“This is a stick up! Give me your dreams, punk!”
Hi all. Today’s post is something that I talk about often in Facebook statuses and emails, but strangely have never dedicated an article to the topic – how to tell if your band is getting scammed. It’s very simple, but absolutely necessary in this world of “free for all” industry people. Many artists aren’t sure how to properly research companies and industry individuals before choosing to work with them. This leads to thousands, possibly millions, of artists getting ripped off. When you get ripped off you become jaded, and you view the world through a lens of cynicism. This often leads to the downfall of your music career.
In our “music with depth” movement, this is something I see every single day. I see it in the jaded perceptions of artists, and also in the malicious approach of many industry people who seem to think nothing of delivering scraps for high prices.
So how do we avoid scammers in the music industry, whether they be managers, label reps, licensing companies, magazines, PR companies, or tour companies? It seems way too simple, but…put them through the Google test. You’d be very surprised how many artists just do a quick search, verify that there’s an official website, and proceed from there.
1) The first thing you’ll want to do is Google them. Do they have an official website? Is it well designed?
2) Do they have a client list? Perfect. Google each one of their clients. Look for CD reviews, magazine features, blog posts, articles, podcast and radio play. If they don’t list any clients, that may not be a good sign, but you can always request a partial client list and then go through this process.
3) Contact a few of the artists directly to see what their experience was like. Artists generally like to help each other out with honest first-hand advice. It’s fine for artists to appear on Google searches, but in some cases they may have done that work themselves before aligning with said company or industry person. It’s important to make sure that the results you see are genuine.
4) Company presence. Look closely at the company presence on Google. You’ll come across their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and related profiles. Do they have influence? Do they have engagement? Are they growing?
5) Over-promising. It’s fine to promise what your service actually is. For example, promising 1,000 CD’s duplicated, high quality t-shirts, competent management, or in our case, delivered press and reviews. However, many companies and individuals use psychological sales tricks to carve a much bigger slice of pie for themselves. This is the promise market. If you come across websites that flash promises such as “Has Your Music Been Featured In The New York Times?” (a promise advertised by Beatwire.com), “Get Your Music Sent To 10,000 Journalists”, “Get Signed!”, or anything along those lines, those are fish hooks. Credible companies don’t use outlandish statements like that.
Bottom line: If they want $5,000 a month for “world class promotion”, but they have 232 Facebook followers and no press for their business, run for the hills!
This article was actually inspired by an email I received yesterday from a concerned mother. I asked her if it was ok if I used it as an example, and she immediately said that if it will help other musicians avoid this pitfall, please do.
Hello IMP, my name is ____ and I’d really appreciate it if you could answer a question for me: My son is a musician & he was contacted by a promoter who was very interested in his music. I’ve tried to do some background work on said guy & company but I am coming up empty handed. My question is this: The guy told him that he was gonna sign him for only 60 days and that he needed $500.00 to get started putting his music out there. I don’t know whether payment should be made upfront or not. Does this sound right to you? I find it to be a li’l fishy! I’m only trying to look after the interest of my son, so your help is most appreciated! Thanks for the attention you have given my message… Sincerely, ____!
Hi Tina, thanks for getting in touch, and I’m honored actually that you’d come to me for advice.
Here are my thoughts, and they’re simple on the matter.
ANY individual or company that works with musicians and is looking for business should have plenty of verifiable results on Google. Why? Google displays everything. If it’s a PR company (as in my case), you should be able to look up the company and see articles, reviews, interviews, publicity. Also, you should be able to look up each of the artists they’ve worked with, once again in a simple Google search, and see lots of good results (reviews, blog posts, features, etc).
If a company has no Google results, run for the hills. Seriously. If they have no results, that should mean they are just getting started, so it would be logical to offer first time clients great deals and be candid about that.
About the 2nd issue: paying in advance is quite normal, especially in areas where hourly work is required. Often companies need the funds in order to pay their workers and allot full resources to a campaign or artist. Otherwise an artist can run off, and the hours can’t be taken back. It would be a poor business model in many industries to accept payment when the job is done. That being said, the person or company should have a great reputation so you know for a fact they won’t rip you off.
I’d run from this particular situation. There is NO excuse for having no Google results, especially for someone who promises to “get music out there”. Out where? If they can’t get their own name anywhere they certainly can’t do it for anyone else.
I hope that helps and I wish you the best,