Spiral Beach have found themselves in a spot of trouble. As detailed a week and a half ago in both NOW and Eye, the band got hit with a $1470 bill [PDF] from EcoMedia Direct for putting up eight posters for last month’s Opera House show on eight of the company’s “SilverBox and Heritage Box Recycling Bins.” Again, that’s $1470 for eight small posters, like the one above made by Spiral Beach singer/keyboardist Maddy Wilde. As the letter from EcoMedia CEO Erich Genseberger emphatically points out, the bins “constitute private property,” and the unauthorized postering is a “serious breach of [EcoMedia’s] rights.” The bill, sent to the Opera House and passed on to the band, listed the cost of “cleaning and removal of posters on boxes” as $780, “inspection and collection of evidence” as $320, and an “administration fee” of $300, plus $70 for GST.
As Eye pointed out, “the band were clearly at fault for their illegal postering—and happy to admit as much—but EcoMedia’s fine did seem rather excessive.” (NOW quoted Brent Bowman, of Goodbye Graffiti, who estimated that cleanup ought to have cost about $50 per poster. But Genseberger told Eye that “the cost for cleaning is much higher than we charge for it.” So if you want to totally bankrupt EcoMedia, one hundred posters or so oughta do it.) And the fine may not just be excessive—it might be totally unnecessary. Rami Tabello wrote on IllegalSigns.ca that, because “EcoMedia’s contract with the City of Toronto requires it to keep their bins clean of posters” and “the amount of money EcoMedia pays the City of Toronto in return for the right to advertise on the bins was negotiated with the full knowledge that it would cost EcoMedia money to keep the bins clean,” EcoMedia is “already being paid by the City of Toronto a fixed amount to keep [their] bins clean.” The company, Tabello concludes, “is now engaged in an appalling shakedown scheme whereby it is seeking to be paid twice for the same thing.” Moreover, Tabello believes, EcoMedia’s bill constitutes a breach of their contract with the City.
While all this has been going on, Spiral Beach has been trying to come up with the money they need to pay back EcoMedia. Two weekends ago, they busked at Brunswick and Bloor, outside the ROM, and in Kensington Market; this past weekend, they played NXNE at the Horseshoe Tavern. And now, this Friday, the band is headlining a fundraising “Anti-Anti-Postering Show” at the Whippersnapper Gallery (587a College Street). In addition to sets from the band (as well as The Miles, Pavlov’s Dogs Orchestra, Carmen Elle, DJs H Mom and Hard Dough), the famed comic strip itself will be auctioned off, cover is pay-what-you-can ($10 recommended), it’s all-ages, and “the show will run VERY late.” Call the doctor! Call the police! Call the hair stylist! Call the deep-sea diver! (Particularly if they have deep pockets.)
EcoMedia’s militancy, of course, is both unwarranted and unparalled. If the City was this strict on the dozens upon dozens of illegal signs put up by major corporations on their watch, most of the advertising companies in the city would have been forced out of business—or at least forced to stop illegally advertising—long ago. Instead, a local band who pocketed a grand total of no more than $200 from their Opera House gig is getting hammered because of eight small posters unceremoniously stuck onto garbage bins (and not even the prettier ones). When will Astral and Titan get slammed for six or seven figures? And, more pertinently: when they need to fundraise to cover the costs, who will play bass?