Gibson Awards Prize To Artist As Promised!

Yay Internets! Tonedeff—the artist who won Lollapalooza’s Last Band Standing over a year ago but never received the 10k prize package from Gibson—has received his prize. He emailed us today and wrote, “Thanks for covering the story and your support. Your blog made a HELL of a difference. Expect a shout out on my next project.” We can’t imagine how he’s going to work “consumerist” into a rhyme, but okay. After the story went Digg-public last Friday, Tonedeff got a call from a Gibson rep Saturday morning—and a few days later he received an apology from Gibson’s CEO personally.

Well, this past Tuesday, I had a one-on-one conversation with Gibson CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz. Now, it’s rare that a CEO of a company that size will sit down on the phone with you and talk man to man, so for that, I was very impressed with the level of commitment and cooperation they showed in order to demonstrate the level of seriousness with which they took this whole situation. Henry assured me that this was something that Gibson was truly apologetic for and made his best effort to make sure that I came away from the entire experience feeling as though I was treated fairly and received what I deserved.

The next day, Tonedeff received a FedExed check for the full amount of the prize.

The Gibson rep who strung Tonedeff along last year left the company in November:

Henry mentioned that Don was “getting toasted” in the press and hoped that I could encourage folks to “take it easy on the guy” because apparently dude’s been getting hate mail & phone calls up the yang from random folks around the world. I’ve never been the type of person to wish malice or pain on anyone (unless they rap), and I stand by that approach still. Personally, I think the public spanking that’s already occurred is sufficient, considering this is something that will probably come up anytime someone Googles his name for a long time. That would definitely suck if I were him, so it is what it is. So, if anyone was planning on doing any wild shit, this would be a good time to put the bazooka away. Everything is settled.

Finally, Tonedeff tells everyone thanks:

In closing, I want to take this opportunity to thank EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU who took time out to lend your support, write letters, post blogs, make phone calls – once again, you helped settle this thing at lightning speed.

Glad we could help!

“The Power of the Internet”

“Gibson Screws Musician Out Of $10,000 Worth Of Equipment”
“Alleged Gibson CEO Possibly Responds To $10k Contest Story”


Edit Your Comment

  1. SVreader says:

    Yay! I’m glad the artist finally got something out of this. I wonder what happened in Gibson internally? In Tonedeff’s blog, it sounds like some really bad decisions by one or more employees really backfired on their company.

  2. arch05 says:

    Popken & Marco writin blogs for Consumerist
    Clownin corporations like a newspaper humorist.

  3. joemono says:

    “I’ve never been the type of person to wish malice or pain on anyone (unless they rap)…” Is that statement enough to qualify this guy as a douchebag?

  4. Tank says:


  5. Chris Walters says:

    @arch05: Hey, what about Walters…

  6. hhole says:

    @Arch05 Your rap skills are sweet!

  7. headon says:

    @JOEMONO: nah that’s not enough. I mean he may be a douch and all but it’s time for rap to go the way of disco.

  8. RenardRouge says:

    A check? Wow, now he can buy whatever kind of stuff e wants, from whomever! He can get the discounted prices at retailers now. Sweet.

  9. Crymson_77 says:

    @headon: Heck, I would be happy with a “secret sub-society” kick to it. Some people still like it, I’m just not one of ’em…

  10. matt1978 says:

    @joemono: I always thought that MacGuyver as your avatar made you a douche.
    The guy raps. Get over it, jerkoff.

  11. lightaugust says:

    Kinda read that to mean, he’s dismissing rap, since they’re the only folks worth wishing pain and malice to. So, yeah, he qualifies. Plus, I stuck up for this guy in the comments when the OP went up. After that, I’m kind of sorry about that.

  12. m4ximusprim3 says:

    So, is he gonna use the check to buy gibson stuff? or what? these cliffhanger endings just make me feel unfufilled.

    off to polish my bazooka. I’ll get you next time, comcast!

  13. yourbffjill says:

    @joemono: good lord take a joke. find me a rapper who doesn’t rhyme on other rappers.

    you take one sentence out of context and use that to determine someone is a douchebag? sounds like kind of a douchebag thing to do.

  14. LilKoko says:

    @yourbffjill: Yeah. I read it like that, too. Rappers talking trash to other rappers — part of the game.

  15. matt1978 says:

    @LilKoko: Exactly.

  16. cryrevolution says:

    @lightaugust: @joemono: Hrrrrmmm yeeeah the guy’s a rapper. He um raps. He’s saying he would wish pain on OTHER RAPPERS. Like, talking trash. Not wishing pain on anyone that likes rap. Because, ya know, he’s a rapper. Just clarifying that one for you.

  17. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Back on topic: Yay internets!

    Gibson CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz should be commended. That was truly classy to give tonedeff a check for $10,000; he didn’t have to do that.

    I haven’t bought a rap album in years, but after this story broke, I googled tonedeff and listened to his music (FYI: he doesn’t just rap) – and I gotta tell ya, I was really impressed. He’s crazy talented. I’m looking forward to hearing what he comes up with in his new and improved studio.

  18. Buran says:

    @Imaginary_Friend: Yes, he did. HIS COMPANY made a promise it failed to keep. If an employee does something while on the job, he is acting on the company’s behalf. This guy’s blaming it on a “rogue employee” is just disgusting.

    Gibson tried to weasel out of it and it’s as simple as that, and only stood up and did something as basic as keep a promise because they got ratted out for the liars they were.

  19. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @Buran: No, actually. Tonedeff was promised $10,000 worth of Gibson equipment, not cash.

    Since we, as outsiders, weren’t privy to how much info the CEO had about this particular case, it’s really not fair to say he was trying to weasel out of anything (unless the company has a history of promising prizes and then not delivering).

    I’m not so anti-Big Business that I don’t give credit where credit is due.

  20. says:

    cosumerist lookin luminous
    bad business is tumourous

    …oh i don’t know

  21. ColoradoShark says:

    @joemono: No. I hate rap too.

  22. socritic says:

    cheers mate, you’ve gotten what’s rightfully yours, kudos on the initiative, it’s a pleasure to see you win. I am curious as to how Gibson explained the reps behavior. Was he working for them? was he working on his own? how did he come to be in a position that he could give the company such bad publicity? will this happen again?

  23. whirlybird says:

    I posted a mildly reproachful message through their website contact form, and they actually replied to me, telling me that the problem had been resolved. Big props to Gibson for making this right.

  24. ex_ea_slave says:

    What is a rapper going to do with actual instruments? Wouldn’t they be better used by people with real musical talent and not someone with a knack for rhyming words?

  25. econobiker says:

    This story was hitting the music blogs pretty hard when I Googled Don Pitts/Tonedef. I figure the Gibson head saw the bad advertising, heard from his customer sales/support how people were responding to the story, and heard from Don how folks were calling him and telling him to screw. The cost of dealing with the issue in bad press and employee time was probably way more than $10,000.

    Now Tonedef better remember to declare it as I am sure Gibson will submit the prize info to the IRS…

  26. bigfuss says:

    As a former Gibson employee, this truly saddens me that Don is ‘getting toasted’ in the press. I wasn’t going to respond to this blog; however, I feel that it is necessary to spare a Gibson (ex or current) employee that is potentially being treated unfairly. Henry mentioned in his response, that he has ultimate approval on all things at Gibson, which in my experience is true. He often would require approval of $200 expenditures. If there was a Gibson sponsored event in which $10K was the prize, you can be assured that Henry had approved this in advance and was fully aware of its existence. Henry may or may not have known if the prize had been paid out, but Don had nothing to gain nor lose from rewarding the prize. Gibson is a private company and Henry is the owner so essentially it’s Henry’s wallet that feels the pain. I worked for Gibson for 2 years and in that time, I witnessed numerous suppliers who did not receive payment simply because Henry didn’t want to pay them. I was astounded by the lack of business ethics, but again it’s a private company and there is no accountability except for the bottom $$ line.

    Gibson (in addition to making a good guitar) is a marketing machine. Henry pays close attention to when and where Gibson guitars are mentioned in the press and other material outside of Gibson published marketing. He knows that Gibson’s bread and butter is the name brand and for that I give the guy a lot of credit. He’s ethics might be questionable, but he is smart. Afterall, he has an MBA from Harvard. In my opinion, it comes down to the simple fact that bad press outweighed the $10K. Thank goodness there are forums/websites/blogs like this to hold the henrys of the world accountable.

    To others, please leave Don alone. I don’t know him, but I know enough of Gibson to feel fairly certain there was more going on behind then scenes than we’re privy to.

  27. arch05 says:

    @ex_ea_slave: Record beats maybe? Ever thought of that?

  28. D-Bo says:

    Tally another win for the little guy.

  29. fiddlechick says:

    I’m glad that this hit the blogosphere, so that Gibson was able to make things right. The CEO really more than made things right by cutting a check for $10k. Keep in mind that $10k worth of merchandise would cost nowhere near that to Gibson — a friend in the industry tells me it would cost them more in the neighborhood of $2500.

  30. AcidReign says:

        What a stink! That’s pretty low-down of Gibson, on the avoiding-paying-off thing. They had the definitive sound, back in the day. Now, there are a ton of options, from wood density, to pickups, to the electronics the axe is plugged into. I always loved the classic Les Paul sound, but what am I most likely to play? see avatar pic. I like an arched fingerboard, skinny neck. Fender used to have those, back in the day. You could work with the electronics, to get a heavy sound. But now, Fender necks are just as huge (flat fretboard, too) as Gibson’s. Bah.

        These days, you can look at a catalog, and those USA Gibsons will be right up there in the upper end of the “insane” price range. Chances are, if you are patient, you can go through the racks of cheap Peavy’s and Ibanez’s, and find a heavy axe with decent action. A pickup change later, you’ll sound just as good, tone-wise.

        That said, I love the Gibson 62 SG reissue I bought in the late ’80s. It had a brilliant white paint job, with black hardware. 20 years later, it looks like ivory. It has aged magnificently. Someone in finishes knew what they were doing! The neck and jumbo frets feel just as awkward as ever, though.

        I don’t fault lefties for wanting to play their own way, i.e. right hand on the frets, left hand picking. Play that way with a backwards-strung right-hand axe, and you can’t reach the top frets. If you’ll look, the cutout in the body is less on the “top!” OK, I guess that doesn’t matter these days, since most guitarist recording contracts specify that NOTHING above the 7th fret is allowed, anyway…

        I most totally disagree with sentiments in the comments, of the initial post, that guitarists should all be institutionally taught the “correct” way to play. Sounds very constrictive, and it’s totally opposite of the initial spirit of the electric guitar. Go wild, kids!

  31. joemono says:

    I didn’t realize he was a rapper himself. Not a douche.

    @matt1978: It’s “MacGyver.”

  32. roymond says:

    As someone mentioned, $10k cash is a bigger payout than $10k in equipment. For Tonedeff cash is best as he’d pay income tax on the prize (prizes are taxed as income, not resale) so that’s more like 25-30% rather than 8%. If he was planning on biying $10k of equipment then that’s a good deal, but otherwise he’d have to scratch up $2500 he didn’t expect to pay off the taxes. The cash prize means he actually has $7500 in his pocket on April 6th.

    As for rappers or hip-hop artists and their “talent”, who’s to say here? Jeez, because that’s his genre you conclude he can’t play an instrument (did I miss an interview where he says he can’t and doesn’t want to)? Ever hear the Beastie Boys’ “The In Sound from Way Out”? Here are so-called (ok, white, middle class) rappers that most people know from “Fight for Your Right” playing live jams and jazz instrumentals. Kick ass musicians who front as rappers. Like saying Ella Fitzgerald can’t sing after only hearing her skat. I’d love to hear good rappers sit at the drums and translate their (at times) amazing timing and attack to percussion. Or guitar for that matter.