In a country where censorship of media is extremely tough (see my post on the MDA issue), and where large fines for seemingly minor indiscretions is common-place, I am both in shock and incensed at this incident that occurred on Friday night (23rd May).
THE SCAM LOCATION: The markets opposite Admiralty MRT on Woodlands Avenue 7.
THE PERPETRATOR: Two separate music stall owners and employees.
THE VICTIM: Me (unsuspecting consumer).
The perpetrators of this scam, advertise with very large signs stating that music CDs and DVDs are for sale at very reduced prices. A consumer buys a minimum of three pieces, and the price is even further reduced. All the music CDs are laid out for easy viewing and selection, and I commend the stall-keepers on their very consumer-friendly way of categorizing the music by artist and/or genre.
At the first stall we visited, we found two CDs which we purchased (one suiting my musical taste, and one that my wife wanted). The second stall (where I spent almost 30-minutes looking at the wide range and selection available), saw me purchasing another three(3) music CDs. All five purchases from the two stalls, were by internationally-acclaimed artists, and at least three were award-winning compilations.
After much admiration of our purchases and excitement of getting home to listen to the music on our surround-sound system, I placed the first of the new CDs in the player. After hearing the first two beats of the first song, I knew something was amiss (my ear is quite sensitive to these things, after spending almost a decade as a DJ in some of Australia's most popular nightclubs). The artist (in this case Eminem) was being impersonated (quite poorly). After scanning through every song on the playlist, I became aware that the entire CD was not performed by the advertised artist on the cover (or 'featured' artists in the playlist), but in fact almost tone-deaf local impersonators.
Bewildered, this prompted me to look more closely at the CD packaging. The cover sleeve was an exact replica of the original by the 'real' artist, except for one small difference. Right at the bottom of the back of the CD sleeve (in a font almost undetectable or readable by the human eye), were the words "All tracks are re-recorded by various artistes in digital studio".
OK, so one might say I should have noticed this 4pt font disclaimer before purchasing the CD. Regardless, I felt 'ripped-off'. The identical packaging and artwork to the original artist did not prompt me to look further - this is Singapore and I am a consumer, I wouldn't have suspected for one moment that our Government would allow such a blatant deception to occur.
One-by-one, I unwrapped and played the other CDs. Every single song and artist was a (poorly performed) fake copy of the original. I scanned the CD sleeves of each of the CDs, and two of them did not even carry the disclaimer in 4pt font. There was nothing to indicate that I was buying anything less than what was on display. Big name CDs by big name artists.
So there you have it... I'm out of pocket of some of my hard-earned money, but I've learned a valuable lesson in buying music in Singapore (I have previously bought music here without incident). I would like to use this blog as a warning for other unsuspecting, innocent consumers.
My question of the authorities is this - how can we spend so much of the Singapore tax-payers' money, in utilizing sniffer dogs at immigration checkpoints to search out the importation of 'pirated' CDs, yet allow our own population to knowingly deceive the public innocent consumer. The vetting of pirate CDs is to protect the artists and record companies (both of whom are making millions of dollars anyway), as well as the consumer.... - as a consumer, I would much rather be the recipient of a poor quality duplication of the original artist, than of a high quality digital re-recording by untalented impersonators. At least I would like to be given the choice of buying the original artist or an imposter - the 'false advertising' techniques at play on Friday night, did not offer me the ability to make this choice.
Local Singaporean friends have told me that this rerecording by impersonators is common-place, but also said that there are actually laws in place that 'should' ensure the consumer is aware of what they are buying (and are surprised that this was not the case). I sincerely hope that my warning here is at least heeded by other unsuspecting music lovers. I can also hope that the authorities in Singapore can do something about people blatantly 'ripping people off' without their knowledge. This is certainly not in the spirit of 'fair trade'. These people should be prosecuted, fined and perhaps even given time in jail for this deception - I have seen lesser crimes in Singapore, where people have been caned.
Local Singaporean recording artists should not sell themselves out by being implicit in this scam (they are not getting their name on the CD for credit)... and the producers of these copies need to find some better local talent anyway - very ordinary efforts... I'm thinking perhaps I can get with same mates at a drunken karaoke session next weekend and we can record our efforts - then we can label them to look like orginal artists and sell them at the local markets - wow, we could make a fortune!!
Some pictures of the a few of the offending CDs:
Image/s 1& 2: Eminem - "Encore" (very small disclaimer on back bottom of sleeve)
Image/s 3& 4: Black Eyed Peas - "Don't Phunk with My Heart (Album of the Year)" (very small disclaimer on back bottom of sleeve)
Image/s 5& 6: Eagles - "Hotel California" (Absolutely no disclaimer, and therefore must be illegal)