Silver Lake club owner sings the blues over illegal poster fines

There is probably not a single utility pole, newsrack or bus bench in Silver Lake that has not been slapped with a band or concert poster.  While these posters attract attention of music fans, they might also catch the attention of the city, which can impose fines on the illegal signs.  Those fines start at $300 for the first poster and $6.25 for each additional poster removed by city workers from a pole, according ABC7. Those fines can quickly add up not only for bands but for the clubs that book them.  Jeff Wolfram of The Satellite told ABC7 that he has paid a total of $5,000 in fines in recent years and the amount keeps climbing:

“It makes me angry,” said Jeff Wolfram, owner of The Satellite. Wolfram is bearing the burden of the bands that perform at his venue, even though he warns them not to advertise that way. “I’ve paid every one. I’ve never gotten a band to pay yet,” said Wolfram.

He has stacks of letters from the city – some of them coming to him more than a year later. He said he’s paid about $5,000 in the last couple of years.

“We’re in a recession, so we’re not making a ton of money. We’re struggling to survive every day, and then we just keep getting these letters that keep stacking up. The other day, I think I got six of them in the mail in one day, and it was over a year span of different bands – all in one day,” said Wolfram.

The story notes that it is not only musicians and club owners who run the risk of being fined for violating the city’s illegal poster law. The same fines can be applied to flyers posted for lost animals and garage sales.


  1. thats pretty stupid and unfair.. but we ARE in a recession and theres a tax cap in CA… this is the ironic consequences of the anti-tax pro small-business movement. Small businesses are hit with mounting fees and citations to make up for the municipal cash shortage resulting from the tax cap. So instead of all of us paying a little more, some of us.. the small business “job creators” , are forced to pay disproportionately… neanderthal politics.

    • What the flock are you talking about? The only jobs they’re creating is the city workers who have to remove the blight. I hope these criminal’s post flyers on your car and home and see how you like it. Some of the worst offenders are for events at the Pomona Fair Grounds and for local politicians. All should be heavily fined.

  2. And yet illegal billboards/gigantic posters are able to stay up on buildings? Cool.

  3. There is nothing unfair about it. He should just sue the bands or book them again and pay them less the fees they have accrued. They broke the law and are contributing to litter. Why should I have to pay so someone else can rake in money on liqour and door sales or some little douchebag with a guitar and a sense of entitlement can flaunt the law and the wishes of his or her employer? This has nothing to do with how much money thecity does or doesnt have. That ordinance exists regardless of the state of the economy. Should I be able to spraypaint advertising for my business on your car or house without ramifications? People get apoplectic about advertising when it comes to billboards and signs painted on the sides of buildings. Why should bands and clubowners get a pass? Just because you like them?

  4. Seems like a way for clubs to put competing clubs out of business by duplicating posters of their competitors and posting them everywhere, all the time. As the code seems to have no provision for ‘proof of posting’ other than the poster/flyer being posted, it doesn’t matter ‘who’ posted it?

    And even if the artist did post it, the city will probably never go after the artist since the club is WAY easier to find and FINE and COLLECT.

    Yeah, sounds fair :-/

  5. Yeah, its totally unfair to go after the business to which the advertising directed customers to go because, *wink wink* he told the bands not to do it. As to the brilliant idea of sinking the competition, sending all your clientele to your competition is a surefire way to make sure someone goes out of business.

    • Sorry man, but IMO you are WAY outta touch.

      First, the club in question said they paid $5000 in fines due to this, and it’s been ongoing for years. Your logic is that the club is not seriously warning bands to do this??? Posters/flyers in public are essentially useless for promoting live music clubs, they are more effective for getting the bands NAME out, but people RARELY go to a show after randomly seeing a flyer. In fact, as a musician who’s played in bands for years (and knows countless others), I’ve yet to hear ONE case of that actually happening. Again, what it does is promote the bands NAME. Look it as brand recognition. There are many thousands of bands that play clubs, that no one knows about, but only a few actual music clubs, so anyone that would go to see live music knows about the clubs already.

      As to your 2nd point, read what I’ve said above. Nobody goes to live music clubs due to random poster/flyers in public. In fact, I’m willing to put $$ on it. Go to the Satellite club on a typical music night with local acts, stand at the door and ask every customer that pays to go in if they only came due to randomly seeing a publicly posted flyer. I bet not 1 person would confirm so. This is why it would be easy to sink the competition via city fines (of which it seems you’re guilty with no right to prove innocence), because it’s a know fact amongst bands and clubs that public flyers don’t affect the door, just band name recognition.

  6. Regardless of whether a person would go to a concert or music venue after seeing a poster, it is illegal to post advertisement on poles and other substrates without a permit from the City. For those of you who know me and for those who do not, I have been working at a graffiti abatement program for the past 20 years and as far as I know the ordinance has been in effect for many years prior to my 20 years. I used to go to work and find all kinds of advertisement/signs on my desk. The staff still removes illegal signage but takes it to the trash now-a-days. The ordinance includes all sorts signage including political posters!

  7. Everyone needs to be paid. If you take away the illegal advertising, you will take away the job of someone who is paid to remove it. Street teams don’t scrutinize where they put the flyers. It’s all about money. How can I monopolize off of this? Can I promote my band? Can I promote my club? Can I enforce my law? The smart will be able to find a way to make money off of their experience rather than living it. Can’t we just all get along? No.

  8. Since when is one liable for the actions of an unassociated party?

    • I should say “unauthorized” party. I want to understand how the club owner is forced to take responsibility for something that someone else did without their permission. I would think that the burden is on the city to show that he did encourage them to do this.

      • Exactly.

        Why isn’t the city fining AT&T for flyers/posters that only have phone #’s on them? Sounds like the exact same line of liability that the city is using to fine clubs for posters they didn’t authorize, put up, nor encourage.

        I’m extremely surprised that this can stand up in court, but I’m assuming ‘The Satellite’ already researched that avenue and decided to pay the fines instead.

        Still, I can’t imagine how a judge could rule in the favor of the city if one was to use the example I mentioned above about fining AT&T for phone #’s on flyers.

  9. Also, as one who has played at many clubs though out the years, NONE of them encouraged us to put up flyers/posters in public, NONE. Now, back in the day the city apparently never or rarely enforced this code, so many clubs also didn’t really need to make a mention of it.

  10. EVERYONE is missing the fact that Outdated “Yard Sale” signs, the outdated “lost cat ” or “lost dog” signs , and ALL the other crap people pollute the city with are just as bad as the band posters/fliers .
    Why is it exclusive to band posters ?
    Im sick of seeing peoples hand made signs touting their junk than leaving their signs up in the neighborhood !
    When your yard sale is done or your cat or dog is found , find your way back to the pole you plastered your signs up and pick up after yourself !
    LAME !

    • I’m with Yip in wishing people would take down their own signs, but since that rarely happens, I try to be proactive. When I’m walking the dog I’ll remove old yard/moving/rummage sale signage I pass. It may be seen as a double standard but I’ll leave lost or found pet notices alone for the chance however slim it offers a guardian to be reunited with their animal. The ones I pull down right away are any straight-up commercial advertisements — the most common ones lately being carpet cleaning company flyers that usually attached via shipping tape wound several times around the pole. The irony of a cleaning company making such a mess of my neighborhood reminds me of the time a few years ago when Molly Maid papered practically every pole on both sides of Sunset across Echo Park and Silver Lake with their garish posters.

    • It’s not exclusive to band posters – ” The same fines can be applied to flyers posted for lost animals and garage sales.”

      • Right yes , i get that , but they are NOT being fined. The fines seem exclusively for band fliers .Go to the address where the old yard sale was and fine them too !

  11. here, here! @yip.

    Please include production signs with arrows in that list, though.

  12. i was fined as the building owner of a tenant who had a third party perform one time in their space. the third party put up flyers with my tenant’s address and i was the only one they could locate so i got the fine.

    i’m pretty sure the way the city enforces this ordinance is seriously unconstitutional. love love love to see it challenged in court.

    • @skr: So is this ‘fair’ too?

      • Pretty much, as landlords are responsible for their tenants. A landlord is required to know about the legal activities of their tenants. If a landlord knowingly allows a tenant to break the law (most especially evident wrt drug activity) they are culpable and if they are ignorant they are negligent. None of which precludes the landlord from seeking verifiable damages (fines etc) from the tenant.

        • skr, ‘stella’ said he was fined for a 3rd party performing at his tenants place ONE TIME.

          ‘stella’ also said that he/she was the only party that could be located (i.e. tenant and 3rd party are long gone).

          How is this fair to ‘stella’ if this was a one time deal? Do you expect stella to predict the future and preempt the flyer posting of a 3rd party?

          You have a strange world view of what’s deemed ‘fair’, lol.

          • And landlords are only liable for the illegal activity of tenants if it is know/proven. As in the drug activity example, it has to be proven the landlord has knowledge and has ignored it.
            It isn’t the case (as in the flyer postings) of ‘guilty’ regardless of knowledge, participation and no due process to prove otherwise (and zero burden on the city to prove culpability).

          • I’m sure he had no problem cashing the check the funds of which were probably derived from said illegal activity. I’m sure he is more careful when choosing his tenants now.

          • I would like to say that I was only arguing the fairness of the responsibility ultimately laying with the property owner wrt the city. The douchebag tenants were completely unfair to him.

  13. Can I get tree services / auto insurance agencies / realtors / restaurants / gold’s gym fined for leaving their flyers on my property every day? Or does the city not care about businesses littering on other people’s private property?

  14. So much for a music scene in LA.

    Culture – who needs it anyway, right?

  15. It seems the prevailing line of reasoning is that the club owner shouldn’t be responsible for the actions of his or her employees acting in an unauthorized manner. By that same reasoning, a bank should not be held responsible for the actions of one of its investment bankers who defrauds people out of billions of dollars as long as no one told him to do it.

    • It’s not the ’employees’ of the clubs that are posting flyers.

      No amount of warning to bands/artists will prevent some from posting flyers of their shows. Not verbal, not even signed contracts. Bands form and break up on a weekly basis, so good luck on trying to track down and collect from one of their ‘illegal’ postings.

      Perhaps if we had an environment where live music clubs existed on ever corner like starbucks, this issue wouldn’t be as scary. But when you can count the amount of live music clubs in LA on your fingers and toes, contrasted with the many multiple thousands of bands/artists that want to play there, it seems dually unfair to target business who have no control over other peoples actions, yet are found liable and fined for it.

      If the city enforces this code w/o due processes (with an iron fist), it will doom EVERY music club, through NO fault of their own. With all the clubs gone, there will be no more revenue stream to the city from the club (taxes, etc.), and no more clubs to fine for public flyers postings that they never endorsed anyway. It will essentially outlaw live music clubs. NO one will ever attempt to open a new club or run one under these conditions.

      • The club pays the people in the band for their labor. That makes them employees. You could say they are independent contractors but without contracts and formal organization which you seem to indicate is rare, I would think that it would default to them being in the temporary employ of the venue. If a contractor hires a day laborer and that day laborer steals from someone’s house, you don’t think the contractor is going to be held responsible?

        • As mentioned in my posts below, most of the bands play for FREE.

          In your contractor analogy: How is the contractor liable for a day laborer that steals from a house down the street? What law code is that????

        • As Fleaman said, on the scale of a club (ie. not arena) many bands do not get paid. Those who do have no contract, tax forms, or any other such document that would legally make them an employee of the venue. In other words, no they are not employees, which is probably why the tickets are being sent (unfairly) to the venue.

          Beyond that there’s the issue of WHICH band posted the flyer. A friend of mine had to pay one of these once on behalf of his band, when in fact it was another band who put the poster up. The whole situation is much more complicated than a flyer for a computer repair company, or any other single party. It’s really unfortunate.

          • on the contrary, most bands do get paid, albeit a rather small amount. and not enough to require tax documentation. i second the importance of music venues, and having been in bands since the 80s, find a little less fault in the posting of flyers. i, like some others here, am much more bothered by the massive waste of paper that is solicited to my residence every single day. much more environmentally destructive, much more wasteful, and promotes junk consumerism.

        • Correction. The club does NOT pay the people in the band for their “labor”. If that were the case it would be a dream come true, and musicians would actually make money in L.A… You clearly have no idea how the L.A. music scene works. A band is LUCKY to get some chump change from the door, but only AFTER you’ve brought in 30+ people or so. Most rock clubs (Viper Room, Whiskey, Roxy, etc) are “pay to play”… that means the band PAYS the club to be allowed to perform there. The band buys a certain number of tickets from the club for a certain price, and it is then the bands’ possibility to sell these tickets on their own. If you don’t sell all your tickets, you not only lost money but you get scolded from the club for not filling their venue. I’m a professional drummer who’s played hundreds of shows in L.A. over the past 10 years. I’ve played in almost every club. Rarely have I gotten paid being a “band member” performing at a venue. I was never an “employee”, not even an “independent contractor” of a venue. The venue doesn’t send out 1099’s at the end of the year for their “band employees”… because there’s no such thing! If I don’t charge my going rate as a “hired gun” I will play for free. Ask any “band leader” and they will tell that for the most part, their band is losing money playing in L.A. (unless they’re a wedding band or something). To make anything, you have to get outside the city.
          That being said, I think it’s BS that the club has to pay for the flyers.

  16. Now if someone were to argue that it shouldn’t be illegal to post on public property since its the public doing the posting on what is ultimately their property, I could get behind that argument. However, I don’t think most people around here would like the ultimate ramifications of that policy.

  17. Not to mention the other bands that are mentioned on the same flyer (playing with the band that posted), who have no idea that another band put their name on the flyer line up. Are those other bands liable for fines too?


    • This is probably why the venue as employer is ultimately held responsible as this brings up an interesting question. I would have a hard time holding one band accountable for the unknown actions of another band on the bill with whom they may never have had any contact before the gig.

      • Then venue is NOT an employer!! Most all bands play for free. The exception being the minority few that bring in a large door, and they probably don’t post bills on public property.

        skr, you obviously have not played in a band at these venues.

        Either way, even if this is one case that you might stamp as unfair, the city is can still enforce and fine the other bands on the flyer, especially if they are easier to find and fine than the initial band that actually posted the flyers. This is the exact same road to liability logic the city is using to fine clubs. FYI, there are bands that play clubs that the club has had absolutely NO contact with. They are usually playing as a guest of another band booked for that night.

        The city is basically enforcing a code by the easiest way of collection, all by withholding ANY due process. This opens up a HUGE can of worms. Will the city now fine Metallica for all the ‘Metallica” graffiti it finds? ‘Metallica’ stickers on public property (including buses, etc.)??

  18. Has anyone ever gone to a venue or solicited a business who advertises this way?

    The point is that it is pointless liter.

    “Give a hoot, don’t pollute!” O O

  19. @skr January 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm Posted>>
    ” I’m sure he (stella) had no problem cashing the check the funds of which were probably derived from said illegal activity. I’m sure he is more careful when choosing his tenants now.”
    (line of ‘replies’ exhausted, so new post here)

    Wow skr, you’re making a LOT of assumptions about stella with 0% evidence to the contrary. I’m only taking stella’s comments at face value, and in such a case (that stella knew NOTHING of this, that it was a one time deal), the city can still fine stella and get away with it according to the city’s code enforcement. According to you (minus your assumptions), this is still ‘fair’??

    It’s not unlike the massive amount of assumptions you’ve made regarding bands/clubs and the so called ‘biz’ of it and the culpability of the parties involved.

  20. i think skr and fleaman should exchange emails and they can go back and forth all they want…………

    • Excellent idea! I actually only post on public forums so that I can meet strangers, exchange emails, and then continue the fun and information sharing privately.

      You might be onto something pi=, maybe you should start your own public forum/website for such a task??

  21. you bore me…………

    • Apparently not.

      It’s quite impressive actually. You read through all of the comments, including skr’s and mine, go through the trouble of posting something irrelevant to the topic at hand, I therefor decide to balance your incredibly life changing post with yet another life changing post, of which you seem to continue to be entertained by, and yet your still here!!

      With the addition of pi= to the drama cast, we have now successfully changed the subject of public flyer posting codes and their ramifications, to pi=’s incisive insights on skr, myself, and well, the super exciting topic of boredom (normally too exciting for the eastsider to post about).

      What’s next? I can’t wait!

      Or perhaps you might move onto better and more productive tasks such as starting a .com start-up that will tackle the topics you’ve so eloquently brought to our attention? Please post the link here, if you’re not too busy counting your millions after going public with the start-up.

  22. Hey fleaman, in the contractor analogy I never said anything about down the street. However if the laborer stole from the house in which the contractor hired him to work the contractor would hold civil liability for the theft since he brought the laborer onto the property.
    As far as band payment is concerned, none of those bands get drink tickets or a share of the door? Maybe a lack of payment or payment that is dependant upon attendance offers a perverse incentive for the bands to market in violation of the law in a desperate attempt to increase the door.
    I think the real question is what would happen if the business owner to whom the illegal advertising directs customers were not held ultimately responsible for the advertisement. Business owners would be able to say that they never told anyone to post those regardless ofthe validity of that statment in order to avoid penalty. Everyone and their brother would post advertisement everywhere avoiding ramifications with a glib, “wasn’t me.”

    • As I mentioned many times before, posting flyers in public does nothing for the door, all it does is get the bands NAME out, branding. In any case, you’re making a huge leap in still blaming the club for the fault of the bands actions via them NOT paying them? You seem to be stretching here. Let me ask you this>> WHAT CAN THE CLUB DO TO PROTECT ITSELF FROM THESE FINES THEN?? WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE CLUB???

      Contractor analogy> How is the Club (contractor) ‘hiring’ the band (day laborer) to post flyers in public (of which the club doesn’t operate), before the actual date of the show? That the band usually plays for free, and yes, there are times when they don’t get free drinks (though rare).
      You’re talking about a contractor hired by a party who owns the property that the contractor works on. I don’t see the analogy with clubs/bands.

      As to your ramifications of business owners posting ads for themselves and not being held responsible: Well, in those cases it seems rather open and shut. The motive is 100% for the business, there are no other parties related. Say a ad promoting Tarot card readings. There’s only 1 party involved. There is no reasonable motive for anyone else besides the Tarot card biz to post ads.
      For band flyers there’s many parties implicated, but yet usually only 1 party involved. Lets look at a typical case of the Silverlake lounge monday night free show (no cover charge).
      1. Silverlake Lounge: The actual bar/club business
      2. The Fold: The actual promoter. Does not own the bar/club.
      3. The bands: There is usually a ‘host’ band and most of the rest of the bands play as the guest of the host.

      Typically there will be 4 bands playing on a Monday. So that’s 6 parties implicated of which only 1 party can be responsible for. And remember, there is NO door charge, the bands get squat.

      I can’t see you can make no distinction between this and businesses who’s ads on public property only promote ONE party, the motive is for only ONE party, and the benefit of the ad (for the biz) is for only ONE party—all of which is the same single business.

  23. You awaken one fine afternoon, brew a cup of fresh coffee, see an envelope on the floor under the mail slot of your front door. You takes the first sips from your coffee mug while standing in your P.J.’s and open the envelope addressed to you sent from Official Business of The Los Angeles County District Attorney.

    Inside you find an Invoice or Bill, or shall we call it A Demand to Pay along with a listing of the consequences which await if you choose to delay.

    50 or 60 or 100 thousand Dollars is the balance which is owed.

    Accumulated Child Support, fines, fees and interest which is owed to the court.

    Your wages shall be garnished, bank accounts levied, tax refund withheld, California Driver’s License revoked and U.S. Passport renewal denied.

    But you are not worried, this is all just a clerical error – a phone call or two is the effort you estimate is needed for the mistake to be cured.

    After a phone call or two, you get the good news. You are the legal father of a child now going on several years. The D.A. has f inally found you and offers an appointment to set up a schedule for payment of Child Support in Arrears.

    Instead you insist that this can’t be your kid – its impossible, of that you are sure. You are ready to submit a paternity test to prove it.

    And then you are told the next bit of strange news. You can keep your paternity test, the law does not care what it proves – lets get down to business, someone must pay us this money.

    At this point, your mind is spinning – you forget all about the pesky bills from the city fining you for posting without a permit that a band will perform next Monday at 11pm – photocopied in black and white on an 8″ X 12″ flyer.

    The fines you have recieved because somebody posted a flyer – they are tyranny for sure. But just another small tyranny which we have accepted. When it happens to someone else – somebody should do something to have it corrected. On this point we all agree – it should be corrected. Oh well, we will just wait and see – its not as important as if it was happening to me.

    Some years ago a woman gave birth to a child at the County Hospital. You had seen the woman who became the mother only once or twice – briefly and in public when she was dating your friend. Up till this day you had never seen her again nor did you know that when her child was born she filled out the paperwork listing you as the Father.

    You have two kids of your own for which you work to pay that they are clothed and well fed. The law doesn’t care – those children live with you in your home. The monies you owe are for Child Support of another persons kid.

    Your own children may starve – thats no concern of this court. We have your name listed and we know where you live and the place of your work. As far as the law and the county is concerned – that is the easiest and best place to start.

    Small tryranny? List this one as Big tyranny.

    But this is what we have passively sat by and accepted. All tyrannies. Tyranny all.

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