Day (www.WendyDay.com) CONS AND SCAMS IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS | By Wendy
s many of you know by now, it’s very difficult to maneuver in this industry unless you’re in the inner circle. There is a large circle of people who all do business together, and getting into that inner circle is never easy. It’s even gotten harder as the music industry is making less and less money these days. The cool thing about Hip Hop is that we have never waited for an invitation, and we don’t care if you like us, we just bulldoze our way into situations and make the best of it. I call this ‘kicking in the door.” We don’t knock and wait for an answer, we kick that bitch in! Part of kicking in the door, is knowing how, when, and where—and what, to kick in. An even larger part of that is making moves utilizing relationships and connections. If you are missing a key aspect, you need to be able to pick up the phone and call someone legitimate who has that access or knows someone else that they can call to gain access. That access allows you entry (kicking in the door) to the industry, and achieving success will keep you there. Surrounding you, every step of the way, are bullshit people who claim to have access and connections, but don’t. At best, they can get a meeting or a call returned, but they can’t close the deal. Let me be real frank here: if you are the type of person that people do not like, or if you have any asshole tendencies (including an over inflated ego), you should NOT be on the front lines. Find someone in your camp who is a people person and can kiss a little bit of ass to get what is needed. It’s not a problem if you are not that person, as long as you don’t try to be something you are not. People see right through the bullshit in this industry very quickly, and we all talk to each other (in fact, male or female, we are little gossiping bitches in this industry, so expect bad stuff to spread faster than a forest fire). The hardest aspect for you to overcome, if you are NOT in that inner circle, is knowing who is legitimate, whom to trust, and to whom to turn when you need something accomplished. This industry is ripe with sharks, snakes, scam artists, and idiots. And all of them have one goal—to separate you from your money, especially if it appears as though you have a lot of it. In the music industry, there are a LARGE handful of clueless people who suck at what they do, but will happily charge you money. You will lose money if you fuck with them. You will also lose credibility with the legitimate people if you fuck with them. Inevitably, I get a handful of people who come to me every week asking me to undo some stupid shit that another “consultant” did to fuck up their project. It is ten times harder to clean up someone else’s mess than it is to start a project from scratch, so expect to be turned down by the legit folks, if your project is already a shambles. I know I won’t touch it. Oddly, the clueless people who suck at working other people’s projects, seem to be masters of their own self-promotion. Not only are they not too busy to send out a ridiculous number of email blasts talking about their “success” on a project (I especially LOVE the ones that come through talking about the meetings they’ve had that didn’t lead to anything, but they sure have pictures of themselves with famous artists and CEOs who would never take their calls again), but they think that doing a little bit of work is the same as finishing a project from A to Z, and they pump that up publicly. I guess it’s like a little kid learning the alphabet, where they feel that if they can recite the first four letters of the alphabet, it gives them the right to claim they know the entire alphabet. And then they go brag about it.
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I have spent the past year undoing incredible damage that one of these “master self-promoters” has done to an artist’s career. And he or she is still out there claiming to have built success for this artist, when all that was accomplished was a big mess for 4 other industry professionals to have to sort out and clean up. Every time I receive an email blast from this idiot talking about what a great job he did building this artist, I cringe and roll my eyes in disbelief. It’s hard for me to decipher if he or she really feels that something positive was accomplished, or if the goal is just to claim success to get checks from other artists who don’t know any better. Part of me wants to expose the fraud, and part of me wants to accept that this person’s intentions may have been good, just that ignorance is bliss. On a similar note, there’s an artist out there (many actually) who has built some limited success on taking others’ music and selling it as his own. Of course, in this industry, exposure comes very quickly—you get about a 2 or 3 year run before everyone finds out what a fraud you are. This artist recently got signed and then dropped from a major label when it was discovered that he has limited fans but bodacious self-promotion. Why is it that other industries have Better Business Bureaus, Consumer Report Agencies, and Ralph Nader type whistle blowers to expose the frauds, but in the music industry we shrug off the frauds who are jerking people out of millions of dollars every year? I hear folks compare the music industry to the streets and the drug game regularly, but if that were true, we’d have no scams because the price of ripping someone off would be very, very high. There’s an artist in Indiana, whose parents were bilked out of a quarter million dollars that they invested into their son’s career (the Feds got involved in this one). A few guys out of Chicago with no traceable track record of success took these people for a financial ride, promising to help their son accomplish his dream of being a superstar producer. When I asked the parents what made them trust the guys (a Google search turned up NO information on them), they pointed out that these guys claiming to be music industry executives always showed up to their home in a limousine, so they assumed they were successful. Classic. Jimmy Iovine, the head of Interscope Records (one of the most successful labels on the plant) wouldn’t even pull up in a limo. I remember meeting with a charismatic “producer” when I lived in NY. He flew in from out of town. He constantly cited God for his success and even closed our meeting with “may God bless you!” He had a beat CD of incredible music. What I did not know at the time was that this beat CD contained beats of not his own work, but the production of 3 or 4 other producers from his hometown. Although I never did business with him, that “producer” went on to get a publishing deal for his production even though it was not his music. He never became a “super producer” because the real producers back home caught on to what he was doing. Two of those producers who got jerked by this bullshit artist have gone on to become platinum producers in this industry, and the bullshit producer has just recently been exposed for being the sham that he is. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!! I hope God “blesses” him properly. All this to say, when you do other people dirty—intentionally, or through inexperience and ignorance, there is a price to pay. This industry is built on connections and relationships. Once you burn them out, there’s nowhere else for you to go, but down. And it happens very, very quickly. And I am happily spreading the word.
Ozone Mag #67 - May 2008