Songwriters are a skeptical bunch. No wonder since, like other showbiz hopefuls, we are easy prays for snake oil salesman wanting to part us with our money in exchange for that “big break”.
Let’s see if I can list the most common scams in the biz…
- Compilation CDs that will be passed to “important” people — This one is the oldest one in the book. As a business owner I also get called on a regular basis to buy placement in business directories. When I ask for a copy of last years “success stories”, they are often “out of stock”. Same scam, different name.
- Recording/Demo studio connected with record companies — Classic: If only I had a dollar every time someone claimed to know the CEO of a big record company…If that’s not enough, they’ll boost your ego a bit: “Yeah, these top session players are really busy, but they like your music so much, they’re willing to play on your demo”.
- Song critique services – This one is really hard to spot, because many reputable people offer this useful service. Generally, I would prefer to get a critique from someone whose work I already admire instead of an anonymous one.
- Songwriting Contests – Have you ever heard of a successful songwriter who have had his big break from winning a contest? Me neither. Case closed. It doesn’t mean that they are illegitimate. It’s just that I wonder about the quality of the exposure. Something really strange is going on these days: more and more professional songwriters are entering contests as an additional way to market their songs. So, the idea of a total amateur winning a national songwriting contest is diminishing every year.
- Open Mike Nights – Basically, organized pay for play. Actually, I like the idea of a place where you pay to learn your craft. Stage presence is hard to build with a mirror and a broom alone. Busking is also a great way to learn your craft, but you don’t get to learn to operate a PA, play with a live band and wrestle club manager for your cut of the night’s profits.
No One Is Looking For Talent
The fact of the matter is that industry “insiders” and “deciders” already have more supply than what they could possibly have time to listen to. Imagine receiving all kind of junk mail in your postal box. Would you then go out to a place looking for more more junk mail to read? Obviously not.
What they are looking for are success stories: people who could make it with or without them. I know it’s hard, but they are just like banks: they only help those who don’t need the money.
Make Your Plan
It’s preferable to sit down and make a little career plan with short (less than 3 months) milestones. Another thing I find useful is to define a “plan B” for each milestone in case things don’t go 100% (nothing ever goes 100%). In the end the only person who can actually discover your talent and give you that “big break” is…yourself.