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"I just want other bands to know they should stay away from Talent 2K, period."

Homegrown blues guitarist Paul Alvarado, 49, says he has been playing music for over 30 years. But last year he thought his band D.A. & the Hitmen could use a career jump start. He hired a Phoenix-area company called Talent 2K. Now he says he wished he hadn't.

"I came across their ad three years ago in a magazine. It said, 'Let us shop your demo.' " Alvarado sent in his demo, and he got a letter back from Talent 2K president Carlo K. Oddo that reads, "We receive over 100 demos per week, and we only select a limited amount of new clients a month. You have been accepted and pass all of our screening procedures.... If you are serious about making it in the music industry, call me as soon as possible."

Alvarado says, "We picked program number 2. For $450 they say they contact 15 record labels and 5 management firms. If you pay $995, which was the most expensive, they contact 35 record companies and 20 managers."

Alvarado said he signed up with Talent 2K because of a written promise that said, "If we do not get you an offer within 240 days, we will refund your money in full, no questions asked."

Alvarado has a signed agreement with Talent 2K dated February 5, 2003. He said no managers or record companies have called. He said he even ponied up an additional $200 in June of last year.

"They sent me a letter saying they were real close to getting a deal and that they wanted to send our demo to another 35 companies, but they needed another $200. I figured what do I have to lose but another $200."

But there were no record deals. No bites from managers.

"The 240 days were over by November." But the money-back refund did not appear.

"There was no communication. We called and left messages. We wrote e-mails. They ceased to have any contact with me. There was also a letter sent from my lawyer that they never responded to."

Oddo returned a call to me saying he would have no comment on the record.

Alvarado said that, on the advice of his attorney, he plans to go to Arizona to file a small-claims-court suit against Oddo and Talent 2K.

D.A. & the Hitmen's CD, Looking Past the Blues, was nominated at the 2003 San Diego Music Awards for "Best Blues CD." They appear November 21 at Squid Joe's in Carlsbad and November 27 at Rosie O'Grady's in Normal Heights. Both venues are 21 and up.

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