The modern-day music industry is a tragicomic bag of mixed blessings. Traditional record companies have been obliterated by the digital world, but musicians now have endless opportunities to promote themselves for free on YouTube, Facebook and elsewhere.
Or if you have $45 to spare, you can get a nice feature write-up in Warped Magazine, at least according to some musicians who have been reposting letters they say are from the publication’s staffers. According to the letters, posted on Facebook and Reddit, Warped charges a one-time editing fee of $45. The letters are passed off as notices of acceptance, sent in response to musicians and bands that submit material through the magazine’s website.
Lance Norris and the Dog Track Gravy, a Boston-based alt-country act, posted one of these letters on its Facebook page last August, identifying the author as Jennifer, Warped Magazine’s media director:
“Thanks for your interest in us and showing us your music... I checked it out and it I loved what I heard congrats! Im definitely able to get you a feature interview on warpedmag.com and get you some more exposure. We are read in over 25 countries right now so if readers like it, it can spread on it's own from there. There is however a one time $45 editing fee, its a bummer I know but it helps pay our editing costs.”
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Another artist, Calum Land, posted an identical letter on Facebook in November. Norris, for his part, wrote that he responded to the letter by stating, “I've got your editing fees in my balls.”
Ten days ago, Reddit user SandProject posted a similar letter, this one from Jason, the magazine’s music director. SandProject asked fellow Redditors their opinion as to whether or not the offer smelled fishy. Most agreed it did, with some pointing out the obvious fact that no one has ever heard of Warped Magazine, and that $45 is a steep fee for exposure in an obscure magazine.
That hasn’t stopped Warped from aggressively soliciting punk and rock bands on Craigslist. In the last month alone, ads have popped up for the “legendary Warped & Warped Magazine” in Miami, Houston, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, San Antonio and elsewhere. The ads claim to be seeking acts for magazine features and make no mention of an editing fee.
According to Warped Magazine’s Facebook page, the publication was founded in August 2012. But for a magazine that is supposedly “read in over 25 countries,” it’s an operation shrouded in mystery. The website offers no obvious way to contact the publication, aside from the musicians’ submission form, which has no field for submitting comments or additional text.
A phone number listed on the company’s Terms and Conditions page was out of order when we last looked. A request for comment sent to a generic email address (also buried in the Terms & Conditions page) bounced back. Finally, a request for comment about the editing fee was sent via the magazine’s complaints form, but there was no immediate response. Updates will be posted here if there are.
Incidentally, Warped Magazine is in “no way” affiliated with the Vans Warped Tour, according to a spokesperson for the long-running music festival.
According to Warped Magazine’s website, the magazine is published by Redeemer Publications, LLC, based in Union City, Calif. The company also publishes WWS Magazine, a more established hip-hop publication. Some Google searches have turned up old posts on MySpace and elsewhere with letters claiming that WWS charges a $95 editing fee.
Pay-to-play schemes have long plagued the music business, with orchestrators preying upon struggling musicians desperate for exposure. Years before the Internet, fly-by-night record companies would offer unwitting bands placement on so-called promotional CD’s, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. So at $45, maybe Warped Magazine’s featured acts are getting off easy, but if you’re going to pay an editing fee, for the love of God, pay it to someone who knows how to use an apostrophe. We’re looking at you, Jennifer.