5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Avoid Getting Scammed in the Music Business



I still have a lot to learn about the music business. But I have learned a thing or two along the way. Some lessons were harder to learn.

There are an endless supply of companies ready and willing to take your money. These types of companies prey on naïve musicians. They promise things they can’t deliver on. We musicians are so passionate about our craft that it is easy for our vision to be clouded by our dreams. That means sometimes we make poor business decisions.

There’s an old joke that goes, how do you make a million bucks in the music business? The punch line- start with two million.

I’ve had a publisher calling me nearly every week for a full year. After several phone calls with this “publisher,” I learned they wanted to charge me an exorbitant amount of money to re-work one of my band’s songs. I saw a big red flag and quickly declined. Unbelievably, the calls continue.

The more successful you are, the more people line up with their palms out, ready to take your hard-earned money.

One important thing to keep in mind as a musician is that if you’re paying someone, he/she is working for you. Don’t be intimidated. Trust your gut, but use your brain.

Below are some questions for musicians to ask themselves before hiring a manager, lawyer, publicist, agent, producer, promoter, consultant or whatever.

What exactly are they providing?

They should be able to give details on exactly what work they will be doing for you. Do your research and be well informed. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to spot a weasel.

What is their track record in the industry?

This is pretty self-explanatory. Ask other bands or folks you know that work in the business about this person. I’m no expert, but I’m always happy to offer any insight I can give if a fellow musician has questions. You can find my contact information at the bottom of this post.

Are their practices or fees atypical to the industry standard?

If a manager wants to charge you a big retainer fee, (we got tricked on that one) run away! Managers typically collect 15-20% of your revenue. Again, do your research, so you know what is normal and what smells fishy.

How did they find you?

Referrals from friends aren’t 100%, but a referral is generally the best road to take. If they found you on Twitter or other social media, they are probably contacting a million other bands like you to try and get their money.

Will this add value?

If it’s something that will help advance your career or add value to your music or image, then certainly consider it. If not, it probably isn’t worth the money.

I am the lead singer for The Paisley Fields, a queer country band based in Brooklyn, NY. Our new record, Oh These Urban Fences… is out now, and it is available at thepaisleyfields.com/store. I am always happy to connect with other musicians or industry folks. I can be reached at jameswilsonmusic@gmail.com