If you watch Chris Grayston's badly designed Live and Unsigned website (not the other Live and Unisgned well-designed website of a completely different company just here http://www.liveandunsigned.com ) you will notice that "judges" (and sponsors and partners) come and go pretty quickly. Respected names are very hard to find. So inevitably Grayston is always on the lookout for PR-friendly "names" who will add to the illusion of respectability and "industry insider" status that he feeds off. Cath Aubergine, a well know name on the Manchester music scene was approached by Grayston as a potential judge for their Eccles heat (the mind boggles). She has kindly agreed to let me quote her full reply. It is as follows:
to The office monkey
date 17 March 2011 18:05
With all due respect - which isn't a lot - are you serious?
I am actually quite insulted by your contacting me: if you had actually spent ten seconds researching me and ManchesterMusic.co.uk you would be aware that I and the website I manage have long been campaigners against ALL types of Pay-To-Play, but in particular exactly the sort of exploitative practice that your organisation operates. I have read countless testimonials from former participants, detailing all the proceedings. I appreciate that what you are doing is not illegal, but then nor is, for example, cheating on your partner with a whole rugby team, or smoking a fat cigar over a newborn baby's cot. Just because something is legal doesn't make it morally right.
Let's look at the facts:
ManchesterMusic.co.uk is a group of volunteers (including myself and the site founder / co-editor) who for no personal gain donate their time and effort to publicise and help advance talented musicians and bands who are creating something innovative, original or simply good. We do this because we truly love music. Bands who have (in the past couple of years, and either in their current forms or previous bands) had some of their first press - and therefore help onto the first steps on the ladder - from us include Hurts, Delphic and Everything Everything - you might have heard of these successful artists?
Your company is an organisation which profiteers shamelessly from demanding bands sell tickets upfront, to be allowed to play for two to five minutes in a contest in which the "winner" wins the chance to pay some more money to do it all again at the next "level"; creativity, innovation and quality being irrelevant. Bands "progress" - as well you know - via audience votes so the more friends and family a band has sold to, the greater their chance of getting to the area final. Uniquely this year I have actually heard of the band who won the 2010 contest - as I recently saw them playing at the bottom of a bill to a near-empty venue as opening support to a little-known indie band, with a great but very new local up-and-coming band in between. (Hardly the shining golden path to stardom your website promises, is it?) I keep a very close eye on the unisgned band scene and had never heard of them before (I didn't know they had been involved with yourselves until researching them after the event) but I'd be willing to bet that even the couple of sentences of review we published will have done more for their prospects than your entire contest did.
In what way do we have ANYTHING in common?
You disgust me. Yes, you personally, alongside everyone else who takes a pay cheque from this vile organisation which has been funded by the callous exploitation of the hopes and dreams of young kids starting out in bands who don't know any better. Me, I seek to educate them, to show them there is another way. That creativity and talent will always be more important in the long term than how many of their mum's mates naively hand over a fiver. That there are countless opportunities in this city and others for a band to showcase themselves to real music fans without paying a penny for the privilege. That bands should NEVER, EVER have to pay to play. And I won't give up until your company and similar organisations are dead and buried. I know I speak for a great number of Manchester's grass roots music community when I say your organisation is not welcome here.
Finally, as your representatives are ever so fond of explaining to participants, everything comes at a price. I would, by this logic, invoice you for the half an hour it has taken me to reply to your message, except for the fact that I neither want nor need your ill-gotten gains. I therefore recommend that you instead make a donation to http://www.redcross.org.uk/JapanTsunami whom I am sure would be most grateful.
Cath Aubergine and the MM team.
As my Twitter self @thislast I get a bit dismayed at posts from youngsters who shrug off the experience of people like Cath (perhaps because they don't actualy read the full story). None of their excuses for entering add up. They seem to lack faith in their own ability to make things happen for themselves and so end up with an outfit who (so far) have lifted absolutely no one out of obscurity. No one at all. Not a single artist. None.