A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a company that claimed to be “one of the lead PR companies in America.” Apparently, they had heard my music online and wanted to “put me on the front of their website to get a record deal.”
Now, if you’re new to my site, you might think this is exactly what I’m looking for. However, my music that I write and release myself is simply for my own creative outlet. My career is in session singing and songwriting for private clients. If they had done any research on my site at all, they would have known that. The lady on the phone seemed nice, and I’m sure she was just doing her job, but as she rattled off information it was very apparent that she was reading from a script. I asked her how they found me and what song specifically drew their interest. She became flustered and repeated something she had already read from her script. She then told me that if I wanted to be on the top of their site, I needed to pay a small fee of around $2.00 USD to be featured on the front page.
Alarm bells were already ringing in my head before the fee. At this point, I told her I would need to think it over and call her back. She advised that I needed to take quick action on this and that she would call me back in an hour. I hung up and began my own research. I already knew I didn’t need this company’s services, but I wanted to find out what was really going on.
First, I searched the general name of the company. Since they are good at SEO, there was nothing negative in my initial search. Then I typed in “name of company + scam” and found many instances listing this exact company and mentions of people getting ripped off. There were several mentions of other people having small success with them, but this didn’t seem like enough to warrant spending the money. Oh, and that $2 fee to be featured? It turns out that fee becomes $60 a month after the trial period. I guess that was deleted from the lady’s script. She did call back, and I did not answer.
Note: I’m not calling this company a scam per se (because I don’t want to be attacked online or sued), just saying that for me it was not worth it. If you read these reviews and decide to try it, be my guest!
It is incredibly easy to be scammed in the music industry.
Sadly, musicians are prime targets for scams. Many of us are struggling to be heard and to get new fans. We are willing to invest time and money into growing our business, and unfortunately, there is no linear direction toward success in music. That leaves many options open, which means it’s believable that we could become successful in strange ways. I want to save you some time and hopefully some money, so let’s talk about how to avoid major scams in the music industry.
Avoid Getting Scammed
First, let’s admit a couple things. 1). We want to get our music heard. Duh. Why else would we make it? 2). Many of us want to be famous. It’s okay to admit this. Denying your desire to be as big as Lady Gaga isn’t helping you, and a lot of singers I work with have this false sense of, “well, if it happens, I wouldn’t be mad, but…” I just want to tell them that it’s totally okay to want that. Denying it to others and yourself only leaves you more vulnerable to these potential scams. If being famous is something you want, accept it and own it! 3). A lot of us have no clue what it takes to get new fans or get our music heard. This is another trap that leads us into scams. So, let’s talk about some things we can do to protect ourselves.
1). Take Your Time
I can’t stress this one enough because it’s almost always a sure sign you’re being scammed. Do you need to make a decision in the next 12 minutes? If so, it’s a scam. Any legitimate organization would allow you to have a lawyer look over the contracts, do your own research, etc. Now, of course, there is usually a time limit on most things. You can’t take weeks or months to get back to a manager or label and expect them to wait around. However, an unreasonable deadline is a red flag. Why would they want you to decide right away? Because they don’t want you to look up their company and find bad news. Which leads me to the next tip:
2). Do the Right Research
If you notice from my story, nothing bad came up when I simply searched the company’s name. However, when I searched their name and “scam” together, I found a lot more. Many people quickly search the company’s name just to make sure nothing is wrong (and some people don’t even do that). Maybe people don’t want to find anything bad because they want this to be their big break, but please don’t think like this! Would you rather this not be your big break, or it is still not your big break and you’ve lost a bunch of money? Doing research on anything will never hurt you, I promise. When you research any company, find reviews from actual clients and customers. Search BBB. Even reading former employee’s reviews will tell you a lot about the agency. You may find a few disgruntled clients or ex-employees, but you want the good reviews to outweigh the bad, always.
3). Evaluate Their Success Rate
If this is a PR firm, how many of their clients have been successful? If it’s a management company, how often are their artists getting booked? How do they even define success? They should have proof of some type of success story to even be considered. Of course, success is not a guarantee no matter who you sign with, but if they’ve been doing this for years and have nothing to show for it, are they a good fit for your music?
4). Pay Attention to Their Website
I’m sorry, but looks do matter here. If this company is serious about what they do, they should have a serious looking website. It doesn’t have to cost millions of dollars, but it should look like they actually put some time into it. (See my video below for a story about this). Websites are pretty easy to create and maintain nowadays. If a company or person is legit, they have a legit-looking website, period.
5). Listen to Your Intuition
If something doesn’t feel right, pay attention. Your intuition is so important and is often overlooked! If you feel like your intuition isn’t strong, here are some great ways to improve it. However, I would argue that most musicians already have strong intuition as we’re creative individuals. If something in your heart tells you it’s not right, at least do some more research!
Here is a video about other experiences I’ve had with potential scams. If you have any you want to share, please let me know!