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Contracts, the Long and the Short
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
Weeks After Release, Album
Reception in Polka Market Gaining Momentum
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
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!
Holidays In Music - Funny Outtake
"blooper" is from one of the recording sessions for the Halloween Rag Medley:
Holidays In Music" Finally Hits the Marketplace
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
I ran into an unexpected hindrance while submitting my new recording
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
in some absurdly long and
redundant song titles, but it flatly undermines
the autonomous creativity of
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
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.
consumers will receive an incomplete album, and will be encouraged to
the remaining two songs from this website.
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
files on 3.5" floppy disks?
Of Jim Galaszewski's Videos Explained
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
available. I immediately sent Mr. Galaszewski a friendly reminder via
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.
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
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
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
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
simply a standard act of due diligence to protect the copyright and
of Mr. Fojtik. Neither Mr. Fojtik nor I harbor
any negative feelings toward Mr. Galaszewski. We believe he provides a
service to the polka community with his enthusiastic video
of the area's musicians, and we fully support his endeavors to
continue sharing those videos with the public.