You've heard the phrase "Never meet your idols." I don't agree. Meet them quickly, get a photo, post it around, enjoy that moment. The phrase really should be "Never work with your idols," as the worst case scenario can happen. Take my word, as it has happened to me, and here's how it has gone down.
For 21 years, since I was 11, I was a super-fan of Courtney Love.
For years, I would be my own personal street team, defending her from the many horrible things people would say about her character.
Though my fandom, I met her many times and was thrilled from each experience.
In 2010, she pointed me out in the crowd at a show in D.C. "I know you, you're lovely," she said, and physically pulled me on stage to watch the show. Afterwards I got to hang with her band.
In May 2013, during a magazine interview about my emerging art career, the last question they asked was "What is your wild wish?" I replied, "To design Courtney Love's tour merch."
I already had designs as it was my dream and knew it was my time.
I got a mock-up shirt printed, found the perfect model, did a photo shoot, and started shooting and editing a video. Then, I put my video campaign out to the world to hopefully catch Courtney's attention.
Once I posted it, I reached out to my fellow super-fan friends through Facebook and Twitter to send it to her. Through a mutual contact, I had Courtney asking for more examples of my work.
I was then in contact with Courtney via email. She like what she saw and wanted to see more designs.
I then sent Courtney a presentation, along with a note stating how I'm an artist living in NY and need some payment.
She loved them and asked for more.
I was then copied on an email from Courtney to her management in which she wrote "a gay superfan kids, he'll work for free or very little."
Reading back now with a more level head I see it was a red flag.
From this time, it's four days to her tour start date in Philly and she told me to "rock this stuff out" with the merch and had agreed on initial designs.
I paid out of my own pocket to get 200 shirts made of one design and two different screen prints at rushed cost, to insure they'd be ready in time (appx. $2,000). I then rented a car out-of-pocket to be able to deliver the merch on time.
I arrived four hours before the show to hand over the merch. I got an email that Courtney wants quality control so I need to bring examples to the venue.
No problem in my mind, I was outside, and she already told me she needed soft-fitted shirts. She probably had no clue of the quality of the prints, I get that.
I hand over the examples to her assistant. We text and text. The show starts and I get word that Courtney loved them. But she's already onstage so they are not being sold that night.
After the show, I speak with her assistant in person. "She loved them, can you bring them to Boston for the show tomorrow?"
I replied, "If I get reimbursement for my rental cars, I'll be there. I have tickets for all the east coast shows, though was planning to take buses or trains as it's 10% of the cost of renting cars."
"Absolutely no problem. We really appreciate it, you're the best!"
I fully agreed. Once I returned my rental car I paid for another for the next day. ($700 on cars to travel merch around that ended up not being available to sell. Reminder, I live in NY, it's pricey)
Before you think... you're a full time artist, yet you had that money around to front her tour merch costs and rental cars? You must be doing very well for yourself.
No, I used credit cards and a line of credit with the shirt makers and a call to my parents to help with financing everything to make sure she had merch ready to sell at the first show.
The next day I drive to Boston with a car full of shirts and prints. The venue lets me in and shows me where to set up.
I call the assistant to ask where she is, and she tells me she's not gonna be in Boston and that a contract has to be made. No merch sold that night. I drive back with a car full of merch.
The next show was just over a mile from my place in Brooklyn. I woke up thinking I tried my best, it's just not working out.
I then got a text from her assistant an hour before doors opened, "Are you coming to the show tonight? Do you still have the merch"
After a few quick exchanges she tells me a contract is being sent over that agrees with my requests.
The contact was made by her then management, made out to between myself and Courtney Love.
I requested 30% of the limited prints and just 7% of all other merch using my designs.
I pointed out it's way under industry standard. Yet, I hoped that as an artist who's been focused on her tour merch could make for great longevity for future designs and 93% of profits going straight to her.
A win, win for both, right? I get my big break and she gets a smoking deal and art that fans would want multiples to purchase.
I arrive to the Warsaw in Brooklyn with the merch. I am then asked if I'll personally sell them even though I bought a ticket for the show. "We'll reimburse you."
Joyfully, I worked my ass off while missing the show. After, I was asked if I can deliver and sale the merch at the next show.
I did in Portsmouth, NY.
After the show where Courtney told me... "You caught my attention at the right time. I was just about to sign a merch contract with (insert MAJOR concert ticket seller corporation.)"
She was upset only one shirt design was available. She asked for me to send my presentation again and at 4am we exchanged emails where she picked out two more designs.
There was no time to make more as that day we were headed to Asbury Park, NJ, the last night of the first leg of the tour. At least this time I caught a ride with fellow super-fans.
After the show, I was paid in cash by the tour manager for the 200 shirts and 185 prints. Not my commission, or the rental cars.
During the tour, I was overjoyed to meet those who knew my story and those who didn't but were willing to listen.
I assure more merch was sold upon telling my story of "Super-fan turned merch designer." Especially the mothers who brought their daughters.
After working shows I could that were within travel distant of my home, I stopped my time with the tour.
I feel I must give great regards to her band mates and crew. They were the most supportive, nice, quality guys you'd want to meet. Thank you guys.
I sent Courtney's people the artwork upon request, in good faith that it was all part of the deal with her management. I had been sent a contract, after all. As I saw, it there was a clear intent on their part to treat me as a business partner, not a fan.
For one last blast to celebrate getting the job. I hosted a gallery art show in Las Vegas around the time of her shows. It was titled "For the Love of Courtney." It included a timeline of my fandom through my art.
After the tour was over I asked for my commission. Her tour manager tried to pacify me many times until he started off passing me around to different people from her team.
I did, however, get the okay to sell the rest of the prints online. In the contract it said I was unable to sell Courtney Love merch unless with permission. I sold 170 on her first tour. Later, per the contract, I sold 39 online.
Ready for another big mistake I made... I got one of the designs tattooed on my right calf. (my 2nd Courtney Love related tattoo).
While I'm still waiting to get paid, I see Courtney tours the UK and uses my designs. She tours Australia and sells them for $40-50. She comes back and starts an online store with 100% of my artwork.
Still no compensation, and not even an artist credit. You would think that promoting, that she hired a super-fan-artist through his social media campaign would help her image. Just sayin'!
I then reached out again to the management that made the contact. They said they no longer work with her and never responded again.
Through a mutual contact, I was told Courtney told her "It's for the lawyers to deal with. Please don't get involved. I did not make the deal."
No, she did not write it herself, but she had her people make it and is not respecting the arts to make sure I am compensated from what is obviously a deal she made with me. Otherwise, how is she selling them for the past two years?
I then reached out to everyone who I was ever in contact on her team, and her personally via a group email, stressing my plea to get compensated according to the contact.
I then got one response from someone I didn't talk to before, but was given his email as her most recent go to contact. His name is Sam Lufti. (Google him.)
Here was his message...
"First of all, you provided no documentation nor any invoices. And if you're going to proceed civily you will respond only to me and spare everyone else cced above. Otherwise send me your legal counsel's contact and we will proceed legally."
I followed up immediately with what he asked for and never heard from him again.
That's where the real "fun" began, getting to talk to more lawyers. Over the last year I have spoken to 32 different lawyers. (more lined up as I write this.)
Over the past year I was in a deep depression.
Have you ever felt like your idol was screwing you over? Then you had to go over every detail about it with 32 lawyers? Multiple times? And not be depressed?
The majority of lawyers wanted a retainer to even start thinking of my case. The ones who really listened to my story wanted a larger retainer. (I've been smart enough not to have paid a dime yet.)
The others gave me advice that started sounding like a broken record from speaking with more and more lawyers. Here are the highlights I kept hearing...
"Even if I could do this pro-bono, there are still court costs we have to look at. She could keep it going for years and the court costs would keep adding up."
"There's a derestriction issue. The contact was made in New York and she was living here at the time, yet she has moved to California."
"You could spend a lot of money to sue her, you could win and she wouldn't be forced to pay you.
You would then need to put a lean on any property she owns, If she sold that property, whatever she owed would go to you first . Allegedly she doesn't own any, just rents."
And one very smart lawyer pointed out....
"Wow, seems she may have really thought this out. Seems her merch store is hosted in Spain. I'm pretty sure, If you want to get that money you would have to sue her in Spain."
I am going public with my story in the hope of shining a brighter light on how easy it is for a struggling artist to get taken-advantage.
It's sadder to see those who were once struggling artists screw over struggling artists.
If you don't think she's rich, listen to her last interview with The King of All Media, Howard Stern, where he asks about her wealth...
4:54 Mark: https://youtu.be/FnFd4ed9lKY
Howard: Do you need money?
Courtney: Not really.
Howard: Exactly, you sold 25% of the Nirvanna catalogue for $50 Million
Courtney: Something like that, but I didn't spend it on shoes
Howard: And you're worth a $100 Million
Courtney: That's according to CelebrityNetWorth dot com
Howard: Yes, is that off?
Courtney: It's off. It's a little low.
Howard: It's a little low?
Howard: So let's say you're worth $150 Million, why do you care...
Courtney: I know that sounds so hubristic. Oh my God! I should be more jewish. "I'm sorry, it's so high." (in character voice)
Howard: Well, No.
Courtney: "I need food stamps. I need FEMA housing." (in character voice)
Howard: I like your honestly. I like you say, listen. I'm worth over $150 Million dollars.
Courtney: I just had an ex-boyfriend who was on there and he was higher than me and I was like No, no, no, no.
According to the site she mentioned she is now estimated at $150,000,000.00. Wonder if she still thinks that's low?
What I don't understand on her part is.... she used my artwork on three tours and a merch store. Oh wait, did I not mention she recently went back on tour and is selling my designs again? 4 tours and a merch store? Have I broken a world record?
I asked for very little and had a treasure chest of new ideas that she knew about for more designs, and knew I was ready to make more. We exchanged a few ideas in person.
Yet she chose to ignore me and not compensate me. Why not pay me my 7% and also have me make more designs for more merch can continue to sell, on what she knew was going to be multiple tours.
We discussed how having more designs would sell more as I explained to her, "I am that fan that would purchase two of everything, one for a back up. As I wore them endlessly and was always anxious for more."
I also suggested to price shirts at $20. The cheaper they are, the more the fans will purchase. She kept to that on the first tour, by Australia they were doubled.
I've gotten messages from fans asking when new designs will be available as they wanted more as they already had the merch.
She is an artist, her daughter is an artist, her husband was an artist, most of her friends are artists and yet she choses to ignore me, the "gay super-fan" artist who she obviously loved my work so much she continues to sell them?
I have a good feeling I'm not the only artist/super-fan who's had a similar situation with Courtney or another artists and I hope you'll tell your story too.
If there's any struggling artists out there that have made it, and want to help me make a new dream come truer, please hit me up!
If I'm not your guy, I know lots of struggling artists who deserve their big break working with you!
To the super-fan-friends I've made. Sorry to break the news to you this way. It's been a long hard struggle. Hope you understand.
Although, I understand if you look at me as enemy #1. As I was once you, I get it.
"The Queen can do no wrong." "You should be happy she talked to you." I can already predict the messages I'll get once posting this.
Don't lose that passion, but turn it into something positive. I turned my passion into art that was so good in Courtney's eyes that she ran with them. But yet, were did that get me?
If I could go back in time, I would have been a Shirley Manson super-fan.
- Greg Frederick, artist and former Courtney Love Fan.