Saturday, 23 July 2016

Feeding digital vultures

After two busy summer months, finally returning with a topic that may be of some help to indie/unsigned musicians...

As the late Umberto Eco famously and astutely put it, the internet gives you everything - reliable material and crazy material. One would add, some crazy material is not only unreliable, but it actively seeks your money... for dubious services that contradict basic logic of (in this case) music industry and marketing.

In the case of budding musicians wishing to promote their creations, this far from positive take on the internet's wonders applies very much when it comes to the digital vultures that try to capitalize on musicians' aspirations.

The classic recipe is ubiquitous, unfortunately: myriad so-called "push promotion" websites, twitter accounts and the like try to make musicians believe that they shall make the musicians' creations known to N (N is usually a very eye-watering large number) individuals, organisations, forums etc.

No matter how much one wishes to promote one's beloved musical or other output, one has to ask the fundamental question before clicking on some payment button: even if it is true, what do the recipients of these so-called "promotional" services' messages, tweets etc. think? How do they act when they are bombarded indiscriminately by these myriad messages, all promoting myriad artists they never heard of?

It is a rhetoric question. Please, please, do not feed these vultures... If you find them on forums and blogs, mentioning how many "genuine" cases they made famous, most of those are made up usually or... they represent an infinitesimal proportion of artists that via other channels usually "landed" some sought-after objective for themselves.

Look at the case of licensing services, too - the fundamental rule is that if they promise you licensing deals, placements in adverts, films etc., they must not ask you upfront fees. Any, any, reputable and real agency will make their money by representing that artist - yes, yes, it sounds simple and very basic, but it is astonishing how many budding artists end up feeding these vultures.

Let's just name GoDIY Records here as it is something highly representative of the very professional-looking and -sounding carrot dangling outfits. Because I had the dubious honor of being contacted by them very recently, the email exchanges are highly representative and are a perfect summary of how these outfits' business model runs - and would share the classic steps in shutting their attempts down:

Step 1: Highly professional-looking email, with links to websites and social media profiles. Offering the Moon on a very pleasantly shaped stick, but, beware: setup fees and monthly fees.

Step 2: If the artist asks about these fees' justification, further emails, even very touchingly personal phone calls may follow (!). One feels utterly flattered by such attention. They waive the hefty setup fee, offering to only take monthly membership...

Step 3: If the artist asks: have they even listened to my music and can they describe how it fits their clients' needs?... The answer is usually vague: "we found your tracks on xy (e.g. ReverbNation and the like) sites", and "your sound" is perfect...

Step 4: Artist ask them: how come they have not googled or looked in myriad other places where the music is reachable, why do they build a vague and sweeping opinion based on one or two tracks on an anyway dubious "artist promotion" website? Reaction: usually silence and communication ends.

Step 5 may follow sometimes: Ask them how do they differentiate themselves from other "services" that need upfront fees for the honor of being "represented" and are simply praying on budding artists? Result: usually silence and all communication ends. At least with the mentioned outfit, this, instead of a reply detailing their business model and "success stories", resulted in the (very much expected) silence.

Budding musicians, please, no matter how enticing some vultures sound, please, do ask the pertinent questions.

Corner them.

Use their own rhetoric and probe, probe, probe.

What have you got to lose?

A genuine service (never mind that it would never want money upfront) would be able to answer the basic, but surprisingly effective, probing questions.

You do not offend them. If they are in the business and if they are professional, they a) fully appreciate your objective queries, and their motivations, b) they are after your music and they do not just drop you because of some justified probing questions. If they do, it is already a sign that you should stay well away from them!

The internet has brought countless such digital vultures and, alas, judging by their number, they are making a living because indie/unsigned musicians are feeding them...

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