Music Business is not Music – Part 1 : Iceland Airwaves

As I stated some months ago, there is a lot of con game going on inside the music business – and I even just scratched the surface.
Here is another example how they treat artists nowadays: The Iceland Airwaves Festival. Started off in 1999… but you can read the history for yourself: Wikipedia
Since the Airwaves might be a good point to start a musical career as more than 50% (2006) of the audience is working in the music business, an investment to this might be a good investment in your musical career… I never thought about this.

Anyway, in 2015 I checked out the website and found out that for applying as an artist they take an amount of money in advance (15$) and promised that the artist -if approved- will get free travel from the airport and similar conveniences. This first looks like a scam, because.. ok, you paid, not getting approved, end. A lot of money for little work. So I wrote an email to responsibles, and it went like this:

I would like to participate as an artist on Iceland Airwaves.
 But I don't understand your web page.
 You mean I have to pay 15$ just to be considered as an artist to play there?
 wtf? Times have really changed, man!!

I didn’t expect any answer, but to my surprise somebody did:

We have been charging 15dollars the last 8 years for International bands to apply to play the festival so times have not changed that much the last 8 years.
 There are over 1500 Bands/artists that apply every year to play the festival and we can fit around 220 bands on the schedule each year so It is clear that we can not fit all the bands that apply on the bill.
Hope this answers your question.

Haha, actually my “question” was some kind of rhetorical and his statement that they’d been charging money for the last 8 years(!), so there is no change, is kind of… ridiculous or naive. This means, their scam went on for 8 years now. And computing: 1,500 artists * 15$ = 22,500$ in advance – for nothing. Not bad. Ok, 220 acts can fit, so almost 100$ per act is spent for “transportation etc.” like stated before – and it has been paid in advance by artists (!) who are not on the “bill”.
And that’s the point I stated in my reply:

I can understand that if you have more bands than places you can house that bands
and say "well send 15$ dollars, we'll check out if you're compatible to our program" - that's your business plan.
cdbaby works that way too. Unfortunately there's much more music around the world than the world can bear,
so why not make a business model from it?

This was meant as a provocation in the first place, and he went for it:

Believe me this has nothing to do with money!  
Take care!

Haha, if ever someone says “Believe me” the opposite is true. So far, so good, I didn’t reply to this demonstration of foolery.
But in spring 2016 I remembered the Airwaves Festival and made an appliance there (with the alias Hardfrost) – I also paid the 20$ (phew, 5$ more than 2015, so times, they are a-changing!) in advance. For months I heard nothing about them, but end of July the appliance phase ended, and a few days later they sent me this text:

We thank you for your interest in Iceland Airwaves 2016, however after reviewing your submission, we are sorry to inform you that we weren’t able to find you a place on our bill.

Applications for playing Iceland Airwaves 2017 will be accepted as of early next year, and the details of the process will be announced on www.icelandairwaves.is in due course.

That’s all. No more specified substantation, no personal text.

I thought I get my money back and I sent this:

there is no refund?

and I just got this back:

There is no refund.

As you might think, I won’t let this matter rest and replied this:

you mean, I paid you 20$ just for the message "we weren’t able to find you a place on our bill"?

Since there was no answer, I tried again…

for 20$ I'm expecting a little more than "not on bill", something like
what reason _exactly_ is relevant.

I must say it’s a bit adorable that someone is still answering, but the answer is the opposite of adorable:

We reviewed all of the information you included in the application. After doing that, we decided not to offer you a slot on our bill. 

Ok, this answer was weak again, and nothing new. Is it just hard to give a correct answer (sth like “aww, nobody wants to hear your music, it’s to simpel, to repetitive or badly produced” – I don’t know), and not beating around the bush all day? Apparently not.

Yes i know that because you told me this before. But you didnt answer the question what exactly the reason is.

As I got no answer I started a dispute on PayPal with this text:

indeed you didn't answer, you did not even try to give a distinct answer, so here is the question again:
for 20$ I'm expecting a little more than "not on bill", something like
what reason _exactly_ is relevant.

Now they have to react…actually it seems they don’t care at all. I give them another few days, then I ‘ll start the complaint at PayPal.

Don’t get this wrong: It’s not about getting the money back, it’s not about getting music to the festival, it’s just to make a fuss about their cheap trickery – I guess they screwed a lot of people this way.

Meanwhile it’s one week since I started the complaint at PayPal, still no reaction – now I’m kickin PayPal in:

payments to Iceland Airwaves announces that - if you are accepted as an artist - numerous goodies are delivered: (see their website at "artists" -I dont want to link them here)
But there is no announcement what happens if the artist is declined. I would assume that the deposit would be paid back, but the seller refuses. They also don't give a precise reason for declining. Looks to me like a rip off that is only just legal.

…the same evening I got this mail:

so sorry about your merch order not arriving!!  must have gotten lost in the mail :(

I will send again now and make sure it gets to you.
Or do you want a refund?

All the best - and so sorry

Ähm, excuse me. What are you talking about? Time to make things clear:

thank you for your mail.

It's not a merch order - it's about a declined artist application.
I find it a bit lame to get nothing more than "We have no place for you on our bill"
and _no_ substantiated reason, for 20$.

It took a few days, then I got another message:

ok I see
I´m looping in our production manager who can elaborate better about the applications terms.

ok… back to where were before.. the same bureaucracy loop everywhere…
Three days before PayPal deadline I got this message:

can you please send us the Artist name for the artist you represent. We will send you more detailed explanation why your application was declined.   
Your application was processed so we are not doing a refund so please drop your claim at pay-pal please.

*sigh*
ok, here it is:

the name was "Hardfrost".
By applying I never saw any special terms and conditions for what happens if the application is declined

And that’s the question. I never gave my yes-check to any terms and conditions because there were none. I just got a blank email saying they’ll get in touch in time (after the deadline), so going for eu rights I’m absolutely de jure with charging the money back. But let’s see how it’ll will continue…

Update: PayPal fixed a time limit – and they  let it elapse without any further action. So PayPal decided on my point of view and paid the money back. Maybe IA will also get trouble with their account. I don’t think that there will happen more about this case.

Conclusion: If you ever want to get into some kind of music business, and someone wants money in advance: Don’t give them one cent. Or try to fool them by yourself.