A mentor once told me that being an entrepreneur is about separating the wheat from the chaff. This should come as no surprise to you as a musician. If you are reading this the odds are that you are a musician or work with musicians / are related to one. The point is- if you run in these circles you know how much BS there is out there. In my experience with both musicians and executives – hollow promises and lack of follow through are too common. How does one find the services and strategic partners that are going to do what they say they will?
In this day and age – musicians have to be entrepreneurs. Most people have to take a stab at doing everything themselves. They have to do everything from being their own label, manager, booking agent and their very own online marketing guru. This work comes after all of the effort that goes into making great products and self- branding. It is understandably too much for people. This is why they turn to outside help – and help is available out there. As of the typing of this article, Google has 129 million results for “How to make it in the music industry.” The digital age has made the outsourcing of solutions to what were major obstacles to musicians in the past rather easy to overcome. For a nominal fee you can get digital distribution. You can take a stab at your own website for free on sites like Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress or even upgrade to your own URL without knowing how to program for less than $75 / year. There are music business coaches, online marketing services, radio independents and various other kinds of helpful services out there waving around their contact information just waiting on your call. Today, musicians have the power and the reach to hire contractors.
Back to the problem though – who’s real?
What is this provider promising? Does it sound to good to be true? If so – it probably is. There are lots of people out there who promise the moon for a low fee or a signature on a contract and they are really just preying on people’s hopes and dreams. Below are some tips that can help you sort through both potential investments in your career and potential strategic partners
1. First hand testimony
The first and best choice when thinking about making a purchase of services (or even just the investment of time into a new technology or social network) is the testimony of someone you know and trust. If it is a large investment or decision I would look around for multiple opinions if possible.
2. Internet searches
Look at this person online. Try searching for their name in quotes and their company name or their company name and the word “reviews”. If you are really suspicious try their name and the word “lawsuit” If they have online profiles on social networks like LinkedIn see if what they say is reflected on their resume there and who they are connected to. This is entertainment – there should be some references even if they are ones generated by the person in question that at least tells you they are wiling to go on public record with what they have told you.
Still have questions? Try asking the provider or partner for some references from their other clients. People unwilling to provide references are suspect to me. You can also take it upon yourself to cold email someone who has used the service and see if they get back to you with their experiences
Particularly when you are dealing with services that live online you should see if this person or company has a decent website. It need not be fancy, it doesn’t have to be terribly flashy but it should be a decent representation of what they do and who they are. No matter what kind of service or partner you are thinking of working with you want to be aligned with a person or an organization that communicates well. If someone is using MySpace as a corporate website – that feels a great deal more insubstantial to me. I would want to be with a person or a company that has made a commitment to their own branding before allowing them to be a part of mine.
This one is my favorite. Are you informed when you are surfing the web? Most people are not. If you have not done so install the Google page rank tool bar and the alexa page rank tool bar into your browsers. These are both tools that give you a very rough idea of how important a site is in terms of traffic and how well they have been prepared for search engine optimization. Google works on a scale of 0-10 and Alexa from 1 to twenty something million. Neither one is a perfect barometer for web traffic but if you are approaching a web marketing company and they tell you about how great they are at online marketing and both toolbars come back “n/a” or “0”…. Move on. These numbers are also important when determining whether or not it is worthwhile to invest time writing content for a site, participating in a new social network etc. Having numbers on your side will definitely help you feel how real someone is – at least in terms of what they know / how much time they have invested into online marketing for their own brand.
Be careful out there. I don’t want to make anyone paranoid. There are a number of great people and services in music but sadly there are a few bad apples that make it worth mentioning.
I have a bunch of exciting interviews lined up and several just waiting for approval – thanks as always for reading.