The Cautionary Tale of Kasey Anderson

A story that encompasses a charity album, the West Memphis Three, fraudulent emails and a duet between Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga that never was. Something a bit different from me this evening. This post is as near as I am going to get to a journalistic piece. After recently going to a fair few gigs organised by artists on this blog, I became aware of the fact that it is not an easy furrow to plough as an independent musician out there. As well as this, people might not realise this, but perhaps more than other professions, the music industry depends on trust to a large extent. Trust between artists and labels, artists and distributors, artists and investors and artists and fans. Especially now that this has become a more democratic industry where artists can not only record, produce and master their music themselves but can market and distribute their own music directly to the consumer. The downside to an arrangement like this is when there is a breakdown in the trust of these working relationships, it can have wholly negative results. The piece that follows is about the above points. What follows is the cautionary tale of Kasey Anderson. Kasey Anderson is an alt-country artist hailing from the north-west of the United States being based in Portland as well as Seattle. He has released three albums (“The Reckoning”, “Nowhere Nights” and “Heart of a Dog”) up to the current semi-unreleased “Let the Bloody Moon Rise” (more on that later). The reason why that album may not be fully released is due to the fact that Kasey has been charged with five counts of wire fraud on January 29th this year. This follows a judgement against him from October of last year where he was ordered to repay $185,000 (with up to 20 years to repay) after a civil case was brought against him. The civil case relates to what seems, at first genuine attempts to record a benefit album for the West Memphis Three (three men accused and convicted of murder in 1994 of three boys; now released). Kasey approached his friend, producer Danny Bland who had organised a West Memphis Three benefit album in 2000 to help with his idea but as it seemed the three convicted men were about to be released, he saw little point in organising another one*. However Kasey decided to pursue this idea. This is where it gets complicated. Two groups of investors became involved in the project. The first group had originally invested in his European tour in 2009 where a modest profit was made. Most of these investors decided to re-invest that profit in the project (the sum of $103,000). A second group invested a total of $222,500 into the production of an album and expected associated charity concerts. It is alleged he had mislead the investors with numerous emails apparently coming from Danny Bland stating that the album (titled “Trapped like a ghost”) would involve tracks from the likes of Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters, Queens of The Stone Age,R.E.M, Willie Nelson, Tom Waits and Jack White. Then in September 2010 he sent out an email stating that Bruce Springsteen was interested. Bruce would apparently record two tracks for the album; a duet with Lady Gaga and a collaboration with Arcade Fire. There was further emails from October 2010 to October 2011 stating the delay in the album was due to Bruce Springsteen failure to produce the tracks. This was followed by emails forwarded by Kasey to the investors purportedly coming from Bruce’s manager Jon Landau going stating that Bruce Springsteen was willing to compensate the investors and record label for the delay. The West Memphis Three were released on 19th August 2011. After this investors looked for their money back. Kasey apparently claimed he was a victim of identity theft and the money had gone. The resultant civil case from this brought about the end of his music career for the time being. His band Kasey Anderson & The Honkies broke up not long after. The criminal charges relate to circumstances from the civil case as well as alleged previous dealings, some of which are extremely complicated. A good summary of them are here. To give a short version,as well as the charity album he is also defrauding investors from sums invested into the production of his third album “Heart of a dog”. He is accused of distributing to investors a report from Burnside distribution company that fraudulently claimed record sales for his album “Heart of a Dog” had surpassed the $1 million mark when in fact sales had reached just $9,271.59. He is also accused of encouraging investment by six people for a Ron Franklin Entertainers album on his own label that wasn’t just already released but was released on another label five years previously*. You can view a full list of the fereral charges here.

Kasey himself has admitted he has done a lot of wrong*. To add to all this Kasey was diagnosed in November with bipolar depression; a condition which can encompass mania, risky behaviour, delusions, which potentially includes occurrences of spending sprees or unwise financial choices. What involvement the condition had in his actions is one for the jury to decide. The nature of these charges suggest serious jail time (federal wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine) if he is found guilty. However there were previous episodes that point to something like this could potentially happen with Kasey. A number of years ago Kasey assisted with and wrote posts for the always excellent Ninebullets music blog. While there he was responsible for helping with and playing at a showcase at SXSW by the blog runner Bryan Childs. Bryan continues the story in his own words here. One the eve of the showcase Kasey withdrew his commitment to the event late. Following on from this Kasey began raising money through Bandcamp in late 2011 and early 2012 for his new album “Let The Bloody Moon Rise”. The funding campaign was similar to the campaigns as you would find on Kickstarter and others. What most might not realise about sites like Kickstarter is that if you do not reach your target amount, then all the money is refunded to perspective supporters. This is not the case with Bandcamp. Using pre-orders of the album as a way of investing along with the option of contributing more for extras (e.g. t-shirts etc), Kasey raised enough money to record and master the album. Apparently after that, those that had pledged towards the making of the album got an mp3 download but seemingly hard copies were never distributed. The album briefly went on sale as a digital download for a few hours in October last year*. This is a remorseful case, even more when you consider the quality of the songs on the album: The sorrowful irony of Kasey Anderson releasing a song with the great line “there ain’t no pension in my profession” should not be lost on anyone. “Let the bloody Moon Rise” is an excellent record consisting of a strong collection of alt-country blues fused tunes. The sad thing here is many people will not get to listen to it. Bryan at Ninebullets has decided to make it available to download. You can visit this link (the same as above) and decide for yourself; is he justified in making it free to download and if you want to download it.
A preliminary hearing for Kasey is scheduled for 19th February however if a grand jury returns an indictment before that date, there will be an arraignment, Kasey will enter his plea and then a trial date will be set. *For my sources and more reading on this if you are curious check the links below:
Seattle Weekly Dec 12 2012
Portland Mercury Dec 14 2012
Oregon Live Jan 31 2013
Seattle Weekly Jan 31 2013. Photo: Google Images

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