I've said before in this space that I love having a hobby that exposes me to the music business, but I would never want to have to actually depend on the people you encounter there to make a living.
Here's a case in point. A hip hop musician with the unlikely (for a musician, it seems to me) name of Tonedeff flew to Chicago on his own dime to compete in the 2006 Lolapalooza Last Band Standing contest where he won.
Note the prize package:
Last Band Standing - Prizes
* A spot on the lineup: an opening slot on a feature stage.
* Artist passes for the entire weekend with access to catering, the artist lounge, and everywhere else bands get to go!
* Rooms for the weekend at the House of Blues Hotel.
* Festival tickets for your friends to see you play.
* $10,000 worth of equipment from our friends at Gibson. (yes, believe it!)
* An interview and in-store performance at Virgin Megastore.
* Band promotion on the homepage of Lollapalooza.com and partner websites.
* Plus countless other Lolla goodies and schwag.
Maybe you don't believe it. You won't believe Tonedeff's story of long (year and a half now) negotiations by e-mail with a Gibson rep named Don Pitts.
Why didn’t I receive anything? I guess you’d have to ask Don Pitts, Entertainment Liason for GIBSON Guitars. He’s the guy who apparently deals with artist sponsorships and the like. He was the man in charge of this particular situation and who, in my opinion, handled it in an unorganized and sloppy manner.
I would leave phone messages, emails, etc that would take weeks for him to respond to. Finally, I land him on the phone and tells me that he’s ‘inexperienced with how these types of contests run’, and he’s ‘not sure how to go about this’. This conversation would set the tone for the entire ordeal.
But then he starts making statements that bug me. He tells me, “I mean, this is kind of weird, because you know, you DON’T play the guitar or drums.” This definitely rubbed me the wrong way, because I already felt as though he was being unnecessarily difficult to contact and somewhat curt on the phone. So, from that statement, I guess I could gather, that there are some reservations on the Gibson side as to whether they need to accommodate ‘a rapper’ with their gear.
Whatever man, I just wanted what I won fair and square.
A year and a half later, Tonedeff's feelings haven't changed.
It’s been a few months since I even bothered to contact anyone. The last few times I contacted the Lollapalooza folks, they always seem surprised that I hadn’t received anything yet. I’ve realized that it’s basically useless to complain to them anymore, because it’s clear that they’re still dealing with Don Pitts. I’ve even tried calling him myself and no one answers. (Surprise!).
As of right now, I want the entire WORLD to know how horribly this entire situation was handled by Don Pitts @ Gibson. And after all my troubles dealing with his lack of direction and continual roadblocks, I don’t think it would be out of line to ask for $10k in compensation from Gibson. Think about it – I won $10k worth of gear fair and square, but since they refused to give it to me, shouldn’t I be entitled to the same value in cash? ESPECIALLY after the treatment I’ve gotten from their rep?
Clearly, they have no intention on doing that either. Which is why everyone’s still in the dark about it. Maybe they thought I’d just “go away”. WRONG. It shouldn’t matter if I rap, played a spoon or did acapella like Bobby McFerrin – They OWE me, PERIOD. I hope the everyone reads this and sees how they tried to weasel their way out of this, and how they tried to play me cause I’m a Hip Hop artist.
So to be fair here, we don't know Gibson's side of the story. I've emailed a request for comment to both Mr. Pitt's e-mail address and an address listed on a Gibson press contact list. I'll let you Google those addresses yourself. I'll also let you know what, if anything I hear back.
If this thing catches on, it sure seems like it would be worth it to Gibson to make this right just to eliminate the bad publicity. Read the comments both here and here to see how the story is already starting to agitate the customer base.