Thursday, September 30, 2010

Place Your Bets

The "Rollin' on the River" tournament is about to kick off in Sacramento, California and everyone with any WFTDA knowledge knows that this tourney will feature one big 'ole Goliath and a bunch of wanna-be Davids. So to make this interesting, I want to force everyone pick a side by using the following scenario:

You are forced by aliens with laser-knuckles to bet all of your worldly possessions on the winner of the Western Regional. You have two choices: the Oly Rollers or the entire rest of the field. Who do you choose?


(Postmortem: 62% chose Oly Rollers and went down in flames along with Oly's win streak.)


Sunday, September 19, 2010


Derby Helper would like to extend our congratulations to Blow Ann Emerson of the Cape Girardeau Roller Girls for your successful ongoing effort to create a new lifeform. It looks like your new third buttock is just about ready to achieve consciousness and rip away from your body "Alien"-style to go on a murderous rampage throughout the Missouri countryside.

Visit her Facebook page featuring this picture at this link to leave her comments with get-well wishes, congratulations, horrified screams or offers to hold an exorcism. You can also sign up to be part of the round-the-clock flamethrower team ready to kill it with fire if it tries to escape.

We wish you speedy healing and also want to congratulate you on having what will now be the most famous butt in roller derby!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to Watch Regionals at Work - Ninja Edition

As much as we all love roller derby, we grudgingly have to admit that eating and paying rent are just barely more important. That's why as much as we all want to be watching every minute of every bout during the WFTDA regionals, we will spend every Friday being the best worker bees we can, focusing on our work and being thankful to have a fulfilling job working for such an attractive and successful boss. Yup that's all we do. No reason to read any further because that report you asked for will be on your desk any minute now just like you asked for.  Love ya like one of my family, boss old buddy.

Here's to you!  You can go back to your office now.













Alright screw that, here's the deal. Every one of us who works someplace with an internet connection is going spend as much time watching the Friday bouts on Derby News Network as we can without getting fired.  So here's a way to maximize your boutwatching time and minimize your chances of getting busted by that snaggle-toothed old fart who signs your paychecks.

It all comes down to camouflage, people.  If you plan ahead, you can easily set him/her up to fail to notice the browser window showing the bout.  First thing in the morning, fill your screen with word processors and important-looking spreadsheets.  Launch a music player with some sort of moving visualization window and softly play music all morning with that visualizer showing in one of the bottom corners of the screen like so:

No need to to look here, just playing some harmless music to help me work harder...

Make a point of getting the boss's attention at least twice for some work-related issue so they hear the soft music and see the moving thing in the corner that is clearly not distracting you from work in any way.  Then later in the day when the first bout starts, you minimize that music player but leave it playing.  Now open the DNN boutcast in a pop-out window, shrink it to the size of the music player window, turn down the bout audio and put it right in that corner where the music player was.  Presto, camouflage!  When the boss walks by later and hears soft music, he/she will expect something to be moving in that bottom corner so the video stream won't attract their attention.  Make some convincing tippy-tap noises on your keyboard every so often to complete the illusion and you're home free for the rest of the day, or until the underdog team runs off a 16-pointer on the final jam to win by one and you involuntarily scream "F**K YEAH!" and do a rockstar slide down the aisle.

Like this, but in khakis.  And newly unemployed.

Got any additional stealth boutwatching tips?  Post 'em in the comments!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Money for Nothing and Tunes For Free

Roller derby is achieving success on a large and ever-growing scale. Unfortunately, one of the the surest realities of humanity is that as soon as anyone starts having any sort of success, some chucklehead is going to start demanding a piece of the action.  It isn't often that I'm called upon to assist the roller derby community in dealing with those chuckleheads but today's reader question puts me squarely in that position:

I'm curious about ASCAP. They have contacted our team and others about paying them to play music. They find teams on the internet and chase them down. What gives? Is this a scam or for real?

     Hitzy Blonde

ASCAP representatives get paid on commission so of course they'd love EVERYONE to pay them.  But there isn't a quick and easy answer to the question of whether their request is legitimate or not.  So lets take a look at what ASCAP is and why they're eying your wallet.

What They Are
ASCAP is a perfomance rights organization (P.R.O.) and their name stands for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.  There are three such organizations in America: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.  (Other countries have virtually identical sorts of organizations like PRS in the United Kingdom and APRA in Australia.)  All of these operate in a virtually identical manner so for simplicity's sake I'll stick to ASCAP for purposes of this article.  What they all do is act as sort of a collection agency/advocacy group for people who compose music.  Through a large network of electronic means and human legwork, they discover who owes money and how much to the composers that they represent, then they collect that money and distribute it in quarterly checks.   P.R.O.s also do things like lobby congress to increase the statuatory rate paid for the use of music when those rates start to slip in relation to the rate of inflation. 

Why They Exist
Back in the days before the existence of copyright law, it was not uncommon for famous authors of highly popular music to die completely impoverished.  This is because once a song was written and published, it was legal for anyone else to sell copies of that music without paying the author.  Once copyright laws were passed to protect composers, they suddenly had the right to keep others from copying and selling their work but not nearly the resources required to enforce it.  ASCAP was the first performance rights organization to form and in its original, uncorrupted form, it is why popular songwriters went from barely scraping by to making comfortable livings from their work.  The P.R.O.s basically do all the things for composers as a group that those same composers could not do for themselves as individuals.  For a composer, signing on with ASCAP means that you get your earnings found and collected for you from a wide variety of individual sources and consolidated in one convenient check instead of trying to get hundreds or even thousands of different radio stations or venues to write you individual checks.  They withhold a certain percentage of the money to cover operational costs but it is well worth it to the authors because there is no way each individual songwriter would have the resources to discover every radio station, album or venue that had made use of their work.

Do You Owe Them Money?
For roller derby leagues, the answer to this question is contingent upon a number of things. If you never play music at your roller derby events, absolutely not.  If your practices and bouts are all held in a facility that already pays for yearly site licenses for music, then no you don't. If there are stickers on a window somewhere out front that look like these:
...then you're officially off the hook.  Rollerskating rinks are a lock to have these licenses in place since they pretty much couldn't open their doors for business without them.  If you practice and bout in a skating rink, congratulations, you may close your browser window and go back to watching "Teen Mom".  From there though it gets less certain.  Locations that host live music on a regular basis may have a yearly license that will cover you but it isn't guaranteed.  City-owned places like civic centers vary by location and are not a lock to have a site license since they may not host enough music per year for it to be worth it.  Hotel facilities will often buy a license for their bar and restaurant areas but leave their convention areas uncovered, leaving that responsibility to their renters.  Warehouses and outdoor rinks are practically guaranteed to be uncovered, placing the licensing responsibility squarely on you.  The only to know for sure where you stand is to contact the management of the facility that you use and ask them if they have music licensing in place or not.

We're not covered and we're broke.  What now?
You could theoretically have no music at your bouts and rely on your announcers and crowd to provide ambience.  But there's no denying that having a catchy beat in the background adds energy to any event.  The good news is, it is possible for you to play music completely legally without paying performance rights organizations as long as you're willing to jump through a few hoops.  The Creative Commons hosts a broad spectrum of musical mashups that are available to use for no cost as long as you follow the terms set by the creator of each individual work.  There are currently over 500 Creative Commons licensed tracks available at SoundCloud with more being added every day. I highly recommend clicking that link, rooting around for awhile, using the search and seeing what is available.  There's nowhere else I'm aware of that you can hear Soulja Boy get his swag on with Tom Petty so there are definitely some fun things in there.  It is important to note that using Creative Commons works doesn't keep ASCAP from asking you for money, it just means that you can laugh and flip them the bird when they do.

So Hitzy, since your league plays in a convention center, there is likely to be some legitimacy to ASCAP's requests.  Double-check with the management office there to know for sure.  The good news is, it doesn't mean that they get a piece of the action for everything you ever do. Hopefully you can find enough material with Creative Commons licensing to take care of your musical needs.  And when ASCAP asks you for money for past bouts, ask them for a detailed list of ASCAP songs that were played at those bouts.  If they can't tell you what you played, they can't sue you for playing it.  They might keep badgering you hoping to wear you down but hey, that's why God gave us middle fingers, right?

Hey derby veterans, share your experiences with performance rights organizations in the comments so we can all learn from them!

I liked this entry in the comments so much, I'm adding it to the body of the article.  Mad props to Killah B. Killed for an awesome supplement to what I posted.

I'm the founder of Nashville's league and also an ex-employee at BMI, specifically for the Pre-Legal department so I understood the legalities and any exceptions to licensing. Long story short, after our first bout, I arrived in the morning to find BMI's "intro" letter on my desk...basically saying "Hey suka, we found you - at your desk, pay up." Not too long after that, ASCAP's letter arrived in the mail. If your league is generating press like it should, inevitably, they will find you. Also, as a side note, they have departments who jobs are to research and locate unlicensed opportunities.

Spanky's post is pretty accurate and along w/ his advise, don't be afraid to call ASCAP/BMI/SESAC directly and ask them questions. Like he said, if your facility is covered under a facility license your bouts should be covered. Our league was licensed under an Event license because we played in an unlicensed space and an Event license was the most appropriate for us. ASCAP should be able to inform you if your facility is covered and how.

Some things to be aware of when licensing:
1. Live music - this is the most expensive type to license. ie: avoid half-time bands.
2. DJ's - second most expensive.
3. Recorded - cheapest form.

All of these get added into a formula where attendance/square footage/seating determine an amount that gets multiplied by frequency per year.

A way around it is to have ONLY live music performed by an original band (no covers). By them performing, they are granting you the right to their music and therfore you don't need to license it through a PRO. Or, you can do what we did and chalk it up to the cost of doing business. Derby, as much as we hate to admit it, is a business.

Good luck!!