Is It A Scam?…How To Tell If You’re Getting Fleeced

It’s a scam. That’s what many parents tell their kids when they come across legitimate music industry opportunities for their career. How do I know this? Because I hear it all the time. So let’s discuss how to qualify whether a music industry opportunity is worth pursuing.

First of all, most parents are not qualified to determine what a legitimate opportunity is or isn’t in the music industry. That’s usually why many people will take a dismissive stand with their aspiring talented young adult. As a teen or young adult, parents will feel that they’re more qualified to determine the value of an offer- and in fact, they are. However, although parents are often more qualified than their kids, that doesn’t mean they’re experienced enough to discern the full value of an opportunity in an industry they have zero experience with. So, as a result, insecure parents will hastily deem all opportunities as illegitimate- especially if they have to invest any money- as a way of saving face about an industry that they’re fearful or apathetic about learning to navigate.

Paid Vs. Free Services

I’ve written about various paid vs. free services for new artists in the music industry before. Many people who grew up in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s may remember a time when they heard stories of their favorite artist being “discovered”. So naturally, most people go with what they know and this obsolete viewpoint persists today. It is true that some artists are still discovered. Today that usually means that they’ve appeared on Idol or The Voice, which probably resulted in fifteen minutes of fame and nothing else. If they’ve appeared on TV, then that typically means they’ve signed away their rights to do anything with their music career without the show’s benefit or consent too. So an artist gets tied up for some of the most valuable years of their career,  just to be rejected from progressing on the show. Not good.

A few lucky artists might gain some notoriety but what does the artist that doesn’t fit the generic profile that these shows look for do? The truth is that many thousands of aspiring artists get nowhere when you’re waiting to be discovered. I call this the ‘savior-ship’ model. And it’s prevalent for most people because of other societal factors which I won’t get into here. But the best proactive mindset is that no one’s coming to discover you or save you. If your destiny is success, then you’re going to have to meet it halfway.

Red Flags

Of course, there is a strong argument for real scammers in the music industry – just like in any industry. The hucksters are plentiful and anyone with a laptop seems like they’re calling themselves a “music producer” these days. There are many aspiring producers, songwriters, and managers that are eager to inflate their capabilities, exaggerate their industry connections, make empty promises, learn on the job at your expense, and are often better at selling you to work with them, than they are at the actual work itself. If someone says they’re going to “make you a star”, then that’s a clear red flag.

What Do You Do?

So how does the discerning artist, guardian, or parent, figure out if an offer is ‘legitimate’?…Look at their experience. Who have they worked with? Have you heard of any of the talent or companies they’ve worked for? Talk with them. Ask questions. Inexplicably, I’ve encountered people who have decided that my company Spotlight 87, with my partner, Brian Vibberts, a 6X Grammy Award winner was “not real”, before they’ve even had a conversation with me. There comes point where it becomes obvious that some people simply have poor judgement. As an artist, this can be a big missed opportunity because many young artists are relying on family for guidance and resources. So use your gut and get a feel for the people on the other end. People that are transparent with their intentions will answer your questions and explain the options.

Either way, it’s up to the artist to weigh the options of whether an opportunity is the right one. It will require you to examine the people involved and their background, as well as the offer itself. If the producer, management, or label that’s interested in you comes with years of experience and successes, then you can be rest assured that the question isn’t only “Are these people qualified enough to work with me?”, but “Am I talented, determined, and committed enough to work with them?”