writes on March 14, 2017
Scams are born from the needs (read: desperation) of the market. A lot of young, hungry artists are willing to hand out hundreds or thousands of dollars in the hopes of “breaking into” the music industry.
What they fail to realize is that there are no shortcuts to success and every step takes hard work.
No one can attribute their success to the one time they paid for an interview with a music executive. They perfected their craft until an opportunity they deserved and were prepared for grew out of their work.
Today, many artists are jaded by the scam culture surrounding the music industry. It’s hard to tell the difference between a scam and a real opportunity. Sometimes, scammers will go to extreme lengths to trick artists making it harder to see through.
We’ve compiled a list of industry scams to better equip everyone in recognizing what’s real and what’s not.
You get a direct message or email from an “industry professional” claiming they like your music and want to get you featured on Spotify or charting on ReverbNation. They explain to you how much you stand to make from high streaming numbers and, for a fee, they will get you there.
These scammers appear legitimate because they’re quick to provide examples of artists they got to a million streams or more. But they don’t give out details of how they’re able to do this. In truth, they’re using “bots” or software designed to click or refresh a link over and over again.
Scams like these are detectable because the bots’ work is not entirely invisible—IP addresses can be used to see the location for streaming activity. Music Journalist Ari Herstand was able to uncover one band’s inflated, false stream numbers with a few clicks. The next day the band’s entire profile was removed from the streaming platform.
Placement scams are difficult to define as there are legitimate opportunities available and the copycats can seem legitimate with some ease. The scam consists of creating a profile and submitting your music to tv, film, and commercial music reps looking for songs. They take your money through a monthly subscription cost or upfront fee.
The best way to discern whether a site is a scam or not is to conduct a simple Google search.
If adding “scam” to the site name returns complaints of fraud, you have your answer.
Pay-to-Perform scams are the most common and come in all shapes and sizes. They exist entirely on the desperation of musicians striving for a chance to perform in front of large audiences.
Shows will solicit musicians to pay a fee in order to perform for celebrity judges or A&R reps with the assumption their approval puts your music in the hands of someone willing to offer you a contract. It doesn’t. Your performance fee pays the judge’s appearance fee, you play, and then the show’s over.
You may be asked to pay for a slot opening for a major artist—the artists aren’t aware of how opening acts are chosen and have little to no interaction with them. Festivals also charge performance fees and consequently pack their stages to wring as much money as possible from musicians.
Some venues or promoters will tell you to buy a certain amount of tickets (which you get to resell) to secure a slot, and the more tickets you sell the better your show time.
Musicians should not be in charge of selling tickets to a show. That’s the promoter’s job.
The notion that musicians should pay for performance slots is bogus. Legit opportunities to showcase your music will come when someone thinks you’re good enough to take a chance on, or you have a proven following that will buy tickets to see you. If someone’s offering you a performance slot without hearing your music, that’s red flag number one.
Scammers will try to disguise themselves as consultants, producers, engineers, and ex-industry movers. They’ll listen to your stuff, for a fee, and let you know what to work on so you can finally break into the industry. Or they’ll listen for a fee and if they like what they hear, which they always do, they’ll send your music to someone “in the business.”
Notice that they’re not offering you a contract or anything other than an opinion and a file share. These scammers don’t have anything of substance to offer but play on naive musicians’ hunger to be heard and for that quick break.
For big payoffs, scammers will go to any length to separate musicians from their money. This month, an Atlanta rapper revealed a scam where he was flown to Detroit under the assumption he’d be signing a record deal. He was asked to front a fraction of the costs for kickstarting his career. Five thousand dollars later he was alone in a restaurant in Dearborn, Michigan.
Scammers will also rent office spaces for a limited time, parade “success stories” through the office upon your visit, and ghost themselves a month later when you try to contact them. In a couple months’ time, they’ll have signed as many artists as possible for upfront money to cover branding and marketing fees.
“…legitimate professionals don’t mind waiting for you to reach out to a lawyer for advice on a contract.”
Real companies put their money behind projects they believe in. Musicians need to protect themselves and legitimate professionals don’t mind waiting for you to reach out to a lawyer for advice on a contract.
Making a name in the industry is hard. It takes dedication and years of work before being recognized by the public. But you can’t buy success. Developing your music, networking in the industry, and building a fanbase organically deserve the bulk of your focus.
No gatekeepers. No skipping steps. Just commitment.