Beware of Sharks Swimming in Those Turbulent Musical Waters

Beware of Sharks Swimming in Those Turbulent Musical Waters

For those of you who have decided to take the plunge off the high diving board into the unpredictable and stormy waters of the music industry beware, there is a strong undercurrent below where sharks are circling and hungry for a bite! Even for someone like me who has over 20 years experience in the music industry as a professional songwriter, record company executive, marketing, public relations and event professional, I too, can be had. I share this story for all of you, who like myself, have been traveling on this rollercoaster ride of a journey in search of a dream.

As a professional songwriter, I found a songplugger in Nashville who was very excited about pitching my songs. I did my homework and checked him out. He had a solid reputation in town, was well liked, a “good guy” I was told and had success getting cuts for major country recording artists. His price of $300.00 US per month to pitch my songs sounded reasonable. It made me feel that I had my proverbial foot slightly in the Nashville door and most importantly, it kept the dream alive.

For the next six months, I sent him checks and every two weeks he would send me a list of the producers he pitched the songs too, names of the artists, ones who “kept” the songs, “passed” or put them “on hold.” I was excited to receive his updates and was cautiously optimistic. As the months rolled on many of my songs were being “kept” for major recording artists and more importantly, he was keeping my hope alive. During this time, I made a writing trip down to Nashville and showed a friend in the business his list of contacts that he was sending my songs too. Many of these names were colleagues so she called some of them just to check out his credibility. Well my hope quickly faded to black after three people who were on the list hadn’t seen “my plugger” in months and had no recollection of the songs he said he played for them. The shark took a bite and I didn’t even know it!  I eventually confronted him in his sparse Nashville office. To make a long story short, I eventually got all my money back. I was one of the lucky ones. Just think how many people he may be scamming, taking their hard earned money “pitching songs” and lifting their hopes and dreams. I thought I had seen it all through the years and never would I have thought that someone with my experience could be taken, if it could happen to me it could happen to anyone!

On the flip side, there are many good people in the industry that can legitimately provide guidance and contacts. There will be opportunities that come to every person on their journey, however, you MUST do your homework and check them out thoroughly. Find out their list of clients and call some of them. Ask them about their experience with this person, their good points and bad. Make sure you talk to as many people as you can to get a fair opinion. Organizations such as NSAI, SOCAN, SAC, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or local music industry affiliates are there to assist you. Join them! Their services are invaluable to someone starting out in the music industry. They can provide you with networking opportunities, solid advice and essential information for you to follow up on. If someone legitimately like your songs and wants to work with you, perhaps a deal can be worked out, but NEVER sign anything without having a good lawyer review it. There are no guarantees even if you have done all your homework, but try to think it through and not let your heart rule your mind.  It’s tough but don’t let blind ambition get in the way of your dreams or you too can be shark bait!