Protecting Your Band Name or Singer Name
with Trademark or Service Mark




Protecting your Band Name or Singer Name
with Trademark or Service Mark
by Sue Basko

A band or musical performer can often protect their name by registering the name as a trademark or service mark.

Here, I will give a basic explanation. If you want advice on how this pertains to your situation exactly, please contact me. This article is not meant as legal advice for any given person.

NOTE: I strongly advise that no one try to register trademark without the help of a lawyer that knows how to do this. The laws and the process are very complex. Registering a trademark is a process that takes about a year and a half, and each phase of the process is highly technical. My observation has been that most people doing this on their own do it wrong.

Trademark is the U.S. and international system of registering names or marks that someone uses in commerce. These are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Trademark belongs to the first person or company to use a given mark or to the first one to register it, whichever came first. That is the general rule, but there are exceptions to that. For example, someone might claim the trademark on the basis of dominating the field.

To hold onto a trademark, you have to keep it in continual use, as well as continue to register it.

A trademark can be for words that will be in any script, or it can be for an actual mark that uses the words, or for a mark that is purely design.

For most bands or performers, I suggest registering simply the name with no particular design or font or mark. This gives broad protection and you can use the name in any font or style or design that you desire.

Trademark is for goods. Service mark is for services. In applying to a rock band, performing a show is a service. CDs that are sold are goods.

When any trademark or service mark is being registered, you must carefully choose the category of goods or services. Your trademark or service mark is only for the category or categories you have chosen. For example, there might a rock band called The Stompers with a registered service mark, and at the same time there might be shoes called The Stompers, registered with the same name as a trademark.

You will file an application and pay a registration fee for each category. Right now, the fee per category is about $300. In addition are lawyer fees. While, theoretically, you could file this on your own, it is very complex process that takes about a year and a half, and I have noticed that even many lawyers get it wrong. So you are best having it done by someone who knows what they are doing. If you have it done by someone that does not know what they are doing, the fees and length of time for processing can expand greatly. I have noticed some registrations that have been pending for 10 years! If it's a rock band, well, let's face it, very few rock bands last 10 years.

For rock bands or performers on a budget, I suggest registering a service mark in the name, with no design. That, I think, provides the broadest protection for the money. The name (called the mark) can then be used in any typeface or design or color.

If you have more money or become more famous and are earning more money, you may want or need to register trademarks of various logos or designs, and register your name as a trademark for different categories, such as sale of CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, etc.

The USPTO trademark or service mark registration application process is complex and takes a minimum of about 18 months to be completed – and that is if it is simple and done totally correctly and goes unchallenged . First, a preliminary search is done by your lawyer. Then, many factors must be considered to see if you and your band name seem likely to qualify for registration.

Then, the actual application for registration takes place. The application involves filling out forms with complex information that must be accurate. You must choose a correct category of goods or services from the lists of acceptable categories. This is complex and you need to know quite a bit of trademark law to get this right. You also have to provide specimens, usually jpegs of the design, if it is a logo and not just plain typeface and a jpeg of a picture showing the mark in use in commerce. You must pay the application fee, but the USPTO does not guarantee they will allow the registration. If it is disallowed, you do not get a refund. And of course, you will also be out the lawyer fees.

After you apply, a case number is assigned. Next, a government lawyer from the USPTO is assigned to the case. This happens about 3 to 6 months after the application is filed. That lawyer checks the application and does another search. The lawyer may request revisions in the application or may need further information. Next, the proposed trademark is published in a gazette so that anyone can object and claim they already have that trademark in use. There is a 3 to 6 month wait for this publishing. The public then has 30 days to object. If there is no objection, the trademark certificate will be issued.

The USPTO lawyer may refuse to register a trademark for various reasons. Some reasons may be if it causes confusion, or is deceptive, or is merely a last or surname.

For example, if a product is being called Fresh Florida Orange Juice, but is not actually from Florida, the USPTO may refuse to register the trademark.

I laugh to think how rock band names might be treated. Would the name of the band, Philadelphia Grand Jury, cause confusion, since it is neither from Philadelphia nor a Grand Jury? Would the name Manchester Orchestra confuse, since it is neither from Manchester nor an orchestra? I write these mostly as a joke, since of course people going to see a crazy Australian rock band do not think they are serving on a Grand Jury.

I recall reading that the electronic pop composer, Jimmy Tamborello, who goes by the name, Postal Service, asked permission of the actual U.S. Postal Service to use the name. I don't know if he got a service mark on his band name - but if he had used the name without permission, the U.S. Postal Service could have stopped him from using the name.

Once you have your band or performer name registered, you are required to patrol its usage by others in the same or a similar category. So, if you have the registered service mark The Stompers, as a musical band, then if you see a different musical band using the same name, you are required to take action to make them stop. That is called enforcing your trademark or service mark.

Trademark and service mark registration are a lot more complex than just this, but this provides a glance at the topic.

Feel free to email me at: SueBaskoMusic@gmail.com




Fake Profiles Used for Spying, Cyberstalking, Crowdturfing, Site-fluffing



Fake Profiles Used for Spying, Cyberstalking, Crowdturfing, Site-fluffing
by Sue Basko
Fake profiles have long been used for things such as spying on ex-friends and voting for a favorite band. Now fake profiles have stepped up to doing real work for real pay for the masters who control them. I was recently cyberstalked by a person/entity using a mob of fake profiles, so I can give some insight into what they do.
A recent paper by researchers out of University of California Santa Barbara describes astroturfing as such: “Astroturfing refers to information dissemination campaigns that are sponsored by an organization, but are obfuscated so as to appear like spontaneous, decentralized “grassroots” movements. Astroturfing campaigns often involve spreading legally grey, or even illegal, content, such as defamatory rumors, false advertising, or suspect political messages. Although astroturfing predates the Internet, the ability to quickly mobilize large groups via crowd-sourcing systems has drastically increased the power of astroturfing.” The UCSB group coined the word crowdturfing for when a crowd of fake profiles is used to start rumors, give positive or negative reviews or comments, or to gather real people as followers for a point of view.
The HBGary Federal group was reportedly using fake profiles to discredit people who opposed a Republican business organization. In turn, Anonymous hacktivists cracked open the list of subscribers to HBGary publications.
Fake profiles have been rampant online with the Occupy movement, where so much organizing has taken place on facebook. There were many fake profiles that were obvious, at least obvious to me, as agents provocateurs, probably government agents exhorting violence, to see if they could catch any in agreement. Generally, people just ignored these, because Occupy was and is about nonviolent protest.
It became confusing to sort out who was who because there were also the usual armchair anarchist trolls, some who come complete with their own small army of fake profile friends who agree with every word they say. A lot of this was obvious, because the friends would only appear at the same time and place as the main troll. Since I am a lawyer and was providing legal information to many Occupy groups on how to conduct peaceful, legal protest, I found myself being harassed quite a few times by the pseudo-anarchist trolls and their fake best friends. They would agitate for violence, but for the most part, no one was interested.
The profiles that were obviously law enforcement agents provocateurs never bothered me, because they were / are there for the basically legitimate purpose of seeing if any mass destruction was/is planned.
The law enforcement agents post the same types of hooks over and over. They post that there are no limits to the First Amendment and no permits needed. They outright propose specific violent actions. Most people have learned to ignore them and not even reply. The law enforcement agents simply move on to other pages trying to locate sympathizers there.
Then there are the fake profiles that put in friend requests on facebook. The fake profile friends come to spy on your facebook page. According to reports, Aaron Barr at HBGary was busy making pretty girl fake profiles. At one point during the height of the Occupy camps, a bunch of pretty girl profiles invaded. One activist man shouted on his facebook in all caps: ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS ARE FAKE PROFILES! It was true. Men were readily confirming them as friends. Others were accepting the pretty girls because they were already “friends” with people they knew. I got a few of these requests, but rejected them. I think the male equivalent is the profile that is some version of the Anonymous mask. Of course, a lot of these are real people, but it is also a convenient fake profile.
Site-Fluffing is yet another use of fake profiles. That’s when a new site creates fake profiles to make it look as though the site is popular. I wrote a review of a site that looks good, but is very bad news. I was contacted by a person who credibly claims to have made up to 500 fake profiles per day for the site. That’s fraud on any would-be investors or purchasers. It’s also fraud on would-be users or users of the site. A lot of those profiles were obvious fakes.
The U.S. government is obviously using fake profiles. A man named Sean Kerrigan has posted a 2010 listing off FedBizOpps.gov that you have to read to believe. The government has procured software that creates and manages realistic fake personas, “replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent.”:
0001- Online Persona Management Service. 50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per
user.
Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background , history,
supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and
geographically consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to
exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and
without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be
able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through
conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a
user friendly application environment to maximize the user's situational
awareness by displaying real-time local information.
Then to make those personas seem real, they need an IP address for each persona. “Individuals can perform static impersonations, which allow them to look like the same person over time. Also allows organizations that frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP addresses to look like ordinary users..”:
0003- Static IP Address Management. 50 each
License protects the identity of government agencies and enterprise
organizations. Enables organizations to manage their persistent online personas
by assigning static IP addresses to each persona. Individuals can perform
static impersonations, which allow them to look like the same person over time.
Also allows organizations that frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP
addresses to look like ordinary users as opposed to one organization.
Economizer IP Mapped License or equal


0002- Secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). 1 each
VPN provides the ability for users to daily and automatically obtain randomly
selected
IP addresses through which they can access the internet. The daily rotation of
the user s IP address prevents compromise during observation of likely or
targeted web sites or services, while hiding the existence of the operation. In
addition, may provide traffic mixing, blending the user s traffic with traffic from
multitudes of users from outside the organization. This traffic blending provides
excellent cover and powerful deniability. Economizer Enterprise Chameleon or
equal
Now – to the story of how I got cybermobbed by a professional, or at least serial cyberstalker, and a mob of fake profiles, and possibly a few real profiles. I admit I am a target – I have openly provided information to help Occupy protesters know their rights under the law. I also started and help run a blog written by a man in prison who has autism. I am a target – and I want to state that I do not think the Cyberstalker gang that went after me is government-related. I think they are some kind of right-wing nut jobs, as we on the liberal side like to say. The government has no reason to stalk me, since I provide a valuable service to all sides, explaining the law so protesters can follow it. And the mob of fake profiles that stalked me was obviously fake. The profiles’ posts were obviously being written by one person, they all showed up together at the same times and places. There were other telltale signs I won’t share.
First, I noticed that someone had likely hacked into my Facebook profile, because security settings started to change. I wasn’t sure, because Facebook sometimes does change settings on its own. Then, I got a ludicrous private message on Facebook, sent by an obviously fake profile. I posted making fun of the ludicrous message and the ridiculously fake profile that sent it. All of a sudden, a different profile pops up on my page, posting inane, nasty messages saying that I did not respond correctly to the private message. How did “she” even know what the message said or my response to it, if it was not one of her fake profiles? So I deleted these things and blocked both profiles. And --- that began the circus. The whole circus was obviously orchestrated by one person who controls a group of fake facebook profiles with twitter accounts and several blogs.
The main leader of the rampage may or may not be a fake persona. I came across a real man who says he was stalked by the same person for 6 years –and he wrote about this a year before I was also stalked. I remember how he was stalked, because, about 6 years ago, I received some nasty chain emails defaming him. He is convinced the main Cyberstalker persona that attacked us both is a real person. I am not convinced, because it would be hard to find a real person who is so totally insane and yet has such good computer skills. But the ranting insanity seems to be part of the persona that catches people off guard. The persona used a photo of an older woman who looks like Porky Pig wearing a Dutch Boy haircut and some sort of sailor hat. When this thing popped up on my facebook page writing nasty posts, I had to laugh first. (Please tell me that is a fake photo!)
Then it got nastier. This person, who had already hacked my facebook, stole my photos, copied conversations, and began posting things on her own blogs that are run under her own name as well as a few other names. Then there were twitter attacks. She was attaching my name to her words and linking it up to her blog. And she had her fake army of fake profile personas also attacking. By that time, she had a few real people in on it – though it was hard to tell which ones were real or fake, since it is hard to believe any real people would actually engage in such actions.
I did what I was told to do by law enforcement officials – delete and block, delete and block. Her fake profiles were swarming all over my accounts online, all sounding suspiciously alike. There were a few that seemed like real profiles. As I stated that I had a complaint in to the authorities, the main stalker began to delete some posts. It is hard to tell which elements of the attack will be retrievable – or how hard the authorities will go to uncover the elements that have been deleted. If it could all be laid out and seen, it would show a massive online attack obviously controlled and created by one central source.
The methods of the cyberstalker are to invade, intrude, create, spread rumor. For the most part, only the most gullible, unthinking people would fall for this sort of thing, and only the nastiest have a will to participate in it. The idea is to create a mob of only the most vicious, gullible people who do not check their sources and do not think on their own. It works! And with such people involved, lives and safety truly are endangered. The idea is to rile up the crazies – and lead them in an online lynch mob. This is the agent provocateur online – and it works.
What You Can Do: To understand more about Crowdturfing, read the UCSB Study. If you see things like this online, avoid participating. Think about things. During the Cyberstalk attack against me, one of the fake profiles announced on Twitter that I was a lawyer in control of SOPA, the proposed upcoming internet legislation. Of course, I have nothing to do with SOPA and have not even gotten around to reading the draft of the law. But that does not keep a fake profile from tweeting my name and announcing such nonsense. Any thinking person would realize this, but Cyberstalkers, like the one that attacked me, are interested in getting the least thinking people on their side. That’s how it works. The whole point is to gather an irrational mob. Thinking people don’t participate.

Hellish Prisons: Where Millions in the U.S. Reside


Hellish Prisons: Where Millions in the U.S. Reside

by Sue Basko

Two and a half years ago, I started a blog for Paul Modrowski, a prisoner in Stateville Prison, just south of Chicago. It is called: Paul Modrowski: On The Inside. Paul has a life-without-parole term. He has been in prison since he was 18 and he is now 36. He was convicted of murder under Illinois’ accountability law for lending his car to a man named Rob Faraci, who was accused of murdering a man named Dean Fawcett. Rob Faraci was acquitted, but Paul Modrowski was still held accountable for lending the car. Paul did not lend his car to anyone that day. The FBI searched Paul’s car and found not a trace of evidence in it.

Paul is innocent of any crime, and any fair-minded person looking at all the evidence would say the same. The U.S. criminal system is nearly incapable of righting a wrong, and on the rare occasions when it does, wastes decades doing so.

Paul Modrowski has autism. That makes it much more difficult for him to be in a noisy, crowded prison with no privacy. He is interested in investments and works on stock reports. He has also become a legal expert sought after by other prisoners.

Over 2 years ago, I got the idea that Paul might like to write a blog about his life in prison or about whatever topic he might want to write about. I asked his mother to ask him, and he said yes. I set up the blog with a design I thought would be easy to read and reflect the enclosed feeling of his confinement. Paul has no computer access and has never seen the internet. His only writing equipment is paper and a little pencil that he has to sharpen with his fingernails. Paul writes his blog entries and mail them out to be typed in.

Paul controls his own blog. It is barely edited, other than for spelling and sentence structure. Paul’s writing has improved so much while writing this blog, that now, there is barely any editing of any sort needed. I wanted to give Paul voice. This is Paul saying whatever it is he wants to say to people. The blog is Paul’s one domain of power and empowerment. He is dedicated to cranking out his blog entries. His posts have become longer and better as the months go by.

For those of us working on the blog, it is a true commitment of time and dedication. Those typing in the entries have a big job, as the posts become longer and longer. They must decipher the pencil marks with arrows pointing to newly inserted parts. I am often up at 3 a.m., editing, searching for an apt photo, or adding the entries to the Table of Contents. Paul’s mother, Linda, is one of those who types in the blog entries. She works long hours at this because she is so supportive of her son. The others on the team are also very dedicated.

The U.S. incarcerates the highest rate of people in the world. Over a lifetime, a huge percentage of our population spends some time in jail or prison. Whole towns depend on the local prison for jobs. Some prisons are privatized, turning huge profits for corporate owners. In prisons that are not privatized, many of the services are still awarded to the lowest bidder. In the U.S., warehousing people in prison is a huge moneymaking racket. Considering this, you’d think the conditions would be better. The prison where Paul is kept is a dungeon with non-working plumbing, overrun with cockroaches, inhabited by madmen and killers.

Paul’s blog is a monumental literary work. He uses meticulous detail to bring you in to the prison. He tells about everyone’s habits and oddities, for better or worse. He spares no one, not even himself. He shows himself as he truly is; he is not playing for audience approval. And yet he wins that for his honesty and dry wit. He is a man with autism who has been locked into the deepest hole of hell for many long years, for no excusable reason.

Paul’s blog is an astonishing inside look into a U.S prison today. Are people ready to know about this? I’d like to share some excerpts with you:

When I stopped at a red light at the intersection of Archer and Cicero (two busy streets in southwest Chicago), my car was surrounded by numerous gun-wielding task force police and FBI agents. They shouted at us to get our "fucking hands up in the air." We complied. As police moved in closer, there was another shout to get out of the car. At that point, I realized my car was in drive, and I had to reach down to shift into park. Noticing red laser dots from every angle over my body and Michael's, I made the decision to leave the car in drive.

-- My Arrest

Sparrows are resourceful and smarter than one would expect. When thirsty, they will go to a leaking faucet. They turn upside down or hover like a Hummingbird to get a drink. They also will fly through a couple of doors at night to get into the prison shower. Their nests are elaborately made from garbage they find laying about: string, wires, pieces of cloth, broom straws. A scavenging bird finding no food will sometimes beg at the cell bars. I have turned to see a bird on my bars, chirping at me as if he were demanding food. I will always oblige such a courageous bird with a treat. Even when the birds do not beg, I will occasionally throw small pieces of bread, cookie crumbs, or their favorite, doughnuts, on the gallery, to the annoyance of the workers who must clean it up, or end up cleaning the bird droppings.

-- Birds of Stateville

During my teen years, my father and I did not get along well, and our relationship was distant. Since my arrest though, this has changed. He is no longer the authoritarian, stern parent, and I am no longer the youth wanting to break free and be independent. We are on equal footing now, as adults, and I have noticed even from prison, that we share a lot in common. We have many similar interests, opinions, and values. Our personalities are also alike in many ways. I get along well with my father now, and it was good to talk to him, one on one. I wish we could have had a better relationship before my arrest, and I am saddened by all the years that have went by that we could not share time together. My father is now 64, and on the way back to my cell I was troubled with the thought that I will probably never have a real friendship with him. If you happen to read this post Dad, Happy Fathers Day.

-- Visit with My Father

Processed turkey-soy consists of turkey scraps ground together with soy meal into a kibble that resembles dry dog food. It comes in huge bags and is dumped into large kettles to be boiled and made into many of our meals. It is used to make spaghetti, stew, Sloppy Joes, breakfast gravy, tacos, and almost anything you can think of.

-- Fried Chicken

A few years ago, the Orange Crush team, a special tactical squad equipped with shields, batons, tear gas, and dressed in soldier boots, knife proof vests, helmets, and wearing bright orange jump suits, tore through Stateville like a tornado. They tossed inmates' cells, looking for contraband. In their reckless search of my cell, my radio was thrown on the floor and broken. A speaker was dislodged and shorted out. The radio also had a crack across the top, and the door for the batteries was also damaged. Later when I turned my radio on, I discovered that not only was the right speaker dead, but reception was almost gone. This week, I became determined to repair my radio--mission #2.

-- Mission Impossible

I begin by scrubbing out the toilet with soap and disinfectant. Removing all the water, I place a garbage bag in it. I pour some detergent in the bag and slowly fill it up with hot water from the sink. I begin washing my clothes as I fill the toilet. When it is filled, I pull out the bag and place it in the sink. I take the first article of clothing and rinse it out in the toilet, adding new water by flushing. This is a much more efficient system than using the sink, and I can clean my laundry in less than a fifth of the time. Other prisoners also use this time saving system.

-- Laundry Night

Every quarter, I go into an obsessive mode as quarterly reports are released by the government and by corporations. For the last week, I have been doing very little but trying to absorb every tidbit of information, chart it, and make sense of it. The prison went on lockdown earlier in the week due to an incident in the Round House, and this has given me the opportunity to sit at my desk for hours with only having the maddening loud noises of the cell house, and my cellmate for distractions. And my cellmate was nice enough to put me on "no talk" for part of Thursday and Friday. He was mad at me for putting his things away and organizing his property box. Usually, I am indifferent to his sloppy, disordered box, but when I went to put his property away, I could not stop myself from dumping the contents of the entire box on the floor, and refilling it in an orderly fashion. We had an argument where he called me a "bug" and a "cell dictator." I will not deny it. I am probably a little of both. I am terribly bothered by clutter, lack of space, and disorganization. In any event, he is talking to me again, and with much pent-up socialization, I knew he could not last giving me the silent treatment.

-- Stock Market

All I ordered was a pair of gym shoes and two pens. I write so much that I am continuously going through pens. Because there is a limit of two on pens, I am often using pencil. This journal entry, like most of my others, is written in pencil. And I see that I am going to have to find some more pencils because I only have one now that is longer than two inches. Apparently, the size of shoe my cellmate and I wear is out of stock, and commissary workers were too lazy to fill an order for just two pens -- because I did not get a bag.

I am angered by the Illinois Dept. of Corrections making a profit from my incarceration. Illinois prisons are allowed to overcharge prisoners 25% on all commissary purchases. On top of this, Stateville has been breaking the law to make even more money by adding 3% to the prices before adding the 25% allowed by legislation. An audit was recently done showing Stateville's commissary earning $2.3 million in 2008, $500,000 dollars more than permitted. Stateville has responded by saying they believed they could add costs for commissary staff, utilities, and warehouse space before adding the 25%. However, the 25% is supposed to include these expenses. Stateville has also been caught not using competitive bidding, and giving contracts to friends and family of prison administrators.

-- Commissary

Earlier this week, the nutcase had a "friend" to duet with. An older Mexican several cells down from me lost his sanity, and began to rant from his cell bars. His ramblings were not as vulgar, but were wilder and made less sense. My cell mate thought it was amusing that the cell house had two people who "flew over the cuckoo's nest," and were yelling nonsense together. Although both of them lost it, they did not talk to each other or to anyone. Rather they rambled in discord, oblivious to the world. While conducting his errands, a cell house worker stopped at the raving old Mexican's cell. He informed us that the man three cells down was at his bars with bloodshot, wild eyes, pacing aggressively while he spoke.

-- Insane Asylum

B.J. was at the county jail for a long time, as the state convicted him of rape after rape. He was still going to court when I was sent to the penitentiary. I never saw him again until a few years ago when he was on TV news. After 15 years, B.J. was finally exonerated. DNA evidence collected from the rape victims did not match his, and when the court ordered a new trial, the state's attorney chose not to retry him. B.J. was fortunate to ever be released--he had already lost all his appeals. If not for a new DNA law that allows prisoners to retest evidence, B.J. would have died in prison as an old man. I almost did not recognize him when I saw him on TV. He was no longer the childish teen with pimples. He was in his mid-30's, and I could tell, although he was free, there was sadness and bitterness in his heart.

-- Terminator

Groundhogs have lived on Stateville grounds for many years. However, it seems this summer there is an extraordinary number of them. On a sunny day walking to the chow hall, I may see 30 of them. They are semi-domesticated and many will walk up to you without fear. Earlier this week, I was standing in line and one stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on my leg, beseeching me for some food. I told him I did not have any, but he seemed to not believe me. Somewhere this human has a tasty morsel hidden away, I imagined him thinking.

-- Groundhog Invasion

After a half hour into the search, some of the guards began to make jokes. I heard one say to another, "Is pornography legal material?" Another voice asked to no one in particular, "Do these inmates know what they are allowed to bring to the library?" He was now looking at the porn magazine and said, "I think this is contraband. I may have to take this." The major shouted that the prisoners know what we can and cannot bring to the law library. A guard then said, "I don't know. This centerfold could be an exhibit to an appeal." Another guard then told the other they will never get done if they continue to search porn magazines.

-- Law Library Ambush

Chow was not passed out until late. As I suspected, it was an easy to prepare and distasteful meal. Two slices of mystery meat imitation bologna, two slices of bread, and a small portion of lettuce. For a snack, we were given a packaged rectangular cake, the same snack we have been served for months. I peeled the meat off my tray and threw it out of my cell into the darkness. I hoped to hit the gun tower but it was so dark there was no way to know where it went. I was not the only one to throw their food, trays, or other garbage out of their cells. As guards moved about in the darkness with flashlights, I could see all the trash on the ground floor. I could also see, on occasion, or hear objects being thrown from the upper floors. The inmates of F house were not happy, and their discontent grew.

-- Blackout

Roaches, I have noticed, have a strong sense of smell. They also like peanut butter and will take risk in order to get at it. I only had a little bit of peanut butter left, and no one, let alone these nasty bugs, was going to take it from me. A roach crawled up the wall and I crushed him with a left elbow. Then two more came up the wall. I had poured milk into my cereal and had to be careful not to spill it. I kept an eye on them and slowly positioned myself to slap both of them with my hand. Now I had to wash my hands before eating, and I was hesitant to leave my food out. I closed the containers and fit my peanut butter sandwich into the zip lock bag before going to the sink. When I began to dry my hands, I noticed a roach crawling down my towel that was hanging over a bunk rail. It too, also apparently wanted to get my food. I smashed it between my hands so not to get its guts on my towel, and had to again wash my hands. I sat down to enjoy my meal and watch the TV news.

According to rumor, if potato chip bags were taped to the wall upright, the roaches would crawl in, but could not get back out. The smell of the grease lured the bugs into the bags. They ate their fill of potato chip crumbs, and then when they tried to climb upward, the grease and smooth surface inside the bag caused them to slip and fall back to the bottom. I told my cellmate to carefully open the bags of chips, and give them back to me when he was done.

There were a few areas the cockroaches seemed to congregate. It was in those places that I taped my traps to the wall. I felt like Bear Grills in the show "Man vs. Wild" when he set traps in the wilderness to catch prey. Bear Grills used dead fall, snare, and various other traps, but I never saw him use the potato chip bag trap. I wonder if the former British Special Ops and survivalist would be impressed, and I waited in anticipation.

-- Roach War

Thunderstorms are great to watch from the window. I love to see the lightning and hear the thunder, as well as see the rain coming down. With the window open, it can almost feel as if you are outside. Wind will whip through the cell, and extreme thunder can cause reverberations, not only through the cell house but the air as well.

-- Cage with a View

Pay-to-Play is the Boogeyman of Music



Pay-to-Play is the Boogeyman of Music
by Sue Basko

Pay-to-Play is the boogeyman of music. Run, don't let the boogeyman catch you!

The goal of the Boogeyman is to get you to pay to play at your own show. There are many such schemes. My opinion is that all such schemes are illegal because they violate employment laws and/or laws about talent agencies or employment of performers. Even if these schemes are not illegal, they are degrading and annoying. But I think they are illegal and can make a really good argument for that position.

Basically, it goes like this: Any time you, as a musician, have agreed to pay a show for money, the agreement should be this: You will play for a certain number of hours in exchange for a set amount of pay. If being paid or the amount you will be paid is contingent upon anything other than you showing up and playing music, it is most likely some form of pay to play.

For example, if you are required to sell tickets, it is pay-to-play. If you are required to buy tickets, it is pay-to-play. If you are required to put money upfront, it is pay-to-play. If the amount of your pay depends on how many tickets you sell or how many people you bring in the door, it is pay-to-play. If your pay depends on how many drinks are sold, it is pay-to-play.

Do you get it? Anything other than what a licensed talent agent would be allowed to agree to under a State's employment law is pay-to-play. Just because you do not yet have an agent to oversee the situation and make sure laws and just practices are being followed, does not mean they get to be broken.

How To Spot the Boogeyman

Just like a serial killer, the Pay-to-Play Boogeyman is often good-looking. And he probably even drives a cargo van, too. The Pay-to-Play Boogeyman can have a nice website and almost always says very nice, flattering things.

The Pay-to-Play Boogeyman will send sweet little notes to your message accounts on Youtube, myspace, Facebook, and other music social networking sites. These are form messages, and the Boogeyman just pops in your name and sometimes the name of one of your songs. Here is a typical message sent from the Boogeyman:

Hi James and all of the Gang,

I came across your music and am so impressed. Your song, "Walk Away," had me tapping my toes and humming along. I work for one of the nation's best show producers and we are on the lookout for a few excellent new acts. Your music stands out above the crowd. I would like to invite you to call me today at xxx-xxx-xxxx, so I can tell you all about what we have to offer.

GroundSwell Shows produces shows in over 35 cities across the U.S. Our artists are showcased with excellent sound and lighting equipment, full support, promotion, and are paid well. Right now, we have just two positions to fill -- and when those are gone, it may be some time until we have an opening. Please call today.

-- Back Asswards
A&R Producer
GroundSwell Shows

Anatomy of a Boogeyman Message

Look at the message above. What does it contain?

1) A greeting that makes it sound like it is personally to you.

2) It names one song that is on your music player on the site.

3) It gives flattery that could apply to anyone.

4) It tries to impress you with the company's credentials.

5) It tells you to call today.

6) It tries to make it sound as if this is an opportunity you must act fast on, or it will go away. There are only two spots open -- not a never-ending supply of 20-minute time slots in crappy shows designed for suburban suckers and the urban unknowing. No sir-ee, this is a gen-u-ine opportunity.

Boogeyman Shows, from Trailer Trash to the Ritz

The Pay-to-Play Boogeyman runs all kinds of shows, from low-level outright trash shows meant to lure know-nothings all the way up to fancy schmancy opportunities to open for a major big name act. How you can tell when you are upon one:

At the low end of the spectrum are shows that look like this: There is a company behind it. The company calls itself a "producer." In most cases, this is actually a person or company illegally acting as a talent agent while unlicensed and without following basic laws -- such as laws of paying people for their work.

The Boogeyman often makes acts "audition" for shows, which often means paying a hefty fee and sending links to online music and photos. If you pay the fee, you pass the audition. If you question the fee, you are told that serious people invest in their future. Sometimes "auditioning" means playing a show for free. Sometimes it even means playing a show for free and selling at least 10 tickets. What is being auditioned is your capacity to allow yourself to be treated like a fool while believing you are a rock star.

Once you have walked down into the Boogeyman basement, it is hard to turn back and run up the stairs. All your senses may be telling you to run right out of there. Yet, you are lured by the words: Special talent. Record labels come to our shows all the time. Interscope signed one of our acts last week-- that is why we have an opening for you.

These low-level pay-to-play shows are booked into bars or clubs that sometimes have a good high profile otherwise. One tell-tale sign is that the show will have 4 to 6 bands on the roster. Other tell-tale signs are some sort of ticket-selling scheme that involves the performers selling tickets. Or your pay level will depend on how many tickets you sell. People buying tickets are required to tell which act they are coming to see.

In a legit show, you will be told how much you will be paid, and you will be given a contract saying so. This won't happen with the Boogeyman. Or you will be given an obscure contract that names a formula rather than a dollar amount. The Boogeyman often won't even tell you what time your act will play. He often won't give you time for a sound check, because the Boogeyman does not care what your music sounds like.

High Level Pay-to-Play

High-level pay-to-play happens when an act pays to be the opener or support band for a much more famous act. Often, a touring act on a budget will make it known that it will choose its opening acts from among local bands that offer to play for free. That is not pay-to-play. That is helping each other out. Pay-to-pay is when your manager talks to their manager and offers to help cover tour expenses by paying $2000 if they let you play for a half hour.

My thought is that if you need to do this, there is something wrong with some or all of these: your music, your stage presentation, your management, or your promotion.

Should You Dance with the Boogeyman?

Should you do pay-to-play shows? Probably not, if you ever want to be taken seriously. Pay-to-play shows are degrading, assault your dignity, are not very much fun for your audience, put you into a position where your music does not sound its best, and often cost you more in transportation and losing time off work than they do in pay.

Instead of playing such shows, I suggest the following to get you in front of an audience, with your dignity intact:

Play open mic nights.

Play at open mic afternoons at cafes or restaurants.

Offer to play free at church or for teen groups.

Offer to play for free at a nursing home.

Call bookers at bars and clubs and try to get booked.

Make simple flip-cam videos of you performing and put them on Youtube. Use these to show you can perform live.

Street perform, or busk. See my blog posts about this.

Get booked to play at your local block party, street fair, or church or municipal festival.

Produce your own shows.