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Any experience quitting ReverbNation's distribution plan?


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  • Any experience quitting ReverbNation's distribution plan?

    I signed up for ReverbNation.com's distribution package to have my mp3s sold on Amazon and iTunes and the like.

    The service was horrible. It took longer than they promised to put my mp3s online. Royalty reports were delayed up to 6 MONTHS! By the time any money came in, I had had enough. I was directing my fans to digstation.com, which was giving me a higher percentage of royalties and real-time reports. I was literally telling people, "please DON'T buy my songs on iTunes."

    That was year ago and I started getting notices that they wanted to charge my credit card for another year. I didn't want that, so I looked into having my mp3s removed from all sites. That was going to cost me another $30 for a TAKEDOWN FEE! A cancellation fee on top of completely crappy service?!? No thanks. I'm ok with paying for something disappointing, but paying to shut off a disappointing service? Luckily, my credit card had expired, so I simply did not provide them with a new one.

    Today, I get an e-mail saying that since I haven't renewed it, they are going to keep selling my mp3s and keep the royalties for themselves. That sounds illegal as HELL.

    Since I now have an "abandoned release" they want $45 to take it down. Firstly, let me say that I consider ReverbNation's service to be basically a scam. Avoid.

    Secondly, does anyone have any experience getting away from them without rewarding them for their crappy service with a "cancellation fee?" Will they remove my mp3s if they prove unprofitable?

  • #2
    I would send them a carefully worded reply explaining that you gave up on them for failure to perform their end of the original contract. Also advise them they are not to continue to sell your materials, and certainly not entitled to any royalties on your materials...unless they were smart enough to put this in their agreement...did they? Like anything else in business, the devil is in the details, and always in fine print (aka the blah-blah-blah section).
    "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminent period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

    Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'


    • #3
      sorry to hear about those problems, that sucks

      You may want to look over the terms as daddymack suggests

      I did a quick look on their website as their standard ToS (I don't know if that's what you are operating under)

      but it looks like they have some specification to keeping publication, etc rights post-cancellation
      (the underlining is me, not them)

      5. LICENSE TO MUSIC FILES AVAILABLE FOR COPYING BY OTHER USERS. The Web Site includes Services where you may publish music files and allow other users to download and copy such files. If you use the Services to allow other users to copy, perform and use your music files, you automatically grant to the Company and other users, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant to the Company and other users,an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully-paid, worldwide license (with the rights to sublicense) to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such files and to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such files; provided, however that in all events other users' rights with respect to such files will be subject to the Usage Rules set forth in Section 6 below. You may remove such files from the Web Site at any time and the license granted above to such music files will survive such removal. However, we will not continue to publish or make available on the Web Site content you have removed from the site.

      Now, just because it's there doesn't make it enforceable (sometimes you find things in contracts that aren't really legally enforceable), but it's a harder road b/c you have to show it as not legally valid instead of it just not being there in the first place.

      but one thing I think they did that could be a helpful crack to exploit...they commented on their own ToS IN the ToS and summarize it


      Sections 4, 5 and 6 of these Terms and Conditions of Use can be confusing and we apologize for the legalese that is used. But the bottom line is that at no time will either ReverbNation or a user have any rights to sell or commercialize your music. When you publish a music file to the Web Site, you have two choices. You can make the file available for listening only or you can allow others to download and copy the file. If you chose the first option, users can only listen to the music file. No other rights are transferred to us or to users. We can not sell or distribute the music file, or make it available for any commercial purpose without your permission. The only thing we can do with the music file is allow users to play it on our Web Site or inside of Widgets that are available from the Web Site (the Widget can be located on our Web Site or another web site). If you chose the second option, a user can download and store the music file without charge. The user will then forever have the right to play the file for his or her personal enjoyment. This is very similar to downloading a song from iTunes. Although the user can play the file, the user can not sell, distribute or commercialize the music file in any way. This is the intent of the Usage Rules in Section 6. No matter which option you chose, at no time are we or a user entitled to sell your music or use it for any commercial purposes and you still retain all rights to commercialize your music.

      so you may be able to push them on the summary being misleading as they attempt to explain the conditions twice
      esp "at no time are we or a user entitled to sell your music or use it for any commercial purposes" -- if they are collecting royalties or other form of consideration, that could be considered commerce...hence commercialization

      Also, as Daddymack points out - and this is probably the main thrust - that they performed in a grossly unsatisfactory way may very well constitute legal non-performance of their end of the contract (that can just depend)
      but I'm not sure if that would affect the granting of license to third parties

      In the ToS they talk of working under North Carolina law (I assume that's where they are)

      I'd contact www.ncvla.org - north Carolina lawyers for the arts

      Best of luck!


      • #4
        I'm starting to dislike reverbnation. Their service is more and more unreliable. I think they are realizing they aren't making any money with the web 2.0 and they don't know what to do. lol
        If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
        -- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot


        • #5

          I think what you're looking at is in regards to my m3s uploaded to ReverbNation, which is different from my mp3s being sold through their Internet Distribution Package.

          In the ToS for the Distribution Package it says;

          What happens if I fail to make a yearly payment or my credit card is declined?
          You will be given 30 days to remedy the situation. If you do not provide an active credit card within the remedy period or pay the necessary takedown fees, ReverbNation will then consider the release 'abandoned'. The email account on record will be notified that the release has been abandoned. While it's abandoned, ReverbNation will earn all royalties from sales of your music. At any time, ReverbNation may decide to take down the release either with or without notification to the user. While abandoned, and at any time prior to a takedown order, the user can reinstate their subscription by re-subscribing to the Digital Distribution service. If you wish to remove the album from retailers, you must pay the $30 take-down fee ($50 for Pro Package).

          I can see it's in their ToS, but I don't see anything legal about that, especially following the disappointing service. It's a SCAM that it costs $45 to stop them from selling my mp3s and keeping the profits.

          I'm thinking of waiting a month or so to see if they take it down themselves.

          I'm guessing that since my Mp3s have sold poorly through ReverbNation and it may cost them something to keep them on iTunes, that it'll make more sense for them to take them down than to keep them up.


          • #6
            ah, OK my apologies

            When you signed up, I assume you got some sort of confirmation email or something

            did it have the texxt of the ToS or a link to it ?

            I just want to make sure we're (I) am viewing the right document


            • #7
              Generally...(without having the full Tos

              I think daddymack addressed it well

              I'd suggest
              1) contacting North Carlina's Volunteer lawyers for the arts
              2) the BBB
              3) write them stating that you are NOT abandoning the recording, rather you believe they have breached the contract due to substantial non-performance.

              I'm just not sure about the take-down fee at all (like if it's even legal to do, esp under the circumstances where the contract itself ma have been breached) -- that's one for the lawyers for the arts


              • #8
                Seems perfectly legal. Just unethical. Pay the fee and be done with it. Maybe if you call customer service they'll let you pay the reduced fee. If anyone is actually buying your stuff through their distribution, then the sooner the better. Practically speaking, you don't want to spend all kinds of money on lawyers.


                • #9
                  Practically speaking, you don't want to spend all kinds of money on lawyers.

                  the volunteer lawyers for the arts organizations are just that...volunteer - so it's largely pro bono

                  pro bono is an important function b/c of that above sentiment..some folks don't have the money and could use some representation or legal advice. Other times we have issues (like this one) which may contain a legal wrong, but don't deal with super $, but are still part of the legal landscape.

                  some stuff that seems legal in contracts isn't - non-compete agreements, "not for resale", etc can be non-enforceable depending on the details of the situation

                  the thing in this specific case is that we not only have the terms of the contract, but a question of performance (ie did the service fulfill their end of the agreement). Which can be a little mushy here, not every case of a dissatisfied customer is a case of non-performance, but just doing something crappy also doesn't constitute performance


                  • #10
                    ncvla.org seems to be closed down. I tried their e-mail without luck. Any other ideas?


                    • #11
                      ncvla.org seems to be closed down. I tried their e-mail without luck. Any other ideas?

                      In that case I would start either the national VLA or your state's VLA
                      and/or the NC state bar (while the VLA is a great centralized reseource specific for the arts, it isn't the only way to get pro bono help)


                      • #12

                        First of all, let me say how sorry I am that you feel that you have received inferior service from our company. Have you sent a note to our customer service department at support@reverbnation.com? That's the most direct path to getting issues resolved, and those guys are fantastic at responding to customer needs.

                        Let me also take a moment to clarify a few things about our digital distribution service:

                        1. It typically takes 6-8 weeks to get the major retailers to post a release. That said, it sometimes happens a lot faster, and very occasionally takes longer. The reason? The retailers have to do their part and ingest the material and post it to their site. In other words, there is a significant part of the equation that is beyond our control (beyond any digital distributor's control). Sometimes the retailers just get slammed or don't respond as fast, and sometimes they are lightning quick. They do not provide us with an explanation, unfortunately. That said, I am not aware of any abnormal delays happening across the board. If it took longer than 8 weeks to get the release up at the major retailers, please do bring it to the attention of customer service so that we can push on it.

                        2. Our model is based on an annual flat fee (starting at $34.95 for 29 stores) that pays you 100% of the royalties that come in from sales of your music. Everyone who signs up for our product is agreeing to these terms. We don't charge on a per store or per song basis. That's just the model we chose, based on feedback from our users. Our payouts happen up to 60 days after the close of the calendar month in which the sales were made. In other words, the royalty reports we received in May were from sales that were made at retail in March. The timing of these payouts can vary by a couple of days from month to month, but I am unaware of there ever being a delay beyond that. Again, this would be a perfect question for support@reverbnation.com to help you. They can look at individual cases and get to the bottom of issues. Please contact them about this. I am not aware of any systemic issues concerning payments.

                        3. When a customer does not make a renewal payment (for whatever reason), we put their release into an 'abandoned' state after several attempts to collect the renewal fee and after sending clear reminders to the customer about what will happen if they fail to pay the renewal fee, per the terms of the contract with them. This is an outcome that was disclosed in the terms and conditions that they signed when they chose to use our service. Why do we have this 'abandoned' state? Because it takes real human intervention to get releases taken down from all of the retailers (which is why we charge $30 for each takedown request). Sometimes it takes a lot of human effort, as the retailers do not have automated systems for processing these requests, and often times repeated follow up is required. Every Artist who uses the service is told up front that a takedown fee of $30 can be paid at any time to remove the release from the retailers. For Artists who choose to not pay the annual renewal AND to not pay the takedown fee, we do not necessarily begin a takedown process (or at least not necessarily at that moment in time). First of all, it wouldn't be fair to the Artists that do pay the takedown fee as they agreed they would. Second, it would create an incentive to abandon releases instead of paying for what the takedown process actually costs (afterall, its your choice to take it down, not ours). Typically we don't get much feedback about the 'abandoned' status, b/c Artists who abandon their releases (which includes only those who do not renew AND who choose not to take care of the takedown fee) are typically not earning much from those releases. If they were, it would be worth it to pay the renewal or the takedown fee.

                        4. You stated that your Mp3s 'sold poorly through ReverbNation'. I just wanted to clarify that our digital distribution offering doesn't make your music for sale on ReverbNation. Its makes it for sale on iTunes, Amazon, and over 20 more of the top retailers. So, your music just didn't sell at iTunes or Amazon or the other stores, I suppose. The result would be the same with any other distributor, as it makes no difference in your listing at iTunes if your music came from ReverbNation or somewhere else.

                        Again, I'm terribly sorry for any inferior service you may have received. If it took longer than 8 weeks to get your music up, we can easily adjust the anniversary date of your subscription. If you didn't get paid until 6 months after a sale was actually made, our support team would LOVE to get a look at your account so that they can get to the bottom of it. We appreciate your business and also the opportunity to clarify how the product works.


                        Jed Carlson
                        Co-Founder, COO


                        • #13
                          Breach of contract.

                          They breached it first, making your counter-breaches moot. I believe you would win in court, but are you ready to lost time/money to fight a heavyweight court battle for $45?
                          Sig Fail


                          • #14
                            First, let us thank Jed for taking the time to personally address this.

                            Second, as I originally suggested, communications is the key to resolution, and that carefully worded letter should have taken care of this.
                            "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminent period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

                            Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'


                            • #15

                              I asked our customer support team to follow up on your particular case. Here is what I found:

                              1. You submitted your release on May 5, 2009.
                              2. Your release was delivered to retailers on May 18th, 2009 (at which point it was up to them when to post it).
                              3. Your first sales activity (stream or download) occurred in June of 2009, and were reported to you in the early Sept sales report.
                              4. Your first activity on iTunes and Amazon occurred in July of 2009.
                              5. You wrote into our Customer Service Dept on July 22nd and your question was answered by our rep Jason Boner promptly. You did not reply to that message (as far as our tracking system indicates).
                              6. You wrote back in on Sept 1st, 2009 to customer service and we responded promptly.
                              7. We have not received any additional responses from you since, according to our records.

                              If you have written to our CS dept on any additional date, or you have not received a response that was satisfactory to you, please write in again to get the answers you are seeking.