This past week I received an e-mail from Google Ad Words (GAW) detailing the recent performance of my “Toe Pick Productions” campaign. GAW shows what words you have selected to be keywords or terms and which ones of those have been most effective in getting people to visit your website.
Naturally I have selected “figure skating”, “figure skating music”, “toe pick” and various other skating and musical terms that one might use when searching for high quality music editing at a reasonable price from someone who actually knows what they are doing. In short: me.
GAW will also select more words and terms that may be of further assistance in getting people from A to me. I add more and also increase my price per click (long story that we are not discussing here) hoping to increase my traffic and overall business.
I am also very aware of how Google lists sites and rates them (internally) so that when you type keywords, certain sites magically rise to the top of the search listings. It’s a complicated algorithm of numbers, time, content and consistency. Remember, I graduated Columbia College Chicago not IMSA.
In an effort to glean knowledge from my competitors, I Google my search terms and investigate the sites that come to the forefront. A bevy of sites promoting “Professionally music consulting for figure skating programs and performance performances. “ and “You put a lot of time into a quality figure skating program. Shouldn’t that be reflected in yourmusic?” along with several sites that feature music from professionals and other sites that sell books or give information about figure skating music.
I begin with the top search; skatingmusic.org. If this is the top search result, he has the magical spell to gain the most knowledge from, right?
I click the link and immediately understand why his site is #1. Price.
Roy the Editor, advertises that for $9.99, the price of a CD from iTunes, he will cut your skating music. He has several pre-cut programs on the site in various lengths to fit your needs. I am truly amazed at the amount of content he has and that he is only charging $10 for this service. “If word gets out locally that Roy is severely undercutting my prices, I may need to close up shop,” I think out loud.
I decide that I need to inquire about just what the deal is here, much like I do when I get a DirecTV or AT&T Uverse advertisement that says “$24.99/month” but when you include the fine print says “$99.99/month”.
I send Roy an email asking simply “Found your site this morning. Interesting catalog of music, for sure! If I buy a selection from your catalog, is it then removed from your site or can other people buy that selection as well? Just wondering.”
Roy responds less than two hours later “Hello Michael Thank you for your question – Our selections are always available. Sincerely, Roy the editor”
I read his response and immediately recall his site saying that my $9.99 goes to purchase the CD from iTunes that he would need to cut my music. This implies two things: 1) Roy is cutting music for ME, whether he has done it already or will do it the minute I request it, I paid for the CD of music that Roy will use and 2) Roy will also be sending me the CD he burns from iTunes that I just paid him for.
Here’s where we will examine this form of resale on the internet. I promise I will also get to the conclusion of the Roy story, you won’t believe it.
If you haven’t already guessed, what Roy does is illegal.
Roy sits home and loads up his digital editing program and pulls a few tracks from his library of music. These are songs that he has either purchased legally from iTunes, Amazon.MP3 or other online sources or music that he legally has the right to rip from his store bought CDs. So far, Roy hasn’t done anything wrong.
Roy chooses his pieces and blends them together just as you may have heard at a competition or on TV when watching the Olympics, Worlds, etc. The songs seemingly flow into one another as if the Composer intended them to go together. A marriage made musically.
Roy completes another masterpiece and uploads it to his site. The waters begin to get murky. You see, if Roy is using this piece of now “original” work as a sample to highlight his talents, then this is fair usage set forth by the United States Congress. However, posting it to his website for resale is a direct violation of several laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The RIAA has a page dedicated specifically to the law and this matter found here.
You would think that would be enough, right? Not quite.
Roy’s next crime is fraud and here’s why: Roy has already told you that you are buying a CD from him, but that CD never makes its way to you. Not to mention if he was to send you this now copied CD, you would be in receipt of illegal merchandise and chances are he is using the United States Postal Service to send it to you, which then makes it a specifically Mail Fraud. That’s not going to look good on your record.
The scam continues as Roy resells that same music over and over and over…
When I asked him that specific question: “So, you are reselling copy written music over and over?” Roy then attempted to justify his ill-gotten gains and attempted to make me the bad guy;
“Years ago, my daughter was a figure skater – we were paying lots of money for her two programs. My wife said, “why don’t you make up her music?” So, I did. She skated for a while and then she stopped. For about 10 years after, as a hobby, I created for my own pleasure, the programs that you see on my website. Two years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was morose – my wife said, you need a project – why don’t you develop a website and put your music programs on it. So, I did. I didn’t get many takers for my programs, but occasionally a coach who didn’t have the time to put a program together would send me some music, and program seconds and ask me to cut a custom program. Most of the programs that I have cut since, (about one every other week) are this way. I have a lot of free time so I keep creating my own precut programs and putting them on my website. I am now 72 and am slowly dying of this disease. I think cutting these programs is keeping me alive.
Michael, I am no threat to you; or anyone else – it would give me great comfort to know that you have enough character to pretend that you never saw, or heard of me, or my website.”
I’m not going to lie to you; I read this e-mail and actually felt for Roy…for a second.
This is no different than explaining to a police officer that you were speeding because you needed to get somewhere fast. Obviously.
After re-reading his response, Roy was cutting programs for 10 years pre-cancer and those are the programs on his website. The programs that I openly questioned him about. The programs that break law after law right there out in the open.
THE TOP GOOGLE SEARCH ITEM FOR “FIGURE SKATING MUSIC.”
I responded to Roy that I was sorry that he has cancer, but that was not acceptable business practice to me as a performer and supporter of the arts. I added “I am appalled at your business practices, ashamed of your nonchalant attitude about piracy and most of all offended that you would use your disease as a means to attempt to legitimize your behavior.”
I sent what would be my final e-mail to Roy.
The next morning I attempted to access his site, skatingmusic.org. The site was essentially wiped clean of his programs and awesome deal of just $9.99. A message atop the home page simply reads:
and all of its services
has been retired
Now I am sure some of you reading this are equally ashamed that I “did” this to poor old Roy. That’s fine. I’m good with that.
However, as I will detail in this series, this is just beginning of what may be one of the most dangerous decisions you have to make in the world of figure skating. A decision that might be worth more than $9.99.