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If that sounds backward, it is.
But for his end of the deal, Williams kept the $75 that each contestant paid to enter the contest and collected all the cash from the door. If he did his job well, he had the potential to rake in more than he spent.
But at the Emerald House, it didn't work out that way. "I think I lost $7,000 in Kansas City. Probably more than that," Williams says.
A bigger surprise came at his next tour stop.
In Houston, Williams says, he ran into some people he knows who actually do work for The Source. They told him that the people he was working for weren't affiliated with the magazine. Rather, they were with a St. Louis company called Fyreboy Records.
Williams says it was embarrassing for him because he was the one who would be blamed for any miscommunication, given that his number was on the flier. He felt misled.
Fyreboy Records owner Willie Spratt tells The Pitch that his company ran The Source's contest for the magazine as a marketing strategy. "I have a contract with them. It states there would be no money exchanged between my company and The Source but that this was to be a straight marketing venture between us and The Source for us to find artists for them to feature in their magazine."
Spratt acknowledges that Fyreboy collected money from small promoters like Williams, who in turn paid for the privilege of promoting the shows and collecting money from audiences and contestants.
"I think I paid them a total of $16,000 alone," Williams says. "And they did about 30 cities."
It seems that everyone involved with the Unsigned Hype contest, from the contestants to the judges, paid money to make money.
Ché Johnson is the executive vice president of brand development at The Source. In an e-mail, he told The Pitch, "I am able to let you know that technically FryeBoy [sic] was allowed to execute events in conjunction with The Source. They operated completely independently however and I have heard of countless issues and problems with the execution. Of course I am the last person that they would let know what transpired as I opted not to get involved with their promotion because I foresaw problems in execution that would potentially damage The Source's already tarnished name and reputation."
Williams says he ended his involvement with the tour that night in Houston. "I lost $3,000 because I couldn't get my money back. But I didn't want to take advantage of people."
Spratt says his company tried to be upfront about the terms of the contest.
Meanwhile, Fyreboy Records' CDs were on sale at every stop on The Source contest circuit, and the label's artists performed live each night. "They got their record label's name out there," Williams says. "It was a good hustle."
On the upside, the KC leg of the contest tour made Williams a fan of Cash Image. Now, Williams says, "I listen to his CD all the time."