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The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section
Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete
reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false
promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians
so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.
Music Industry Scams: Don't Get Suckered
Have I Got A Deal For You
From Jake Sibley
"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway
where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative
side." -attributed to Hunter S. Thompson*
A couple years ago, I got a call from some guy that called himself Jerry, or Mike, or
Willie, and he said he had a fantastic deal for me. He spoke in a hip British accent,
and his enthusiasm was intoxicating. He told me he was calling from his office in Los
Angeles. He worked for a production company, he said, and he'd found my band on the
Internet and - Wow - was he impressed with the music.
A band with talent like ours, he said, was basically just waiting to be discovered.
He said he'd like to offer me a deal that could put us in touch with the people that
could get us where we want to go. He wanted to shop our music to A&R reps at major
labels and other industry insiders.
Does this story sound familiar? If not, you haven't been in the music business very
long. Artists are extremely passionate about their music, and there is no shortage of
slimeballs ready and willing to exploit that passion just to make a buck. The scams
are as varied as the scum that devise them, but the theme is always the same. Back to
Jerry (or was it Willie?) told me that for a reasonable fee, his production company
would film our band perfoming live on their professional sound stage in Los Angeles.
He went into great detail about the pro quality of the gear and the extensive credentials
of the engineers involved. He dropped names constantly, and even though they weren't
names I'd ever heard, he always appended them with phrases like "who worked with the
Red Hot Chili Peppers" or "who basically did Pearl Jam's first record."
Not only would we get an MTV-style video and a pro-quality three song demo, Jerry gushed,
but afterwards his crack team of music biz dealmakers would get busy shopping our
material to the biggest names in the industry.
Trying to contain my amusement, I asked what percentage his company would take if they
got us signed. Jerry nearly giggled with glee at this question and proudly announced
that that was the best part: Beyond the initial fee, there was absolutely no further
Really. I then asked Jerry (in my best naive-supertalent-waiting-to-be-discovered
voice): "If you already have all the money you're going to make the day we leave the
studio, then what's your motivation to spend more days, weeks, and months shopping
us to record labels?"
In the half-second of silence that followed, I heard a tiny sound that faintly reminded
me of tearing plastic. Then Jerry launched back into his spiel about the pro gear and
the world-famous engineers...
Here's the deal, kids. Everybody wants to be a rock star. Lots of folks think that to
be a rock star, you just have to be "discovered." (Not true, but that's another article.)
So when somebody like Jerry calls and offers the moon, it can be very tempting to throw
in the $500, $1000, or $2000 to make your dreams come true.
Let me share a little secret. If Jerry was that connected, he wouldn't be cold-calling
kids he found listed on Mp3.com. Guys like Jerry are everywhere. They'll offer to promote
your band, they'll offer to shop you to insiders, they'll offer to include you on a
limited edition CD that will be "heard by some of the biggest names in music." They'll
promise all sorts of things, but what they ask for is always the same. They want money,
and they want it up front. At the end of the deal, you'll end up with some footage or a
recording that you could make yourself for far less than what you paid, and that's it.
David Geffen will not be calling.
"In over four years in A&R," says Sharon Fitzgerald, A&R rep for Columbia Records, "I've
never had any of those people hand me anything."
Let me share another secret. If a music industry professional really believes that your
music is that fantastic, they'll work for a percentage of profits, or even the possibility
of profits. Take as an example The Rosenbergs, a successful indie band that was offered
a contract by FarmClub, a subsidary of Universal, the largest record company in the world.
The Rosenbergs got their lawyer, their manager, and their booking agent all for free.
These people knew the band was talented, and they were willing to take a chance in
exchange for a big payoff down the line.
Let me summarize: If somebody promises to help make you famous in exchange for an up-front
fee, run away. If somebody says they want to offer their professional services in
exchange for a cut of future earnings, consider their offer and - if it seems legit
- jump on it!