Not getting scammed is one of those music industry things that always ends up being much easier said than done. Far too often people will dump hundreds of dollars into someone only to get limited or no actual support from scammers. It’s part of what has made so many folks in the music industry leery of spending money outside of commissions, even though at lower levels we all know that commissions don’t really work at all. So you are going to need to pay people – it’s the how, why and when that allows you to figure out if the people you have paid are here to scam you or if they are going to help you to build something greater for yourself and your friends.
The first, and most obvious way to tell if you are dealing with scammers is if the person in question does not consent to regular phone calls and does not reliably respond to to emails. This isn’t always the case, I have a few people on my team who are just bad at email, but it should raise a few red flags. The fact of the matter is that you are the client and you should be treated well. If people are regularly taking over a week to get back to you, if at all, then perhaps you should start to worry about whether or not this is someone you should be trusting with your money, and quite possibly the future of your career, be it as it may.
Another important way to tell if you are dealing with a low life is to see how many of your friends have worked with them. In this industry everyone knows everybody else, and if there is more than one degree of separation between you and another person you should start to worry. Again – this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are out to get you, but it should raise another red flag. If they can impress you with their resume and connections then you know that you are at least on the right track, but be sure to keep this in mind as you move forward. People who get by on shady connections alone are not the kind of people you want on your team. Generating a posse to back you up is a key part of the music industry, but remember, with things like this, you and your team are only as strong as your weakest link.
Tied into that previous sentiment is that you want to see what this person has done before. Maybe there role has never been quite like what they are doing for you, but make sure that they a least have some credentials to back them up. If you’re trying to promote a strong professional culture around your band you don’t necessarily want to be the guy who gives some new kid trying to break in a chance. And if you do give said new kid a chance, make sure you vet them very carefully. The fact of the matter is that most people trying to break into this industry don’t realize the hard work that it requires and are going to end up screwing themselves, and you over. That’s not an indictment of any individuals, just a brutal truth they all will have to deal with.
Why am I so concerned with this. Aren’t a lot of these basic truths that people should be aware of? Yes. But you can never be too clear in the music industry, and you have to work hard, and fight hard in order to make sure that you get what needs to be done done. Every day is a struggle and sometimes it pays off to have reminders of what you need to be watching out for. If you think these things are obvious, good, that means you have a step up, but this article isn’t for you, it’s for the young kids trying to find their way in an industry that far too often hurts them. I’ve been that kid who was hurt time an time again and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.
I hope that this doesn’t come off as overtly doom and gloom either – there is a lot to be said for this industry in as much as people seem to be coming around and realizing that honor really matters. We had a rough few years to be sure, and still have people in dark corners of the internet preying on bands, but it seems like things are moving forward. Yet we still need to be careful. The glut of lies that exploded with the internet have permanently scared the collective psyche, and I think we will all be dealing with that side of things for a good long while.
This might all sound very romantic, and I want to emphasize, you should not be establishing a culture of opposition. That is to say, don’t think tha you are fighting the whole world, this is probably not the case. That only leads to paranoia and being paranoid is going to make people dislike you. Instead you need to be willing to embrace people, but also show that you are long in the tooth and able to tell what’s what. It’s a careful balance to strike, but there is a way to be friendly and open, whilst sincerely demonstrating that yes, there is a limit and you do not want to be crossed. Finding that path has the potential to make or break your career.