BAND LEADERS OFTEN ASK US…
“Why don't you just book through the agencies like everybody else does?” We're also asked “Why don't you like the agencies?” and “Why don't agencies like your band?” The obvious answer to the last question is… Agencies don't like us because they don't ever make any money from our band. It's that simple.
The truth is, we don't have anything against entertainment agencies. There are some honest agencies out there, who work in the best interest of both their clients and their bands. It's only the dishonest ones we don’t like! All local band leaders know who I’m talking about. We simply will not work with dishonest and unethical business people.
Bethesda bridal shop owner Claire Dratch once said to me, “Be careful with whom you associate. You are known by the company you keep.” That’s excellent advice for all of us.
FOR BAND LEADERS ONLY
TRUE STORY #1
Some years ago, my wife and I bought tickets to a huge bridal fair in the Maryland suburbs, one in which Retrospect was not exhibiting. By that time, Retrospect had a very well-
Many agencies were exhibiting at this show, and we picked up literature from each one. One agent/owner (who is still in business in Montgomery County) didn't see us until we were standing at his exhibit, picking up literature from his table. One of his handouts was a list of bands that he supposedly represented... and there was Retrospect listed with all the others!!!
When I confronted him about it, he said, “Oh, I must have put out the wrong fliers.” He then quickly put the stack of about 150 fliers into his briefcase and pulled out another stack of about 50. These 50 were identical to the original fliers, except that Retrospect was not on the list of bands. (I still have both of those fliers, years later.)
Yes, we already knew this guy was scum, but this was printed proof. His obvious intention was to falsely and illegally advertise Retrospect's services, to bait-
TRUE STORY #2
It’s tough to be semi-
In the mid 1990s, a well-
The agent asked the client what bands she was considering. When she said she was considering booking Kahlua directly through the band leader, the agent said, “What? They told you they're available New Year's Eve?? They must be planning to use substitute singers, because I have both their lead singers booked elsewhere that night.”
This was not true, but the client believed the agent's lie, and she booked one of the agency's other bands on the spot. That worthless lying agent just made up the whole story about the lead singers. But hey, if you have no ethics and no conscience, it's one way to do business, isn't it?
By the time the client found out she'd been scammed (several days later) it was too late. She'd already signed the agency contract and paid a non-
TRUE STORY #3
The clients get hurt, too, by the unscrupulous agents. Some agents don't care about their clients, or how badly they hurt them with lies and deceptions.
We were playing a huge charity dance at the Bethesda Hyatt Regency in the late 1990s. As we were walking back to the stage to start the last set, a dark-
I asked her name. It was an unusual name, so I said, “I don't remember talking to you. What was your wedding date?” She said it was Saturday exactly two weeks earlier. Well, I knew we hadn’t worked on that Saturday, and I knew that she had not called me asking about that date. So I asked her “Who told you we were booked?”
She said “Your agent told me you were booked, so I used one of his other bands. They weren’t nearly as good.” She named a well-
A girl's dream wedding got screwed up by this notorious shyster, just to con a few bucks from her. Does he care about her? Probably not. He got her money, didn't he? How many times does he do this to unsuspecting brides?? He excuses this disgusting behavior by saying “It's just business.” This is the kind of experience that makes all the dishonest agents and dishonest agencies so revolting to reasonable people.
TRUE STORY #7
Why do they need to do this stuff? Some of the agencies will stoop to the lowest tricks to keep work away from independent bands.
Some years ago, we played for a wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington DC, for a wealthy Japanese family. They had a six-
The bride's parents were very specific in their instructions that we were to play quiet non-
What we didn't know until later, was that he had the camera recording us for the entire dinner time! “For what purpose?” you might ask. Well, about two weeks later, some prospective clients calling my office mentioned that they'd been band shopping at this same agency. When they mentioned the name Retrospect, the agent had pulled out a video of us, saying “those guys are awful. Watch this – they're so lame, they can't even get your guests on the dance floor.”
After several more such calls in a one-
At first, the agency denied that it ever happened. Then they had the audacity to keep on showing the video!
They only stopped showing it when I threatened both legal action and a call to the family whose wedding reception was used for this despicable purpose. And they wonder why we avoid the dishonest agents?
TRUE STORY #4
Some agents seem to think they're entitled to a cut from every band, on every gig in the area, so of course they just hate seeing even one independent band booking work without them.
Retrospect has been playing at bridal fairs for many years, well over 100 shows in all, as part of our advertising strategy. Yet the promoters of every single show, except one, have been asked by an agency or a group of agencies, to keep Retrospect out of their shows. Fortunately, it rarely works.
Why do they try? They claim our business practices are unfair -
A few weeks before one suburban shopping mall bridal show, an organized group of four Maryland-
The one agency owner who was the gang leader also stayed in the show. Not stupid, he had tricked his heavyweight competitors into pulling out of the show. This may have been his original goal anyway, to clear out the crowded field of agency competition. Perhaps Retrospect was just a pawn in his clever game -
TRUE STORY #5
The music business is unique in the special-
One of my music students was planning to be a professional musician, so we discussed things like the story above, and how this same group of four agents actually succeeded once with their threat technique. (They threatened to pull their ads out of “The Wedding Pages” magazine if Retrospect was allowed to use the words “not available through agencies” in our ad, and the publisher actually gave in to them, locking us out.)
I told my student that the entertainment business is unique in this sort of attitude and strong-
It’s scary to think about the parallel, but he's totally right, isn't he? And you know what? “The Music Mafia” would make a great agency name. We have a logo waiting for them.
TRUE STORY #6
There seems to be no limit to the percentage the agencies will take. We all know about the agents who lie to their bands about how much the client is being charged. We all know the ones who take a 33% deposit or a 50% deposit, but tell the band leader it was a 20% deposit, and that the client will pay the band the balance at the gig.
One of the great scams is when the agencies ADD multiple commissions on top of the band's price, instead of splitting the agreed commission, as real estate agents do.
One time, years ago, we used the word “entertainment” in our Yellow Pages print ad. Some fool agency owner saw it and thought that it meant that we had decided to become an agency. I still have the letter he sent me on his company stationery. (I’ve obviously changed the agency name here.)
“Dear Talent Consultant:
I have a proposal for you which can be economically beneficial to us both. Our agency represents dozens of part-
I can assure you that your buyers will not be contacted by us or advised of this arrangement in any way, unless you request it.
The agencies that we are currently doing business with in this manner all add their fee onto ours to determine the cost to the buyer, but other arrangements are possible. Please contact me personally if you would like to pursue this.
That's the whole thing, signed by the agency owner. Now, what does he mean by “add their fee onto ours?”
Let's say your regular agent is charging $6,000 for your band. After the agent subtracts his cut, you get $4,500, and you're okay with that. The clients have no idea they're paying $1,500 for the guy sitting behind the desk, so they're okay with it too.
But along comes “Bloodsucking Leeches Music.” They have a client who likes your band. The client has no clue about your price, but he has a $7,500 music budget. So B.L.M. charges the client $7,500, subtracts 20% and pays your agent $6,000, then your agent pays you $4,500.
Everybody's happy, right? The client doesn't know or care that he just paid $3,000 out of his $7,500 budget for two guys sitting behind their desks. And you got YOUR money, so all is good.
But what happens, six months later, when one of that client's co-
TRUE STORY #9
Any agency that would scam the bands that it supposedly represents, would certainly not be above scamming their customers. And I'm just not sure that the average customer can distinguish the honest from the dishonest agencies. How would they, unless they've been to this website?
Speaking of agents scamming bands, there's another independent band (I'll call them the American Legend band) that's been a Baltimore/Washington area fixture for many years. Some years ago, they caved in, and signed on with a Baltimore-
Over a period of nearly twenty years, American Legend had established many excellent advertising and promotional avenues, such as bridal fairs and magazine ads. Well, this agent took over all of the band's bridal fair venues, convinced them to drop their bridal magazine ads (which must be ordered months in advance) and then talked them into changing their name, saying he would be marketing them under a new name.
As soon as all of that was accomplished, the band expected to be able to leave all the marketing to the agent, and just concentrate on putting out good music.
TRUE STORY #8
What do agents say about Retrospect? Who knows what lies they tell behind our backs? It's sure to get uglier after they see this web page, eh?
A while ago, I received a nasty e-
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that “reasonable intelligence” would have kept him from sending that sort of e-
Then, curiously, he said in a second nasty e-
Retrospect is never available through agencies. Clients always work directly
with the band leader, Larry Elliott.
We are proud of being the first
wedding band in the Washington DC
area to totally disintermediate the
booking process, and we are proud
to continue that tradition today.
Instead, once all their old marketing was thoroughly dismantled, the agent informed them that he just really “didn't have time” to work with them, and he really “didn't have space” for them on his band roster. Wait… what?
So, it turns out that the whole deal was just a scam to get a successful independent band out of circulation, and to open up space for his agency in some bridal fairs that had been presenting independent bands to the public. After that, American Legend changed back to its original name, and went on its way, a bit shaken up and a bit wiser, but once again independent.
Oh, and the new name he made the band take? Soon, this agent had a brand new band of the same size using that name, probably to cover the gigs he had booked for American Legend but never told them about.
Oh, yeah... There’s one more twist to this story. Would you be surprised to learn that this scheming scamming scum of an agent was the same one whose nasty email to me said “I know there are agencies out there that scam bands?”
Yes, it's the same agent. You gotta wonder… how does he know?
Band leaders, if you have similar true stories to add, please let me know. I'd love to share them here.
Read Tricks and Traps Exposed…
© 2018 Retrospect Band
Larry Elliott, band leader
3429 Huntsman’s Run
Ellicott City, MD 21042
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Washington DC’s premier independent wedding and party band