Nashville is overflowing with musicians, songwriters, artists, producers, and just about every type of aspiring music entrepreneur imaginable. Unfortunately, this massive talent pool also attracts a fair share of scammers and fakes, many who actively seek out the unsuspecting, attempting to extract as much money as possible in exchange for their less than honorable services. Many will claim to have extensive industry contacts, often boasting a long list of seemingly impressive professional credits. The best sharks will come off as being genuinely interested in you, your music, and your potential, often stating that they have all the connections needed to evolve your career quickly and efficiently. They may not even ask for money on the first several encounters or phone calls. Some of these shady characters could be unsuspecting patrons circulating the local nightclubs, while others advertise their illegitimate operations on the Internet. Although most of these scammers are primarily interested in your money, some might be interested in sex, companionship, or other favors, and will work towards these ends through a series of music career related manipulations that initially, on the surface, might seem to have your best interests at heart.
To avoid getting ripped off, here are some things to be on the lookout for:
Shady Internet ads:
- Lack of a real domain website. Most, but not all, legitimate businesses have a real domain website, for example www.cornermusic.com. Be wary of companies that don’t. If a company only has a MySpace page, or a freebie site (if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page it might say something like “free site by Go Daddy”) that usually implies they are on a low budget. Granted some companies may be just getting started, but if you expect them to have the resources to make a difference in your career, it is only logical to expect them to have enough of a budget for their own advertising.
- Requiring payment for an initial consultation. In this day and age, literally any legitimate business will offer at least one free consultation. If an individual or company is truly interested in helping further your career, they should be willing to at least have an initial conversation with you (if not several) free of charge.
- Lack of contact info. If you find a music business-related advertisement on the Internet and it doesn’t have a business address or phone number, that’s usually not a good sign. Most honest businesses are easily accessible.
- How an e-mail is worded. If you get an e-mail from somebody stating they are interested in you as an artist, or your music, pay close attention to the wording. Realize that much of your information is easily available to strangers on the Internet (especially if you have a MySpace or Facebook page) and it’s not hard for spammers to inject some personal information to their message. Read between the lines. Are they speaking about your music in general terms, using descriptions that could apply to any song, or is it obvious they’ve researched beyond that.
- Lack of a domain e-mail. As noted above, most legitimate businesses will have a real website, usually accompanied with an e-mail address that has the same domain. Be wary of e-mail solicitors whose addresses end with generic e-mail hosts like @gmail.com or @yahoo.com. Once again this is not always the case, but this can be a flag.
- Solicitation of songs for a compilation CD. If you get an e-mail or MySpace message from some organization claiming they want to put your music on a compilation CD, for a fee of course, delete the e-mail. You should never have to pay to have your music placed anywhere. A legitimate organization will pay you for the use of your songs.
- Fast talkers. When you are performing in a nightclub or other music venue, whether it be a full performance with a band or just a quick sit-in, you have inadvertently opened the door to any scammers that might be present. While some legitimate entities may be interested in talking with you, be wary of the ones that begin making big promises early on in the conversation. If they seem like they might be legit, don’t be afraid to ask questions about their business and background.
- Read between the lines. Often, a person’s body language, and how they say something can be just as revealing as the content they put forth in a conversation. If they avoid eye contact, seem nervous, or lack focus when you are speaking, that could mean they’re less than honorable. Of course it could also mean that they are simply shy, and that you are boring them to tears. Try to be as objective as you can.
- Learn how to research. If you meet someone in public that shows an interest in helping your career, ask for a business card, or jot down their name and contact info if they don’t have one. Visit their website and review their info. Perform a Google search and read up on as much background information as possible. If they are a plausible entity, it should quickly become obvious. If you can’t find any information about them at all, that should be a flag. This also applies to companies that contact you through the Internet and e-mail solicitations as well.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are more musicians and artists trying to get ahead then there are opportunities or work for them. In reality, as the supply far outweighs the demand, our services aren’t really essential to society. So when somebody says “You’ve got what it takes to be a star, and I want to help make it happen for you.” There’s a good chance this is BS. Never lose sight of the fact that no one will ever care as much about your music and your career as you will.
Whether you realize it or not, when you signed on for a career as a musician or artist, you became a salesperson. You are trying to sell your songs, your craft, and ultimately yourself. Depending on your goals, you might need some help along the way, and some of this help will cost money. Ultimately, the key to avoid getting ripped off is a combination of common sense and research. Thoroughly research any and all individuals and companies before you fork over your hard earned cash, and especially before you ever sign anything. If you’re still unsure after your research efforts are exhausted, ask for references and don’t be afraid to call them. And if you’re still not sure, always refer to rule number one – “If it smells like BS, it’s probably BS!”