Scammers and con men are a part of every industry and the music business is no exception. As a matter of fact, there seem to be scores of unscrupulous individuals trying to take advantage of musicians’ lofty dreams. That being said, you have to approach all potential opportunities with cautious optimism. Even though the music industry is full of sharks, you will be offered legitimate opportunities as well, so try to avoid ruining a great opportunity due to an overly defensive attitude. Remember, save the hard-ass business tactics for when a contract is actually on the table or money is changing hands. Once a deal gets to that point, you can take it up a notch, but it’s important to learn all the details first.
Do they offer “email blasts”?
this is usually a sign you should run for the hills – especially if these email blasts come with promises along the lines of sending you to X number of newspapers, magazines, journalists and music blogs. Find me a single story in a major publication that came about as the result of one of these kinds of email blasts. When was the last time you welcomed something that was “blasted” to your inbox? Marketing must be more organic than that.
Do they offer those coveted Facebook or Twitter likes for a fee?
This can get your profiles removed and it will certainly reduce your engagement to almost nothing. It also means that you’ll have to spend much more on advertising, because any genuine followers will be buried among all the fake profiles. Social media platforms are cracking down on this type of behavior.
Do they sell YouTube views and say they do it with real humans?
hey’re lying. Even when they say they do not use bots, they do. Youtube is also cracking down on this type of behavior, and I’ve seen over a dozen cases recently of music videos being taken down after months of hard work had been put into them – all because of the desire for a shortcut.
Do they not have a client list on their website? When you ask, do they only provide a few of their “top artists”?
Client lists, generally, should be public (depending on the industry). Go beyond all the site rhetoric and let Google be your truth teller. Google one company’s artists versus another to see the real results that are being driven. If you only compare one site’s rhetoric with another, you’ll end up going with whoever promises the most (almost always a poor decision).
Do they mention anything about getting a record deal?
Promises, promises. The loftier the promises, the less likely they are to come through. Stay away. There’s no need for that kind of “dangling a carrot” form of communication unless they’re referring to hard work and a team effort. Real marketing is not a one-stop shop. It’s a real, living thing and it can’t be achieved with the push of a button.
Types of people to look out for:
Consultants are abundant in many industries. They are supposed to be experts in their field. In the music business, consultants are often ex-industry people (record company executives, A & R reps, producers, songwriters, managers, etc.) who have either had success in the business or claim to have had success at some point. So, if a consultant is asking you for a fee (monthly or lump sum) in order to bring your career to the next level, what should you do? You better do your homework before handing them a dime! First let’s classify “consultants” in three possible ways.
1) Totally full of it! – These people have never had any significant success in the music business, but they talk a good game. You’ll have to watch out for these hustlers. They’ll namedrop and talk your ear off. Don’t fall for it!
2) Ex-Bigwig – The music industry has changed so much in recent years that many previously important industry players have been made irrelevant due to the new generation, record company struggles, downsizing, different business models, etc. Many of these “consultants” try to dangle their former credits in hopes of luring in starry-eyed musicians. They will offer to “get you to the next level” for a fee, but you have to ask yourself some very important questions before you enter into any agreements with these people. Are their contacts still relevant or are they dated? When was their last significant credit – five, ten, twenty years ago? Are they just telling you what you want to hear? These types of “consultants” are the most dangerous of the three in my opinion because of their impressive resumes and ability to make artists feel “special”. If you don’t believe me, read this great article from the Huffington post about a man who got scammed in exactly this way.
3) The Legit Badass – These “consultants” actually have current connections, relevancy and they can help your career. They are the people everyone wants to work with, but unfortunately they are very rare. Also, they typically don’t advertise or namedrop as much, because they are already in-demand.
It seems like everyone and their brother is claiming to be a producer nowadays. This is probably the largest category of fakers out there and you really have to do your research in order to find out who is for real. Before you sign anything with a producer or pay them a dime, you must make sure they are legit and compliment your style of music. Producers can be categorized in four ways.
1) Totally full of it! – These people are pretty easily identifiable because their music will most likely sound like crap. That being said, they’ll be able to talk a really big game and namedrop more than you thought was humanly possible. Use your ears and instinct to stay away from these gargoyles.
2) Legit, but not that current – These producers had some success a while back, but they haven’t done anything commercially successful in a while. This doesn’t mean that they’re lacking in skills or musicality; in fact they might be a perfect fit for your music. It really just depends on your style and if you gel with their aesthetic. And the real question is…what are they offering you? If they are simply promising to make your track sound awesome in their own production style (which you’re already fond of), then by all means you may have found a good match. But if they are claiming to be able to shop your track successfully and make you famous, you have to ask yourself some important questions. Why haven’t they produced a popular song in a while? Do they still have those A-List connections? How hard will they really push your music?
3) Current and Talented, but not the right fit – These producers are successful but don’t share your genre and/or aesthetic. It’s important that you find a producer that matches your vision, vibe and market. Just because someone is talented and connected in one genre doesn’t mean that they can easily cross over to another. Sometimes a producer like this will take on your project for the right amount of money, but you should consider their motives carefully. Are they really going to help you shop your music or are they just after your cash? Also, will you be happy with the results? Will it still sound like you? You have to think about all the variables here.
4) Just Right – These producers are the perfect fit. They know how to enhance your sound while retaining the essence. They have the right connections and they believe in what you’re doing. If you hook up with one of these producers it could be a match made in Narnia! That being said, you still must do some detective work and use your instincts before plopping down your life savings. Be smart!
Some engineers with major album credits may also try to bring you into their studio for a high price. Remember that engineering (and owning a studio) is a very competitive business and they’re constantly hustling for gigs just like the rest of us. Choosing an engineer and a studio should depend upon how well they can make your track(s) sound. Only in very rare circumstances will an engineer or a studio actually shop your music. Most of the time they just get paid by the hour (or day) like everyone else. I’m not going to tell you to avoid paying top dollar for a good studio or engineer…that would be silly. Just be cautious if you are promised any actual career success due to their connections. If grandiose promises are made, do your homework and find out how many people actually got famous due to these “connections”. Get the facts!
A lot of people claim to have been managers for high profile artists. Many of these “managers” attribute the great success of these artists to their guidance and/or management. This is another shark filled category and you must find out who’s for real and who’s full of it. If one of these managers is offering to break you into the business for a fee, you need to take a step back and do some serious detective work. First of all, are they still working for these high-profile artists that they’re speaking of? If not, why did they part ways? Can you find any information online about the relationship between this manager and the artist? Can you find any horror stories or warnings in the musician forums or communities? Do Your Homework!
Great, so now that we’ve made you super paranoid – what do you do? Well, you can start with a little detective work!
ou can find out a lot about a person or a business when you look at their official website. Is it clean? Does it look like it was made in 1997? Are there any musical samples on the site? If so, does the music sound professionally produced and does it fit your aesthetic? Do you see any pictures, contact info, recent news, etc.? Essentially you want to ensure that the site looks professional, impressive and gels with what you are doing. In the case that you see a lot of success stories and customer praise written on the site, you can probably disregard that completely. After all, who would put a quote on their site like, “This Guy Sucks!” – Rolling Stone Magazine.
2) Web Search – Web searches are a musician’s best friend, especially when you are trying to dig up dirt on a company or an individual. The first thing you’ll want to do is a basic search with a name and some specific keywords. If you’re researching a business, it might look something like:
“Serviceinquestion” rip off
Every one of these lines represents a separate web search. It’s important that you search multiple times with different keywords in order to get the results you need.
So what did you find out? If you found something negative, that’s obviously a red flag. If you found nothing at all, that might be a red flag too. If you found out something positive, WooHoo! This isn’t a cut and dry science, but you have to understand how much information is available to you on the web. We live in an age where information and opinions are all around us, so we must tap into these resources and use them to our advantage.
So, be wary of “opportunities” that are too good to be true. Do your research and arm yourself with all the information you can get your hands on. Thank us later!