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Scams in the Music Business

Music Business Scams

It can be difficult for an aspiring musician to find successful ways to get their name out, especially when there is a scam waiting around every corner. They can range anywhere from the dishonest record label to a shady website, so it is paramount to keep your eyes peeled and beware of any offer that promises to make you the next John Mayer.

The Record Label

The easiest scam to steer away from is the deceptive record label. During my first years of actively participating in the local music scene, there was a guy who preyed on the younger musicians like my friends and I. Thankfully enough, we had older buddies who had dealt with him before and quickly turned us in the opposite direction. The idea of an album we could call our own was attractive, but the fine print in his contracts made business with him a disaster.

Beware of this situation as you search for a record company and focus on labels that have a proven track record. You may not sign with a major production label, but putting time into the selection process will reduce future headaches and pay off in the end.

CD Compilations

Look out for the "companies" that offer compilation CDs for circulation to assorted record labels and radio stations. They start by searching the music forums for recently posted songs and initiate contact with the artist by informing them that they have been chosen to be featured on a compilation CD. They give you their website to check the integrity of their proposal and pass on details of how to enter your song.

After checking out what seems to be a credible enterprise, you pay the fees and sometime later receive a burnt CD with your song included and finished off with a handmade label: obviously not the work of professionals.

To fulfill the legal obligations of the contract, they do send them to different labels and radios stations, but no one is going to listen to an unsolicited CD in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough. The best advice is to take time when thinking about submitting your music and be wary of these kinds of offers.

Music & Songwriting Contests Online

Most online contests are credible, but there are also many that are more beneficial for the person putting on the competition than the competing talent itself. Put as much thought into contests as you would a record label:

Who is judging the competition?

  • What are their credentials?
  • Are the judges experienced in your genre of music?
  • Are they qualified?

Who is sponsoring and covering the competition?

  • What labels, companies, celebrities, institutions are involved?
  • Is the competition esteemed and will it cause interest?
  • Is it mentioned in music publications or forums?

What are the prizes?

  • Will the prize promote you as an artist?
  • Is there a possibility of radio exposure or time with a reputable producer?

A competition without validity will not attract the attention of anyone credible and this will be a good indication to stay away from what appears questionable or vague.

Melody Writers

Without knowledge of how to arrange music of their own and with the hopes of turning their words into the next chart topper, many lyricists look for others to compose. This is where the melody writer comes in promising to transform their lyrics into a hit and scams the individual of their hard earned money. You send off the cash and a few weeks later, receive a "melody". You may have ended up with a tune that does not fit your words and worse yet, others may be using that same melody. Keep this in mind if you are a lyricist in need of an honest collaborator and try to stick with the many respectable forums that are available.


As you pursue a musical career, beware of the many frauds and scams that offer easy success and instant fame. Make sure you research interested record labels and watch out for online songwriting contests. Be careful of who you collaborate with and who you send money to produce your CD. Remember that the music business, like any other, is hard work and if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

R. Wilkins
R. Wilkins

See works cited