My good friend Gary Forsythe posted the thoughts below about a year ago. This is well worth a repost and lets me off the hook for this month’s Tips And Tales From Outback:
If being in Nashville has taught me anything at all, it is this. The dishonest exploitation of artists and dreams for money is everywhere in this town. Beware! Maybe my contemplations and observations can benefit you or someone you know. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nashville, but not this part of it. If you are an aspiring artist, read on:
Musical Dreamers, Indie artists, aspiring singers and songwriters: Please read this sincere warning and reminder. It will save you a lot of money and heartache. Read on for the one simple truth that will protect you from getting hurt:
Nashville is the city of musical dreamers. People move here to try and “make it” in the business and/or get their original songs published and recorded. I know this because twelve years ago I did just that. I moved here to pursue my musical dreams and it’s been nothing less than a wild ride. But when I came, I was already published and understood how “legitimate opportunities” work here. I had been schooled by my publisher and other “good people” in the business. Unfortunately, all are not as fortunate as I was and end up falling prey to unscrupulous dishonest manipulators, lose tons of money, and have little to show for it in the end.
Recently, I met an artist who lost a substantial amount of money to a particular producer (un-named here). This guy apparently has a track-record for preying on musical dreamers at songwriter nights and musical events. He tells them he loves what they are doing and wants to work with them. He invites them over to his studio and tells them about his “awards” and the “famous people he knows”, making all sorts of promises for their success if they work with him. These artists, of course, feel blown away that someone like “this guy” would want to work with them and, after the big emotional pitch session, end up agreeing to pay an astronomical amount of money for just one song (I won’t divulge that here less I give too much away…but it’s a ton of money… a “one song fee” that would almost pay for complete projects in other well equipped small studios). Then, the project drags on for years and some never get their finished product. Yes, for years….! So they end up hurt, discouraged, abused and, in some cases, under contract with nowhere to go and little show for it, only to get asked for more money for “promotions”, etc…
THIS is exploitation of the worst kind and makes me livid. However, it’s all possible because we as musical dreamers are vulnerable and, at times, uninformed. Just two weeks ago, I was sitting and talking with a “victim” of such dealings and it made my heart hurt. It’s been four years since his “big encounter with hopeful success” and (as of two weeks ago) he has yet to receive the master of his one song; a song over-paid for by the donations of goodhearted fans who believed in him and gave to the cause, and who are wondering four years later when his song is coming out. Such a great guy with noticeable talent, exploited by the worst of the Nashville music community.
So how do aspiring writers and artists avoid such heartache? The good news is that it’s really quite simple. Remember one truth at all times:
If someone approaches you, talks big, drops names, and tells you they want to sign you to their “record label” AND AT THE SAME TIME asks you to pay them money, IT’S NOT LEGIT. Run the other way as fast as you can. They are either scamming you to pay their most-likely past-due rent or aiming for an easy “big check for little work” situation where they make good bank at your expense. That’s not how record companies work.
Now don’t misunderstand me here. Its fine to pay for recording services and studio time, musicians for hire and/or a producer. But the price tag can be hefty if you want to go with high-end award winning musicians, engineers and producers. Just do your homework and remember that legitimate opportunities are always transparent in nature with clear pricing from people who do not flatter you with unkeepable “make it big” promises.
Songwriters also note: Legitimate publishers NEVER require you to give up writing credits and total song ownership WHILE AT THE SAME TIME asking you to pay them money. There is more to this than I will address here. But even if your song is published, you still retain credit as the writer and should receive royalties on that portion of the ownership. A safe rule with regard to publishing is NEVER EVER sign any agreement with someone until you understand it thoroughly, have verified their history and legitimacy and, if uncertain about the terms, had an entertainment attorney look it over.
Do your homework. Look around and get good references. Find out average costs to record a song and/or project and beware of exorbitant pricing. For the record (no pun intended), $3000-$5000 to record one song for a beginning or even intermediate artist is highway robbery. There are quality studios than can do a whole album project for that. Sure, it won’t be recorded at Oceanway Studios and may have a few creative limitations, but it is more than enough for what most beginning artists/songwriters need. I even know of one higher-end studio in Nashville that offers four top A level session players, an engineer and the studio facilities for six hours at $800 at specific times of the month/year. Musicians of this caliber can deliver big time quickly and the studio is a fine place to record. If you really want to spend a couple thousand dollars on a song, that’s how you do it. And when you pay out with them, there are no ties, no fake promises and no fluff…. just a finished master and/or audio files to take home with you or to another studio.
Always remember: “Hot shot producers making big promises and dropping names” are not safe. Don’t fall for it. And, on a footnote, the same goes for most of these so called ‘songwriting competitions”. But I’ll not elaborate on that one now. Sorry for the long post. But it’s worth it if it helps at least one musical dreamer to stay away from getting hurt and abused.