If you’re an artist, or the parent of an aspiring artist, and you’ve spent any time searching on the Internet for ways to get started or advance your career, chances are you saw hundreds of music services presented to you through ads. They’re plastered all over music related websites.
Beware! A majority of the “opportunities” out there are created by crafty individuals waiting to prey upon your naivety.
They may be disenchanted former artists or perhaps ex-record label employees who have experience in the industry and have noticed all the new artists popping up, looking for fame and fortune. MTV and VH1 don’t help matters, as they portray artists as living in the lap of luxury. Unrealistic media portrayal of artists’ lifestyles combined with the blind ambition of new artists has created a prime market for services and products targeted towards young people who want to make it BIG. Unfortunately, most of these pie-in-the-sky operations are merely that – scams.
So how do you know if something is a scam or not?
The basic technique is to put your personal feelings aside and fully examine the opportunity, from initial contact to the offer to the conversation – everything. But don’t get so paranoid that you chase away perfectly legitimate opportunities just because of a couple red flags. Think as a businessperson and be objective. Best to consult with a trusted professional in the business, as they know trigger questions to ask solicitors to feel them out quickly and screen away the bad from the good. Sometimes they may already be aware of a scam and can simply inform you to stay away from that one.
In this age of the Internet, odds are you will be contacted via email or some other form of online communication. Pay attention to is how the email is written. Don’t be flattered just because the solicitor knows your name or your Face Book. That information is easy to come by. Take note of the “pitch” delivery. Is it very general? Could it be written to any artist or is it specific to you? These can be red flags, but should not rule out further investigation, because there could still be a real opportunity here. For the most part, someone interested in YOU will take the time to present more than compliments. But there again compliments may just be the beginning of the conversation with a legitimate person or company.
If you suspect something is funky, be professional when you call the company and be straightforward, asking why you were selected for this opportunity. Oh! By the way, if you request a phone number from a suspicious offer and get the run around, simply respond with “Thank you. We’ll pass.” If you do get a number then call and respectfully ask to be told all the facts. Be prepared for the truth and remain cool if you discover the opportunity is in fact a scam. Best not to let them know you’re onto them, because many will retaliate by spamming your site or even by sending you viruses or things of that nature. Honest businesses are happy to receive thoughtful questions because they have nothing to hide – scam companies will squirm, stutter, become overly defensive, and dodge giving answers – the old “answer the question with a question” thing.
It is your responsibility to ask questions, but it’s also your responsibility to verify the information you’ve received. Best way to do that is to ask for references. Most legitimate entities have numerous satisfied clients and customers. Don’t just take the word of a company even if all seems on the up-and-up. Ask the company for references. Best if you can get plugged into a social network where other artists network and ask them about their experience with the person or company. If the company refuses to provide references, just wash your hands of them immediately. No need to waste time here.
Be cautious of anyone guaranteeing your success with some proven method, in exchange for money. Truth is there are no proven methods that work for all. The beginning stages of an artist’s career does have basic building blocks, but the action plan is unique to each individual based upon their sphere of influence, talent, budget, lots of luck, and many other factors. The music industry is not an industry of “guarantees”, so if someone guarantees you something and you decide to take them up on it, then at least get it in writing.
Filtering is a good thing. If a showcase producer opens the flood gates and let’s every person who wants to be on stage pay a fee and get on stage, then who do you think will be in the audience? Odds are only friends and family members of the people on stage, and that’s most likely how the producer intends to make his money. However, if the showcase producer auditions 1000 artists, and only selects a handful of artists to be showcased, then the producer will be inclined to spend his resources promoting and cultivating those artists and promoting the showcase to industry professionals who might actually be interested in offering a deal to the artist, which in this case is how the producer makes his money. So if you have to audition and wait to be selected, that’s actually a good thing, because there is a vested interest in those artists selected on the part of the showcase producer. The artists’ success means the producer’s success, so the producer is going to work hard on behalf of anyone they’ve filtered into their camp in order to make the real money!
The music business has many challenges but many rewards too. You just have to use your instinct and make sure you don’t get wrapped up in the compliments and wishy-washy excuses for lack of information. Use your intuition or find a reputable music business consultant to screen your “opportunities” for you until you get your radar adjusted properly.
Owner: SBray Productions, LLC
Co Founder: “Be IT!”