March 2003

Volume 10

March 5, 2003

Terrorist Captured

I was reading a Wall Street Journal article about the capture of terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He has been called the mastermind behind September 11th. His capture will provide some closure for the family members and friends of the victims of September 11th. 

The article I read described torture methods the CIA are permitted to use to obtain information from him. Some of the methods described were: 

"You deprive him of his surroundings. You move him. In this instance, you do that geographically, physically and emotionally. You put him someplace he's unfamiliar with. You deprive him of food, water and sleep. You make morning night, and you make hot cold." 

I'm sitting here thinking, I do this to myself all the time and call it work. Maybe I need to take it easy. Seriously, many of you are like that for the sake of your work as well. That ought to make you think and take better care of yourself.

I know this is serious, but this part of the article made me laugh:

"U.S. officials overseeing interrogations...can even authorize "a little bit of smacky-face," a U.S. intelligence official says. "Some al Qaeda just need some extra encouragement," the official says." 

Smacky-face! That is hilarious, well, unless you're the one getting smacked up. After what the terrorists did, it probably won't be smacky-face, it will be punchy-face.     

"When interrogators finish with Mr. Mohammed, he is likely to face a U.S. military tribunal, but that will probably be years from now."

"Years from now" are they gonna torture him that long. I'm kidding.

It's amazing how things work. America being humane has to follow the rules with people who are inhumane and torture its citizens i.e. September 11th, where victims died in a horrible manner. 

I don't like to see anyone suffer, but I think it's so ironic that people who deprive others of their rights and their life are given such courtesies. I would not want to deprive anyone of those rights, but it is what bullies rely on...good people playing by the rules and not treating them as cruelly as they have treated others. If America doled out the same treatment to terrorists that they dish out to others, they could not take it, nor would they survive it.

It happens all the time. When people believe you are nice, have morals and will play fair, they believe they can say and do anything to you and you won't respond. As I wrote earlier, that's what bullies rely on. How cowardly. America should be applauded for being diplomatic and not completely blowing them off the face of this earth for all they've done and what they say they want to do, because given the opportunity, I'm sure they would do that to America. 

 

March 14, 2003

Falsifying Record Sales 

There are some artists who's sales constantly, allegedly increase by millions of copies, significantly disproportionate to what official sales tracking systems report. Yes, foreign sales account for a lot and aren't monitored as closely, but not enough to justify some of the numbers people are claiming. It is especially conspicuous when an artist is on the decline, yet their numbers keep going up dramatically over a very short space of time, almost more than in their prime, with no justification for these sales spurts. 

There is usually someone else that will come along and outsell your group or solo artist. It happens all the time. So many artists have broken records previously held by other acts, that I sometimes don't pay too much attention to those records because they are not permanent. It's not something to become obsessed with achieving or maintaining if you have reached that point, because these records are usually broken. What happens when you've passed and someone else breaks that record you set. It's a waste of time.    

That's not the way to secure a place in history or be #1. Holding the record for being #1 does not mean people will cherish your music. Many #1's have generally been forgotten by the public and the only reminder of them is via books. Content is what counts.  

There are also many million selling acts who have no credibility and I don't mean that disparagingly. However, there are many commercially successful artists that musicians and audiences do not hold in high esteem because they feel they are not talented or their music is devoid of substance. 

In addition, just because someone sells the most, doesn't mean they are the most talented. There are certain genres that regardless of what the artist puts out, their audience will buy it.

For example, would you say you are a better artist than Aretha Franklin or The Beatles because you may have, with emphasis on may have, sold more records than they have. No you wouldn't. It would come across as arrogance and you really would not want the comparisons under those circumstances. 

There are also other factors to consider in assessing who is the best selling as things have changed dramatically in the last few decades.

The economy and tabulating systems were different years ago. People use to by more singles, now they buy more albums. Today the album is more popular in America as more emphasis has been given to it in the last few years, due in part to the industry practice of not releasing singles commercially, only to radio and video to promote album sales.

Actually, the goal is to phase out the single. If they succeed, I shall miss it (Aisha fake crying). Seriously, I would miss the single as I have many and it's a format I've liked for a long time. Since I was a child I would go to the record store with my dad to buy records and singles were my favorites (45's, cassette singles, CD singles, CD Maxi singles, CD5).

Decades ago the single was much more popular and successful than the album. Artists sold copious amounts of singles, but to calculate it in comparison with the amount sold today by contemporary artists would require some adjustments, almost like inflation. It would be similar to when they write about money and the calculations for costs in today's figures. For example, hypothetically, a certain project that cost $50,000 to complete in the 20's would cost $400,000 to complete today. 

There are artists from the 40's, 50's and 60's who have probably sold more than contemporary artists, but are not given credit as such because of the unspecific  tabulating system. 

When a more accurate tabulating system was launched in 1991, acts that did not make it to the top of the charts such as country and rap artists, mysteriously started claiming the number one. I remember reading an article about the change in the variety of acts that started debuting at number one. Prior to that, it was mostly pop and rock artists. 

Makes you think about all those artists who didn't make it to number one all those years, who probably should have, but due to the former tabulating system, did not. By the way, what was the old tabulating system (rhetorical).  

The new tabulating system isn't completely accurate either because there are retailers who are not patched into the system and there have been reports of record labels utilizing scams in exchange for a few retailers scanning more copies than were actually sold. However, you can't blame the tabulating system for those unethical business practices. Regardless, the latest sales tracking system is a step in the right direction for calculating the number of copies sold. 

Another factor that needs to be included as of now is illegal internet music downloading sites. Since their inception, sales have consistently decreased. No matter what people tell you, they are costing the industry sales. In any business, theft will create losses.  

So how can you truly assess who is the best selling when formats have been changed and the public's buying habits often do as well for different reasons; sometimes manipulated by the industry, as people can only purchase from the selection they are presented with and sometimes from other factors like illegal downloading. 

My point, yes after all that, I do have a point: stop making up incredulous numbers in an effort to stay ahead when your rival sells more records. It looks desperate. Gain these sales the old fashion way by actually selling records. 

Girl Group Feuds 

why can't girl groups get along. Why is it when you get a group of women together, we can't behave. Self-promotion, ambition, arrogance, backstabbing and jealousy surface. To be fair, there are some girl groups that get along (and there are only a few).

There are male groups who fight as well, but with them it's different. It's not as bad and they aren't as vindictive as girl groups can be. 

There was a girl group that became very famous and one of the singers was promoted above the others. This happens sometimes and not at the public's request, but because of favoritism with people who have a controlling interest in the group. One of the other members of the group did not take it very well because she signed on to the group to be one of the lead vocalists, but was relegated to a background singer, while one singer was promoted over the other members and eventually fired from the group. 

That singer became withdrawn, very depressed and drank herself to death before the age of 35. I don't know the people involved in that situation and I have nothing against them personally, but stories like that are very sad. What's even sadder is that it could have been prevented. 

The lead vocalist that gained the spotlight in the group I was referring to is now battling the same alcohol addiction that claimed her former band member's life. I hope she recovers. 

In situations where the goal, well ulterior motive is more accurate, is to make one person in the group the superstar, as opposed to the group equally, that person should not have been in the group in the first place. That person should be launched as a solo act from the beginning, so as not to unnecessarily subject others to such treatment .

Ironically, this practice is done because some artists chances of success are much greater in a group as opposed to debuting as a solo artist. Not everyone is meant to be a solo artist, but it still doesn't justify that practice and people should exercise a little kindness and a lot less self-promotion. It is not appropriate to run a group that way or for one member's benefit as though the other members are expendable. In fact, in the music industry every singer is expendable by the public. That should encourage group members to treat each other fairly.   

Many people in the industry fail to see the human aspect of their decisions and it becomes even more ironic when those actions come back to them.

Learn from history and don't repeat the same mistakes. You can't play with people's lives like that as you don't know how they will handle each situation. When you think about it, who would be happy about a situation like that. 

It can't be easy for people in those situations, watching others go on to success; success they should have been enjoying as well or being pushed into the background against their will. That is terribly unjust. Fame is not worth destroying other people's lives. The people in those situations should not be discouraged and suicide is not the answer. Neither is indulging in destructive behavior because of the depression that stemmed from how you were treated. Don't be counterproductive. 

By God's grace you can recover and do not be blame Him for what happened as it was your band members/business associates doing. However, when people are faced with such situations, they often wonder if it was God's doing. It wasn't. God doesn't work that way. He doesn't destroy other people's careers, so that one person can be a star. 

As I wrote earlier, if your intention is to be the star of the group at your band members expense, do not join the group, be a solo artist from the beginning and do not put people through those hardships. If you feel you can't be successfully launched as a solo artist, change your attitude and treat everyone in the band fairly.

Remember, a group is not solo. The word group indicates more than one.

 

March 21, 2003

Terrorist Bulletin

The FBI has issued a bulletin for Saudi Arabian terrorist Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, who was last seen in Miami. Why is it always here... Hmm I guess even terrorists like South Beach. You know what, let me shut up with the jokes, he might still be around here somewhere. After all, which new artist wants a posthumous debut album. I know I don't.  

October 22, 2002 I wrote about Saddam Hussein being re-elected and his rebuilt nuclear facilities. America declared war on Iraq this week in an effort to remove him. Boy, a lot can happen in a few months.  

War

War is a fact of life. Wars were even fought in the Bible.

The people of Iraq are not the target of the war, though sadly, some may die. I'm for peace and I do not want anyone to die, but I'm not naive or unrealistic. We live in a corrupt world. Not everyone will play by the rules. Some people are not willing to live in peace and harbor other intentions that threaten the entire world. When that happens, wars commence. Saddam Hussein was given 10 years of courtesy warnings requesting that he disarm and he refused.

He lied by stating he had no illegal weapons. Then his amnesia was mysteriously cured and he destroyed a portion of his nuclear arsenal. 

My question is, how do you forget that you have nuclear weapons. You forget to turn on the sprinklers, you forget your keys, you forget you left money in your pocket before you toss your clothes into the laundry basket...you don't forget you have nuclear weapons. Itís not like a pair of old shoes lying around your house that you forgot you had. 

How do you misplace a nuclear weapon. How did he find the missing missiles. Oh look, I found my car keys and 1 Dinar (Iraqi currency) under the cushions in the sofa...and look, 20 nuclear warheads under the couch. I've been looking for these.       

I collect records, CDs, cassettes and books among other things; some of you collect coins... Saddam Hussein was collecting nuclear weapons. He is not the only threat, as many of you have been reading about the problems emerging in North Korea. The Associated Press reported that a North Korean missile, the Taepo Dong 2 ďis capable of hitting the western United States (Hawaii and California)." I think the shield that has been written about to protect against nuclear attack is a great idea. The President supports this idea and hopefully it will come into fruition.

Saddam Hussein used gas on an entire village who rebelled against him, killing over 5,000 people. Children were among the casualties. He showed that he does not value human life. Never mind putting people in jail and or torturing them like most dictators do, he gassed them. That says a lot. He gassed his own people. Whatís to stop him from using nuclear weapons and biological agents on America, a foreign country that he abhors. 

Why was he not willing to fully disarm voluntarily. Why is his nuclear arsenal so important to him. He has a purpose for them. Think about it, what are these nuclear weapons for. They have a purpose and that purpose is you. It's certainly not for benevolent reasons.

Some people are being very naÔve. What do you think; if you ignore him he will go away. History has shown otherwise. For years the Cuban people here in Miami have hoped Castro would step down, but they realized long ago that he did not intend to do so willingly, especially while he is in control of all his faculties. Heís been in office through several American presidencies.

Just because someone gains control over a country does not mean they are fit to rule. Hitler was a mass murderer that wrongfully believed killing Jewish people was right and it was not. He lead many people by these philosophies that he believed and had he not been stopped, he would have continued oppressing and taking innocent lives.

Oil wells - It was reported that Saddam Hussein set fire to oil wells in Iraq when he heard of the invasion by American troops. Those wells were not his to burn. They belong to the people of Iraq. However, the U.S. has frozen 1.7 billion in Iraqi assets to help rebuild Iraq, which is a very kind gesture.  

If Hussein truly cared about his people, he would step down. He knew war was coming because of his actions, but refused to leave, knowing that casualties among his people would be a real possibility. He had so much time to change his ways and or step down, but he refused. The 20 million residents of Iraq would greatly benefit from democracy.   

Some countries may complain about America's involvement in policing other countries, but ironically when they get into trouble they call America first for help.

- I've read a few intelligent, well thought out statements from entertainers/athletes regarding the war.

However, Iíve heard a few entertainers berating the President over the war. He seeks to remove Saddam Hussein...but some celebrities are being irrational and they have no viable solutions to resolve the conflict. Some entertainers have latched on to the word "diplomacy," when Hussein was give ten years of diplomacy via courtesy warnings requesting that he disarm. Entertainers are suggesting the government use something theyíve already tried for the last ten years.     

What is ironic is that they would be the same people, who in the event Saddam Hussein was able to attack America with nuclear weapons, would complain that the government knew it was coming and failed to do anything to protect the nation.  

I remember after September 11th some people said America knew and should have prevented it. Now they do know something and are trying to prevent it, but are met with opposition from the same people who were complaining before. I believe they know more than they are telling the public because if they did it would create widespread panic and chaos.

However, it's amazing how personal and political biases can cause people to focus on The President as though he is the problem and not say anything about Saddam Hussein, who threatens the world's safety. You lose all credibility when you let your personal and political views cause you to be partial and not look at the real issue...a dictator with a nuclear arsenal.

A few days ago, I heard a commercial on the radio that spoke of supporting the troops. Many people aren't thinking about how they feel. They are risking their lives for celebrities to go on television and radio and insult their efforts... while they are fighting abroad to protect some, not all, self-indulgent, self-centered entertainerís way of life.  

I think the soldiers deserve more support and gratitude. 

I think reporters should be commended as well for covering the story from Iraq. They aren't fighting in the war, but they are putting themselves in danger to report the stories to us and deserve some credit for their efforts.   

Soldiers go through a lot physically and mentally:  

Wondering if they are going to die and not see their families again and how their families would cope with the loss (and some have died).

Not seeing their families while they are away.

Going into foreign territory where they donít speak the language and residents have been brainwashed into thinking they are horrible. 

Being on guard against possible attack.

Wearing gas masks.

Wearing helmets. 

Inhaling gun smoke.

Lugging around cumbersome gear. 

Spending hours in trucks and tanks.

Flying in loud helicopters.

They are having army rations, while you are in restaurants having foie gras and discussing your next project...yet you are the ones complaining about the war...and also whining about trivial things like the doctor not removing enough fat from your butt. 

And it wouldn't be so bad if it were mostly the non-publicity seeking celebrities who genuinely voiced their opinions as with some of the quotes Iíve read. But, no, several have been the vain, narcissistic, publicity seeking celebrities turning it into a photo-op. Quotes that sound like the proceeding ones I've written to show how some celebrities sound when they speak about warÖand while I did exaggerate, these quote are not far off from some of what has been said:  

"yo man, war is wrong dawg! We don't need world war "  

-or- 

"like, we totally need peace, cause, like, war is like sooo totally wrong." 

You are an entertainer, the media is looking to you for answers (that in itself is a bit dodgy) that could better help people understand what's going on and sort out their feelings... and you provide statements void of insight and intelligent analysis. There is nothing wrong with being inarticulate, but sincerity is important and some of what has been said comes across as disingenuous.

I saw a photo of a celebrity signing an anti-war petition and smiling for the camera with this big, pronounced smile as she signed. It looked like a photo-op. 

I saw another celebrity on television speaking about the war and tossing her hair as she spoke. It looked like posturing - posing for the camera (while I do toss my hair sometimes, not while I'm talking about serious matters). I think the industry is in the wrong frame of mind about all of this. It is not the time to flash your pearly whites for the camera and improve your image by spewing out information that you donít understand.

My condolences to the families and friends of the American, British and Iraqi soldiers who have died.

 

March 28, 2003

- On Friday March 21st, I wrote about the war. In that article I wrote that journalists should be commended for risking their lives to report the news. Sadly, on Saturday, March 22nd, journalist Terry Lloyd and his co-workers Fred Nerac and Hussein Osman were reported missing in Iraq and are believed to be dead. They took a big risk going there, but they did it for their jobs and it is understandable. 

Most journalists strive for excellence. Rather than write mundane articles that serve more as fillers than actual news, investigative journalists travel to remote areas of the world, plagued with violence to secure the best stories. Sometimes, this is not without risk...or casualty.

A few days ago, I saw a journalist on TV reporting from Kuwait and when his name flashed across the screen and I realized it was a Jewish name, my heart sank as I thought to myself, he is taking a big risk being over there. I often remember what happened to journalist Daniel Pearl. His murder was very upsetting. He was the embodiment of so many things terrorists hate. He was Jewish, American and a journalist. A great combination, but the ultimate prey for terrorists. Danielís legacy lives on through his beautiful, newly born son Adam. 

Daniel Pearl's widow Mariane Pearl and son Adam. Photo courtesy of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Writing and journalism are important to my family. Two of my aunts are writers, my cousin is a writer for a newspaper, and another cousin is an associate producer for a national investigative news program who's anchors are journalists.

Many entertainers are anti-media, but Iím not. The press is important and serves a purpose. I love the written word. Iím an avid reader. I collect books, magazines and newspapers from around the world. I read many publications from different countries. I appreciate in-depth interviews where I actually learn something new and of value about the subject of the piece. I enjoy reading the news and human-interest stories as well.

However, as with music and films, content is very important. I can't be bothered to read some articles, especially when I know in advance that the content is dubious based on the publication's track record, so why waste time when I could be reading something that is from an official source. Something that I don't have to wonder, is this true? 

I don't like reading fiction anyway. I especially don't like to read fiction that is being passed off as the truth. I'd rather read my Bible, a good autobiography or biography (I've read many) ...then again, some of these unauthorized biographies might as well be in the fiction section of the book store.  

I do think a few publications overstep their bounds, but those are generally tabloids making up the news, rather than reporting it. Slow news day - make something up. To be fair, they have been known to tell the truth occasionally. They do get a few things right, but not often enough to trust their credibility. 

The public does want to know about their favorite personalities and spend millions buying publications that feature them. It's the editor's job to make sure the magazine has the kind of content that will sell. However, respectable publications don't compromise their content for revenue (tabloid editors laugh). 

I donít believe in publicity stunts that some, not all, entertainers employ far too frequently. As much as some entertainers decry the media, they greatly benefit from the exposure, albeit unwelcome at times. 

- Iím also a photographer. I have a portfolio containing almost 1,000 pictures. I love taking pictures of architecture and landscapes, especially of my favorite cities.

There is another type of photographer...a photojournalist. There are photojournalists who risk capture to capture pictures in precarious situations (say that five times fast). 

I can relate to the desire to want to take risks for the sake of your work, but there are limits that  should be observed. In my first film, there is a scene that requires we shoot in a certain region, but I realized when writing the script years ago that it would be dangerous because of the tensions in that region. Now that Iím getting close to the shoot, my concerns are now reality and have multiplied as things have worsened in that region. 

While, I would shoot there and I'm not a fearful person, Iím not going to risk other peopleís lives (crew) just to get a scene. I found an alternate location that will look the same on film. I do prefer authenticity, though.

- It is amazing to watch the dismantling of a government via war. Most think of war as the unbiased bombing of a country. However, it has been the strategic bombing of government buildings, military facilities, television stations, presidential palaces and airports. It is essentially removing a government, leaving the people and giving them a new start. Regrettably, there have been civilian casualties, but that was not the aim.

There are accusations flying from several governments. Have you ever noticed that governments generally don't sue other governments for slander or libel based on something one of it's officials said or issued in a press release, even though the statements at times do come across as defamatory and libelous. That's what I call diplomacy.   

Humanitarian Aid - An Iraqi government official declined US/British humanitarian aid during a television broadcast, stating Iraq has enough money and will rebuild on itís own. How can they say that when they cut off the water supply from their own people in Basra and American/British soldiers had to supply the city with food and water. What kind of absurd contradiction is that to refuse aid and cut off supplies from your own people.

AOL news and the associate press reported that the US/Britain captured 3500 POWíS and Iraq captured 14 POWS.

The POWís captured by American/British forces look more at ease than the ones captured by Iraq. Upon surrender or capture, the Coalition's POWís donít look terrified, as they know they will be and are being treated better. Some of them were even smiling and it didnít look contrived. There is even a photo of a US soldier giving an Iraqi soldier water. That to me is one of the most striking photos taken during this war.    

But look at the difference in the expressions of the American POWís in contrast to the Iraqi POWís. What do we see? Videos and photos from Iraqi via Al-Jazeera TV of dead or injured, terrified American and British soldiers. Those were among the hardest pictures to view. I wont post the pictures of the British and American soldierís that have been captured or killed in Iraqi, as it is considered unethical, but many of you have seen the video tapes and stills on the news, so you know what I'm referring to.

Who would you rather be captured by, America/Britain or Iraq? If you are honest you would say America/Britain.  

-Aisha talking trash from all the way in Miami - Saddam wouldnít even want to be captured by Saddam (note to self: skip the Middle East on promo tour...I would like to go to Israel, though).  

The Iraqi people and POW's don't seem terrified of the Coalition soldiers as verified by these photos.  

Photos and captions courtesy of Reuters:  

A recently taken photograph released on March 26, 2003 shows a member of Britain's 42 Commando on patrol in Umm Qasr in southern Iraq. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to Washington on Wednesday for a war council with President George W. Bush, eager to convince his ally that the United Nations must play a central role in a post-war Iraq. REUTERS/POOL/Dave Husbands.

 

A local Iraqi family approach an unidentified British soldier from 2nd Royal Tank Regiment for medical help, near Basra in southern Iraq, March 24, 2003. Ismal (C), accompanied by daughter Tyal, 5, and wife Indra who has a bad chest infection, received medical aid. REUTERS/POOL/Brian Roberts.

A recently taken photograph released March 26, 2003 shows a member of Britain's 42 Commando (R) smiling with local Iraqi children in Umm Qasr, southern Iraq. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to Washington on Wednesday for a war council with President George W. Bush, eager to convince his ally that the United Nations must play a central role in a post-war Iraq. REUTERS/POOL/Dave Husbands.

 

An Iraqi boy holds on to his bottle of water next to a British soldier in the southern Iraq town of Umm Qasr, March 26, 2003. Iraq will probably need the biggest humanitarian operation in history to feed its entire population after the U.S.-led invasion, the U.N.'s food aid agency said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen.

Iraqis run behind a British army truck as bottled water is handed out, in the southern Iraqi town of Umm Qasr March 26, 2003. Aid trickled into Iraq on Wednesday, with Kuwait sending food to the border port of Umm Qasr and trucks braving a dangerous trip across the west to get medicines to Baghdad. U.S. officials say the food situation in parts of southern Iraq they now occupy is not desperate yet. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen.

An Iraqi boy tosses a cigarette to Iraqi prisoners of war alongside a road leading to the southern Iraq city of Basra, March 23, 2003. Photo by Jerry Lampen/Reuters

 

March 31, 2003

I get emails from people to the site complimenting my talent, wit, charm, intellect and beauty (if you guys know what's good for you, you better agree with me). Seriously, thanks for all the emails, I really appreciate it.

However, I've also noticed that I've also received emails from different people who want to get into the music industry, but do not know where to start. So, I decided to write an article that will answer a lot of the questions you may have and address a lot of the basics. Iím going to be very candid with you.

My dad is a DJ, therefore I was raised in the industry and saw it at its bestÖand its worst. Itís a very dirty business. While I do not want to scare you out of your chosen profession, Iím going to give you some very frank advice in hopes that it will help you with your careerÖand prevent you from being taken advantage of and robbed. 

Many of you out there have a lot of talent; you just need the right outlet and the right team. I will expound on these subjects more in my book, but for now I will give you the basics to assist you in your work. 

Copyrights Ė it is good to copyright your work. In the event it is stolen in one of the several ways I have listed below, this is generally your only proof that you are the author. For more information and to request copyright forms, call the Copyright Office/ Library of Congress at : 1-(202) 707-5959.

Demos Ė Demo, short for demonstration tape. These can be cassettes or CDs. Many people have been signed off demos. It is wise to have a demo of decent quality with 2-4 songs on it. They arenít looking for studio quality, just a good enough sound that they can hear your talentÖor lack thereof. Not that it counts for much anymore, because if the accompanying picture looks good, they will sign you off your looks. 

Submitting Demos- I highly recommend that you have an attorney submit your demo, as there are quite a few unethical people at labels that will go through the demos and pass off your work as their own. 

Some labels have a policy where they donít even accept demos. Why? Too many employees were going through the mail and starting their fake songwriting careers by taking credit for other peopleís songs and having these songs placed with singers at the label. 

This is a common practice in the film industry as well. Employees will read the scripts sent to the film company and pass them off as their own or change it up a bit or just steal the plot. The truth surfaces when the companyís legal department receives a letter saying the company is being sued for copyright infringement for work your employee said was theirs.  

Yesterday, I read about a lawsuit being brought by a lawyer who is a writer. She wrote a screenplay and pitched it to several companies and executives, only for an acquaintance to rip it off. The film was made and he was given the screenwriterí s credit, when it really does not appear that it was his film. She has a good case and a lot of proof. This film has grossed 100 million in the last few weeks.  

My point, these people do not care. They are desperate to have a hit and be lauded as creative and brilliant. They will do anything, including rob you. If this woman is telling the truth and it appears she is, she is a lawyer and it didnít stop them, whatís to stop them from doing that to you.  

-Submitting songs to writers and producers: Some of you donít want to be entertainers, but you want to be writers. Some writers submit their original songs to writers and producerís production companies. I would not advise that you do this at all. Some, not all writers/producers will steal your song, some will steal the lyrics or portions of it or some will steal the beat. 

To be fair, there are people who have gotten good results submitting their work to writers and producer's production companies, but you do so at your own risk.

My friend who is also a songwriter/producer warned me once about another well-known producer. He told me, they go through the mail and take parts of different songs that are submitted for consideration, and use them in the songs they are working on.

I also remember on another occasion a few years ago, where a label rep warned me about a singer/songwriter. She told me not to submit anything to that particular singer/songwriter, as his legal standing is not good. This singer is someone who I admired growing up and I was disappointed at what she was telling me. I called a friend who used to work at the label he was signed to and worked with him on occasion and what she told me wasnít much better. Looking on you really couldnít tell, as none of the lawsuits brought by the aspiring writers he allegedly ripped off have made it to court, where it would have been made public. 

Sometimes the public doesnít know because copyright infringement suits are squashed or settled by the record companyís legal department, with clauses that require confidentialityÖmeaning you canít say the person admitted ripping you off because they paid you a settlement.
 
The legal department floods the aspiring writer/musicianís attorneyís office with a slew of questionable legal documents allegedly attesting to the infringed songís authenticity. The guys in the legal departments of some labels have that system down pat.
 
There have been lawyers for aspiring writerís/singers who were so enamored with opposing councilís label, that they did not handle cases as they should for fear of stepping on the wrong toes. So, a lot of these aspiring writers that are ripped off do not receive their day in court.
 
Also, a lot of those cases are tied up by legal paperwork for years, which is the goal, as these suits have a statue of limitations on them, which is the time the law provides for you to bring legal action before you lose the right to your claim. For media, it is generally two years from the date of the infringement.  
 
Performing rights organizations:  ASCAP/BMI - BMI and ASCAP are two international companies that track each time your song is played on the radio and pay you a fee for each time it is played. You might as well sign up with one of them because someone is going to collect those fees anyway and if you have a hit, you will get a decent sum of money from them for as long as your song is in rotation. 

You can sign up as a writer, publisher or both. First you have to pick a name for your company and clear the title you choose with them, as they do not want someone else collecting your checks and or you theirs because you have similar publishing company names. There are also trademark issues as well. Once the title is approved, you pay them a fee. Benefits and discounts for other products and services are also included in this fee.

  
ASCAP
ASCAP Building,
One Lincoln Plaza,
New York, New York 10023
1-800-95-ASCAP

BMI
320 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019-3790
(212) 586-2000
 

Songwriters in Europe often sign up with SESAC. Their address is: 

SESAC
International
6 Kenrick Place
London W1H 3FF
020 7486 9994
FAX 020 7486 9929 

Publisher- If you are a songwriter, for 50% of the royalties from your songs, a publisher will administer the rights to your music and get your songs placed with singers. They generally give you a signing fee when you join their company.  

However, getting a good publisher can be tricky, as many reputable publishers are selective of whom they sign.
 
Some singers are lyricists as well, but do not have the time, business acumen, organizational skills, patience or knowledge in this field to handle their own publishing (there is nothing wrong with that). So they sign with a publisher, who basically acts as a secretary in these cases, as they are not getting them any work because other singers are not requesting their songs. The reason they are writing is because itís their project and they asked the label accommodate that request because they wanted to express themselves or add to their credibility.
 
Lawyer Ė You need to get a lawyer. There are many affordable lawyers out there. Itís wise to choose an entertainment attorney. Do not choose a lawyer whose practice revolves around other areas of business such as real estate or family law. No matter how good they are, they will not be privy to some of the tactics and clauses employed in the industry.  

If you try to retain a well-known entertainment lawyer, be advised that some top firms only go by recommendation from one of their clients. Sometimes they take you if they feel you are going to do very well and incur a lot of legal fees. 


Manager Ė Be careful of whom you choose as your manager. You will spend a significant amount of time with this person. When you do choose a manager, donít be difficult. Try to work with your manager. Your career will go a lot better if you do. Too many singers fight against their managers when what they are telling them is not what they want to hear.
 
Sometimes your manager might be wrong, but sometimes the singer might be wrong because they want to try something that will hurt their career - and against the manager's recommendation. Donít get mad, but when itís your career, you are more sensitive and partial. Many singers have a difficult time accurately gauging how the public will receive certain material. Singers are generally very emotional about their work and it clouds their judgment. Most managers are able to be more impartial.  

A good manager will make a big difference to your career. Some managers are really good at what they do and some are not. Some managers stumble unto a singer that turns out to be a hit... and really was a hit before they were famous based on their talent and music, so the manager is basically given a great opportunity, as opposed to actually helping to develop and guide the singer. Itís hard to assess a good managerís skill if they are given a singer and album that would be a hit for anyone.  

Some managers do not do a good job and their clients careers suffer as a result. Lack of understanding of good management decisions and bad timing account for many of these problems. Sometimes managers make bad decisions, because they donít know better, but typically, managers arenít deliberately trying to destroy singerís careers, as they will not make any money if the project is not successful.  

However, there are established acts who have fired their managers and their careers have suffered. 

There is a manager that had success for several years, but really broke through with an act he secured a record deal for a few years ago. That act fired him after their first album was successful. That was a mistake, as this man knew what he was doing. He was fired for no reason other than the act wanting to get someone else to manage them for a lower fee, when the fee they had was standard and reasonable. 

When I saw his work, I realized he had talent. When I read about him being fired by this act, I thought to myself that's a mistake, but he will recover. A few years later it really showed that it was a mistake. He went on to even greater success with other artists he managed and the career of the act that fired him went on the decline and they are not recording anymore. I don't write that being mean, but to illustrate a point. 

For the few percents in management fees they saved, they lost far more. They could have greatly benefited from his guidance and ideas. 

There is another manager that was fired by two of his clients because they felt they were successful and didn't need him anymore. Their sales and businesses declined shortly thereafter without his expertise. I read a journalist's commentary on one of them and what the absence of that manager created in the entertainerís businesses. They seriously underestimated that man's talent. 

Some people do have a talent for this industry. Their work shows it. Some successes happen by accident and some from talent. You can tell by the artists and in how the company handles the project. However, some people do not have a talent for this industry. They are bean counters that only care about making money.

Agent Ė Generally for a fee of 10% they will secure gigs for you and sometimes other jobs in related areas of the industry.

If you donít have a deal with a major most of the big agencies will be reluctant to sign you. There has to be some other major factor to make them sign you. You can sign up with other agencies, but be careful of the terms and the duration of the contract. Also, the type of work that is presented to you may not be what you want. Still, you have to start somewhere.  

Accountant Ė This is generally after the deal, but I wanted to include it as a serious reminder, because this is where quite a few people have been robbed. There are many reputable accountants out there, but there are a few unethical ones as well. Some unethical ones steal money systematically, while others steal all at once. There are several entertainers whose accountants have absconded with their money. Many artists also hire a business manager.

Record deal - Have a lawyer review any record contract that you are thinking about signing. Some lawyers are affordable and will do this for a minimal fee. Seek legal council or a friend that knows the industry and can look for all the questionable items. Still, a lawyer is a better idea, as you do not want to receive a low royalty rate among other things, because you or your friend didn't realize it was not the industry standard. Also, some deals you should pass up. It's not always wise to take the first deal that comes your way. Aim for a bidding war.

Some entertainers enter into recording contracts they don't like with the expressed intent of breaking them later when they have sufficiently used that company. Do not do this. It causes all sorts of problems in the industry and will cost you valuable years of your career. 

Donít just sign anything to get your foot in the door; thinking you'll just break the contract later. Labels will vigorously sue to enforce their contracts. These lawsuits get very ugly, destroy focus and wastes so much time and money. Once a label invests time, money and material into an act, they will not allow their contracts to be broken without legally challenging it. 

- Unscrupulous deals: these can be production, management or record deals. Please, watch what you are signing. I know itís your dream and you are desperate to get out there, but sign a bad deal now and you will regret it later. You will lose a lot of money if you do this.  

There are some situations where artists are being robbed. There are artists that have been robbed of money, credit or points. Executives, managers or accountants sometimes misappropriate funds. There are artists who's accountants have made off with their money. It's not the artist's fault they were robbed, but it's not good to let other people have a lot of control over your finances.

- In the industry, people often confuse brilliance with greed. Don't make that mistake. Often you hear people saying what a brilliant businessperson someone is, when they really do not display any signs of business acumen, creativity or talent other than leeching off talented people and being ruthless. I would hardly call that brilliance or a talent... I think the word for that is greed and considering anyone can do that, it isn't much of a talent now is it.  

- Don't go around making unnecessary enemies of people in the industry. If someone hasnít done anything to you, donít start a dispute with him or her. Not only is it ungodly and uncouth, it's very unwise. Why do that anyway. That person that you are arguing with for no reason maybe the next successful writer, producer or CEO of a label in couple years and you may end up in their office looking for material or for a deal or another record deal when your first deal expires or you are dropped. 

Don't laugh, it happens all the time. There is a guy who was insulted and disrespected when he started his career as an intern and now he is the CEO of a label. Those same people that disrespected him are the same ones that have to work for him now, as he was promoted ahead of them, while others work for other companies, but now have to approach him when they need something...and some of them arenít in the industry anymore because their careers faded. 

Itís a weird business and things change almost on a yearly basis. A guy that started as an intern today, may end up being an executive within two years, sometimes less, based on their contributions to the label, such as bringing future stars to the company. Some people have an eye for talent and when they bring that talent and or music to the label, they will keep getting promoted and sometimes get their own subsidiary labelÖand youíll be like, er, isnít that the intern.

Never kid yourself enough to believe you are something because you made some progress by getting signed, putting out a record or working at a label ectÖbecause many people just donít know who is going to be successful tomorrow and end up offending someone who will carry a grudge and be vindictive when the opportunity arises. They will overlook you for work in the future and in some cases, a few have been known to be vindictive, blacklist people and try to destroy their careers.

There was an aspiring musician who was mistreated by an established musician, who even went as far as to block this artist getting work, even got him fired. A couple years later, the aspiring musician sold millions of records and is now bent on destroying the established musicianís career out of revenge for the things he did to him when he had the ability to do soÖand itís working, as this musician has now completely destroyed the other more established artistís credibility. 

- Be careful where you circulate your work. Yes, you want your music to get out there so it will be heard. Yes, if the right person hears you will get signed. However, if the wrong person hears you, you will get robbed.

There are artists who have a habit of constantly revamping their music, but sadly with some artists it is not genuine. There are artists, label employees, publicists and other executives who scour clubs, parties and the Internet for whatís hot. They look for the latest music, clothes and hairstyles then they take it from some unsuspecting new musician (you) and pass it off as their new style and hail themselves as innovators. Never mind that they didnít come up with any of that stuff, they present it as their own creation.

Thereís a famous singer that does this quite often and has been caught a few times. On one occasion, an aspiring artist this singer took from after watching her show at a small club, who this artist didnít realize would become famous shortly, noticed. The aspiring musician became famous a couple years after and insulted that singer publicly for ripping off a crucial part of her act. Another famous musician recently accused this singer of ripping off his work and he is right. Another writer also accused this singer of this recently. However, that singer is still doing these things, as their latest single is a copy of another up coming artistís song. But once again, that singer is saying it is their new creation. What a load of rubbish.

Music is supposed to be actually coming up with something, not going to a club or on the internet and watching aspiring musicians with talent and trying to figure out ways you can take from their act and incorporate it into your own and saying it's you. That's them, not you. That is not what a musician does and if youíve got to do that, then you are not a musician.

Some of you post your lyrics and music on message boards on the Internet. That is not a good idea. 

Some people say, why would so and so steal from an unknown or new artist. A good idea is a good idea; a good song is a good song. They donít care where it is coming from. It happens very often. People do this because they feel they can get away with it based on their fame, which is so uncertain in the first place. Subsequently, there are hundreds of lawsuits filed all the time regarding this issue.

I know a songwriter/producer who was ripped off by another producer who sold his beat that eventually wound up on a multi-million selling r&b album that he was not credited for. Sadly, the group that recorded the song had no knowledge of what happened, as their producer bought the beat from another producer, who didn't tell him he stole it from someone. They were sued.  

There is a story of a man who was not given the credit he earned for his work on a successful album and he committed suicide. People say it was unrelated, but it was noted that he was displeased about what happened. I think it is a very sad story that should not have happened. That man must have felt pretty bad for him to do that. 

Many of you have gone through this and I implore you, do not take your life. Sue these people, but do not take your life. Their trashy music is not worth your life. Keep trying with your music career.

There is also another practice in the entertainment industry where writers, producers, artists, directors ect...hear that another person is doing a project that sounds like it will do well or is a good idea, so they rush to put out their rip off version of it before the person who actually thought of it/wrote it completes and releases their project. Like I said, it's a dirty business. Inevitably, these people's actions do come back to them as history has shown.  

As you guys know, Iíve had problems with people poaching off this site as well. Namely a label subsidiary in London and another a company in Los Angeles fronted by a musically talent less figurehead. I recently found out one of these acts has been accused of doing the same thing to 5 established acts. The other makes a habit of it as well and has been sued for doing this to others. Ironically, what they took from my work has harmed their music careers, as it has been both singers worst performing projects to date; my work did not suit them and their audiences did not like the change in style/music, which was a real departure from what they were accustomed to hearing from them. What goes around comes around.

So be careful about putting your work into circulation too far ahead of itís release date as it will make you prey for uncreative, sniveling people who perversely feel your hard work is more important on their project because they are signed to a major.

There are tiers that exist in the industry, that often cause some entertainers to be taken advantage of and robbed. Even lawyers make some of these distinctions in how they classify artists according to the type of deals they negotiate.

superstar-famous singer with hit record.
new/indie- new artist or artist signed to an indie label (note: some indies do have superstars).
unsigned/underground - singers not signed to a record deal.

Superstars sometimes poach ideas and material from less famous stars, new, indie or underground acts and arrogantly feel these artists are supposed to be flattered at the theft even though said artist being stolen from might think the superstar's music is an uninspired, lackluster pile of trash. 

No, it's not envy or resentment as some would like to think, some artists genuinely may not like another act's music for it's lack of substance and creativity or it's just not your type of music. Just because something sold a lot, doesn't mean you have to like it.  

They feel this false sense of security in assuming itís an act that is not famous or not that famous, so maybe they can get away with the theft and no one will realize where they stole it from. Many singers are desperate to maintain their success because many artists who are successful one year, are not successful the next. The public can be very fickle. 

-If you are a woman, be careful as some of the men in the industry will try to use you and donít try to use men to get into the business either. You donít want to be known for that. The public will not respect that regardless of how successful you become. It will hurt your credibility. You donít have to use men to get into the industry. Rely on your talent. Also, some of them will treat you very badly as a result. They wont have any respect for you because you slept with them to get into the business. It seems like the quick way to advance, but spiritually it is not good and has its repercussions.

- Be careful of whom you partner with. If you are not good at sharing it is not a good idea to have a partner.

One of my favorite shows when I was a teenager, which was filmed in Miami, had a line in one of the episodes where the character hilariously declined someoneís offer to be his partner by saying ďbecause there will come that time when Iíll have to say one for me and one for you.Ē Some people arenít good at sharing. 

Seriously, some of you really donít need partners, as you can effectively do the work yourself. People will try to latch themselves onto you, but why let them if they are not contributing anything to your work that you arenít doing yourself. You need to evaluate whom you really need on your team because you could end up paying these people for essentially doing nothing.

Sometimes, there are other reasons why partnerships are not good, namely theft. Many people are badly robbed by their partners. There was a partnership that broke up because one member was doing most of the work, while the other was robbing him. The one who was doing most of the work paid a lot of attention to the creative side of the business, neglecting the financial side, which allowed his partner to defraud him.  Someone close to him realized it and it effectively ended the partnership, but not before the other guy made over 100 million off the other member who did most of the work. I always found that story very disturbing and quite unfair.

You should also be careful of partnerships in that if your partner does something unscrupulous, you would be blamed as well even if you had no knowledge of it. You are liable and will be sued. This happens to record companies as well when one of its employees does something unethical. 

The way a lawsuit generally works is they usually sue anyone that contributes to the infringement/malfeasance or financially benefited from it. Those situations are unfortunate, but the law provides room for them. So be careful who you partner with. 

-If you are in a group: make sure the contracts equally divide control between all the members. When you get a member or two with controlling interests in the group, if the group becomes famous, you are basically at their mercy. Donít do this to yourself. This means they can kick you out at anytime, give you less money, meager accommodations and very little input. They can also kick you out and replace you with members who will take less money because they are desperate to get into the industry.

Many of you have people as friends who are very unsupportive and negative. You do not need that. Some people will say things to you out of jealousy, while others canít imagine anyone accomplishing their goals, because they havenít accomplished what they aspire to do. Regardless, distance yourself from that negativity. I'm not saying you should stop being friends with them, but do not waste too much of your time in that environment. You do not need that kind of negativity in your life. You don't need to expend unnecessary energy on that negativity. Itís counterproductive.

Some of you work with friends now, which can be good, but sometimes it doesnít work due to your friendís lack of expertise or knowledge about the industry. In those situations, you will need to be able to be assertive when things are not being done properly and that can be difficult to do without damaging your friendship. If you choose to hire a friend, make sure they are capable. Also, make sure they have integrity, lest their behavior gets you into trouble.

You will also have to prepare yourself for the criticism and negativity most artists face. It doesn't matter how talented you are, some, not all, critics and audience members will never have anything positive to say. That will happen, but you can shut that out. 

-Do not let anyone put unnecessary or undue demands on your time. If you are not able to do something, you just are not able to. Be flexible, but don't let people run you into the ground. If you are tired, you need to rest.   

Lastly, think about what you are putting out there. There will be impressionable people who will listen to you and try to follow your example. God will hold you responsible for what you teach people through your work. Make sure, for your own sake and theirs, that it's not something that is detrimental. If you've put out work that is inappropriate, God can forgive you if you ask, but it does have it's spiritual repercussions on your life. Still, God can forgive you. 

I hope it goes well and God bless you.

   

 

 


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