Posts Tagged ‘Con Man’

Starting Out in the Music Industry, the Pros and the “Con Man”

June 5th, 2021

When I was 21 years old I released my first solo independent album and began the rocky road of promoting myself into what I thought would be music history. A few weeks after listing my music on every internet music site I could think of, I was contacted by a “music producer” located in Denver, CO. (For this article we will call him Joe.)

Joe’s A&R people had discovered my music on a site called and told me how incredible, unique and amazing my voice, songwriting and music were. Of course he wasn’t telling me anything that I didn’t already know at the time. I was a cocky 21-year-old kid and I was sure I was the greatest thing the music business had ever seen. In fact, this guy “Joe” was lucky to be the first to find me.

After numerous emails and phone calls with this “producer”, I was offered a recording contract and asked to fly out to Denver as soon as possible to meet with him, his staff and to finalize the deal. Being cautious and not really having much money, I made sure to ask several times to ensure that I would not incur any recording or upfront costs. Joe assured me that I would not and I was being signed to his production and management company.

So, after telling all my friends and family the great news, I purchased an airline ticket and reserved a hotel for the following weekend. A friend of mine came along with me for company and to witness the moment in soon to be music history. (Yes, I was that naive.) Denver was surely an odd place for me to start my music career, as I had dreams of taking over New York or Nashville at the time, but this producer had credentials. Most notably at the time was his work with Sarah McLaughlin. (I’ll get to that a little bit later.)

So there I was in the “Mile High City” and naturally high as I walked into the downtown office to finally meet Joe the Producer. Several flashy, framed records covered the walls and unrecognizable, yet admittedly convincing awards of some type were perched up behind the clutter of his desk. I was impressed so far. I didn’t have any of those shiny awards yet, but I knew I would soon. After a quick hello, Producer Joe took me and my friend on a whirlwind tour to show off his studios and facilities. We toured an amazing studio and Joe was sure to always point out the occasional awards or even a real Grammy Award that decorated the halls of the studio. A studio, I eventually found out, he did not own, but just apparently had access to walk around in and show potential clients.

My young impressionable mind was needless to say, quite impressed. So impressed that I was ready to get back to sign this deal and get to work in the studio. So after a short drive back to the office, Producer Joe took out the recording contract which included, if I remember correctly, a 10 song deal. But then I did something that everyone should do when in this position. No matter how excited you are, no matter how ready, confident and sure of yourself you are, I did something that was the smartest thing I ever did up to that point in my life. I read the fine print. Had I signed this contract with Producer Joe, I would have owed him an upfront deposit of over $3000 and then an additional balance of $7000 when the project was over just for the recording costs alone. That didn’t include promotion, going to press or anything. It was a hook scam and I was sitting there about to take the bait. With probably a look of great disappointment on my face, I excused myself to use the bathroom and when I got outside his office I continued to walk out the front door and straight back to my hotel with a defeated ego and my tail between my legs.

Every day, studios and so called “successful producers” sucker young and naive artists and musicians into signing deals to drum up business for themselves, which are sugarcoated with stories of how successful the artists are going to be, instead of explaining the business and money situation upfront and making that the key factor in working together, I was surrounded by smoke and mirrors of so called “credentials and experience” that I never really checked out. I was constantly reminded of how amazing my talent was and how many Grammy Awards I was going to win. That was all meant to distract me from their bottom line.

I didn’t do my homework before I got myself into that situation. I let the excitement take over and got caught up in the moment. It could have cost me, but luckily, I avoided a nightmare deal that I should have never been interested in in the first place. Local recording studios and local producers do need to drum up business and income for themselves. And there are a lot of legitimate people out there offering their services to needy musicians and songwriters, but offering a contract or production deal sounds much more interesting or enticing than just saying, “Hey, would you like to pay for my services?” or how about, “I have been producing music locally for years and have also done some really cool things. I think you are talented and I would love the opportunity to work with you.”

Instead, some producers like Joe make it a point to emphasize that you, the artist, are talented and privileged enough to work with me, the producer. But in reality, the artists should always reverse the situation and make sure the producer is talented and qualified enough to work with you, the artist. After all, music and the creation of music is supposed to be a lot of fun. Make sure you like the people you are working with and trust them.

My first real lesson in the music industry can be yours; if something seems too good to be true it usually is. That night, my best friend treated me to a steak dinner and a few hours at the Boobie Bar to drink my sorrows away and look at the best topless girls downtown Denver had to offer. It wasn’t that bad of a weekend in Denver after all.