[RANT] Gibson Hates Hip Hop.
I can’t think anymore. As I sit here in my piece of shit “studio”, with the dusty mixer that shorts out every other minute, working on this slow ass 1Ghz dell PC that doesn’t read CD-Rs and crashes my recording app every other take, which has a soundcard installed in it that refuses to accept MIDI, seated next to the tired ass prosumer keyboard whose sounds I’ve raped for the past 8 years, turntables I can’t scratch on and this Shure mic that has a dent in it – I think to myself: “GIBSON!!!!”
Why, you ask? Remember that whole Lollapalooza ‘Last Band Standing’ competition I won back in 2006? Well, Lollapalooza came through 100% on their end of the prize package – but apparently the people over at Gibson don’t feel they need to cater to Hip Hop artists.
See, I’ve been as cooperative and patient as possible for nearly a year and a half, but I want what I’m rightly entitled to. The following is my account of what happened. Let this serve as a warning to all musicians out there looking to get involved in any of these corporately sponsored competitions. There’s ALOT to read, so I apologize in advance for this absurdly long blog post. Get your coffee mugs out.
I Should Have Seen It Coming
The final round of the Last Band Standing competition involved me flying out to Chicago to compete in a live performance round against the other 4 finalists. (NOTE: This was all done out of pocket). I was extremely excited to win, finally feeling like SOMETHING was going the right way in my career (for once) and the prospect of revamping my embarrassingly amateur ‘studio’ was a rush.
Immediately following the win, I was told that there was to be a photo shoot with a bunch of Gibson gear at Grant Park during the Lollapalooza festival the next morning. Apparently, it was part of their PR campaign and these shots were to be used for magazines, internet, etc. I was given a contact number for a Gibson rep to call in order to schedule a time to shoot. I called several times, left messages, etc. I never got so much as an email even. Lollapalooza came and went without a Gibson shoot. I guess I should have seen this whole fiasco coming.
Where’s My Prize?
Here’s the itemized Grand Prize list. I’ve bolded what I DIDN’T receive:
- 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.
Killer prize package, eh? Still, it’s ironic that I DIDN’T receive the $10k prize from the bullet with the “(Yes, Believe It!)” in parenthesis. That’s right… GIBSON NEVER DELIVERED ON THEIR END.
Introducing 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.
So What The Fuck Happened?
I was basically told to go to the Gibson website and browse the catalog to pick what I wanted. Mind you, there were no price listings anywhere to be found on this site – so how was I supposed to tally anything? Well, I took the proactive route and used SamAsh.com and GuitarCenter.com for price references on the gear that was on the Gibson website.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Gibson is HUGE musical instrument manufacturer which mainly makes guitars, but their site included pianos and drums, etc. It was at this point I realized that Baldwin was one of their companies. Having my own piano has always been a dream of mine – I take to those things like ducks to water. So, I decided…‘Fuck it! Let me take this opportunity to get that upright piano I could never afford’. (Sidenote: Kno thought I was crazy for blowing the entire prize value on a piano).
Anyway, I responded with an email requesting the piano. Don Pitts responds with:
Thu, August 10, 2006 3:04 pm
FROM: Don Pitts @ Gibson
Baldwin is the only division that’s not part of the deal…but…maybe I can ask…Was you looking at the 243 (piano model)?
Firstly, all I was told was to go to Gibson and pick whatever I wanted. I saw pianos and I picked one. Now, suddenly, that’s ‘not part of the deal’? Hmmm. But he says he’d ask about it…So, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I called the next day and he seemed bothered as usual and reluctant to reach out to the piano folks. So, I figured, ‘Fuck it…let me just make this as painless as possible and just pick some guitars out. I can turn this stuff around on eBay and buy the equipment I really need.’ Done deal, right?
So, I put together my initial wish list based off the prices on SamAsh & GuitarCenter, totaling just under $10k. The following text is the email correspondence that followed:
Monday, August 14, 2006 11:36 AM
I’m gonna go full out with stringed instruments. Here are my selections:
1) Gibson Acoustic John Lennon J-160E
2) Gibson Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar [Ebony Chrome]
3) Les Paul Supreme Figured Electric Guitar [Transparent Black]
4) Thunderbird IV Bass [Ebony]
5) Gibson GA20RVT Amp
6) Gibson Echoplex Foot Controller
7) Gibson Power Stealth Power Attenuator (16 OHM)
Keep me posted and thanks again for all your help!
Mon, August 14, 2006 11:43 am
FROM: Don Pitts @ Gibson
Awesome..!! Good choices….Lemme check avails..and I’ll send you what on that list you can buy with the $10k..)
3 Days pass…I follow-up…
Thu 8/17/2006 9:55 PM
Hey Don! How are you sir? I’m just following up and wondering if you had the chance to check availability, etc. In terms of value, I actually went through and cross referenced all the items on the list with the going retail rates, and it adds up to a little under $10k. So, I’m assuming everything should be cool. Hope to hear from you soon.
Fri, August 18, 2006 6:42 am
FROM: Don Pitts @ Gibson
Tony, I’m sorry to inform you that you are wrong on the retail prices..where did you get the prices? your not that far off, but I’ll get you prices today….the only thing I see may be availabilty problem is the John Lennon 160e….which we may do the Epiphone version…I’ll get you the avail and list today…sorry it has taken this long.
Fri, August 18, 2006 11:18 am
FROM: Don Pitts @ Gibson
Tony, hope your well, below is the retail price on each item you chose…let me know when is a good time to talk on phone…thanks!!
1) Gibson Acoustic John Lennon J-160E- – $3857.00
2) Gibson Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar [Ebony Chrome] – $1908.00
3) Les Paul Supreme Figured Electric Guitar [Transparent Black] – $4718.00
4) Thunderbird IV Bass [Ebony] – $1648.00
5) Gibson GA20RVT Amp – $1,199.99
6) Gibson Echoplex Foot Controller – $165.99 (This is just the foot controller) Echoplex Digital Pro unit is $1,449.99
7) Gibson Power Stealth Power Attenuator (16 OHM) – $399.99
So the total is $13,896.97 (did not count the Echoplex unit)….these prices are straight out of the 2006 Price List..that was effective 2/15/06.
Wrong prices? He’s referencing a catalog I wasn’t shown apparently. Confused, I write back…
Friday, August 18, 2006 12:05 PM
Don, Thanks for getting back to me. Hmmm. I went through to all the major retailer sites and looked up the items and the prices are alot cheaper. Like… the John lennon guitar is $1400 cheaper online than the catalogue price you listed. For example…
I’m avaialable all day if you’d like me to give you a call.
Fri, August 18, 2006 12:09 pm
FROM: Don Pitts @ Gibson
Tony, Those are not retail prices, but MAP prices, as in Minimum Advertised Price a dealer can sell to the consumer. What they advertise an instrument for is not the MSRP.
The Fine Print: MSRP vs MAP
At this point, I’m a bit bummed. The prize package is based off MSRP (Manufacture’s Suggested Retail Price) as opposed to MAP (Minimum Advertised Price aka Retail)? In other words, a guitar that anyone can buy from any ole’ music store for $3,099 is WORTH $4,718 to Gibson. That’s a $1,619 MARK UP!
This changes the entire prize package, because a) I’d only be able to get HALF the gear I’d be able to get from a retailer for $10k b) I’d have to turn this around on eBay as a USED item which knocks another grand off it and finally c) I’m still supposed to pay taxes on $10k. Fuckin Wow.
Look, I completely understand the situation. But this entire thing up to this point could have been avoided by one of three ways: 1) Give me a catalog with PRICES in it to pick from or 2) Give me a $10k gift certificate to a music store. Would that have been too much to ask? Also, there were absolutely no rules or groundwork laid for this. It all seemed whipped together ‘as we went along’. So, at this point I’m logistically trying to lessen the headache this has become. I email Don Pitts asking for the only logical thing I can think of:
Thursday, August 24, 2006 12:34 PM
Don, Ok, well please send me a link or PDF of Gibson catalog that has the MSRP listed. It’ll be much eaiser to figure this out.
Thu, August 24, 2006 12:41 pm
FROM: Don Pitts @ Gibson
Tony…we do not have a PDF of our price list and we do NOT send it out..The list I responded to was the MSRP’s straight from the price list..Please decide from that list of the items you want and I will send them to you, so we can get going. Thanks!
“So we can get going?” Huh? I’M holding up the process now? Give me a fucking break, chief. I’ve been the most proactive one in this mess the entire time! First, I’m told to choose instruments blindly out of a catalog, then I can’t get the piano I want, then I can’t get the gear that I chose, and now I’m supposed to just pick 2 guitars that are only worth 5k MAX @ retail when I was supposed to win $10k?
FUCK THAT. I want what I won. And the prize list (as seen above) stated $10k worth of gear from Gibson. ‘WORTH’ seems to be the key word here. So, after a night of thought, completely aggravated at the hassle of it all, I decide to try something different.
The Mandolin Maneuver
At this point, I figure, ‘Fuck it…if they want to play the MSRP game so badly, then so be it. I’m finding the most expensive stringed instrument they make.’ Once again, I proceeded to go online searching for Gibson products and referencing the listed MSRP. (They’re always listed below the retail price to show the SAVINGS you get). With that, I found a line of mandolins from Gibson that were $9,999 MSRP. Jackpot. I won $10k worth of Gibson gear, fair and square. There’s no way they can say I can’t have this, right?
I sent an email asking for that item, saying, “This should about cover it”. I never heard back from him after that. I guess $10k MSRP doesn’t mean $10k MSRP after all, eh?
The Final Chapter
It had been weeks since I’d heard from Don Pitts. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I get an email from the Lollapalooza rep who from Day 1 was super supportive and came through 100% with everything they’d promised. Here’s the correspondence:
Wed, October 18, 2006 2:25 pm
FROM: Kevin @ Lollapalooza
Tony, how are you bud? Did you ever get everything worked out with Gibson and your free stuff?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006 3:09 PM
Kevin, Hey, good to hear from you! I’m doing well. I’m glad you reached out. And no, unfortunately, Don Pitts has been awol. I’ve left several phone messages and written at least 3 emails to no avail. I don’t know what the hold up is. Would you mind reaching out to him for me? I’d love to get all of this squared away soon. I hope all is well with you and I look forward to the recap and the gear.
Uh-oh spaghetti-o’s. Apparently, the folks @ Lollapalooza had no idea about all of the back & forthing Don Pitts had set in motion. This is was kind of disturbing because, all of this was happening off of their radar. They didn’t know whether I got my prize or not. So, I made a last ditch effort to contact Don.
Thursday, October 19, 2006 2:01 PM
Don, Hello! I hope things are well. I’d really like to get this prize package situation sorted out asap. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Thanks!
Within a couple of minutes, Don Pitts finally returns to earth:
Thu, October 19, 2006 2:05 pm
FROM: Don Pitts @ Gibson
Work with Kevin at CSE, he will contact me. Thanks!
WOW. Was the mandolin thing the final straw for ole’ Don? Was it too much work for you to make a couple of phone calls or write an email? Not only was I civil throughout all of this, but I was PATIENT as HELL and now I’m completely cut off from dealing with you? That’s a total dick move.
So, now I have to go through the entire process again with Kevin @ Lollapalooza. He hits me with the old piecemeal list I gave Don way at the beginning with the inflated prices and asks me to choose. At this point, I’m just completely sick of dealing with any of it. I picked whatever added up to $10k and replied.
Around this time, I had to hop on the Scandinavian Tour with CunninLynguists and wasn’t able to do the correspondence thing, but I figured I’d FINALLY have the gear once I got back. But, to no avail, upon arrival I found no gear. It was becoming clearer and clearer that this elusive $10k prize was a myth. So, I followed up with the standard, “Hey, I’m here” message and got this:
Tue, December 19, 2006 2:38 pm
FROM: Kevin @ Lollapalooza
Ok, already have some answers for you. We’re close to getting this stuff shipped…
Awesome! It only took 4 months to get to this point and we’re just now CLOSE to getting it shipped? [Sigh]. Well, I responded to the subsequent emails and the like…but it’s now January 22, 2008 and I still haven’t seen shit. Hence this ridiculously long post.
So, Why The Long Wait To Go Public With This?
In all honesty, I held off on making this public because I was really trying to be a good sport about it. I didn’t wanna cast a shadow on my name for future Lollapalooza events, etc. I really did love the entire experience, top to bottom and I want to do it again. I didn’t want any of this to mar the whole thing for me. But I can’t hold my tongue anymore.
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 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.
It’s been a year and a half and I just can’t make music in here anymore. I decided to bite the bullet and max out my credit cards getting an upgrade of gear to work on. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m gonna pay for any of this shit, but I couldn’t wait any longer for Gibson to come through with the prize that would have paid for it. God knows I’m not making that much off music. It’s really the only alternative I have at this point if I want to keep generating music.
I know what you’re thinking, but filing a lawsuit would be pointless, cause the lawyer would probably end up getting more out of the suit than I would. So, all I’m left with is this blog and a heap of debt. Hopefully, someday, I won’t have to ask for days off work to go on tour, or get what I’m actually owed in this life.
But I guess that’s all just wishful thinking, right?
EDIT: [Case Closed: Read Here]