AdRev Is Illegally Preying On DIY Musicians

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I got two emails from “Katherine Foster” within 10 minutes of each other to two separate email accounts – one which I haven’t used in years. They both read:

Subject: Missing Info

Body: I have not yet received the info to setup your account at  If you own and control original music, our service can help generate new revenue for you.

At AdRev, we help musicians, labels, and composers make earnings from their recordings in YouTube.  We simply find videos using your music, show ads, and pass the revenue down to you.

With artists signing up every day, we’d love to help you tap into this new revenue stream.

Drop a line if you have questions,

Katherine Foster
Artist Recruiter

Pretty sneaky. You haven’t received the info because I didn’t send it. Or opt into this list. Or ask for information. And feel quite violated.

This, AdRev, to say the least feels very slimy. As someone who is very used to these unsolicited emails targeting DIY musicians, I’m fed up. I don’t like it from “promoters” offering me to pay to play, I don’t like it from “A&R” trying to get me to buy their overpriced services, and I don’t like it from you.

+Jeff Price And Audiam Look To Fix YouTube’s Royalty System

With the number of partners AdRev boasts (Universal, Warner, BMG, Source Audio) and the number of videos they monetize (27.5 million) you’d think they would have the budget to target these musicians through ads. Spamming musicians via email not only diminishes their reputation, but showcases their lack of respect for the working DIY musician community.  They are directly looking to prey on musicians’ ignorance.

Not to mention, this is ILLEGAL!

This practice of adding people (who did not ask to be added) to a list and then spamming them is against the Can-Spam Act of 2003.  AdRev is using YourMailingListProvider and I’m pretty sure it’s against their terms of service as well.  No mailing list provider, be it YMLP, MailChimp, FanBridge, ReverbNation, iContact or Constant Contact allows companies to add emails of people who did not opt in to their list.

The Can-Spam Act defines an offending email as: “any electronic mail message [where] the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose).”

Yeah, sounds pretty spot on to me. The law also requires that “A legitimate physical address of the publisher and/or advertiser is present. PO Box addresses are acceptable in compliance with 16 C.F.R. 316.2(p) and if the email is sent by a third party, the legitimate physical address of the entity, whose products or services are promoted through the email should be visible.” Which it did not. The law also states that “A message cannot be sent to a harvested email address.” Which my emails definitely were.

Jesse Worstell, Manager of Artist Relations at AdRev, openly admitted to me that their interns scoured “Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, Soundcloud, etc.” to find their new targets. Worstell mentioned in our correspondence, “We found your Facebook page and thought we’d reach out.” But this is all a bunch of crock!  One of the emails they contacted is not listed on Facebook.  Or anywhere!  Actually pretty impressed that they found that email address… but a little freaked out as well.

AdRev, you’ve built pretty darn good relationships with other companies and have a pretty darn solid (albeit slimy) business model from what I hear, why stoop to this level?  You manage the catalogs of three major publishers and many independents.  Must you be so greedy that you need to conquer the DIY market as well?  With this approach, you are alienating your current customers. They would not appreciate to hear that you use these illegal tactics.

Photo is by coniferconifer from Flickr and used with the Creative Commons License.

26 Responses

  1. Terri N

    email marketing is a great way to recruit new users . in fact it’s more effective and far less expensive than any other methods. AdRev prollyyjust rented a list and your email as on it. Nothing wrong with that. I also believe they pay more than Audiam or anyone else out there and Rumble fraud is just a total scam at 50 perrcent. The messaging is a little misleading but it got you to open it, which is an overall sign of effectiveness.

    • Ari Herstand

      Except, that buying email lists is against YMLP’s terms of service AND, as stated, illegal. So, there’s actually something very wrong with it. Aside from it just being a slimy tactic leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

      • Granny

        Rather be suspicious of any email containing “missing info” – spammers and scammers often use this as a topic in order for peeps to open the mail. I’d check the email address of such and if I had no contact that required this, then I ‘report’ & trash it as blacklist/spam/scam on all systems as well as my internet provider. Both the email address and website. With the hope of course that eventually, with enough reports from others, such websites & email domains can develop a ‘bad name’ on the web. Spanner in their works. That’s it, they took the chance of spamming/scamming so if they end up on the blacklist of antivirus/anti-spyware etc etc I am a happier person. The AdRev email to you is asking you for personal information and even added a link, without your ever opting for it, so that email falls under “scam” and that is a serious offense. Thanx for sharing and all the best!

      • Holly

        Slow news day? so you are musician and received an invite to a service that would assist and you write an article damning them? get off the soapbox and write a real story. the link baity headline you used to get me to click and read here is leaving a bad taste in my mouth and is worse than the subject of any email someone sent you that you actually opened and thought about

        • FarePlay

          I’m with on this one. Holly sounds like an auto-responder with feigned indignation.

    • Granny

      “…far less inexpensive…rented a list…” is imo proof of another form of “parasitism” where others want a slice from the actual creators/artists. And they want it at a minimum or no expense. Slimy indeed.

  2. gilli

    i am not quite understanding your concern. Beyond the “oh they added me to their list without me asking”, have you explored their capability to gain revenue for your songs from Youtube (which they claim to be able to do)? How about look into that? Sometimes we get opportunities in our inbox and we don’t know how it got there…. maybe we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Check ’em out before blasting the opportunity…
    While we are at it, i hate how Facebook ads ADS to my stream. But heck, they have my logins so i can’t control that. It’s all the same. People will solicit you in many ways. Someone knocked on my front door today selling something. It doesn’t matter how they “knock”, it’s our response that makes all the difference and could be the difference in never getting out of our living room or making a huge success. You decide.

    • Andrew B.+White

      That’s the point – they added me without asking – that’s called ‘spamming’ and it’s illegal, not to mention annoying and time wasting.

      What you are suggesting is that we should look for hidden opportunities in spam or unsolicited emails?
      Give me a break.

      • GGG

        You should totally transfer money to that Nigerian guy. He’s good for it. Also, after you pay him you’ll magically get a bigger….

  3. ZuluBound

    You wrote this entire article over a spam email!? Lol, thanks for the “news”. Let me know if someone cuts you off in traffic.

  4. Andrew B. White

    I’ve been getting unsolicited emails from these guys since March 2014.
    At first I thought they were legit as I had a professional contact named Kat in the music business.
    There is an ‘unsubscribe’ link within these emails but I didn’t subscribe to this in the first place.
    Clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ in a spam email – who knows if that actually let’s the spammer know your email works or goes through to some phishing site?

    Read these parts of the email and tell me if this does not sound ‘pushy’ to you?

    “I have not yet received the info to setup your account”….

    “I was wondering if you had any questions about AdRev or our services.”

    “Kat again :-). Wondering if you got my previous emails?”

  5. Muso

    More people need to call out companies like this that are using shady, scammy or downright illegal tactics to target artists. Often with half baked products and services that provide little real value (not saying AdRev doesn’t… I’ve never used them).

    They make it even harder for legit and truly value-adding businesses to grow and thrive by using honest and ethical strategies and tactics.

    Thanks Ari.

    • Isitsafe

      You are so right Muso, and I can’t believe more people don’t think like this. Targetted marketing should be THE SOLUTION TO ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS! Period. If it were truly allowing people with the same interests and needs to connect, everything in the universe would be solved. Instead, spam goes un-arrested (I can’t believe why, every sleuth TV show and book and no one can stop something TOTALLY traceable?????). It is so sad that spam has destroyed this otherwise perfect marketing technique. I’m devastated that spam hasn’t long ago been done away with so that the global opportunities that should be here allow us to all connect correctly :(

  6. Anonymous

    Sounds like all the little kiddies standing on the corner selling their dime bags have sniffed so much of their product they actually think they are Tony Montana now, which lest we forget is nothing more then a fictional character anyways, but never the less!

    Crazy times indeed!

    Oh and if you are a little freaked out about that, i advise you to take the red pill and leave the blinders on.

  7. Randy Nichols (@forcemm)

    I got the same e mail from Kat and replied with a nasty comment about how shady they seemed too.

    a week later I got on the phone with Jesse and was surprised to see they are a real and quite possibly very legit company. I’m now conflicted if I could ever work with them though based on my initial introduction but I like their business model.

    • Ari Herstand

      Exactly. For as legit as their services seem to be, why stoop to these lows? It’s mind boggling. They need to hire a new recruiting director/marketing manager and seriously change course.

  8. the solution is one email away

    Forward their message, INCLUDING the header information, to their hosting company. It will result in their account being suspended.

  9. Music Publisher

    Nice product placement for Jeff Price in the middle of an article publicly shaming his competition…..

  10. ArtemesiaBlack

    Thank you Ari for talking about this! I got one too and my instinct was that it was annoying spam but then us DIY musos sign up for so many sites and are hooked up to so many thing sometimes you just don’t know, so it sits in my in tray till I can get to it… thank you Ari for being an advocate for the out here on my own feeling DIY musician – I just stumbled on this article too, and read it purely because it was written by Ari as after reading a lot of your stuff I consider you to be one of the few people ‘on my side’ and takes the time to say something and really researches stuff. I appreciate you! Thank you for writing about the big and small issues that us truly indie/diy musicians face every day!

  11. Granny

    YouTube: apply for and monetize with Google AdSense and you earn income.

    I do my releases through Zimbalam, (EU) – they pay 90% royalties on all revenue earned.
    I make up a nice teaser, upload on YouTube and monetize.
    At Zimbalam I can now also opt for distribution to YouTube (with whom they have a contract).
    Once my release ID/fingerprints reaches YouTube, I get content ID claim from Zimbalam, accept and Zimbalam then ‘earns’ the income of which I’ll eventually get 90% back.
    Easy as cake, I have a contract, Zimbalam and YouTube have a contract, I have no worries.

    AdRev wants at least 20% for themselves, regardless of YouTube using Google AdSense.
    good thing to read a bit at the Google product forum:!topic/youtube/42xLenp36Co

  12. steve

    I keep getting spam from Adrev too

    AdRev is now accepting new submissions. We’d like to invite you to submit your music for YouTube Content ID monetization, Music Key, Digital Distribution, Sync Licensing, and YouTube Channel Partnership.
    Please fill out the form below, and indicate which services you are interested in. Someone from our team will be in touch.
    AdRev Submission Form
    Curious on how it all works? Click the image below for more info.”

    They seem to have scraped my email address from domain registrations as is the only place I use that address.

    I actually notice that while the links do go to Adrev they are using to send out the spam.