May 27, 2018

Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser

BC sticker

Happy October! We’re celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month with our annual fundraiser. Stop by the front desk to buy a limited edition pink Music Garage sticker or guitar pick for $1. You can also donate any amount if you don’t want the swag, but come on, it’s pretty cool! Either way, Music Garage will match ALL revenue donated to the cause to Bright Pink, a wonderful non-profit based in Chicago that focuses on breast and ovarian cancer prevention & early detection. Help us raise funds and awareness all month long!

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Us and Them: The Disconnect Between Musical Education and the Modern World


by Bridget Stiebris

There’s nothing like the pungent smell of litter and increased crime reports to mark the beginning of another Chicago summer. With the stress of exams behind them, high school and college students alike can finally take a breath of relief as their obligations drift away for a fleeting three months. For the collegiate musician, a formal education brings the expectations of coursework immersed in relevant and rigorous training that will lead to a smarter, more capable musician, ready to meet the demands of today’s complex world of music. But is that the reality? University art curricula are often criticized for graduating students who have no preparation for the business of art. Do musicians fare any better?

Perhaps so, for those who seek a career as a classical musician, as conservatories and colleges build their music programs around this genre. But what of the electric guitar virtuoso, the wicked fast rapper, of the visionary contemporary composer? Does the classical curriculum educate and prepare them for a career in modern music?

Now, I am not suggesting that students analyze a Beyonce album, but hasn’t something musically important happened within the past 56 years? Why is almost every genre besides classical seemingly ignored by this curriculum? Sure, schools have a jazz studies department. However, as said by a jazz professor at DePaul, “Music school is a place for classical education. Jazz is merely tolerated.”

So what is the reasoning behind this stark discipline of classical music in formal education? While there is no question of the importance of Mahler or Mozart on the complexities of harmonic dissonance and chordal structure, surely someone in the non-classical world has made a difference in the culture and understanding of music. Gospel music unites those of the same faith and creates a passionate, rewarding experience and safer communities. Modern folk music, along with musical theater, rock, and jazz, each have rich histories filled with innovations that influenced not only the music of today, but each other. So why do we keep all of these innovators swept under the rug?


Mark Maxwell:

Classical Guitar professor at DePaul

“There have been settings of Beatles tunes by classical composers such as Luciano Berio, Toru Takemitsu and Peter Serkin among others. This in no way goes towards creating a pop music curriculum. The idea of traditional classical training, which honestly has been watered down since I was in school and sort of pathetic compared to European conservatory training, is to give serious musicians the rigorous training they need to function in the demanding venues of classical music. ‘Contemporary’ music is pervasive in the culture. But even then some schools like Berklee in Boston have their main curriculum in popular music.”


Joe Clark:

Adjunct professor of Aural Training, Jazz Trumpet at DePaul

“Yes, schools should have opportunities to explore all kinds of music. There are certain elements of sound and performance that are essential for professional musicians. Studying “classical music” or “jazz music” can be a very effective way of teaching those concepts. However, the application of those concepts is nearly universal!

Classical music and jazz music are both genres that deal with a high degree of complexity and nuance in their sounds and require a critical rooting in aesthetics, history, and the study of art.  Although I can think of exceptions in nearly every genre, the success of “pop” genres can be predicated on cultural influence, lyrical poetics, the machinations of music business, and a whole bunch of other concepts that don’t necessarily have to do with the sound itself. I always encourage students to expand their musical horizons and check out as much music as they can, but my ear training classes have a fundamental rooting in classical music because it is such a fertile source of examples of a variety of harmonic and melodic sounds.”


Comparing these two perspectives, it is interesting to see how opinions vary based on areas of study. I feel like some professors give modernity consideration, but never seriously think about adding it to a curriculum. Others may have such a concentration on the classical areas that they have no need to consider a more modern approach. It seems to me that if any sort of change were to come for this topic, we would need a push from contemporary-based performers and teachers who believe in the value of modernity in the classroom. While Professor Clark  makes an excellent point in the richness of classical music’s harmonies, he also acknowledges that these concepts can be applied to almost any genre — which is exactly what we can do.

An opposing argument to this might be: why is there a need to teach modern music in the first place? These students will have no use for this. Why is there a need to bring the Rolling Stones in the same room as Haydn?

Read on.

Walking Contradiction: Rocking with a Degree

 by Bridget Stiebris

When you think of rock music, what typically comes to mind? If you’re my grandparents, you’ll probably imagine a sweaty stadium full of angsty punks, thrashing about and punching one another in the face. And if you ever attend a Slipknot concert, that’s probably what you’ll see. Is that really all that contemporary music has to offer the world? Think of the numerous recorded performances of Jimi Hendrix. With impeccable flowing movements and a precision so sharp it’s almost scary, Hendrix twists and bends the strings of his guitar as it wails through the night. And what about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band? A timeless performer, Springsteen fills the audience with pure energy and nostalgic delight as a saxophone solo captivates the room. To dismiss this as “dumb” or “reckless” simply wouldn’t make sense. After all, Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, holds a degree in Astrophysics and has worked with NASA on numerous occasions. Dexter Holland, vocalist for The Offspring, has a PhD in molecular biology and has penned multiple scientific research papers.

It’s undeniable that these artists, and countless more, have touched the hearts of millions across the world. It’s music like this that inspires, influences, and propels us through the good and the bad of each passing day. So how does the classical world continue to dismiss it as not “serious” enough? We talk of the brilliance of John Cage, a 1950s composer who created the prepared piano (filled with bolts and rubber bands to alter the sounds of the strings) and wrote the famous 4’33” (a shocking 4 minutes and 33 seconds of pure silence). We study the music of Henry Cowell, who composed a piece called “The Banshee,” which consists of a bow roughly scraping different areas of a cello. Yet, these examples are dubbed “avant-garde” and praised for their contribution to new ideas in composition and technique.

I must stress that my goal here is not to put down or ridicule classical music; only to compare its ideals with contemporary music, and question why it can’t be taken as seriously in our modern world as the pieces above. I am constantly trying to figure out the true purpose behind this definition of “smart” music, and music that is unworthy of this title. And so, in an attempt to answer this question, we must consider those who have a degree in formal music education, and chose to pursue contemporary music paths instead. There is so much we can learn from music school graduates, but above all, we can explore how they have come to fit into the contemporary scene with their formal degrees and years of training.


Kris Meyers:

Umphrey’s McGee (Meyers on right)

Drummer for touring jam band Umphrey’s McGee

Masters of Music, DePaul University

“There’s a learning curve with whatever artists you’re dealing with…how they want to learn songs. But the discipline you get from the rehearsal techniques, the pedagogy, your classes, and the programs –especially at DePaul — they teach you how to memorize things. They teach you about chart reading, about style features. You study all the artists from past, present, of that genre. Understand when someone is playing a certain way.  You learn to speak the language. Big band teaches you a lot about how to set up with the proper fills, how to set up rhythmic figures. DePaul is right in the metropolitan Chicago area, so you’re getting hands-on experience playing gigs, which is where you learn a lot of the real lessons in life.”

Catch Umphrey’s McGee at Union Park in Chicago on September 2.


Arcana (Clark on left)

Joe Clark:

Adjunct professor at DePaul and lead trumpet in local jazz band Arcana

Masters of Music, DePaul University

“One of the most valuable parts of getting a degree in music is being surrounded with a bunch of other people who want to have a career in music. Every member of Arcana has different degrees: Classical Performance (Will Russel), Music Education (Mark Hiebert), Jazz Performance (Dave Agee), and Jazz/Classical Composition (Me). We also all come from different states. If it wasn’t for DePaul University, I can’t imagine our paths crossing any other way. Additionally, our different backgrounds give us different viewpoints and areas of expertise which makes sure we don’t become an echo chamber of the same kind of ideas. Plus, many of our fans first heard about us through musical connections that started at DePaul.”

Find out more about the incredible jazz outfit Arcana here.



Bob Koutek:

Bassist for local rock group North of Eight, Singer/Songwriter, Recording Artist

Bachelor’s in Music Performance, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy

North of Eight (Koutek, far left)

“The formal aspect of my musical education technically began in high school when I joined choir. I had a phenomenal instructor named Debora Utley, who really made sure that music theory was a huge part of our curriculum. Fast forward to college in NYC, where I tested into Advanced Music Theory and was continually challenged to push the boundaries of my own understand of music and all its mysteries. Initially starting with a focus on musical theatre, our professor, by the name of Peter Susser, exposed us to many genres, from classical and jazz, to pop and everything in between. In no time the training I was experiencing inevitably bled into all forms of music I was performing or writing. It has helped me to communicate my musical ideas with other musicians clearly.

I cannot stress how important formal music education has been in my career. Learning music theory and more importantly being able to put it into practice has opened many doors that might have been previously closed. I believe it has helped me become a better musician and band-mate. I’ve played the clubs for nobody. The band has headlined the Metro and House of Blues here in Chicago. I’ve even I’ve sung and danced on Broadway. I truly feel as though I appreciate music more, even being out in the crowd just listening, having had musical education in my life.”

You can see North of Eight at the 4th Annual Homegrown Arts and Music Festival in Lisle, IL on August 6 and 7.


These artists are clearly not your average symphony orchestra members, yet they all praise their education for enabling them to perform better in the modern world. So if you ask the question, “how does modern music apply to classical?” You have your answer in their words.

Like it or not, all music is connected. The skills you need to sight-read will help you to quickly figure out a riff. The energy you deliver in an audition will prepare you for a sold out night on stage. Contemporary music has too much relevance in our world to be thrown away from the classroom. The concept of music education has such incredible potential to give students a comprehensive guide to the galaxies of art that await them in the world — and I say we let it.

Music Education 101

by Lyssa Sheng

Growing up, while other kids my age were watching Barney and The Big Comfy Couch, my parents would sit me down in front of TRL and had me dancing to Janet Jackson in the family room of my grandparents house. My very first memory was when I attended my first concert at the ripe age of two; N*Sync was playing Allstate Arena, my dad had me in his arms and I remember seeing bright flashing blue lights. I played the saxophone in elementary school and got an acoustic guitar for my 11th birthday so I could learn how to play Jonas Brothers songs. My entire life was shaped by music and still very much is. Music has become a big part of people’s lives and it has connected everyone to one another.

In fifth grade, I remember seeing a commercial while watching MTV with Beyoncé talking about keeping music programs in schools and at the time, I didn’t realize it was a big issue. I couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that there were people that wanted to get rid of music programs when it was such a big thing in my hometown. The dictionary definition of music education is “the field of study associated with the teaching and learning of music.” Whether younger kids join an after school club to learn more about an instrument or when people go to college specifically to learn about the business side of music, people tend to forget that music education is a real thing in today’s society.

In Chicago’s very own backyard, we have Columbia College of Chicago which offers tons of music related majors such as Music Management and Composition. Then we also have DePaul University which is widely recognized for their music program. Being situated in the middle of one the largest cities in America has its advantages.

Nowadays, being able to study music in school and then take it on as a professional career is a path that many people have decided to take, whether it be actually performing music or being involved with the music side of it. Music education is something that is becoming more common every day and people need to remember that there are certain individuals who want to pursue music for the rest of their lives.

Music Garage’s Top Tips for Getting Booked

by Maddie Price & Leah Streeter

1. Booking 101.

  • Know Yourself—Be specific about who you are and express what you want to your booking agent!
  • Age Restrictions—Work with your agent and the venue to determine whether or not your show will be all ages, 18+, or 21+.
  • Find bands or artists that compliment your style of music—Don’t be afraid to suggest artists for the bill.
  • Maintain communication—Respond to your agent’s emails or phone calls within 24 hours.
  • Get it in writing—Have a contract that details show arrangements and compensation. A written agreement is beneficial to both parties involved and will protect you in the event of any disagreements.

2. Congratulations, you’ve been booked! Now what?

  • Tell everyone—Don’t just leave it up to the venue and your agent to market your show. Take responsibility and spread the word amongst your network and beyond!
  • Attention to detail—Prior to sound check give the venue a detailed outline of your band’s instrumentation. Inquire about the venue’s backline as well as a time for load in.
  • If you’re early you’re on time Everyone assumes that musicians are flaky, so if you show up on time or early it gets the relationship on the right foot. Don’t be the artist that shows up an hour and a half after they’re supposed to perform.
  • Case by case—Use cases to transport your equipment. It’s professional and more efficient. When you show up with gear without cases it takes three times as long to set up…that drives sound engineers crazy!
  • Test your gear—Make sure your gear works and have backups of anything specific to your instrument. Keep backup cords or batteries in your car and separate from the equipment you use daily.
  • Recruit help –Find stagehands/ friends to help you with setup and teardown. If you take 20-30 minutes to setup it can cut your set short. It also doesn’t hurt to have a friend at the door to help count attendees and avoid any dispute over your draw.

3. Remain humble.

  • Be weary of the guest list—Make sure you don’t go over the number of people the venue allows. If your friends support you, they’ll pay to see you play.
  • Food+Booze – Ask the venue if your arrangement includes food/drink tickets.
  • Rider – If the venue has hospitality or asks for a rider, be realistic. If you’re a 12-pack of PBR band—don’t tell them you need 2 bottles of Courvoisier. Remember you are there to perform!

4. The Performance.

  • You’ve finally made it to the stage. Enjoy yourself and don’t let little mistakes get you down or affect the rest of your performance.

5. And that’s a wrap!

  • Pack up! – Gather all your belongings quickly and efficiently to please the venue.
  • Network –Support the other acts on the bill and interact with fans after the show. The connections you make that night are potential business contacts and friends.

**Use our tips and adapt them to what works for you! Whether it’s your first show or your last show, professionalism is always valued. A good reputation is the determining factor for getting rebooked, as well as, building quality relationships with agents, venues, and other artists. Now go forth and get booked!

All-Ages Shows and the Future of Local Music

All-Ages Shows and the Future of Local Music

by Leah Streeter

The year of 21 is not just the flip of a license for Chicago (and surrounding suburb) kids, yet a long awaited ticket to inclusion. Chicago’s zero tolerance policy for underage drinking leaves many youngins excluded from what seems to be the only fun to be had. For those that are eager to speed up the aging process there are all-ages shows. All-ages shows provide teens with the opportunity to see their favorite bands and get a sneak peek of Chicago’s nightlife. Bars and restaurants that are able to accommodate artists must decide whether or not they are willing to risk their business for the sake of an artist’s youthful fan base and a sold out show.

The possibility of an all-ages venue revival has been lost in several cities with the implementation of strict underage drinking policies. According to Pitchfork, there hasn’t been a solid all-ages space “since the Fireside Bowl returned to its bowling alley roots.” A majority of the venues that host musical acts in Chicago are bars first. All-ages shows do not hold much promise for immediate bar revenue but ultimately give underage Chicagoans an opportunity to engage in the local music scene.

Interestingly enough, there are positive organizations like the “All-Ages Movement Project” that focus on saving and promoting all-age venues. Although these organizations have supporters, they’re not enough to help obtain real estate for all-ages venues. With fewer all-ages venues more artists and promoters are taking it upon themselves to negotiate all-ages shows in an effort to have more draw. Promoter for Music Garage Presents, Tim Worley, says “I prefer all-ages shows because it helps sell tickets and as a promoter you want to see a full house”. For venues, promoters, and artists that abide by city policies all-ages shows come with great responsibility and reward.

The zero tolerance underage drinking policy has left several bars in the city stripped of their liquor license impacting their ability to draw a crowd and make money. A venue in Chicago simply cannot survive without a liquor license. Congress Theater was popular for all-ages shows until they were closed down in 2013. Congress Theater lost their liquor license in May 2013. The revocation order that Congress received from the Business Affairs department also pinned five separate violations of state laws regarding narcotics and controlled substances in 2011 and 2012 (Chicago Tribune). Sure, experimentation with drugs and music historically go hand and hand. We all know the mantra; sex, drugs, and rock and roll. However, since the closure of Congress, venues have been working relentlessly to ensure that all attendees are safe and not sneaking narcotics or alcohol into their shows.

Along with underage drinking policies venues must also abide by the city’s curfew. If artists want their shows to go into the wee hours of the morning they must make a choice to either schedule their shows earlier in the evening or restrict their shows to 18+. Double Door’s Talent Buyer, Nate Arling, says “[they] mutually decide the age restriction with the band/agent and hope they agree with the knowledge, history, and demographics [they] have in [their] market.” The success and safety of a show involves everyone from security to production.

Sometimes if local artists and promoters are unable to negotiate an all-ages show with a licensed venue, they’ll host their own “underground” or “D.I.Y” show. D.I.Y. shows allow artists to be intimate with their audience, create an aesthetic that matches their brand, and live by their own “house rules”. It’s likely that if you are promoting a D.I.Y. show you allow underage drinking policies and city curfew to fall to the wayside. Underground shows are gaining popularity, but they require careful planning and a secure invitation. Overcrowding and a lack of security can attract police, shut down the show, and slap those responsible with a hefty fine. D. I. Y. shows can be inclusive of all ages, but require immense responsibility from curators who want to stay in line with the law.

Ultimately, all-ages shows are a major benefit for Chicago promoters and artists. These shows have the potential to draw larger crowds and provide underage Chicagoans with the opportunity to safely engage in the local music scene. Venue staff members work diligently to ensure everyone in attendance is both safe and having fun.

The Word Around Campus: The Organizations & Students Behind University Shows

by Maddie Price

Each year, students at universities across the country look forward to concerts at their very own schools. Be it a large scale concert such as Dillo Day at Northwestern or FEST at DePaul, or even just a cool local band coming to campus to play, students love these events. There is even a sense of school pride in having awesome shows at your very own school. But how do these events happen? Programming boards are the organizations that plan and run university shows. These organizations are student run, usually with the assistance of a faculty advisor usually. Programming boards handle all aspects of a university show – from booking talent to contracting a venue and backline company, to finding student volunteers to sell tickets and run front-of-house. Music events at universities are often funded by a student activity fee. This is a small fee that is part of the tuition all undergraduate students pay that goes towards a budget to fund on-campus student organizations. Programming boards typically receive a large portion of this budget. Since the money funding university shows comes from student tuition, these shows are generally limited to students only – however this can contribute to the sense of exclusivity, pride, and enthusiasm students feel towards university concerts.

So how do programming boards find musicians and other acts to book at their universities? Larger acts – the size of DePaul’s FEST, which last year featured Big Sean and American Authors – are often booked with the assistance of a middle agent. The middle agent aids the programming board in narrowing down the artist search by price and availability, and then help to negotiate the contract and rider and ensure that the artist arrives and fulfills their contract the day of the show. For smaller scale shows, programming boards find bands from a variety of sources. Many artists will contact programming boards directly via email or phone. Some artists also belong to an organization called the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA). NACA is a non-profit organization designed to provide information and resources to programming boards & faculty advisors – as well as to bands, artists, and vendors. NACA hosts regional conventions for programming boards each year at which they showcase talent. Programming boards are then able to book, and in some cases block book talent they are interested in bringing to their respective schools. Block booking entails booking at multiple universities within the vicinity of one another for a slightly lower fee.

If you are trying to book a show at a university, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, programming boards book their events schedules based on the university academic calendar. For instance, DePaul is on the quarters system, so DePaul Activities Board books events for Spring Quarter during Winter Quarter (i.e. around January). Universities that use semesters will start booking the semester before. As a general rule of thumb, reaching out to programming boards 4-5 months in advance, if not earlier, is usually a good time frame. It is also important to note that programming boards do more than just book events. One of the primary goals of programming boards is to teach students leadership skills and develop professionalism. So keep in mind that the people who run these programming boards and book shows at universities are also full time students. In addition to booking and planning shows they also have a full course-load, and some may even have jobs on the side, so be patient when you are reaching out to programming boards about booking. The student you are contacting may not be able to get back to you right away. So be patient and be friendly and the students will appreciate your professionalism.

College students love music events on their campuses. They are always memorable and often the source of university pride and affinity. College-age students are a huge market in the music industry and students love to brag about the cool acts their school brings. And that cool act could be you or your band! So reach out to a university programming board – just remember to be patient and professional and you could soon be playing on campus.


A Word from Our Consuls…


By Delara Alviri and Sofia Bergfeld

We recently had the privilege to interview both Brian Rosenblatt and Brian Saucier about their vast experience working in entertainment law. You may be familiar with “the Brians” from our recent Chicago Music Professionals seminars.

Music Garage:  We first turned our attention to repeated mistakes that clients seem to always make.

Brian Rosenblatt: “Unfortunately, many clients have wonderful ideas that they think are captured in the initial terms of a contract, but they fail to pay attention to, or do not understand, other terms… Part of what the attorney must do is not merely identify what is in the client’s best interests, but also explain the terms, provisions and ramifications of any deal to the client. The best deal offered may not be what the client wants, but it may meet the minimum acceptable goals.  Or, upon realizing that the client will not get what they want, the client may need to reassess those goals and accept something less than what they hoped for.”

One of the first steps is to determine what type of strategy to follow.  “Learn what the client needs, and identify what the client wants. These are often different.  Then, do the research to determine not only who you are dealing with on the other side of the agreement, but learn that party’s needs and wants as well.” That is a very interesting aspect that one would not always think about initially!

MG:  Do you ever walk away from the table as a strategic tactic?

BR: “Absolutely. Ultimately, if the deal is not working, then the parties should not be afraid to walk away. The key, however, is to avoid crying wolf. If you threaten to walk, you had better be sure your client is willing to do so. There’s no easier way to lose credibility than to make threats that you cannot back up…  If I threaten to walk away from the deal, it is because the client is better off not doing the deal, or has a better alternative already lined up.” Finally, what aspects are most often openly negotiated?…I have found that nearly all aspects and issues are negotiable, it’s just the degree or extent to which parties will yield on certain points that varies. If a record label is offering a new band a recording contract, that label is going to want to tie that band to as many potential option periods as possible.  The more options, the more potential records, and accordingly, the more opportunities to make money.”

Brian’s partner, Brian Saucier, joined us at this time.

MG: What motivates you in the music industry?

Brian Saucier: “The music industry is filled with creative people, and not just on the musical side. The art directors, the designers, the promoters, etc. all bring their own personalities, perspectives, and energies to the industry. It’s an enjoyable and sometimes challenging environment in which to be working, and requires a different approach than you might take in providing legal services to businesses buying and selling widgets. The changes in technology certainly create issues as well; it’s a very dynamic industry from a legal, business, and artistic perspective.

MG: Do the people that you work with within the music industry play a large part in this motivation? What sets this industry apart from others and how does that play into your take-away of the job?

BS: “Absolutely. When you work with people on the creative side, the impact of personalities takes on a new level. It’s not like a bank client, for example, that is focused solely on a bottom line. At the same time, in the entertainment industry there is often a greater challenge to helping clients see the big picture for a particular issue.”

MG: In your presentation, you said that it’s good to find an attorney that is in the realm of what the artist needs. We would like to know, what roles you are most likely to play as an artist’s attorney?

BS: An artist’s attorney shouldn’t be a “dabbler” – you need both depth and breadth of knowledge in the industry, and to understand how a decision on one issue may affect another issue down the road. Also, an attorney must be both an advocate and an objective counselor – retaining objectivity is an important function and one that client’s appreciate in the long run. Another important balance is protecting the client without “over-lawyering” to the point of killing a deal or saddling the client the reputation of being difficult to work with. It’s a small world, especially in an industry where so much is dependent upon personal relationships.

“Caution: Read Before Signing” – Chicago Music Professionals Event Review

By Sofia Bergfeld

Chicago Music Professional’s second Meetup presented again by “The Brian’s” focused on contracts, specifically the cautionary action artists should take before signing any contract. They began by stating the basic elements of a contract and introduced the hypothetical of a four-member band to better illustrate the situations and terms an individual may run into during contract negotiations.

The Brian’s also discussed band agreements and stressed the importance of getting an attorney. Attorneys are there to represent only their client not the entire band. In most cases a record label is not concerned with the band behind the lead singer therefore it is extremely important to get yourself protected.

They also discussed the types of management contracts and recording agreements. The standard album cycle is around 18 months so most management contracts are the same length. The Brian’s mentioned key terms to look for in recording agreements as well. Some of these terms include: parties, team recording process, advances vs. recording budgets, artists royalty, recoupment, controlled composition clause and cross-collateralization.

The worst mistake an artist can make is coming to their attorney and asking, “What did I just sign?” Bottom line, you need to understand the agreement and there is absolutely no excuse for not reading the contract. This means you should not rely on anyone else to read the contract. The Brian’s stressed that there is also no excuse for not understanding the contract. An ounce of prevention can go a long way in the world of contracts so it is important to ask questions.

Overall, The Brian’s provided useful information for anyone who will encounter a contract in the future and even gave great advice for those that already have come in contact with these types of contracts. The session can be viewed on our channel.

Read The Fine Print!

 Read The Fine Print!


By Delara Alviri

Disputes between artists and their labels are nothing new. Conflict may ensue whether you are at the peak of your career or just starting out. Some stories have been known only to those involved while others have become famous music history. One can only hope to never get into this kind of argument, but it is a reality that an artist may face whether she likes it or not. Even with good intentions on both sides, contract disputes are sometimes both inevitable and unforeseen.

One famous story is between band 30 Seconds to Mars and Virgin Records. Virgin and 30 Seconds to Mars were tied for a five-album deal, but Virgin sued Jared Leto, vocalist for the band, for thirty million dollars for breach of contract when the band refused to deliver a third album to the label in 2008. The band members claimed they had not seen a cent from the label for more than two million records sold, so they demanded their right under California Labor Code Sec. 2855(a) which governs the ability of entertainers to terminate their contracts after seven years. The dispute got ugly, and Leto was adamant about his lawful rights. Eventually, the suit was settled in 2009, and incredibly, 30 Seconds to Mars signed a new contract with Virgin Records!

Probably an even more famous cautionary tale is between Slash and Duff McKagan versus Axl Rose. Axl claims that his feud is based on Slash being a “cancer…better removed, avoided, and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better,” and that Slash and Duff did “damage to my ability as a writer.” While on tour at the height of the band’s drug and alcohol addictions, Axl reportedly had his lawyers hold up his band-mates backstage and told them Axl wouldn’t join them onstage unless they signed all rights and control of the name Guns N’ Roses over to him. They agreed, and it was the beginning of the end. Skip a few decades, in 2005, Slash and Duff sued Axl for lucrative deals putting Guns songs in movies and other media despite no controlling interest in the music. In 2006, they sued again for signing a publishing deal that omitted any royalty checks to the rest of the band. There’s no end in sight for this classic group and dispute.

Another notorious dispute that went all the way to Capitol Hill was between Pearl Jam and Ticketmaster. Even Bill Clinton had something to say about this. The band, specifically singer Eddie Vedder, discovered fans were paying outrageous service-charge fees to Ticketmaster when buying tickets for their upcoming U.S. tour, which resulted in Pearl Jam scrapping their 1994 summer tour. The band was so serious about this issue that they attempted to stage its own tour of non-Ticketmaster venues. These were mostly non-traditional venues where the band would have to build shows from the ground up at every location. Economically and politically there was no upside for Pearl Jam to fight this battle, but it was a historic moment in time. It was a challenge to the existing business model, and the band risked jeopardizing their superstar status. Ultimately, Pearl Jam lost in court, but it brought the company a public relations nightmare by bringing some of the industry’s back-room dealings into the light.

There is no formula to the creation or breakdown of a dispute, but it happens all the time. Bands are sometimes compensated or forced to change; big companies may be forced to pay up. These disputes will continue to follow every artist. You’ve been warned!