamin. I work extensively with software-based virtual instruments, which is how I am able to replicate many of the instruments needed to sound like, for example, a symphony orchestra or concert band. But, to make a virtual instrument sound like a real instrument
requires an enormous amount of patience, musical knowledge, and technical expertise. To perform all of the music on this recording required literally hundreds of hours in the studio. At first I estimated my time producing this CD at around three-hundred hours, but, after more careful retrospect, I would estimate it very close to four-hundred hours — the equivalent of ten forty-hour work weeks.

3. I thought you were just a polka musician!  I make a living working as a polka-variety musician, and that's how most people know me, but my musical interests extend well into other genres of music. I grew up on Polka music, but I also grew up on Classical, Heavy Metal, Country, Big Band, Top 40, and much more. As a performing musician, I don't stray from the polka-variety music, but as a music producer, my creativity takes me in many directions.




Upcoming CD Hits a Roadblock With Digital Distribution
July 31, 2016


I ran into an unexpected hindrance while submitting my new recording for digital distribution.
According to CD Baby who distributes independent artists' music to major download and streaming sites such as iTunes and Pandora, any artist who creates a medley is required to title the medley with the name of every song in it. In my opinion, not only can that result in some absurdly long and redundant song titles, but it flatly undermines the autonomous creativity of the artist.

After spending fifty hours producing a medley, I'm not about to let some outside entity, who had nothing to do with the creation of the medley, dictate how I must title it! Rather than compromise my integrity as an artist, I instead chose to remove two "non-compliant" songs entirely from digital distribution.
This hindrance will not affect anyone who buys the physical CD or downloads the album from this website — it will only affect people who download the album from third-party sites such as Amazon or iTunes. Those consumers will receive an incomplete album, and will be encouraged to download the remaining two songs from this website.

It really is a shame that, in 2016, a major digital music service doesn't yet have the technology to accept medleys in a way that allows the artist to retain the medley's proper title. What's next? Are they going to begin requiring artists to submit their songs as MIDI files on 3.5" floppy disks?



Removal Of Jim Galaszewski's Videos Explained

February 3, 2016


It's always been my preference to keep the legal matters of my music businesses private, however, when a third party makes such a matter public, I feel obligated to respond. This article is written in response to Jim Galaszewski's February 2nd claim on Facebook that Joe Fojtik and I are supposedly "shutting down [his] YouTube channel."

Early last year, several recording sessions for a recording project, An Evening At Martin's Tap, took place at my studio. At one of the sessions, Mr. Galaszewski was filming video. I had no problem with him or anyone recording video for posterity, however, I made it very clear to everyone at the end of the recording session that the videos could not be posted to YouTube or distributed in any way because they contain audio from an unreleased recording project. Everyone in attendance at that session, including Mr. Galaszewski, heard me very clearly and seemed to have no problem understanding the reasoning behind my statement.

About a week ago, while browsing YouTube, I stumbled upon six videos from the recording session at my studio that Mr. Galaszewski had made publicly available. I immediately sent Mr. Galaszewski a friendly reminder via email that, while I appreciate his willingness to share the music, the videos needed to come down because they contained music from the recording project that may be on a future CD release. I waited several days, but never received a response, and the videos remained posted on YouTube.

[It is not my policy to publish private correspondence out of respect for the other party, however, I will forward the email I sent to Mr. Galaszewski to anyone who requests to see it.]

Joe Fojtik is the executive producer of the Martin's Tap recording project. He paid for the editing, mixing, mastering, graphic design, and duplication of the project, as well as all applicable licensing fees for distribution. He is the sole non-registered copyright holder of all the music that has been recorded for that project, both released and unreleased, and is the only person on earth who has the legal right to distribute that music. Mr. Galaszewski is not authorized to distribute that music. None of the musicians who performed on the CD are authorized to distribute that music. Not even I am authorized to distribute that music. Only the producer, Mr. Fojtik, is authorized to distribute that music.

In response to Mr. Galaszewski's apparent noncompliance with my request to voluntarily remove the videos, Mr. Fojtik authorized me to act as his agent and work with Google to have the videos involuntarily removed. Google reviewed my request, found it legal and valid, and acted promptly by removing the six videos from Mr. Galaszewski's YouTube channel.

Regarding Mr. Galaszewski's claim that Mr. Fojtik and I are "shutting down [his] YouTube channel", I don't understand his reasoning behind that statement. It is my understanding that Mr. Galaszewski recently opted to make many of his uploaded YouTube videos private, however, neither Mr. Fojtik nor I know why he decided to do that. Our
only concern was the removal of the six copyrighted videos. Once Google removed those six videos, the problem was rectified to our satisfaction and we considered the case closed.

This entire problem could have, and should have, been avoided from the very start. The videos should never have been uploaded to YouTube, but they were, and it became a problem that had to be dealt with accordingly. When my personal communication to Mr. Galaszewski failed to solve the problem, the next logical step was to work with Google to solve the problem.
 
Polka music and studio recording are fun, however, they are also legitimate businesses and must be respected as such. When you distribute music to which you have no permission or authorization, not only are your actions illegal, but they can have a detrimental effect on the legal sales of the music. CDs are not inexpensive to produce. It's not uncommon for a typical polka CD to cost a few thousand dollars to produce. These large investments must be protected, and that's what copyrights are for.

Google's removal of Mr. Galaszewski's videos was not personal in any way. It was simply a standard act of due diligence to protect the copyright and investments of Mr. Fojtik. Neither Mr. Fojtik nor I harbor any negative feelings toward Mr. Galaszewski. We believe he provides a valuable service to the polka community with his enthusiastic video documentation of the area's musicians, and we fully support his endeavors to continue sharing those videos with the public.


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