In a previous band I was in, at one point, we received an email request for one of our songs to be used for an upcoming film. At first I assumed it was spam, but replied anyway as even if it was, I thought it’d be a bit of fun to see what angle they’d take to fleece me.
They said they had a film that was in early stages of production and that they wanted to pay $1000 USD to license one of our songs for use on the trailer of the film. Naturally I thought this was complete bullshit, but wanted to play along JUST IN CASE. There were a few specific details in the email which made it clear they did actually know something about the band and it wasn’t a generic mailer so a part of me did wonder.
They sent through a contract, but nothing like an NDA or anything like that. For a change, I read the entire contract, wanting to see if it gave them exclusivity over the track and things like that, but I couldn’t see anything like that in there. It just basically gave them a right to use it in the film over the course of one calendar year. The contract even had a working title for the film, “Maya’s Voice”. All I could think is that at that point, I’d have probably said yes to them using it for free, but if they wanted to pay $1000 per year then I wouldn’t stop them. I got the rest of the band to sign the contract, assuring them I’d read it through (very trusting) and sent it back.
I was still thinking that this was some big wind up, and pretty much forgot about the thing after they sent through the countersigned version of the contract. Then, a couple of weeks later, as agreed, a physical cheque for $1000 arrived at my house in the post. I was still convinced this was bollocks, but thought I’d try and cash it anyway. I got the the counter at my local bank and was ready for the teller to start laughing at this joke cheque and to counter-explain that I was in on the joke anyway, but they didn’t say anything and they processed the cheque as normal. Then I figured that they were new or taht members of staff aren’t taught to recognise every type of cheque. I thought maybe it wouldn’t be until the professional cheque checking jobbies saw it that they’d realise it was fake and accuse me of fraud and I’d go to prison. I would just tell the truth and hope they believed I was just naiive. I asked the teller how long the cheque would take to process, and took a note at the last possible day it could cleart to check it JUST IN CASE it was real.
Days passed, I checked, and the amount had cleared in my account. $1000 USD converted to GBP. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed crazy, and to this day seems crazy. Then my disbelief turned to excitement to see how it’d be used in what clearly was a big budget film.
Months went by and we heard nothing. As it rolled to near a year, I got excited thinking that maybe they’d send a renewal request for another $1000. Films run overtime and budget, right? This would be a nice little earner. 12 months rolled around, with me having set up Google alerts for the working title, and sometimes Googling manually but never finding a single hit. I couldn’t find anything Googlable about the person who’d emailed either, it was as though they didn’t exist.
We never heard from them again, and this was about 5 years ago now. I always wanted to know more behind it and wanted to contact them, but was worried they’d claim it was a mistake and try to sue us for the money back or something. Everything else music-related has just been a massive loss-making exercise, but it was nice that for that brief moment, we got paid.