No. 8

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

In the last edition of MMM, I set out to examine the facts behind the Rock Harvest 2 Festival which many were calling a scam. Was this scandalous or not ? For those who are unfamiliar with the details of this story, you can read all about it in Part One of this article, in which I presented all the facts which could be found at the time. Based on these evidences I pointed out the suspicions surrounding the event and posed questions which I felt anyone examining this story might seek answers. The main issues surrounding the Rock Harvest 2 event involved the fact that dozens of bands were advertised to perform, tickets were sold by pre-order to consumers, then the majority of the bands never performed. The festival was promoted as a charity event which led to accusations that the FallenBlue charity was not legitimate and the whole thing was a scam. In follow-up to this breaking news story, I waited for the event to take place so there were no more unexpected surprises, then began contacting all the major parties involved seeking answers to these questions to get at the truth. Here in Part Two of this article, I present these findings in conclusion of this very interesting and disturbing news story.

After complaints began circulating the internet regarding all the band cancellations and suspicions surrounding the Fallen Blue charity, those responsible for Rock Harvest issued public statements in Nov 2013 in attempt to quell these accusations two weeks before the event. There were those accusing Rock Harvest of failing to deliver on promises in guarantee of financial arrangements, those questioning where the money was going in the name of the charity, and consumers complaining about false advertising. Those behind Rock Harvest claimed that the fault was with the bands canceling, the charity was legitimate, and there was nothing to these accusations. The statements released in their defense basically suggested that things got screwed up, things happen, and they were sorry for any inconvenience.

After an examination of the evidences, the one question that stood out like a sore thumb was how the numbers just didn't add up. It seemed completely unrealistic that the amount of tickets made available for this event at the advertised prices could bankroll such a venture given the sheer amount of bands advertised to perform, many requiring deposits and guarantees to cover travel and lodging. The Rock Harvest 2 Festival took place at the House of Rock in Baltimore, Maryland on November 7 - 9, 2013 and attendance was far from a sellout. There was no way those behind Rock Harvest could have met their obligations, especially for all the advertised bands had they actually performed. This further pushed the question, how was the charity benefiting from this if the event was operating at a loss ?

In Nov 2013, after Part One of this news article broke, local television news stations affiliated with ABC and NBC picked up on this story and ran their own "investigations" questioning the legitimacy of the charity Fallen Blue. Those so-called "investigations" where thin at best consisting of local news reporters showing up at the Rock Harvest festival, shoving their cameras in the faces of those behind Rock Harvest, and pressing them for a statement on the charity. Those behind Rock Harvest avoided the cameras and made no comment. These local TV news reporters did nothing to expose the story, there was no follow-up, and instead their respected television stations took advantage of the situation to spend a week promoting another charity for police officers, the National Police Suicide Foundation. Considering the biker component associated with Fallen Blue charity, It could also be found ironic that Geico's ad for motorcycle insurance, portraying bikers, was run an unusual amount of times surrounding these news stories on ABC and NBC. I would certainly question the ethics of these news stations, as it appears that since this story involved negativity towards a police charity, the story was suppressed, the focus was shifted to a legitimate police charity, and Geico was tipped off for a chance at choice targeted advertising. Nothing like corporate America in journalism !

In Dec 2013 I began crafting a list of questions in follow-up with hopes of contacting all the parties involved and objectively getting to the bottom of this story. I encouraged everyone to respond, offering an open platform for all to provide any details they felt necessary. Over a dozen parties were contacting in this follow-up and only one party responded. Several of the bands advertised to perform, including Tuff and Flotsam and Jetsam, were contacted but all failed to respond. The following is a list of the major parties involved, the questions asked, and the response.

Fallen Blue .......

The Fallen Blue charity was found to be operated by the same people who were the founders and promoters of the Rock Harvest Festival. In examining the Fallen Blue website, it was notable that there was little information detailing where the donated money was going, the site was configured in a way appearing to be more of a booking agency for bands, and in the list of contacts and affiliates, many were found to be connected to Fallen Blue in what appeared could have been behind the door dealings. The following questions were asked. 1. Is there a 501C filing for the Fallen Blue charity ? if so when was it filed and issued ? 2. ABC has been running stories this past week or so on the National Police Suicide Foundation. Why is Fallen Blue not associated with this foundation, nor does it appear to donate to this foundation ? 3. How much was raised for Fallen Blue at Rock Harvest I ? How much was raised this year from Rock Harvest II ? Where was this money distributed ? 4. What was Vince Anderson's role as National Coordinator of Events for Fallen Blue and how was he involved in organizing this years Rock Harvest II festival ? 5. In following this story I have been trying to determine who Twisted Nail Productions is/was and their role here ? Is John Guaranieri co-partner with Lyle Hawkins in that venture and why has Twisted Nail seemingly vanished from the web ? 6. Due to the volume of advertised bands for this event it would be too lengthy to attempt to address each bands circumstance individually in trying to determine the total guarantees that were promised with this event. The uncertainty here is it seems otherwise unexplainable how all these bands could be bankrolled on the amount made from ticket sales. Please explain. The one band that seems of most interest is Flotsam and Jetsom. I have been unable to find any information out about why they dropped out, which appears to have happened very early on. Can you comment ? 7. Steve Rachelle, of the band, Tuff claims he was offered advertising money for Metal Sludge as part of the guarantee. This was non-refundable because the contract was breeched, therefore paid for by the deposit. Rock Harvest claimed they paid a deposit of $2000 to Mr. Rachelle but due to the advertising already done on Metal Sludge they did not demand the deposit back. Which was it ? A matter of goodwill on your end or breech of contract ? In the case of Tuff, can you state what the total guarantee was for that band, including retainer, the advertising deal, travel, lodging, etc.? 8. What was the total attendance for this years Rock Harvest II ? 9. Already there are advertisements for Rock Harvest III in 2014. Is this funded by sponsorship already ? What changes will be made to ensure there is not a repeat of this years debacle ?

I received no response from John Guaranieri, head of the Fallen Blue charity and co-founder of Rock Harvest, nor did I receive a response from Susan Henley, the publicist for Rock Harvest who had issued public statements in defense of Rock Harvest and Fallen Blue after complaints began circulating on the internet. They have avoided attempts by ABC news, NBC news, and MMM, to set the record straight. It is further noted that shortly after this news story broke, there were changes made on the Fallen Blue website where information was re-worded and all contact information for the charity and its affiliates was removed. It took but a simple phone call to the State of Maryland to verify that Fallen Blue was not registered as an official charity and had no non-profit status. The conducting of the Rock Harvest Festival in 2012 and 2013 in the name of the Fallen Blue charity, were both illegal operations. Since Fallen Blue was being endorsed by spokesperson A.J. Pero (Twisted Sister), somehow I venture that Mr. Pero was likely unaware this was not a legitimately registered charity.

Twisted Nail Productions .....

It is unclear the depth of involvement that Twisted Nail Productions played in booking the bands and promoting the Rock Harvest event. By all appearance, Twisted Nail Productions was the creation of Lyle Hawkins, co-founder and co-promoter of Rock Harvest with John Guaranieri, and also part of the team for the Fallen Blue charity. Here there were three entities : Fallen Blue, Twisted Nail Productions, and Rock Harvest, who are all essentially one and the same in what appears as some behind the door operation. There was no means to contact Twisted Nail Productions with inquiry in follow-up as their offical website and Facebook page were removed and the company disappeared from the internet in the face of these allegations.

Shockwave Magazine .....

Shockwave Magazine was advertised as a sponsor of the Rock Harvest 2 Festival and its owner Vince Anderson was listed as "Coordinator of National Events" for the Fallen Blue charity. Mr. Anderson was asked the following questions. 1. When and how did you become "Coordinator of Events" for Fallen Blue ? 2. What is your role as "Coordinator of Events" and how are you compensated ? 3. What was your involvement in Rock Harvest as "Coordinator of Events" ? 4. Why did Shockwave Magazine not publish updated advertisements or write articles during the course of the changes that occurred with Rock Harvest over the past year ? I received no response from Mr. Anderson and all information regarding his role as "Coordinator of National Events" for Fallen Blue had been removed from the Fallen Blue website by the time of this inquiry.

HighVolMusic ......

Rock Harvest claimed the problems with this years event resulted from lost sponsorship. It would appear that HighVol Music was originally advertised as sole sponsor of this event. The following questions were asked. 1. Was HighVolMusic funding the Rock Harvest Festival as sponsor ? 2. Why did HighVolMusic drop out as sponsor ? HighVolMusic CEO Bill Chavis responded, "I am to happy to answer your questions. I want to be very clear that HighVolMusic was NOT the sole sponsor and was NOT funding Rock Harvest in any manner whatsoever. I do not know who the primary sponsor was. Like everyone else, I was told the sponsor had pulled out. HighVolMusic was added as a small sponsor to help promote and raise awareness. In addition, our act Modern Superstar was to play the event and had played events for John Guarnieri in the past without any issue. Because I have relationships or know many of the artists, management, or agents involved, we saw and heard there were issues, therefore, HighVolMusic chose not to be associated with the event. I also want to add that notification of the primary sponsor backing out was announced long before HighVolMusic pulled out of the event."

While HighVolMusic claims they were not the sole sponsor, HighVolMusic was indeed advertised as the only sponsor of the RockHarvest 2 event, just one month after the Rock Harvest 1 Festival took place in Nov 2012. That information was obtained directly from an advertisement online found at , that has been running on the Powerline website for over a year now. In that advertisement on Powerline, HighVolMusic was the only sponsor mentioned as of Dec 2012. I contacted Powerline Magazine to inquire about the source of that information, but received no response. When I contacted Mr. Chavis of HighVolMusic a second time to inquire when he received notification the primary sponsor had backed and when HighVol Music backed out, I also received no response.

In conclusion, this was the scandal of the year in the Maryland music industry involving an illegimate charity, an illegal event, false advertsising, consumer rip-off, and suppression of the truth. After this story broke, information was changed, the parties involved were running scared, some disappeared, and most all avoided a chance to clear their names. Why would anyone not embrace an opportunity to clear their names, unless they were guilty of the accusations ? The blame in band cancellations, false advertising, and consumer rip-off has been pointed to an unknown mystery sponsor who supposedly backed out, causing a financial issue, resulting in these circumstances. The fact that these parties attempted to suppress the truth and avoided a chance to clear their names, all suggest the mystery sponsor never existed, it was all hype, call it a hoax. I give credit to HighVolMusic for being the only party to come forth in attempt to clear their name. I would like to think that they were just caught up in a bad situation and bailed out when they discovered what was going on, but HighVolMusic had a prior relationship with John Guaranieri (Fallen Blue/Rock Harvest) and it could not be explained why they were the first and only sponsor advertised, suggesting they were the original sponsor.

There is nothing that I have uncovered in this discovery that leads me to believe that the Fallen Blue charity was anything more than a couple of guys who were police officers, helping out some police officer friends and the main goal of the operation was as celebrity, to meet national music artists, get signed merchandise, and sell it at auction. I could have dug a lot deeper into this discovery, verfying permits for merchandising at events, business licenses, contacting House of Rock, AJ Pero, etc. but it seemed pointless in the face of the evidences already discovered.

Although it could never be determined what involvement Vince Anderson had as "Coordinator of National Events" for Fallen Blue, there were national bands performing at the Rock Harvest festival suggesting he would have played some role in the booking and promotion of the event. He failed to respond to this discovery and his name/role was removed from the Fallen Blue website after this news story broke. Mr. Anderson, being the owner and editor of the only print magazine in Baltimore, Shockwave Magazine, it seems otherwise neglible that publication did nothing to advertise or write articles detailing the changes made in the bands performing at Rock Harvest to keep the public informed. As a sponsor of the event, Shockwave Magazine, aided this consumer rip-off by remaining mute. It is even more deplorable that the local news stations would supress exposing this story based on other agenda and advertising money, not that I would expect anything less from their corporate network operation.

It seems today that every other big show you see advertised is some benefit for charity, person, or cause. For those who haven't noticed, the economy is in shambles, show attendances are down, local music artists aren't making squat, national music artists are struggling, and the music artists themselves are in need of charity and goodwill. The abundance of charity events associated with music events is like asking a poor man to work for nothing. At what point is the line drawn when charity becomes taking advantage of a struggling profession, using and abusing the survival of the music artist ?

It is a shame that the mentality of business within the local music industry is to prey upon music artists, instead of operating in ways that promote growth of the local music industry, positive cashflow, and sustainability. The term "Support Local Music" is inherently corrupt and there is a distinct difference between using the local music scene for one's self-interests and actually supporting it in ways that benefit music artists and the economics of the industry. Sadly, Maryland is full of booking agents, promoters, publishers, clubs, etc. who are just sucking the life out of music artists and a failing local music industry. It is more about fun, games, and celebrity to most of these people. It is equally disturbing, the lack of business sense and ethics where everyone seems to have complete disregard how their actions could trickle down and affect others surrounding them. Very easily, the Fallen Blue/ Rock Harvest operation could have been under scrutiny by the State government or IRS and everyone involved placed under a microscope. This blatent disregard for one's actions is scary, and may one day be tragic.

In the face of this Rock Harvest scandal, this is a wake-up call for local music artists and businesses to know who you are doing business with. Be wary of those who show ignorance or disregard in the face of business or you might end up caught in the next scandal of the year. Personally I wouldn't trust any of these businesses who have deceived the public and suppressed the truth. For consumers, this is a lesson in deception and in the future it should be considered best not to purchase tickets to events in advance, unless there are refund guarantees so can get your money back.

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