Friday, 23 August 2019

'Miracles' for aspiring artists... just a click away :)

The beyond-exponential surge in digital outlets for the budding independent musicians' creations has inevitably led to similar surge in various schemes that wish to merely monetise said musicians' hopes and aspirations.

This blog has covered previously some such schemes that are, with great emphasis, not the genuine promotional options the indie musician may wish to consider using. Due to numerous developments, an update is needed, and hopefully below list can be useful in avoiding, some by now classic, traps.

One central mechanism these all employ is the very understandable psychological reaction to the word "exposure" - especially when it is coupled with some hefty figures (on downloads, followers, etc.).

Some of the signs and steps may be absolutely obvious to many, but the fact that these outfits run successfully for years, and some can even afford lengthy phone calls, it shows they are profitable...

1. Miraculous discovery by radio stations and the like, promising miraculous exposure

If one googles them, the kind and the number of search results make it immediately obvious what their "business model" is. The central aspect, though is that when one receives an email from them, such rational steps (e.g.checking them via search engines) may not occur in all the understandable excitement.

The key patterns that can be generalised to many other such outfits are:
  • they suddenly 'found' your music somewhere (latter is always generic, and if you only use certain outlets or in specialist genres only, for amusement it is worth asking them exactly where they found your creations - the replies can be often funny, but always revealing);
  • they offer an 'audition' or such selection process perhaps. Naturally, you guessed it, all the 'services' will be at a cost, to be disclosed later if the bait worked;
  • they may refer to success stories. It is always worth cross-checking those, if specified - if not, then one can push for a list, unless already very obvious what is happening...
  • they may use reference numbers that look oh-so-organised and official. In the case of SRL, these reference numbers in successive first contact email attempts don't even match for the same targeted person...
  • they may state things like 'your music fits perfectly with our area'. Again, it is very useful (and funny at the same time) to probe them on these claims.
Some may even offer to phone you, and can spend considerable time with oh-so-personalised attention and care...

Rule of thumb, as nice as such emails or contacts can seem: if they are genuine, they can be verified and they make money from the promoted acts as a percentage of profit - instead of demanding in-advance fees or memberships.

If pressurised on the latter point, they may even offer to waive a "set-up fee"... but not the monthly memberships.

Perhaps again it is very obvious, but as similar outfits ultimately do make money from aspiring musicians in various ways: never ever give bank or card details to them.

Counter-examples are many internet and other stations who, for free, take uploads and genuinely rotate tracks on their free playlists.

2. Submit tracks to playlists with N followers - for an initially not disclosed fee

Even in Facebook groups the pattern started to emerge and repeat itself. Somebody posts a harmless-looking call for tracks for some playlist on some streaming or other digital outlet, which is claimed to have N followers. Of course, N is a large number. 
  • Usually private contact is requested, this should be the first warning sign. 
  • When one does submit a track, suddenly it turns out it can be put on the playlist for a fee. Even if it is a small fee, ask yourself: why not disclose it openly from the start? 
Some even refer to monetising via blockchain and the like. It is always worth probing beyond such buzzwords, as decentralisation via blockchain is often used in scams and actually have very centralised control behind them. It just sounds cool and mythical, as suddenly everybody thinks of e.g. Bitcoin profits...

Once again, a psychological button is being pushed with empty mumbo-jumbo that does not stand up to one minute of scrutiny.

Same goes to countless new "artist profiles" websites, some claiming to be a game changer (or something like that) even when their web design is laughably basic. Inevitably, they have a premium service for upfront fees and/or memberships.

As with previous point, no genuine site or outfit would make money via upfront fees in exchange for impossible to guarantee exposure and profitability claims.

They are just yet another website in an ocean of "artist profile" websites, and as enticing the possibility of being discovered via one of these is, the underlying reality is that of a drop in the ocean.

3. The usual affair of 'buying' followers and retweets

It is a classic by now, and it is similar to previous scheme. The first fundamental point to consider: where do these followers come from?

It is a completely nonsensical claim, as with other "exposure" claims with playlists etc. 

Think about it from the other end: in an ocean of myriad accounts, playlists, even if those followers exist, do they get myriad nonstop spam with myriad tracks wanting to "gain exposure" ?

Do any of the mythical or even real "followers" actually discover you when spammed nonstop by myriad posts, tracks, links indiscriminately?

The entire "business model" is chemically pure nonsense, it is just made to sound amazing and the promise of so many 'followers' and listeners is indeed a sweet one. It is just absurd.

If the same is promised with specialist, even media, contacts, the model is even more absurd. 

Imagine yourself in the shoes of any (genuine real) promoter, who gets nonstop unfiltered spam from such outfits or individuals who are promising "exposure". 

Ergo they do not exist and the model is, as with any unsolicited snail mail to A&R departments of yesteryear, entirely absurd. 

The above are a few more ubiquitous patterns that can be grouped under these headings.

As with any scheme (to use a mild word), without for a moment wanting to sound patronising, very fundamental logic and basic care can avoid some long sagas that may be costly in the end. 

To paraphrase a fictional character, with great online possibilities come great online schemes for the aspiring artist...