Sexual Harassment and Bullying: Booking Titan John Finberg’s Accusers Speak Out
In order to protect their privacy, some people in the following story will be identified by an alias. No other details of their stories have been changed.
When Rachel was in her early twenties, she got a Facebook friend request from John Finberg. As the owner of First Row Talent, Finberg has served as the booking agent for bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Amorphis, Warbringer, Suffocation, Immolation, Sonata Arctica, Overkill, and The Agonist, to name but a few. Rachel was in a band she was trying to get off the ground. Naturally, she accepted Finberg’s request.
Their paths had crossed once before, at a Nightwish concert two years prior, when he’d put his hand on the small of her back and told her she was beautiful. He recalled the incident – in his initial Facebook message, “He said he remembered me from the show and had been watching me from afar since then” – and wanted her band to open the local stop on one of his big tours. So she agreed to meet him at an upcoming concert he had booked to “discuss the show.”
At the venue, he gave her the royal treatment: hanging out with the band on their tour bus, free drinks, and plenty of merch. He made her accompany him to the bank to watch him deposit $28,000 in cash, and then to an expensive dinner at a fancy steak house, where he put his hand on her knee and told her, “My dear, it doesn’t matter how talented you are unless you find the right people, and I promise you just found the right people.”
Then, back at the concert, Finberg became aggressive. “He kept pouring me shots,” Rachel says. “At one point he starts putting his hand down my pants and starts trying to feel me up, and I tell him ‘No.’ He says that I owe him this, that I’ve been asking for this ever since I got there… since I met him and had dinner with him that I’m asking for this from him.”
Rachel says Finberg then tried to kiss her. “Crying and upset,” she pushed him away and ran into the crowd, where she found a friend to take her home.
Finberg began to retaliate immediately. “The next day, John emailed me,” according to Rachel, “and started saying ‘How dare you run away? I showed you so much hospitality! What games are you playing here?’
“I said ‘Look, I’m not trying to play games. I thought you were interested in helping my band. I didn’t realize you felt like this was something more.’ And he said, ‘I still want to help your band but I want more things in return.’”
After once again rejecting his advances, Rachel alleges that Finberg lost his cool and threatened to meddle in her personal affairs, saying he’d blacklist her from the industry and make sure that her band would never be signed and would never tour the United States.
“When he didn’t get a response from that he started sending apologetic messages like, ‘I’m really fucked up, I’m sorry. I need help, I know I need help. I just thought you were this really pure kind of person who could help me.’ It was really crazy, actually,” Rachel relays. “He started going into details about how his mother tried to kill him with an axe when he was a teenager. He was trying to use some fucked up past to explain his behavior. And at the end I told him ‘Thank you, John, I hope you get better at some point. I wish you the best, but I don’t think it’s in our best interest to continue our contact.’
“Since then, he’s had this weird vendetta against me,” Rachel continues. “For a while he was threatening to kick me out of shows with any of his bands.”
On Christmas Day of 2017, after not speaking for years, Rachel says Finberg called her under the guise of wanting to “clear the air and make things right.” But he lost his temper again when she implied that he was offering an apology. “He suddenly said ‘Wait, never mind, fuck you, I hate you, I hope you burn in hell, you fucking bitch. I hope your baby is ripped from you while you’re raped by your ex repeatedly.’ And then he hung up on me.”
“John is not just scary,” Rachel says somberly. “John has this unhinged element to him that makes him twice as scary. Because there’s this irrational part of him that would set you on fire if he could.”
Rachel’s story is not a unique one. Finberg, who will turn 50 this year, has been in the industry since the ‘90s, working as an agent for several other companies before First Row, and his malfeasances are some of the worst-kept secrets in the business. Yet he remains a feared figure, considered by many to be untouchable.
Over the course of the past year, MetalSucks spoke to both victims of, and witnesses to, Finberg’s alleged wrongdoing.
But many more refused to go on record, or agreed to do so only under the protection of an alias, for risk of incurring the booking agent’s wrath. “People don’t wanna talk about it, don’t wanna be involved, don’t want to know,” says one woman who alleges mistreatment by Finberg. “They don’t want to point the finger at him because they’re scared.”
Indeed, even beyond Finberg’s sexual improprieties, many industry professionals characterize him as a bully with a toxic personality.
“He’ll threaten you, he will threaten to sue your family,” says Shea, who manages a band that was once one of Finberg’s biggest clients. “I have seen promoters have a burnout because of his intimidation… He’s a dirty man…. He’s threatened so many people, so many bands.”
Shea speaks from experience: when his band fired Finberg, the booking agent threatened them with a lawsuit, complete with a full draft of charges written by a lawyer. “He sent me a fake draft of charges. A lawyer took his time to outline charges against me and [the band],” he laughs incredulously. “Nothing ever came of it. Then he threatened that we couldn’t set foot in the U.S. or he would sue us, he would make sure that the box office gets raided.” Shea and the band continued to ignore Finberg’s threats, which resurfaced years later with terse, one-line emails inquiring about where to “serve papers” when the band landed on American soil.
Shawn Carrano, a prominent artist manager who has worked with acts like Polyphia, Whitechapel, and Revocation, outright refuses to work with any band Finberg books. “Whenever I [began to work] with any metal act,” Carrano tells us, “I would ask them right away, ‘Are you booked by Finberg or have you ever been booked by Finberg?’” Carrano explains the reason he avoided Finberg’s clients, from past experience, was that “If you didn’t do it his way, he would freak out and scream at you, talk all kinds of shit,” adding that Finberg threatened his life “numerous times” over small disputes. “I will drive up to Sacramento and I will fucking kill you. I will kill you, you fat fuck. I will find you when you’re in L.A., I will see you at a show, I will fuckin’ slit your throat.” Carrano ended up blocking Finberg from contacting him via phone, email and social media, which he claims he has never done with any of the 1,600 other industry contacts in his phone.
Continental Touring’s Steph Mellul first met Finberg when he was a young promoter in the ’90s. In the earliest days of their relationship, he says, Finberg would call him “at three, four or five o’clock in the morning, any time of night, harassing me on the phone,” in addition to sending him lengthy faxes specifically designed to empty the machine of its entire paper supply. Finberg would demand return phone calls regardless of the hour, threaten to pull his bands from shows if substantial payments weren’t delivered on unrealistic timelines, and make fun of Mellul’s height, calling him “little fucker” and suggesting that Mellul needed to stand on a stool to reach his telephone.
Worse still, Mellul claims that Finberg has called him “a ‘sand n****er’” multiple times since learning that Mellul’s parents are Moroccan (Mellul was born in Canada). He says this is not the only example he’s seen of Finberg’s bigotry. When drummer Mike Smith re-joined Suffocation in 2003, becoming the second Black member of the band, Mellul alleges that Finberg told him, “Yeah, we have two of them in the band now.” Two years later, Mellul accompanied Suffo and Finberg on a Canadian tour, during which time, he asserts, he heard Finberg “Popping the n-word left and right,” in addition to making fun of the accents of French Canadians. Mellul suggests that Finberg seems incapable of not making race an issue at every given turn. “If we’re talking about Hispanic promoters he would make a comment on that. If we’re talking about African American people he would make a comment on that.”
When Mellul started Continental (previously Rock the Nation America) with Kataklysm frontman Maurizio Iacono in 2011, a number of bands, including Deicide, Hypocrisy, Scar Symmetry, and Destruction, ditched Finberg and went with the upstarts. “He hated me. He was livid. He said, ‘Why are you doing this to me? You cannot do this to me.’ He was emailing me, the managers [for those bands], all the [band members]. Krisiun left him, Jungle Rot left him, The Agonist.” Mellul also claims that when Finberg “got fired by the manager of Epica [he] said something like ‘I’m gonna piss on your grave.’”
According to Mellul, this is standard behavior for Finberg, who he says often goes so far as to be disrespectful to other veteran booking agents with whom he often works. “Before I became an agent myself,” Mellul tells us, “[Finberg] was talking about Dan Rozenblum (Napalm Death, Municipal Waste) and Nick Storch (King Diamond, Baroness) and everybody else, and just being totally condescending. ‘You can go back to this guy [Rozenblum] with a crying baby in the back, or back to [Storch], who doesn’t have a clue about metal,’ and he just kept going and going. I’m like, ‘Dude, are you serious right now? These are the guys that make you the most money [by including your bands on their tours].’”
Bobbie is one of the founders of Flight of the Valkyries, a now-defunct annual metal festival devoted to bands with women lead vocalists. When trying to book Doro Pesch for the event, a friend, Nathan, referred her to Finberg, Pesch’s North American booking agent at the time. Bobbie contacted Finberg and dropped Nathan’s name; when Finberg, in turn, reached out to Nathan to verify Bobbie’s claim, the exchange was far from a customary reference check.
“‘First he asked me if you were hot,’” Bobbie says Nathan told her of Finberg. “And I was like, ‘Well what did you say?’ Not realizing at the time what kind of person Finberg was. So Nathan jokingly said that he said ‘Yes.’ So I said, ‘Well, what else?’ And Nathan said, ‘He asked if you would fuck him.’” (Nathan did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)
Danny Marino, founding member and guitarist of The Agonist, says that Finberg takes standard business inquiries about tour offers as personal affronts. “If you’re not just like ‘yes’ right away, it turns into a huge problem. As if we’re ungrateful because I asked a question. [I could say to him] ‘The routing is insane, I don’t know how we’re gonna do this, you have like 1000km between a ton of shows, are you sure this is it? And we’re driving a van ourselves in the winter through the Rocky Mountains.’ And if I question this because I’m worried about our safety [Finberg is] like, ‘Fuck you, maybe I’ll just give all my tours to someone else. How about this? How about I never book you a show ever again.’”
Finberg followed through on his promise to attempt to blacklist The Agonist in the industry. “He wrote emails to everyone at Century Media, and other contacts, saying, ‘If you continue to work with The Agonist I will not book any more of your bands’ and all this shit,” Marino tell us. “Steve Joh was our A&R person at the time, and he’s super cool. He just told me on the side, ‘Don’t listen to Finberg, Century Media is not gonna drop you. Unfortunately, you got on his bad side. He is what he is. We’ll figure something else out.’”
Still, Marino believes Finberg’s efforts may have hurt The Agonist’s career. “It seemed like all of a sudden… nothing changed in our profile. When we first came out we kinda had a thing; there weren’t as many female-fronted bands with growling and all that, it was relatively more hot and new and we were getting a lot of big magazines and publications and stuff. And in time with [Finberg’s threats] it just kind of seemed to fizzle out.” Even working with other reputable, longtime agents like Rozenblum didn’t help. “I don’t know [if Finberg’s blackballing The Agonist hurt their ability to get tours]. All I know is he made the threats, and he acted on them.”
Finberg drifted back into the band’s sphere several years later with a tour offer, and they resumed working together for a second stint. But when Marino says many of the same issues resurfaced – the intimidation, talking down and difficulties getting paid – they again parted ways after what he describes as “a massive fight, falling out” between Finberg and the band’s singer at the time, Alissa White-Gluz, who is now in Arch Enemy. (White-Gluz declined to comment for this story).
Finberg was the booking agent for Bonded by Blood when vocalist Mauro Gonzalez, who was 20 years old at the time, first joined the band. On one occasion, after Gonzalez declined to introduce Finberg to a pair of young female friends, Finberg “threatened to ruin my career and drop us off every tour and black list us. I [still] refused, and he stormed off angry.”
Stacey H. was briefly a tour manager for a popular Finnish band who work with Finberg. She says Finberg began verbally berating her when she made simple requests related to advancing shows, an important role of tour managing that involves making contact with venues ahead of time to arrange day-of-show logistics.
“I would send him an e-mail asking, ‘Hey can I get the riders and contracts please?’,” she tells us. “Mind you, I was raised to be polite and say ‘Yes sir’ and ‘Yes ma’am.’ When I called him ‘sir’ one too many times, he said, and I quote, ‘If you call me ‘sir’ one more time, I’m going to slap you across the face.’” Stacey audibly breaks into tears while recounting this exchange. “That’s very inappropriate, very unprofessional, and I kind of felt unsafe for my life a little bit. A slap across the face isn’t the end of the line, but you shouldn’t be threatened with violence.”
Lawrence is a member of a nationally-known band signed to a major metal label. He alleges that Finberg has not only threatened him, his bandmates, and his manager, but their families as well. He also believes that Finberg once sent a man to physically intimidate them over a financial dispute.
“We are at merch, the direct support band is playing, the venue is relatively packed,” Lawrence says. “A very tall, very muscular man in a suit and tie with slicked back hair — he looked like a Grant Theft Auto bouncer or something — approaches my merch table. I am behind the table with my bassist. The man shouts over the music ‘Are you Lawrence? Step outside. I’m here to talk with you on behalf of Mr. Finberg.’ I holler back ‘Hey man, I can’t right now, I am selling merch, we are the only people watching it right now, I can talk to you after the show or you can just tell John to call me later if it’s important.’ The guy gets visibly frustrated, and then spits a huge loogie on our merch table. Then he swipes his hands across our display and knocks our shirts, CDs, and tip jar all across the floor, and then power-walks away before we have a chance to jump over the table or even process what happened. Then he shouts as he’s standing in the exit, half in the venue, half out, ‘If you ever fuck with John again, I will come to your next show and rip you the fuck in half.’” The band’s bassist, who was with Lawrence at the time, confirms Lawrence’s account of the incident.
Then there’s the case of Nature Ganganbaigal, frontman for the Mongolian folk metal band Tengger Cavalry. Nature, described by friends as a kind soul who greatly struggled with depression and mental illness, got into an e-mail spat with Finberg in July of 2018, after accidentally sending him a crowdfunding pitch intended for a different John (it’s not clear why this mistake so offended Finberg). Screenshots of this exchange acquired by MetalSucks show Finberg resorting to aggressive, belittling name-calling, taunting Nature over his mental illness.
“You are an idiot. I already deleted your irratic [sic] email address. We both know it was meant for me, but you are too much of a cocky half psycho who is in need of meds.” A few hours later, Finberg emailed again: “Take your manic depressed self and your self loathing misery and go away.” After Nature defended himself, telling Finberg to “Take your bad reputation and aggressive mouth with drugs and whore piss and fuck off,” Finberg went for the jugular: “Only if you promise to kill yourself, which it sounds like you are happy enough to do it.”
Nature took his own life in June of 2019. He was 29 years old.
Although it might be unfair to blame Finberg entirely for Nature’s tragic end, the musician’s friends, such as Patrick M., believe the booking agent is at least partially responsible.
“I wish that people like John would not send messages telling people to kill themselves who are not mentally fit or sound,” says Patrick. “We’re all dealing with our own struggles. Depression is something I have fought most of my life. So I understand. And I understand how destructive an e-mail like that from someone would affect you, especially [someone] who is seen as a big time professional in the industry and potentially could sink your career.”
Still, these are not the most unsettling allegations against Finberg.
Jennifer, who works in the music industry, has only met John Finberg once. It was at a concert where one of his bands, a major European touring act, were performing a large theater show.
She ended that night in the hospital.
She’d been invited up to the V.I.P. balcony by an acquaintance; she happily obliged. She was at the show with a handful of women and her brother, Anthony, all big fans of the band. Prior to that night, she’d heard Finberg’s name floated around in the industry, but says she “didn’t really know who he was; I knew of him. I knew he was working with the band, but I had never met him personally.”
Meeting Finberg is one of the few things Jennifer recalls from that night. She says she had “half-a-glass” of one drink served to her by Finberg before she blacked out. “I don’t remember anything that happened that night. I was there, one moment I was fine, and soon after I just have no idea whatsoever of anything that happened that night.”
“My sister was drinking very slowly because she told me it was very strong,” says Anthony. He claims that every time Jennifer took a sip of her drink, Finberg “would keep pouring so [her cup was always] completely full.” When she stopped drinking, according to Anthony, Finberg “was forcing the bottle on the girls and my sister.” He says he became aware that, rather abruptly, several of the women in the V.I.P. section had become “violently drunk.”
Jennifer was so far gone in such a short amount of time that she began taking Finberg’s prompts to chug vodka straight from the bottle, which she says was very out of character for her as someone that doesn’t often drink much. “I was told that John was shoving the bottle directly down my throat. I was not aware at the time, I didn’t know this happened. But he was shoving pure vodka into my throat.”
Anthony recalls Finberg being “very touchy” with the women. “He was touching [them] around the waist and possibly going [farther] down. He was hugging them. I remember him licking a girl’s face.” At one point, Anthony grabbed a bottle out of Finberg’s hand and placed it down to prevent Finberg from forcing more alcohol on his sister. “He looked at me like ‘Why are you being a party pooper?’ It didn’t matter for him. He continued, especially with the other girls.”
Anthony estimates that it was roughly half an hour between the time of Jennifer’s first sip of alcohol and the time she passed out on the floor, unresponsive and vomiting. “I saw that she was not responding to me. I was calling her [name] at some point because everything happened so fast, I was trying to talk to her but she wouldn’t listen or wouldn’t make eye contact. Then I started to tell her, ‘Hey I’m talking to you,’ and I saw in her eyes that something was wrong.” He decided it was time to get out, but found his sister was unable to walk on her own.
“I put her onto my shoulder and tried to carry her out, [but] she was throwing up and was just dead weight, she couldn’t walk,” he says. “So at that point I realized it was more serious than I thought.” With the help of a couple of security staff, Anthony — who had declined one of Finberg’s drinks on account of being the designated driver for the night — got Jennifer into the car and made the decision to take her to the emergency room.
“I spent the night in the hospital [with] two IVs,” Jennifer remembers. “I had ten times the alcohol concentration my body could handle because he was pouring the bottle straight into my mouth.” She further claims that a female acquaintance at the show with her also blacked out. “Another girl that was with me as well, she was also very sick. It felt like it was the girls that were targeted because the guys were drinking as well but for some reason the girls were really out of their mind.” Jennifer’s friend declined to be interviewed for this story.
“I almost got liver damage, and I could’ve died that night,” Jennifer goes on. “It’s not something I can just forget about as a bad experience. I should have been more careful. I take that part of the blame, but I really felt like in the moment I was in control: ‘I’m here with family, and I’m gonna be fine.’ But I wasn’t fine. My own brother was there; what would have happened if I was alone?”
Finberg attempted to add Jennifer as a friend on Facebook several times in the days following the incident. She declined each time, and eventually blocked him. They have not interacted since.
Amy G., who does not work in the music industry, says she was creeped out by Finberg almost immediately after meeting him at a Ministry show in Chicago seven years ago. “He did say right off the bat something about me sleeping with him, and I’m just like, ‘Uh, nope, that’s not what I’m here for. I don’t know what Paul told you. But I’m not like that.’ And he’s like ‘Well, we’ll see what happens at the end of the night.’”
Still, Amy gave Finberg the benefit of the doubt, because they’d been connected by a mutual friend who told her John needed someone to hang out with while in town. But then “The show ended and he expected me to go back to his hotel room with him.”
She told Finberg she wasn’t interested, and then the verbal onslaught began. “He threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t sleep with him. He got pretty pissed off. At which point it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. He was trying very hard to get me to go back to the hotel with him.”
Finberg continued attempting to buy Amy drinks in an effort to loosen her up; she declined. But he persisted in his efforts to get laid. “And that’s when he said the whole Nightwish thing,” she says. “If I would have sex with him he would bring me on the tour, I could do merch, and he could take care of everything, everything would be covered, I wouldn’t have to pay for anything.” Amy isn’t even a fan of Nightwish, who are widely regarded as Finberg’s key client and main cash cow. She also has no experience, and no interest in, selling merch on the road. On top of all that, accepting such a gig would have required a remarkable amount of flexibility; the tour was approaching in just a month or two’s time.
This being the case, the offer pushed Amy over the edge. She decided to leave the venue. According to Amy, the incessant texting began about twenty minutes later: “He was still trying to talk me into sleeping with him.” Amy ignored the texts, but Finberg continued on undeterred in the following days, weeks and months. “When this first happened, he would text probably fifteen times a day, at least, and I just ignored him. [Then] it kind of slowed down, but the whole thing lasted two or three months. Just him [texting], no responses [from me]. Three months talking to himself.
“One of the things he said is he would find out where I worked and he would call them and let them know that I was a terrible person. I take pride in my job so I wasn’t really worried about that, but to make these threats, that’s pretty fucked up. He’s nuts… I could only assume he probably would’ve made some shit up.” She ended up taking drastic measures to stop the harassment, calling the phone company to have his number blocked (a capability her phone did not have).
Meanwhile, her friendship with Paul, the man who connected her and Finberg in the first place, was forever ruined. “I don’t know why [Paul] would be friends with someone like this in the first place, and then put me into this situation.”
The bands, managers, and labels with whom Finberg commonly works are aware of the agent’s behavior.
“Meetings with him were always weird as fuck,” says Bradley, a former member of a well-known-but-smaller metal band. “He talked about business stuff for five to fifteen minutes, then started to talk about sex.”
While in New York City opening for Epica – one of Finberg’s premiere bands at the time – Bradley alleges he saw a woman start crying and run for the exit at the mere sight of Finberg.
“Another time,” Bradley continues, “just after the load out, during the setup prior to stage time, Finberg is chatting with [another member of the band]. I came into the conversation and Finberg started showing pictures on his phone of some girls he had done stuff with. He showed us a picture of a woman he had brought to his place who was so drunk she had urinated herself. I walked off, disgusted. Finberg deemed it alright to take her home, take pictures of her while she was passed out and had wet herself, then brag about the whole thing.”
The first time Lawrence met Finberg, he says Finberg told him “I like your band, you guys are pretty good. If you can find me a girl in the crowd who will suck my dick in the next three hours, I will get you on a big tour.” When Lawrence’s band later added a woman to their line-up, Finberg sent her a friend request “weirdly promptly, like he had been stalking her page or something.” Lawrence claims Finberg “then asked my manager if [the singer] would be willing to ‘take a private vacation’ with him to discuss ‘business opportunities.’” The band’s bassist recalls Lawrence arriving at band practice one day and informing him of Finberg’s unsolicited invitation to the band’s new singer, adding that Finberg pitched it as a “business vacation” to discuss “where they wanted to move further with the band, like that was going to get us a prestigious slot on some festival.” He adds, “I don’t know, with the way he operates, maybe it would’ve.”
On the very last tour Bonded by Blood did under Finberg’s representation, Finberg overheard Gonzalez making fun of him with another member of the touring party. Finberg’s retaliation was instant and vulgar: “He flashed his gross genitals at us in the middle of the bar attached to El Corazon in Seattle. I told him, ‘That’s sexual harassment,’ to which he replied, ‘If you tell anyone you’re fucking done, your band will never tour again.’”
And yet, the industry continues to protect John Finberg.
“I was told not to make any [social media] posts about him because it would get the promoters in trouble,” says Jennifer, the woman who ended up in the hospital after drinking in the V.I.P. section with Finberg. “Basically, I was told to shut up about it.” She adds that she spoke to other women in the industry after the incident, and that “they all said he’s known for acting this way, he’s done this to other girls, and I started hearing all the stories about him.” Jennifer conjectures that Finberg specifically targets women who work in the industry because of the power he can hold over them to remain quiet, threatening to ruin their careers. “That’s one of the reasons why people are afraid and they don’t talk.”
Stacey, the tour manager, quit working with Finberg’s band only a few days into the tour. She attempted to discuss her mistreatment with the band’s management via email, which she has shared with MetalSucks:
Stacey ended up having a voice conversation over WhatsApp with the manager following the email. “All he said to me was, ‘Oh, that’s [Finberg’s] personality,’ same as the band. ‘That’s his humor.’” Even the person who had recommended Stacey to Finberg for the job, who had previously worked as a tour manager for one of his bands, did not offer a sympathetic ear. Stacey texted her the night she quit the tour and asked to talk, but the acquaintance declined: “She said, ‘I can’t because I’m helping a band find a new tour manager.’ And that was her scolding me.”
“Everybody, I mean EVERYBODY” at the U.S. office of Century Media “knew about John,” Lawrence says. “[They] had all told me he was crazy, unpredictable, not the kind of guy you want to work with… but that if he likes you, to go with him. Because he will get you results and you will tour with his roster.” When the band passed on a chance to schmooze with Finberg after a show, Lawrence tells us, a Century employee “shamed” them.
Lawrence has e-mails from Century staff to verify his claim that the label was anxious for his band to let Finberg represent them. One such e-mail reads:
“I’m going to get [two other CM employees’] take on Finberg. He actually wouldn’t be that bad for you guys. He’s insane and crazy, but he does get stuff done. The only issue is because he’s insane and crazy, he doesn’t play well with others so you’re a bit limited… but if you look at his roster, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll tour with all of his bands.”
So why do people keep working with Finberg?
“He’s the best paying agent around for European bands,” says Shea. “He gets them the biggest guarantees.”
Ironically, Finberg secures these larger guarantees by use of dubious business practices which increase his own earnings at the expense of the band, according to Shea.
Finberg allegedly does this by selling meet-and-greet and V.I.P. packages for his own tours via a ticketing website he owns, EnterTheVault.com. For this service, Finberg takes a fee, which is not uncommon in the world of V.I.P. ticketing… but Shea claims that he also adds the V.I.P. packages sold to the same pot as regular ticket sales, thereby inflating the figures for those non-V.I.P. sales. This allows promoters — who get a 20% kick-back on sales through EnterTheVault.com – to offer the bands larger guarantees… which, in turn, increases Finberg’s own commission as their booking agent, all while allowing the promoter to use V.I.P. income to subsidize a potential loss on the show. According to Shea, “Some bands don’t understand that he’s taking a percentage from the V.I.P. tickets and from the guarantee,” effectively lowering their overall income despite the higher guarantees (booking agents typically do not touch a band’s V.I.P. income). Other large ticketing companies, Shea adds, have recently tried to employ a similar model, which “everyone is really shocked about.” But Finberg has been doing it for a decade already, he says.
Another tactic Finberg employs through his ticketing site is even more suspect, according to Shea. For Canadian shows, the manager claims, Finberg “does a one-to-one conversion from CAD to USD.” Examples of this are easy to find online: an upcoming concert by the band Powerglove at Mavericks in Ottawa, ON lists a base price of $17 CAD (before fees); a Swallow the Sun show in Montreal carries a ticket price of $23 CAD through the venue, Foufounes Electriques. But The Vault lists the same numeric prices for these shows, only in USD (see screenshots below). The exchange rate – roughly $0.75 CAD to $1.00 USD at the time of publication – suggests that Finberg is keeping approximately 25% of every ticket he sells to these shows through The Vault.
“Does the band know anything about this?” Shea asks rhetorically. “No, they don’t run through all the ticket prices. [Finberg] just pockets [the difference].” What’s more, Shea tells us, Canadian venues have been left answering to angry fans who discover cheaper ticket prices at the door than what they paid through The Vault.
At least two of Finberg’s former clients allege that Finberg’s attempts at obscuring business transactions in his favor are even less subtle than what he reportedly does with V.I.P. ticketing and EnterTheVault.com. Lawrence and Marino, the Agonist guitarist, both allege that the booking agent has outright withheld or refused to pay money owed to them. And while Marino says that Finberg did eventually pay the band what they were owed, Lawrence had no such luck.
During one of Finberg’s tours, Lawrence says, “We noticed that all of our nightly guarantees were not being paid to us. The individual promoters would tell us ‘Oh, John called and we just wired it all to him, you can square up with him later.’ Now, he attended some of these shows. One night my bassist and I approach him to ask what the hell is going on and when we are going to get our money, and all he says is, ‘You’re not going to see any of it’ and then walks away and refuses to answer our questions, refuses to look at us, pretending we aren’t even there. Like a five year old just ignoring other classmates.” So the band decided to be proactive and started calling the remaining venues on the tour in advance to make sure they could collect their nightly performance fees in person instead of having them wired to Finberg. That’s when Finberg allegedly sent the man in a suit and tie to intimidate them. Lawrence alleges that Finberg “wound up not paying us back in full after this tour.”
And none of that is taking into account at least one instance where Finberg’s behavior actively hurt his clients.
In 2015, Shea reminds us, Finberg’s taunts against the Greek people “literally made front page news” in that country. Finberg was quite upset the country’s economic downturn messed up Nightwish’s touring plans, so he took to social media to vent:
Nightwish attempted to distance themselves from Finberg after the incident, releasing a statement that said, “John Finberg is not the manager of Nightwish, he just [books] our concerts in America and apparently his ideas have nothing to do with the band.” But the damage was done: Shea tells us the band’s ability to pull fans in that country has since gone down significantly.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, as more and more of the people Finberg has mistreated step forward and speak up. “Women, especially, are finally getting fed up with it,” says Bobbie. “We don’t want to have to choose between supporting the bands we like and supporting someone who [behaves that way]. It should be pretty easy in this day and age for bands to choose to work with somebody who is not abusive towards the people that work with him.”
“I do see his name fairly often because I have friends who are musicians” Amy adds, “and it pisses me off when I see it.”
Jennifer, who says her experience with Finberg has “been eating me up ever since it happened,” believes that the bands don’t want to work with Finberg anymore. “They’re just waiting for someone to do something about [him],” she says. She adds, “I think a lot of people are afraid for their music career. A lot of us work in the industry. The bands are terrified of speaking up about it. The fact that they know it’s not an isolated case and that there are more people that have had to endure this, I think now is a good time.”
Patrick wishes more musicians were willing to take a stand against Finberg, the way he says Nature was. According to Patrick, while speaking about Finberg, the musician told him, “I’m willing to let go of my band to [reveal] any fucked up shit to the public. It’s only a band. But our morality… without that, the world is dark.”