Apple Sent Two Men to My House. No, They Weren’t Assassins.

“I hope something goes wrong tonight,” said Tom, as he met my eye. He’d just finished petting my dog, and he was on his way out the door.

“Well, not really, but you know what I mean,” he continued.
I did, indeed, know what he meant.

Tom, along with his boss Ezra, had just spent most of Saturday at my dining room table with me, trying to recreate a disaster like we were Netflix green-lighting Fuller House. So far, no luck.

In the days leading up to our face-to-face encounter, they’d earned more of my trust when they acknowledged that A), they’d read the phone transcripts, and although they maintained that she was mistaken, they did not dispute my account of what Amber had told me, and B), they, too, were convinced this was not user error. Before allowing them into my home, though, I’d laid out some conditions. Their research would be strictly limited to Apple Music, iTunes, and my iTunes library, and I would always be in the room to watch them work. Any information gleaned would be used solely for iTunes and Apple Music troubleshooting. If I had a document on my desktop called “Zapruder Film Unedited,” for example, they would still leave it alone. They agreed, both on the phone and in person, so we began.

Through an external drive connected to my laptop, we were now using a specialized version of iTunes in the hopes that the deletion would again occur; an idea that we knew may not pan out, since I’d had Apple Music for eight months before that first mass deletion. If something did go wrong, though, this version of iTunes would document what happened in more detail than the consumer version could.

As one of the first steps in our experiment, I signed back up for Apple Music under Tom and Ezra’s supervision. They conference called with several other engineers in California, talking through their actions and discussing next steps.

While we waited for one particularly long file transfer, we went out to lunch at a local bakery. Since they’d flown in from across the country, they were looking for authentic Southern food. Grits were involved. Full disclosure for those of you who think Apple has given me hush money: they did buy me a breakfast sandwich, and it was delicious.

After lunch, we spent hours troubleshooting, but the problem eluded us. This time, the files remained, which was just one of many confounding elements of my whole saga. The problem wasn’t cut-and-dry, therefore has proven difficult to replicate. For example, one of the many confusing things about the initial file loss was that only most of my music files had disappeared. Most, but not all. To further muddle the issue, the missing—and remaining—files had little in common; some were WAV, others Mp3, others protected AAC files that I’d purchased through iTunes between 2003 and 2009. Genre, size, and artist name varied greatly among the missing files, as did date added. There was no discernible pattern.

 

LolaCablesWithCaption

Although the day offered no revelations, we weren’t yet finished. Before Tom and Ezra left on Saturday afternoon, we discussed my homework. I was to treat this as any other Saturday night:
-Buy some songs in the iTunes Store.
-Import some of my own mixes from Logic and/or Pro Tools.
-Mess with some playlists.
-Stream my personal library to the Apple TV in the living room while my wife and I drank beers and played Boggle. Hey, I never claimed my life was any more glamorous than yours.

Since our listening choices were being documented, and had a marginal chance of being scrutinized for the ages, I made sure to include several songs from the early Sugar Hill Records catalog–which I still think may ultimately lead to world peace. Besides “Rapper’s Delight,” can Bashar al-Assad even name one song by The Sugarhill Gang? See?

Tom returned alone on Sunday to collect the data logs, and to clear my laptop of any evidence he’d been there.* While we waited for files to transfer, we finally got to geek out a little, which was something I’d admittedly been looking forward to. Although friendly the day before, Tom was of course very focused, and he didn’t even mention the Missile Command pint glass in which I’d given him some water. On Sunday, however, he talked more freely. We discussed pets, and work, and horror movies, both agreeing that John Carpenter’s The Thing may be the finest ever made. Apple may be a huge corporation, and I’ll never see most of what’s behind the curtain—but this Senior Engineer, who sat petting my dog and discussing Breaking Bad, was just some guy doing his best. Maybe not exactly like me, but not very different, either. OK, probably wealthier.

I am aware that there are people who think Apple is Satan himself, and I’m not here to try to convince you otherwise. There are also Apple apologists who believe The Great Fruit can do no wrong. You, too, will most likely not be swayed, and I’m sure you have your reasons. Regardless of whether I’ll remain a lifelong Apple software user, I’m still glad to have a chance to help those who are.

One of the things on which Tom, Ezra, and I seemed to agree was that Apple is not off of the hook yet. Their software failed me in a spectacular, destructive way; and since I rang that bell, many people have come forward with similar stories. Some may be a result of user error, but I have a hard time believing all are. I think Apple does, too; which is why, as of this writing, they have stated they are currently working on an iTunes update with additional safeguards added. If they can’t yet isolate the bug, they can at least develop measures to combat it. Like in The Thing, when…well, never mind.

If you take nothing else away from this, please remember to back up your data. Redundantly. If you don’t like to manually click and drag, Retrospect has worked well for me in the past. If you’re an Apple user, Time Machine is pretty solid, but keep in mind that Time Machine overwrites its own, older backups when drive space diminishes. That means that, if you don’t catch a problem quickly enough, even those automatic backups may be missing the data in question. It’s worth taking the time to personally make sure you’re backing up what you believe you are.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch the first episode of Firefly. I’ve never seen it, but Tom told me it’s a great program, and I’m trying to keep an open mind. If it turns out to not work for me, I can always do something else with my time and money.

*Just to be safe, I wiped my drive completely and reinstalled everything from a backup I’d made moments before our spelunking commenced on Saturday.

Apple and James’ Excellent Adventure

Within hours of my blog post going viral, I received a phone call from John, an Apple representative. I cautiously heard him out.

John wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, and connected us both to Dave, one of Apple’s technicians. Despite what Amber had told me, Dave asserted that deletion of original files isn’t supposed to happen. This obviously put me in an awkward position, since I’d relied on Amber’s expertise while writing my original blog. Although I’m guarded, since Apple has given me two conflicting responses, I really hope that Dave is correct–because the alternative is Robocop 2-level bleak.

ET and Jimmy 1982

The Author, at the Exact Moment He First Developed Trust Issues.

I want to believe in a future that is less Ready Player One and more Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. So I talked with Dave about the details of what happened, answering his questions thoroughly. He’s looking into the issue, and I’ll be sure to post an update if or when we make any progress. In the days since then, I’ve received another call from Dave and some of his fellow engineers, but as of now they’ve told me of no new breakthroughs. At the moment, I’ve been using Swinsian as an iTunes alternative, and so far I’m really pleased with how smoothly and intuitively it operates. No, I’m not a shareholder. Yet.

My original blog post was a warning, aimed at helping others avoid a similar situation. But if Amber was incorrect, and Apple Music is not supposed to delete the users’ files, then I’m actually relieved. It means that all of us who’ve suffered through this fell victim to a bug rather than something more malicious.

We’ll see. Or maybe we’ll never know. In the meantime, as Abraham Lincoln said, be excellent to each other.

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

*See update 1 and update 2 for the conclusion of the below story.

“The software is functioning as intended,” said Amber.
“Wait,” I asked, “so it’s supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?”
“Yes,” she replied.

Angry man crashing laptop

Maybe I’m Not Pressing the Keys Hard Enough.

I had just explained to Amber that 122 GB of music files were missing from my laptop. I’d already visited the online forum, I said, and they were no help. Although several people had described problems similar to mine, they were all dismissed by condescending “gurus” who simply said that we had mislocated our files (I had the free drive space to prove that wasn’t the case) or that we must have accidentally deleted the files ourselves (we hadn’t). Amber explained that I should blow off these dismissive “solutions” offered online because Apple employees don’t officially use the forums—evidently, that honor is reserved for lost, frustrated people like me, and (at least in this case) know-it-alls who would rather believe we were incompetent, or lying, than face the ugly truth that Apple has vastly overstepped its boundaries.

What Amber explained was exactly what I’d feared: through the Apple Music subscription, which I had, Apple now deletes files from its users’ computers. When I signed up for Apple Music, iTunes evaluated my massive collection of Mp3s and WAV files, scanned Apple’s database for what it considered matches, then removed the original files from my internal hard drive. REMOVED them. Deleted. If Apple Music saw a file it didn’t recognize—which came up often, since I’m a freelance composer and have many music files that I created myself—it would then download it to Apple’s database, delete it from my hard drive, and serve it back to me when I wanted to listen, just like it would with my other music files it had deleted.

This led to four immediate problems:

1. If Apple serves me my music, that means that when I don’t have wifi access, I can’t listen to it. When I say “my music,” I don’t just mean the music that, over twenty years (since before iTunes existed), I painstakingly imported from thousands of CDs and saved to my computer’s internal hard drive. I also mean original music that I recorded and saved to my computer. Apple and wifi access now decide if I can hear it, and where, and when.

2. What Apple considers a “match” often isn’t. That rare, early version of Fountains of Wayne’s “I’ll Do The Driving,” labeled as such? Still had its same label, but was instead replaced by the later-released, more widely available version of the song. The piano demo of “Sister Jack” that I downloaded directly from Spoon’s website ten years ago? Replaced with the alternate, more common demo version of the song. What this means, then, is that Apple is engineering a future in which rare, or varying, mixes and versions of songs won’t exist unless Apple decides they do. Said alternate versions will be replaced by the most mainstream version, despite their original, at-one-time correct, titles, labels, and file contents.

3. Although I could click the little cloud icon next to each song title and “get it back” from Apple, their servers aren’t fast enough to make it an easy task. It would take around thirty hours to get my music back. And even then…

4. Should I choose to reclaim my songs via download, the files I would get back would not necessarily be the same as my original files. As a freelance composer, I save WAV files of my own compositions rather than Mp3s. WAV files have about ten times the number of samples, so they just sound better. Since Apple Music does not support WAV files, as they stole my compositions and stored them in their servers, they also converted them to Mp3s or AACs. So not only do I need to keep paying Apple Music just to access my own files, but I have to hear an inferior version of each recording instead of the one I created.

Of course, there are more issues than this. Apple has faced widespread complaints regarding Apple Music displaying incorrect album art, mangling file information, and Apple “geniuses” being ill-informed on the subject, thus unable to offer working solutions.

If you’re wondering why Apple hasn’t been sued yet, it’s because the iTunes Terms of Use vaguely warn of this issue, then later indemnify Apple and preclude any litigation from users who’ve been boned:

“iCloud Music Library is turned on automatically when you set up your Apple Music Subscription…When your Apple Music Subscription term ends…you will lose access to any songs stored in your iCloud Music Library.

Middle finger

Apple’s Terms of Use, Abridged.

…YOU EXPRESSLY AGREE THAT YOUR USE OF, OR INABILITY TO USE, THE APPLE MUSIC SERVICE IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK. THE APPLE MUSIC SERVICE AND ALL PRODUCTS AND SERVICES DELIVERED TO YOU THROUGH THE APPLE MUSIC SERVICE ARE (EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY STATED BY APPLE) PROVIDED “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” FOR YOUR USE, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED.

…IN NO CASE SHALL APPLE, ITS DIRECTORS, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES, AFFILIATES, AGENTS, CONTRACTORS, OR LICENSORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE, SPECIAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING FROM YOUR USE OF THE APPLE MUSIC SERVICE OR FOR ANY OTHER CLAIM RELATED IN ANY WAY TO YOUR USE OF THE APPLE MUSIC SERVICE, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, ANY ERRORS OR OMISSIONS IN ANY CONTENT OR APPLE MUSIC PRODUCTS, OR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE OF ANY KIND INCURRED AS A RESULT OF THE USE OF ANY CONTENT OR APPLE MUSIC PRODUCTS POSTED, TRANSMITTED, OR OTHERWISE MADE AVAILABLE VIA THE APPLE MUSIC SERVICE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THEIR POSSIBILITY.”

I recovered my original music files only by using a backup I made weeks earlier. Many people don’t back up as often as they should, though, so this isn’t always an option. Amber relayed to me that she’s had to suffer through many calls from people who cancelled their Apple Music subscription after the free, three-month trial, only to discover that all of their own music files had been deleted and there was no way to get them back.

So my files were temporarily restored; but the only way to prevent this from happening over and over, according to Amber, was to cancel my subscription to Apple Music (which she herself doesn’t use due to the above-listed reasons) and to make sure my iCloud settings did not include storing any music backups.

Headphones on Laptop

The Scene of the Crime.

For about ten years, I’ve been warning people, “hang onto your media. One day, you won’t buy a movie. You’ll buy the right to watch a movie, and that movie will be served to you. If the companies serving the movie don’t want you to see it, or they want to change something, they will have the power to do so. They can alter history, and they can make you keep paying for things that you formerly could have bought. Information will be a utility rather than a possession. Even information that you yourself have created will require unending, recurring payments just to access.”

When giving the above warning, however, even in my most Orwellian paranoia I never could have dreamed that the content holders, like Apple, would also reach into your computer and take away what you already owned. If Taxi Driver is on Netflix, Netflix doesn’t come to your house and steal your Taxi Driver DVD. But that’s where we’re headed. When it comes to music, Apple is already there.

Audacious. Egregious. Crazy. These are just some of the adjectives I used in my conversation with Amber.  She actually asked me how I wanted to move forward, putting the onus of a solution back on me. I understand why, too: she’s just as powerless as I am. I would love for Apple to face public backlash and financial ramifications for having taken advantage of its customers in such a brazen and unethical way, but Apple seems beyond reproach at this point. It took three representatives before I could even speak to someone who comprehended what I was saying, and even when she admitted to Apple’s shady practice, she was able to offer no solution besides “don’t use the product.” When our data is finally a full-blown utility, however, “just don’t use the product” will cease to be an option. Apple will be in control, bringing their 1984 commercial full circle into a tragic, oppressive irony.

For an update on how Apple has denied what Amber asserted, as well as how James has been working with Apple to try to troubleshoot the software, click here.

For an update about how two Apple engineers visited James to troubleshoot, click here.

External Hard Drives, Part 1: How to Reduce Breakage

Top view of female hand connecting external hard drive to laptop

Human hand not included. See retailer for details.

Many external hard drives fail due to excessive wear on the parts that see the most action: the connection ports. When you need to just check the contents, you plug in the drive, see what it lists in its file menu, then you disconnect it again. As a result, the power cable and the data cable (USB, Firewire, etc) are plugged and unplugged until the contact points break down.

To get the longest life out of a drive that you don’t frequently use, simply connect the drive and make a screen capture of its menu. Now, you have two options:
1. Label the screen capture “Drive 1 Contents” and write a “1” on the outside of the drive so that they correspond. This is a great choice if you aren’t passing the drive along to others, since you’ll have the list on your own computer.
2. Print out the screen capture and tape the printout to the outside of the drive (or the outside of the box in which you keep the drive). This option is best for when drives get passed around from one user to another.

When you actually use the drive and alter its contents, just repeat either of the above to keep your lists up-to-date. Doing so will greatly reduce unnecessary plugging and unplugging, thus extending the lifespan of your drive and its valuable contents.

How to Hire Independent Contractors

For many small businesses, the most daunting aspect of hiring independent contractors is the paperwork; it can seem confusing and time-consuming. To make the process less intimidating, just think of it as saying hello, inviting someone in, and saying goodbye. With each of these steps, there’s a small amount of administration—but nothing you can’t handle, chief.

Later, SUCKAS!

Later, SUCKAS!

Hello: w9

A w9 provides a small—but legally necessary—amount of information about a contractor. The most vital information is the contractor’s name, mailing address, and tax ID number (often a social security number if it’s an individual rather than a corporation). They’re used to giving them out, so don’t hesitate to ask any potential contractor for a w9. If they need a blank one, tell them about this thing called the Internet. It’s wondrous.

Come On In: IC Contract

If you’re savvy, you’ll use a short-term contract (after all, you’re hiring a “contractor”) with each worker-for-hire you use. These contracts can vary, but brevity is important. An overly wordy contract can not only make you look paranoid, but it can also scare away people who would normally want to work with you. So keep it simple.

In this case, you’ll use an Independent Contractor Contract, or an “IC contract.” They’re also known as “work-for-hire contracts.” This paperwork just outlines what tasks will be done by whom, how compensation will be handled, and what is expected of each party. There are many good templates online, but don’t simply cut and paste. Take the time to review any IC contract you’re considering using, and cater it to apply to your particular scenario. Certain touchstones span across entire industries, and should be in every IC contract.

In addition to rate (how much compensation the contractor receives per hour, or day), your IC Contract should also specify that the hired contractor be the one doing the work rather than a stand-in. This way, if your contractor agrees to work for you during a period of time but gets a better offer elsewhere, he or she can’t simply send a substitute unless you specifically permit it.

Another caveat is confidentiality. Make sure that anything business-related that this person sees, hears, overhears, reads, or contributes is protected from being repeated or explained to outsiders.

Goodbye: 1099

Finally, after each year, you will need to have your accountant or payroll company issue a 1099 to every contractor to whom you paid more than six hundred dollars. 1099s must be sent out by January 31st, so it’s important that, each January, you give your accountant a 1099 report with enough notice that he or she can generate the 1099s and mail them in time.

A 1099 report is simply a list. The list contains the name of every contractor who was paid by you throughout the previous year. It also contains the contractor’s address (for mailing the 1099 report), tax ID number, and amount earned during said year. As mentioned before, you must only provide 1099s to contractors to whom you paid more than six hundred dollars. Remember, the 1099 should only list the amount paid for services or rentals; reimbursements (paying someone back for out-of-pocket expenses, including for mileage) do not count, and should not be included.

Finally, keep all of this paperwork secure. If it’s on a computer, password-protect it. If it’s in an email, delete it after you’ve gleaned the necessary information. If it’s in a file cabinet, make sure it stays locked. An identity thief could do a lot of damage with a w9, since it often lists a person’s social security number, name, and address.

With the “hello, come on in, and goodbye” approach, you can remain confident—not to mention legally compliant—while hiring contractors to do your bidding; like, say, finish that bronze statue of you.

Attack of the Twelve-Pound Catalog

"Here's your hernia, ma'am."

“Here’s your hernia, ma’am.”

Anyone who has proclaimed print media “dead” must not be on the Restoration Hardware mailing list. If that’s the case, thank you. You’ve done your part for preserving both trees AND the overworked spines of UPS drivers across the country.

In May, at Vellum’s offices, we received a plastic-wrapped bundle of Restoration Hardware catalogs weighing seventeen pounds. SEVENTEEN POUNDS. Next month, at our homes, we received another bundle, but this one was a slimmed-down, eleven-to-twelve-pound, “fun size” version (you know, for households).

A local UPS driver, while catching his breath, told us that each driver, on average, delivers two hundred of these catalogs; and, while it can lead to some tasty overtime, it has put a temporary strain on his family life. According to this particular employee, UPS will have delivered 4.2 million of these catalogs by the time they’re finished.

While these catalog bundles (or “source books,” as Restoration Hardware calls them) make for great step stools and bludgeons, many consider them to be a space-hogging nuisance that, despite being made of some recycled paper, is also an unprecedented waste of resources. At Vellum, we frequently receive several redundant copies of catalogs (Crate & Barrel, I’m looking at you). But, unlike catalogs from Restoration Hardware, their combined weight coudn’t flatten a typical house pet.

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

The target audience for these RH catalogs seems to be “anyone who has ever ordered anything from us—or current resident.” I, for example, haven’t ordered anything from Restoration Hardware for at least three years, and I believe it was a few pencil holders when I did. Surely, the profit that RH garnered from said pencil holders pales in comparison to the production, and delivery, costs of their new source books.

Media outlets such as CBS This Morning and The Boston Globe have called attention to the behemoth books and the ensuing consumer woes, but these are solitary voices that were quickly lost in the crowded media landscape. In a brilliant public relations move, Restoration Hardware has long ago stopped using its Twitter feed, and it lacks an official Facebook page altogether; therefore, there is no central location at which consumers can meet to complain in unison. This could be one of the reasons that there hasn’t been a more centralized backlash.

According to fool.com, Restoration Hardware’s strategy started in 2011 when they sent out a large, three-pound catalog, which was met with consumer outcry…and then extremely high sales numbers. In 2013, the catalog weight doubled to six pounds, which again irked many consumers—yet, again, increased sales figures for the retailer. If the 2014 bundle leads to further increased sales, expect a delivery in 2015 weighing somewhere around two hundred and eleven pounds, give or take. Find a good chiropractor now. In fact, maybe your UPS driver can recommend one.

 

 

What to Discuss with a Modeling Agency

By now, it’s extremely likely that you’ve read my last blog post, sought out a client, pitched a photo shoot, gotten approval, and begun your casting process. If you’re not quite there yet, I can wait a minute.

OK, great. Now that we’re on the same page, and you’ve dealt with your clients, here are three questions you should be asking the modeling agency–as well as some information you’ll need to confirm with them before the day of the shoot.

1. Can you provide Polaroids very recently taken, or digital pictures taken today, of the models in whom I’m interested?

This one is important because, like everyone else, models want to make the best impression. That means that, while they look great in those images you viewed on the agency’s website, the photos could have been taken months, or years, ago. The difference between the person you see in those photos and the person who shows up to your shoot could be as minor as “I can see her roots now,” or it could be as major as “he looks fifteen years older than in his portfolio.” I’ve seen models arrive looking as orange as an Oompa-Loompa due to fake tanning, or four sizes larger than was listed on the model card. Speaking of which…

2. Are those STILL his or her sizes?

This is similar to #1 above, and just as important. If you’re paying a wardrobe stylist to spend days choosing clothing options, that time will be wasted if the model shows up and doesn’t fit into any of the clothing. I’ve even seen a model whose SHOE size turned out to be different from what her model card stated, so ask for current sizes instead of the ideal ones listed on the model card or website.

 3. Can you do better?

Most agencies are flexible with their rates; they simply want to get as much as you’re willing to pay. If the agency quotes a rate for you, there’s nothing wrong with haggling to get the best deal. It’s part of the process.

After you’ve asked the modeling agency the above questions, be sure to clearly explain your expectations for the following:

1. Grooming.

Be specific if you expect the model to arrive with a recent manicure, or pedicure, or if you’d like the men to be clean-shaven. These are things that can’t always be done on the spot, so advance notice–especially if your look calls for stubble–is a must.

2. Brings.

“Brings” are, you guessed it, items that the model brings along. Typical brings are a favorite T-shirt or pair of jeans, a pair of khakis, and/or a wedding ring.

3. Who will be paying for travel.

If the gig pays well enough, most models or agencies are willing to pay for airfare, lodging, and ground transportation. Sometimes, however, the agency will ask you if you’re willing to pay. Know in advance whether this gels with your budget, and be clear about it with the agency when negotiating your booking.

4. Usage.

As discussed in my previous blog post, you should have a clear idea of what the usage formats, time period, territories, and rates are. Once the agency agrees on these factors, put it in a contract for the model, or someone at the agency representing the model, to sign.

5. Usage Extensions.

Pre-negotiate what the rate would be if you were to extend usage past the current period. If you wait until the last minute, you will be in a worse bargaining position.

When casting, between knowing what to ask your clients and knowing what to discuss with the agency, the only major detail left is the one that only you can determine: which model is the right fit for your vision?

The 5 Most Important Questions To Ask Your Client Before Booking Models

For a photo shoot’s Producer, there are many details to work out regarding logistics, timeline, and client expectations, but one of the most important elements is the talent. Booking models means having a thorough understanding of your project and the contexts in which the final images will be used. If this is new territory for you, here are the most vital questions that you should ask your clients in order to deliver them the best possible results.

1. What look do you want?

The talent is a major aspect of any shoot, which means that your client has already put some thought into it. Most likely, he or she has formed a mental picture of what the model(s) will look like. To avoid unnecessary back-and-forth during the casting process, ask directly: what are the desired age range, gender, hair color, body type, height, and ethnicity? If your shoot showcases a certain part of the body (wristwatches, footwear, etc), be sure to ask specific questions about this area of anatomy.

2. What are the usage formats?

“Usage” refers to the formats, length of time, and geographical area in which images, or other creative assets, will be used. Formats include billboards, consumer print publications, direct mail, product packaging, promotional materials, video (either in commercials, in-store videos, or many others), trade publications (aka “industry-specific” publications), and more. You must know, in advance, in which of these contexts your photos will be used in order to negotiate a proper rate from the modeling agency.

3. What are the usage territories?

Some ad campaigns and product sales are limited to an exclusive country or region. The more specific you can be with the modeling agency regarding territories, the lower the cost will be for you and your client. For American agencies, the three most common territories in usage contracts are United States, Canada, and All Remaining Territories (otherwise known as ROW, or “Rest of World”). Of course, if your campaign is only for a local area, be specific, and put it in writing. Keep in mind that if you’re using talent shots on packaging of a product, your usage must cover all areas in which the product will be officially sold. Also remember that most websites are accessible to the majority of the world, so any content intended for web usage, by default, is worldwide; that’s why they call it the “world wide web.”

4. What is the usage time period?

A clearly-defined usage period is a must. If your photos are being used beyond the dates listed in the usage contract between you (or your client) and the modeling agency, you and your client are vulnerable to lawsuits. As Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors,” so make your fences strong and precise. Some clients opt for a “full buyout,” which can mean perpetual use, in any context, in all territories. Other times, when they refer to a “full buyout,” they simply mean “all” of one aspect: all formats, or all territories, or infinite length. Be specific to make sure you’re on the same page.

5. What is your budget for talent?

Like most business ventures, a commercial photo shoot has a budget for the entire project; however, some clients have a specific idea regarding how much they want to spend on models. If they do, knowing this information up front is invaluable. Some models and agencies will be eager to work within your budget, and others may reject your shoot straightway if the compensation is not up to their standards.

At first, booking models can be a daunting task. Having the above information, however, will help you save time and enable you to concentrate on the most important part of your shoot: the images themselves.

Like it or Not, You (Yes, YOU) are a Brand

“Branding” used to mean burning your emblem into something, like a wooden sign or a cow’s butt. Although it still means the aforementioned, it has also come to mean influencing the public’s perception–either of you, your company, or the product you’re offering.

Now, here comes the difficult part: if you have a Facebook profile, you are already a brand. You, personally. You are being judged on what you post, and with whom you associate, because these are factors that make up your brand identity. That photo of you doing a keg stand? Part of your brand. Your half-informed political rants? Brand. Those smarty-pants, anti- (or pro-) religious tirades? Brand, brand, brand.

Some people take this very seriously, and they employ high standards for their brand’s quality control. For example, I’m sure WAY more of my friends like Billy Joel than admit to it in their musical “likes.” They’d rather admit to liking The Velvet Underground, because it better supports the hip narrative of their brand. These same people may enjoy that photo of you with your aunt, but they’re reluctant to like it because they want their brand to only be associated with edgy photos, or ones taken in other countries, or ones involving cats from Brooklyn.

Others look at Facebook like a middle-school diary, where (with inconsistent capitalization and punctuation) they vent about “drama,” home wreckers, and why The Voice was better last season. Believe me, I get it: we joined Facebook to keep in touch with old friends, and to have an online “trading card” that represents us. But, over the years, the same pattern happened to Facebook that happens to all successful websites: corporations (including some of your future employers) saw an opportunity, jumped in, and peed in the pool. Nowadays, Facebook is more of a corporate marketing resource (we already come right out and tell them what we “like”) than social network. We can all move to a different pool, but if it gets popular enough they’ll pee in that one as well.

The answer, then, isn’t to keep switching pools; it’s to decide beforehand what our brands will be, and to act consistently with those brands. If you’re OK with being known as “that guy who constantly makes jokes about colostomy bags,” then don’t look back: joke away! If those overused, poorly-written “e-card” rectangles really do sum up your thoughts and opinions perfectly, then great! Regardless, however, you should know in advance how you want to be perceived by potential employers. Anything outside of that desired image should be saved for personal interaction rather than puked all over the internet. Until Google glasses get more popular, personal interaction is still relatively safe. I know, the thought of actually talking to your “friends” is daunting, but that’s reality. Chances are, that’s how your parents met, unless they’re sixteen years old.

Of course, Facebook does have certain parameters you can set regarding who sees what of yours, limiting your overly-personal or risky posts to your inner circle. Please remember, though, that:

A) Many people got their jobs from people they already know, people who can see all of their profile posts.

B) Your “friends” could be making screen captures of you in your moments of poor judgment. Maybe they’re sharing them elsewhere, or maybe they’re keeping them “just in case.” Either way, keep your guard up.

C) Your word-of-mouth reputation is heavily influenced by what your inner circle sees. If your inner circle is still seeing your thong, they may be talking about it, even to people you’ve blocked.

Like it or not, you are a brand. Define that brand for yourself, and then stick to its parameters. Happy kegging!