I'm not feeling too great at the moment, but I want to make a quick post with an important message. First, I'm writing this open letter to Universal Music Group (UMG), because this music corporation actually attempted to have my Satie and Schumann records removed from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc. by illegally claiming ownership of my sound recordings and falsely attributing them to various artists on their label.
Even with my Registration IDs in the Library of Congress, my UPC codes and the ISRC codes for each track, UMG insisted that they owned my material and didn't back off until I threatened litigation against them and gave them my attorney's information to prove I wasn't joking. Apparently, many music corporations have been doing this, falsely claiming ownership of public domain classical music that isn't theirs, or even fully original tracks, and they have been doing it since December of 2018.
Fuck you, Universal Music Group. I think I speak for all artists when I say you can take a molten fire poker and forcibly insert it into your anus.
During the past decade of running this website, I feel as though too many of my posts can come off as impersonal or stuffy in the least (especially those regarding music and art education). I’d like to change that and offer my fans, followers and colleagues a more personal side to myself so that you can get to know the real, goofy, nerdy me without coming off as some sort of digital holier-than-though asshat. So, I’ve decided to share 50 facts about myself that only a few friends and relatives might know, or that might be a complete surprise to everyone! Let the soul bearing commence!
Well, I hope this makes me more relatable and I hope that I didn’t come off like a dork or anything. I should have added that almost everything makes me a nervous wreck nowadays…
Oh boy, here we are again. After last year’s insanity of posting my music to YouTube where I was hit by copyright strikes (not claims, but full-fledged strikes) for having the nerve to post my own copyrighted audio recordings of public domain music, the roles have now been reversed.
For the past few years, my published albums have been available on YouTube Music courtesy of CD Baby’s digital distribution partnership. However, upon finding my “Topic” page that was created by YouTube automatically when the audio was submitted, I was dismayed to see that the page was showcasing a stoned, fake blonde dude with a slacked jaw staring into space as the profile image, desperately trying to become the next sensation on the site.
The music was fine and that’s what mattered, but this bozo’s mug created a lot of confusion amongst my fans who assumed either that this dude was a plagiarist profiting off of my work, or that I was and that he was the original creator. And while I don’t admit I’m good looking and hate everything about my body and appearance, I at least know I’m better looking than that!
Last year, in order to stop this image confusion, I contacted CD Baby and they told me I needed to file an artist separation request because the image was chosen by YouTube from their algorithms merging the wrong channel information to create the topic page for my music. I did just that and about two months later, the profile image was the same as the cover art for my debut album. Then came a few weeks ago.
I linked to the page to help spread the streaming services I’m listed on such as Spotify and Google Music, and noticed that the YouTube Music page was now displaying a cement mixer as the profile picture. I filed for another artist separation, and it was changed back to the fake blonde bozo. Frustrating, but still not the end of the world. I filed again and linked once more to my actual YouTube account to correct it, but this time YouTube fought back.
My album of Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood had been completely destroyed just for writing to report that YouTube was once again using the wrong profile image. What was once my album and artwork, with my name in the credits, was now generic artwork listing the tracks as “hip-hop and rap,” “techno” and “country” all while giving credit to artists such as “Piano – Topic” and “Café Lounge – Topic” on the same page specifically made for me. Upon listening, these were in fact my recordings of Schumann, but they were now being credited to generic relaxation topic pages, who were in turn collecting the revenue instead of me.
I promptly filed DMCA take-downs on all 13 offending tracks and am awaiting a resolution from YouTube. But because I have battled this for years, and because YouTube continues to create issues for me by linking my music to unrelated pages with different head-shots, adding video folders to the topic page that include content such as violent bar fights, illegal gun modification tutorials, and racist rants, and has defamed my name and put my reputation at risk as a result of this dissociation, I have asked that CD Baby end my relationship with YouTube Music as soon as possible.
My tracks will remain for sale and for streaming on all major storefronts and services, with the exception of YouTube. It will take about 30 days for the topic page to be deleted and I have no plans on picking it up on my own through my channel as I can’t stand using that site and only use it to watch. I prefer to use Vimeo to upload and share my films due to a more creative friendly environment over "video games and privileged white boys doing dumb things" as found in abundance on the 'Tube. The reason for this is explained the last time I wrote about YouTube and copyright issues and I have no interest in going down that route again.
Oh, and screw YouTube Music once more for good measure.
Last month, the music and podcasting community began to contemplate the future of distributing our works after rumours circulated that SoundCloud was going bankrupt. The financial stability of the company is still rather ambiguous as information comes out on deep financial cuts and layoffs within, alongside news of a bright future for the site (the latter coming mostly from the powers that be suspiciously close to investor meetings). Given that even major plug-in companies like Waves and iZotope were giving instructions on Facebook on how to secure your uploads so that they could be safely moved to another platform (why don’t you have the original files? Curses!), the future of SoundCloud looked (and continues to look) grim. The constant barrage of likes, follows and reposts from the spam and porn accounts that infest the site isn’t helping their image either.
In an effort to keep my recordings streaming on my own website for fans, potential students, venues and collaborators to hear, I decided to put my entire focus on my existing Bandcamp page which, up until this time, had only been another resource to host my three albums alongside CD Baby. This was a task that took a single afternoon to accomplish, mostly in creating album images for each of the portfolio playlists as I already had the audio files in .wav format at 48kHz so that I could also add them as "art tracks" on YouTube.
A few weeks ago, you may have read a post on my blog about subscribing to my YouTube channel and how all my music would be there for primary (free) distribution. You may have even seen how YouTube playlists had replaced the Bandcamp ones around that time within my portfolio. Well, as you can see now, it’s all back on good ol’ Bandcamp and I plan on keeping it that way. Why? Well sit down, because it’s story time with Uncle Mike.
After creating video files with all of my pre-prepared audio in Premiere, and the exhaustive task of exporting them on an aging iMac that can barely run properly for the basics, let alone video rendering, I began the long task of uploading them to YouTube, arranging them in playlists, adding tags and descriptions, you know, the same thing that every gamer on there has someone else do for them so they can focus on creating content and not metadata. This took a good week due to the constant input of information for each track, adjusting the settings on a track-by-track basis, dealing with the occasional glitched export, etc. When everything was finished, I added the YouTube playlists to my site and looked over at all my hard work, and noticed numerous copyright claims.
The Content ID system on YouTube is notoriously flawed and with classical music, it often falsely flags your own version of a piece as that of a major label’s upload. I also had claims on selected tracks from my EP, Earwig Rising, though that was due to my own copyright and only meant that any ads that played on them would be revenue for me regardless. No big deal. I filed disputes on the three classical videos that had been claimed, explaining that the Mozart recording is mine and the music itself is in the Public Domain, and then on the two Satie tracks that were hit, I explained in detail that I owned the sound recordings, performances and audio productions on them, and that they were copyrighted by the US Copyright Office under the Registration Number: SRu 1-194-109.
The claim on the Mozart track was dropped within a week. The first Satie track, claimed by UMG for Universal Music, had the dispute ignored and would likely have expired after 30 days. However, SME, on behalf of Sony Classical, actually rejected my dispute one day shy of the claim terminating due to a lack of response by the claimant and then counterclaimed, saying that my Registration Number was not proof of copyright and that they owned that particular track and had the rights to monetize it. This is when it went insane.
To reject a dispute, a physical, living person has to read the response and manually dismiss it. Someone read my protest, the included Registration Number, the link to the Library of Congress file that holds the information in regards to my copyright online, and the ISRC code that I gave for the track and still decided “No, that’s ours.” and sent me on my way despite the overwhelming proof to the contrary.
I filed an appeal, and Sony Classical threatened litigation against me for copyright infringement if I didn’t comply with their orders. That’s total BS. I gave them everything I had to legally prove my ownership of the track, and they were vehemently rejecting it, hoping to get a few more pennies in their coffers rather than admit that a Public Domain piece of music can be recorded and copyrighted by artists that are not on their label. Sony Classical was, at this point, committing copyright infringement against me as well as committing a crime known as “monetize without consent.” It’s just what it sounds like.
I had to ask for help from CD Baby as they published the record, the AFM since I’m a union member, as well as issuing notarized legal complaints to YouTube by mail and fax (you try looking up information like that), and to Sony Classical via email. None of them responded.
I had a lawyer contact the companies with the threat of filing litigation against them for infringing on my copyright, but YouTube merely sent an email back with a special dispute email to reach SME by (and it’s some crappy Gmail address, you’d think a major label would have the money to have a domain based email, even I have one!) and said they do not mitigate copyright issues before signing off for good on the matter.
We filed a notice to SME through the email address we were provided with. We gave them 10 business days to comply with our order to remove their claim and illegal monetization of my copyrighted work alongside a scanned image of my Certificate of Registration:
Personal information redacted.
They didn’t respond until the last possible day, and rather than a professional reply and apology for these criminal actions, they spouted off about how our legal notices were a form of harassment and that I was stealing work that one of their artists had made (they never gave a name because it's my property and not theirs) and that this would be the last they would hear of it. The next day, my track was deleted and I had a copyright strike issued against my YouTube account.
This was the most unprofessional experience I have ever had with a major company, both with YouTube and Sony Classical. Everyone in the AFM and with CD Baby, as well as my lawyer of course, said it was blatantly clear that Sony Classical was in the wrong and that I had more than sufficient evidence to support my ownership of that track. But because money talks, SME was able to profit off of my work for over 30 days without my permission, and then shoved a hickory stick up my bottom when they realized I wasn’t going to back down.
This is why so many new artists don’t want affiliation with major labels. They can steal from indie musicians under false pretense and have the power to win, even with plenty of evidence to prove them wrong. You want to take them to court? Good, they have the cash to sit on a case like that, delaying it and holding you back until you are bankrupt and are forced to withdraw the suit entirely. If you want to try, make sure you come from old money first.
I will keep my YouTube account as a user, but I’ll be damned before I ever upload any content there again. Oh, and because I was hit with a copyright strike, I had to sit through a patronizing Happy Tree Friends video on copyright infringement and pass a test on it. When I was the proven copyright holder from the beginning. (And you can’t tell me that Mondo Media made that YouTube Copyright School video willingly, they’re better than that.)
As I wrote on Twitter in the aftermath of all this, to hell with YouTube. They hold average users to insane requirements for advertiser friendly content, claim fair use content (such as film critiques) are infringement on a regular basis, and sometimes just delete your channel for no reason. But if you’re a major corporation you can infringe on someone else’s copyright and they’ll take the side with the bigger dollars every time. Just look where I am.
You can follow me on Bandcamp: mikesmale.bandcamp.com.
Today I received a threatening phone call from an unknown number located in New York state. I didn't answer it as it was outside of my area, and I don't know anyone in NY outside of NYC. What I got was a vile, venomous voicemail that included threats of violence and legal action in a voice that sounded like the caller was talking down a taped off paper towel roll.
Looking up the number, it's connected to a known debt collection scam calling itself "CCA" (Consumer Compliance LLC Group Inc [so, what's that "A" for now?]) which calls with a threat of legal action against you, someone you know or even a total stranger. The person on the other end, usually a guy named something like Needle Weenie, will then give you back your personal information (or a relative's or, again, a stranger's) including Social Security number (in full), bank account numbers, addresses, etc. and threaten you with legal action or violence. Needle Weenie claims to be an attorney in NY state working for CCA, but if you ask for his Bar number, he cannot provide it and then claims he isn't an attorney. So he's only a lawyer when it's convenient for him. Yup, I'm buying this malarkey.
Anyways, this rotten little worm (I'm being nice here) either called himself with a robot voice, or (allegedly, according to the message) had his daddy call me claiming I was repeatedly calling and upsetting poor little Needle Weenie (you're in your 30s or something and need daddy to fight your battles?). I haven't made a single outgoing phone call in three months, this was complete bullshit. But they claimed my phone called them (and read back my number) and demanded other personal information in restitution and other such nonsense to try to scare me into handing them the key to my identity. Not gonna happen, you idiots.
Remember, you called me and left me a message threatening violence against myself and my family. I can now bring that to the police and press charges against you. Even better, I know you can see this because I know you found my personal/business phone number off of this website and linked my name to it since that's the only way to trace my own number to my name (the bill is in a relative's name and my phone is his yearly birthday gift to me).
The weirdest part about this is that Needles the Bug Fondler here called my unlisted landline to make the threat, and yet he clearly already knew my cell number and was accusing me of calling him on that. First, how did he find my landline? Second, why not just call the cell phone since that's the one that he's alleged had called him (or was hijacked by another scammer like him as is known to happen in this day and age)? That's dumber than a pre-used bag of kitty litter.
If anyone ever calls you claiming to be a law firm, debt collector, lawyer, etc. demand to know the state they operate from and their Bar number, if they refuse, hang up. A lawyer or firm must provide this information just as a police officer must provide their badge number. Anyone claiming to be an attorney who cannot provide a Bar number is a liar and is committing a felony much like Needle Weenie and CCA here. Upon looking up the number in Google, 855-202-4849 is a known scam number, is auto-blocked by the Mr. Number app as a scam, and everyone agrees that the person on the other end is a con artist impersonating an officer of the court.
Since CCA can see this, screw you.
Update 13 July 2017
I just received numerous calls from a Foster and Monroe law firm in upstate New York from the number 844-822-4455. The person on the other end was the same as the one from CCA, and identified himself as Henry Clarke and that he was a lawyer. When I asked for his Bar number he replied "Why are you doing this, you are wasting my time." He only spoke through an audio distortion effect to mask his voice but it was the same voice as the one that left me a death threat Tuesday and he accused me of prank calling his law firm. Again, I haven't made any outgoing calls in three months, until today. After he was done, I called the local police department and informed them of his name, both active phone numbers and the nature of the threats he is sending.
Looking at the Foster and Monroe site, it's a basic design with no editing of the preset layouts, the firm has no physical address, just a PO Box number, and the request information by email form does not work and freezes on the "sending data" bar. This "company" also has 46 complaints filed against it with the BBB at the time of this writing. Numerous new businesses are showing up lately in upstate New York that have no federal licence, like Foster and Monroe, and are nothing but extortion scams that pose as debt collectors and lawyers to scare you into giving out personal information. Never believe them, hang up and report the calls to your local police to get them in prison.
Block 855-202-4849 and 844-822-4455 right now. No law firm uses 855, 844 or other 800 numbers to contact you (though they may use them as information lines for the firm, they will never use them as a primary line for contact). Even Saul Goodman has a real number.
Should I Answer?
Who Called You