With the independent music business being the Wild West, it’s no surprise that snake oil salespeople have shown up to try and take advantage of emerging bands and artists trying to build a career.
After one too many of them laying waste to my inbox, I’ve created the STOP method. S.T.O.P. – for Spelling, Timeline, Origin, and Pressure. It’s a checklist of questions to ask yourself, that should most likely get you thinking logically and critically before entering any negotiation.
Does this email or message contain typos that a professional company worth their salt would catch before pitching a potential client?
If this person claims to work for a reputable company based in a geographical area, are they speaking that language fluently?
A music publisher based in Nashville, USA, where English is the first language of most should not be making very basic grammar mistakes when sending you an official looking email.
Am I at the point in my career where a legitimate offer like this would come my way?
Is what they are offering me competitive with what similar labels/agencies/companies are offering, or does it sound too good to be true?
A legitimate A&R rep from a major label is not going to offer you a record deal with a six-figure signing bonus after watching your two YouTube cover videos.
Is this person who they say they are? Do they really work for that major corporation, in the powerful role they described?
Is this person insisting on meeting in person, alone (should I be worried about a white van)?
If this a smaller company I’ve never heard of, are there any reviews of their services? Have other musicians gotten similar pitches from them? What results do former clients (who aren’t on the company’s testimonial page) report?
Are any of the email links broken?
Investigate the email address. If it comes from a custom domain (such as “email@example.com”), type popofcolourmusic.com into your browser and see if it leads to the real website. Also, no major label employee with send you a record deal offer from @gmail.com…
Does this offer have an very short expiry date (such as, I have until midnight to make up my mind before they say they’ll retract the offer)?
Are they asking for money upfront without me being clear of the service they will provide?
Will this person let me consult a music lawyer before accepting?
Does this person seem shady in anyway? Are they asking me to circumvent typical industry procedures, social media platform terms and conditions, or the law in order to work with them?
Am I feeling uncomfortably pressured at all in this exchange? Does this offer seem to be dangling my fear of failing as a musician over my head?
The best tricky salespeople play on emotions instead of logic. Many independent musicians are terrified of not succeeding and these snakes know this. “You don’t want to be looking back in 5 years, when your career has gone nowhere, and wish you had invested in your music career by buying my $500 e-book…” RUN.
Not every music company reaching out to you is a scam. However, the STOP method should make your life easier by helping you filter out the ones that are. What is the most ridiculous music business scam you’ve ever been offered? Let me know in the comments below or online!