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Police fans, watch out!

If you don't manually cancel your membership to The Police fan club before your year is up, you'll be billed another $100.

I've written about "fan clubs" before--by and large, I think they're a scam by which very popular artists and concert promoters can charge even more money than the already ridiculous list prices. Usually, "fan clubs" make you pay a one-time fee of something like $100 for the right to buy tickets slightly earlier than the unwashed masses, then they throw in a couple of nearly worthless perks. In the case of The Police, I got the "right" to buy tickets near the top of the arena, access to online chat rooms, and a poster worth about $5. (There are exceptions--apparently Dave Matthews Band's fan club is worth the price of admission.)

You were planning on seeing them again on this leg of the tour, weren't you?

Fine, I was willing to pay. Once.

Happily, I happened to check out the Lefsetz Letter today and in reading through e-mails from his readers (scroll down), I noticed that The Police fan club is automatically renewing fan club memberships and charging consumers another $100 unless they GO TO THE WEB SITE AND OPT OUT. Even if you have no intention of seeing them on the final leg of their U.S. tour, even if you'll never buy another Police ticket, album, or piece of paraphernalia in your life, you will be charged $100 for another year's access to the messageboards plus "a new premium item along with some exclusive bonus material that will not be available anywhere else" (it sounds like some exclusive online video, or perhaps they'll be generous and actually ship a DVD). This nugget of useful information was buried at the very end of a mass e-mail announcing the U.S. tour with Elvis Costello. I ignore those e-mails because they sent me one every time they announced new dates. An online document explaining the automatic re-charge is here.

Unconscionable. If you get burned by this, I'm not sure you'll have any recourse. You can contact your credit card company and try to do a charge back, but I'm guessing that notification of this automatic re-up was included somewhere in the original contract, so good luck. I'm hoping that if enough people get burned, someone will launch a class-action suit.

It's amazing, but the recording industry seems absolutely committed to wringing every last buck out of fans' hands, with absolutely no concern for the long-term health of the business.