Chicago's DJ Slugo Fired From Spike Lee Film For Pay to Play Scheme, Draws Attention to Industry-wide Problem31st May 2015 • 11 comments
Last week Chicago’s own DJ Slugo was relieved of his duties as music supervisor for Spike Lee’s latest film, Chiraq. The DJ had been put in charge of finding music for the film when Mr. Lee chose to feature all Chicago artists on the upcoming soundtrack. Unbeknownst to Lee and his team, Slugo was charging artists for their submissions and when Lee found out, Slugo got sacked. Media coverage on this has been slim and details scarce. Specifics about what exactly DJ Slugo was asking of artists haven’t been released but we were able to obtain two of the emails DJ Slugo sent to those who submitted tracks for consideration. A couple of the artists who submitted their work for consideration were kind enough to forward those emails along to us.
There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason behind DJ Slugo’s pricing methodology. The first photo shows two pricing options; one charging $300.00 per song with 10% of future soundtrack revenues going to the artist. The second charging $500.00 per song with the artist getting 0% of the soundtrack revenue. Option two is especially puzzling as it’s charging more and offering no future royalties from a soundtrack that will likely be fairly successful.
Email number two has an altogether different pair of propositions. With the first, artists could choose to pay $100 per submission with 10% of future revenue going to Blok Club DJs (DJ Slugo), and artists getting 90%. The second option was for the artists to pay $250 per song, yet receive 100% of future revenue.
DJ Slugo issued the following statement regarding the incident: “Hello unfortunately I may have lost my submission privileges for making a very bad decision in trying to charge Chicago artist for an opportunity to submit music for this film… This is not the way Spike Lee nor his team operates and I take full responsibility for my bad decision. I am doing everything in my power to fix this problem with Mr Lee and his team so that the artist submissions that I have in my email are not punished for my wrong doings… Please forgive me for my actions and I hope that I can fix this and somehow get your submission to their staff. Again I ask that you forgive my poor decision making!!! Please hold me and only me responsible for this issue what I did was in no way professional and whatever punishment Mr Lee wants to hand down to me I will accept it and ask him to please not hold it against any Chicago artist period!!!
I will keep all of you guys emails and songs stored and turn them over to him if he allows me too!!!
There seem to be pretty polarizing opinions on DJ Slugo’s actions. Some seem to believe that this is a non-issue; Slugo has apologized and no harm was done. On Twitter and Facebook there are several comments from those offering support to the DJ and thanking him for his dedication to Chicago and its artists. Others believe that this situation is indicative of a larger issue within the music industry at large, and Chicago specifically. The expectation of pay to play by DJs and blogs is becoming something of a regular occurrence, and one that leaves new artists in a difficult position. Not only do artists need to pay for recording, equipment, management, marketing, touring expenses, and merchandise, it’s not unreasonable to say that they also need to allocate money for extortion from those wishing to prey on their hopes and dreams.
This is nothing new in music, but with the increased popularity of independent websites, tumblr pages, and Podcasts, there are more outlets than ever for artists to find an audience. As wonderful as this is, it leaves much room for bad practices to become acceptable.
Artists fight an increasing number of obstacles to be heard, which is a big enough battle. When those who claim to be fighting for new artists have ulterior motives, the fight becomes exacerbated. It may be safe to presume that Slugo is as remorseful as he claims to be, but sadly, he was merely one of many. Others remain, looking for ways to take money from artists wanting a chance to be heard by a large audience. Chicago’s rap and hip hop communities were excited at the opportunity to have their music potentially heard by everyone who saw Chiraq and now, it’s unclear how soundtrack submissions will be handled.
One thing is certain; if artists don’t become more vocal about these incidents, not only will they become more commonplace, the cost will become far greater.