Digital Pulse: The Story Of How I Scammed The Electronic Music Industry
You ever see someone that you know is a fraud and wonder how they got famous to begin with? Or even why they continue if so many people know about them? I’ve got a story for you about someone who lied to more than 30 million people, got away with it, and was never caught even years later. And that somebody is me. Stick with me a bit.
I was confused in high school. I didn’t know anyone or really know what I wanted to do, I just knew what I liked. When I was in 10th grade, I had a basic Photoshop class that I sped through in just a matter of weeks; all the teacher did was go through the instruction book and follow along with activities there, so I went ahead of everyone and finished the book with months to spare. I spent the remaining time playing video games, and most importantly, failing to learn FL Studio.
I knew nothing, not even who to talk to, where to find information, what went in a song…I didn’t even know you could ADD sounds to the program. I thought because the file size was so big, it just came with every sound known to man and more. But after a few months, I was aggravated. I had so many ideas and I couldn’t make them into a product. I did some research and found preset sounds, which I liked…but right beside it, were sample packs; more specifically, construction kits, which were either parts of songs, or entire songs given to consumers in parts, or “stems”, and they were able to claim the tracks legally as theirs, even if they blatantly changed nothing about it. I was so upset, I started looking for more. And there were thousands more packs, available for the cost of a video game, a cheap one at that. They even had mastered, full length tracks available. I was furious that so many people were able to take advantage of this and pass it off as their own product. I decided that I was going to play along, and see how far I could get in the industry with only samples and Audacity, a basic audio editing program; nothing else. The goal was to not get caught, but when I did, I would turn around and admit that everything was a lie, and what the culprit really was. But it took a turn much deeper than I thought. Bear in mind, this was 2011…the beginning of my alias, and newfound nightmare, Digital Pulse.
It started off slow. I would download a pack, then compare, then mix and match samples, then wait for more to come out. I actually spent money on them too, for roughly a year, until I found Audioz existed. Audioz hosts a lot of these products for free (not legally) but I wasn’t about to be picky at that point. Growth was steady, but I never knew how to promote on anything, or how to hype up a product. So I would just post something obnoxious on Facebook, a few people would like, I would post up on SoundCloud, a few people would like. At that point 500 plays was insane to me, and that’s the most I would get on my personal profile. I paid for logo designs, which were done very well in my opinion, and I would start to network with other producers on Facebook. The first real challenge for me was learning terms I didn’t understand solely through conversation pieces.
If you were to ask me what plug-ins were, or if I preferred Ableton over FL and why, or if I ever had problems with Massive, I wouldn’t be able to tell you in the slightest what those were. In fact, even now it’s not that clear to me. Yet somehow, I was able to talk out of my ass fluently enough to never get questioned by other producers. The rush was actually pretty insane at the time.
Fast forward a little to Turntable.fm, which set the stage (literally) for streaming events of it’s kind. Turntable.fm was a virtual community where you could host a room, make an avatar and play songs with others. Knife Party ended up making accounts and showing up to a virtual room of 1500 people, and making a one-of-a-kind edit of Internet Friends by adding the name of the room the party was hosted in, and I remember how thrilled people were then. Other events were taking place too; I ended up playing several alongside Victor Niglio and James Egbert before they were who they are today. Well, playing is an overstatement; I put tracks into a playlist and “premiered” them at events, but it was still entertaining. Enter Turqoiz, a much younger producer at the time who would frequent the same room as me. He started to play a song once and I thought it sounded familiar, so I double checked and sure enough, he had stolen both the track and the title for “Game Over” by X Sentinel and GirlStep. I called him out in the chat because I was the only one that knew about it, and he disappeared quickly. Dr. Ph!l was also a name that popped up, and he would regularly take the demo tracks of construction kit packs and pass them off as his own. Of course, people wondered why there were 5 different sounding drops in one track, but they didn’t say much either; I was usually the voice that rang out then, and it suddenly hit me one day that someone could do that very same thing to me. This was the first time I got scared about actually being found out…what if I would regret ever taking up the project in the first place?
Fast forward a little more to my first job, cashier at Food Lion. I made enough to start really pushing the brand and getting more kits I couldn’t find for free. Then I wondered if I could do more, and after asking around, I started a Kickstarter fundraiser for a Digital Pulse album. I was tracking it constantly, always curious to see how much people thought I was worth…and about a week into the Kickstarter, I got a phone call. A phone call from the local newspaper in Front Royal, Virginia, who wanted to do an article on me. Apparently, the goal for the Kickstarter (which was $200) was broken twice by two people, donating $200 and $300, and pushing the total raised to over 400% of the goal. The newspaper was looking around for the most successful Kickstarters in the area and I actually got my album art in the paper that week, alongside a much more successful entrepreneur who made a more complicated man purse.
At this point, it had been a few years since I started. I had taken people’s money, people’s trust, and people’s time, and gotten away with it all in the process. I started to wonder how long it could even go on for; at some points it got exhausting. My parents caught wind of what I was doing but also weren’t aware that everything uploaded was purely samples. They supported me in little ways by sending the tracks off to friends and co-workers running little events like workshops and even got me better headphones. I started feeling conflicted, because for some reason it was only now that I grasped how much damage I could have potentially done to myself. I had lied to everybody. Friends, co-workers, random people, promoters, other artists…and now my family. I debated for weeks afterwards about whether or not to even continue. But I did the stupid thing and marched on.
I started getting lazier with my handiwork. Normally I would mix and match so many samples that producers would likely hear and recognize one or two and never catch the others being used; but now I was using the full, mastered, final construction kit demos without alteration. I sent off to friends and they sent off to their friends and those friends used those tracks in their Youtube videos, which presented a glaring problem. Every upload that had “my music” in it was being claimed by another artist. Another scam artist, but…it definitely wasn’t me. And once again, I had to wear the smile, walk the walk, and talk the talk, by denying everything and acting just as clueless as them.
Now I was affecting other people’s work. But surely, it’s not THAT big of a deal, right? You’re only lying to them and affecting their uploads on smaller personal channels run by friends, who cares?
Except in May of 2013, when Berzox, a promotional channel on Youtube with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, uploaded a batch of tracks in a video called “Best Brutal Dubstep Drops” and included one of the tracks I put up. The video currently has over 12 million views as of the writing of this article and it just keeps rising. I was put alongside some of the biggest names of that year; xKore, Dubsidia, Dubba Jonny, Figure…and somehow, I even had my track listed as the 5th track on the list of around 30. I hadn’t heard of the channel, and I was blown away that no one told me that video existed, which when I did find it was at 3.5 million hits. I saw comments on the video praising the track and I felt like garbage. The feeling was truly sinking in now; this was the moment I regretted everything. I started reminding myself what other promoters had uploaded. DubstepDose had uploaded several tracks, other smaller promoters were uploading everything I had put out; hell, even today I’m finding new videos of kids making dubstep dancing videos with Digital Pulse tracks over them.
That year I went through a series of depression spirals. I would often sleep in the bathroom connected to my bedroom because I felt I didn’t deserve something fancy like a bed. I starved myself at school and got mocked for it. I never contemplated suicide, but I did wonder what it would be like to have the guts to pull it off. I was a wreck. Music got a hold of me and then took over, and I felt like continuing partly to follow through with my mistake, but also because I was starting to love music.
I had another moment in the theoretical spotlight when Aaron Musslewhite, a legitimate and talented artist, remixed a track I sent him called Club Dub, named after another room on Turntable.fm. It went up on his personal Youtube account to the tune of 50,000 plays. I figured…not bad. And then I started looking up the song to see where else it had ended up. Once again, I lost my mind. Instalok, a Youtube channel with 1.3 million subscribers focusing on making League of Legends parodies, used the remix in his two oldest videos in his outros, bringing in almost 18 million more views combined.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiGzXEL7T8w) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQGuoSzitbs) I felt equal parts disgusted and joyful, because I was celebrating being recognized but paranoid of the karma that could kick in later.
I started to become worried to the point that I got even lazier in the hopes that someone would call me out. It would take one person. One person to save me from the nightmare I was pulling myself through. I made a Bandcamp account, and started uploading songs like crazy with the promise of a 300 track album called Project: Iris. There were roughly 150–160 tracks uploaded to that project, and I was almost developing twitches from the amount of suspense there was. I just wanted to see this die.
One of my final attempts at internet suicide was also my last track to ever officially get released. Titled “Solarbeam”, it originally sampled Egoraptor’s “PokeAwesome” video and it was eventually taken out. I was determined to be a douche about this one. I recorded the demo of an Ableton template I found directly on their website using a free screen recording program in 192 kbps. From there, I clipped the ends off in Audacity, re-encoded into 320, and sent it off to edm.com. There was no way they would take it, surely. They had rejected everything else I sent them.
But they took it. They uploaded it to their Drum and Bass network, and while the upload was starting to get views, I was sitting in my room, crying over my keyboard, with an apology note typed out in it’s entirety for all of Facebook to see, and all I had to do was hit the Enter button. It was so close, it could have happened on accident. Just do it. Just give up and let it die. But…I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What would my friends say? How long would this affect me? I was already enough of a wreck, did I really need to do more damage?
There was definitely more damage done, however. The track rose in popularity so much, it soon became the most played track of the week, then the month, then making it’s way, even today, into the All Time most played list on Edm.com’s Drum and Bass network. At it’s peak, it sat at #11 with 234,000+ plays, in front of tracks from some of the most legendary producers. The charts have been mostly removed as of recently; there’s only one chart encompassing all genres now, instead of a chart for each genre. Of course, if I didn’t post about it, suspicions would rise:
I finally became tired. Tired of lying, faking, bullshitting my way through the industry, because it clearly was accomplishing nothing. And at this point, I had talked to enough artists, sunk myself enough into music, and learned enough that I actually want to be involved legitimately. In 2014, I created Maverick’s Playlist, a label with a focus on being bold, and unapologetic. And that same year, I threw aside the Digital Pulse name…quietly.
I’m writing this to you all today because this entire ordeal has been bugging me since the start. I lied, took money from, and essentially used a huge number of people. Friends, promoters, family. People who trusted me, thought I knew better, smiled and stood up with me when I needed help. I’ve potentially jeopardized thousands of channels across multiple social networks, from personal accounts to brands that have specialized in promotion for years, and that people rely on to pay rent. I didn’t ever foresee myself getting that far when I started, and if I had known beforehand, I never would have attempted to disguise myself as a real artist. I wonder just how many people that I’ve known for years will read this and never think twice about me again. But I’m truly sorry. I’m sorry for everything. The only positive to this is now I run a somewhat respected record label called Maverick’s Playlist that I can say I’m very proud of, but…there were other ways to go about this. I didn’t need to involve myself in a matter that wasn’t related to me, but I felt like I should be the hero. I should be the voice of reason. And in a lot of ways I still carry that mentality with me to this very day, because a lot of people know how twisted this industry is and yet they follow along regardless. They wake up every day, wondering if what they do will net them any success. They invest, team up, move to accomplish their goals. And all I did was lie and manipulate. So, once again, to everyone that ever put a single ounce of trust in me for that specific project, I’m incredibly sorry for everything I’ve ever done to you, and I hope you can find it in you to forgive me, as it was done in an attempt to make the world just a little bit of a better place.
Fuck sample packs.