marketing, scam, songwriter, songwriting

Don’t Be a Scam Magnet

Scam Artist

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”.

The Scams
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.


3 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Scam Magnet

  1. Hi
    Although I am not a big fan of entering songwriting contests, there are a few legit ones that can truly help a career. The caviat is you pretty much have to come in #1 for it to mean anything and with many thousands of entries your odds are lottery-like.

    I know someone who won the John Lennon songwriting contest and ended up getting interviewed on a major TV network and some perks offered to him.

    As far as critique services, as you noted, there are some legit ones such as

    You are so right about most of these scams out there. if you get mail from companies like H***top Records, simply throw it in the trash.

    Thanks for doing this.
    🙂 Casey

  2. Casey,

    Beside the Idol franchises, I have simply never seen a contest turn someone into a major star. I would be OK with most of them if it wasn’t for the fact that some are very expensive.

    At one point, you have to wonder about the business model here: 100$ fee x 5000 applicants 500,000$. Let’s say that they give away 20,000$ worth of equipment and “consulting”. That’s still a 480,000$ profit.

    Run several of these contests using the same web infrastructure and you’ve got a pretty sweet multi-million dollars enterprise that lives off the hope of thousands clueless songwriters.

    Mhmmm…maybe *I* should start a contest ;D

  3. Joe Tremont says:

    I’ve used to have my songs demo’d.. they’re sort of the anti-scam. They don’t claim to pitch your demos to a big time label or anything. They do allow songwriters like me who have the ability to write, but can’t play and sing to have great demos.

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