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How To Spot a Bogus Record Deal, The New "Record Label" Scam

Recently a few people have contacted me with concerns about a record contract that a “Record Label” offered up to them. They were all completely bogus and, I’m going to help you spot fakes.

  1. This is the easiest one to check for. Get to the end of the contract where they ask you to sign. If there is no space made for a notary or an attorney. Don’t even bother reading it any further. Record contacts are a dig deal and you’ll often be talking about large sums of money. Record companies will not offer you $500,000 if there is ANY room for doubt that you, in fact signed the contract.

2. Multiple, grammatical errors. I’m not an English professor and, my grammar is off at times too. I’m a normal guy so, hey… I know enough to communicate. When a record contract is drawn up, it is usually done by an entertainment attorney with reviews completed by their team. No one is perfect of course, you may find something that isn’t spelled correctly but, if there are constants, this may be a time to walk away especially if there are mistakes made as far as money is concerned. For example, If they state that they are offering you a $340,000 signing bonus but it’s worded as Four Hundred Fifty Thousand, uhhhhhhh. No thank you.

3. Changing contracts. Contracts are usually up for revision and, as a result, may be changed because let’s say that you did actually negotiate that $340,000 signing bonus to $450,000 – The contract format will return to you the same with those numbers changed. However, If you were initially looking at a 68 page contract and asked for a revision and then it comes back as an 8 page contract… Bye Bye.

4. As a general rule. Most record contracts will only be for one year. Be very cautious if the record contract in front of you is for over a year. ( This does not include publishing contracts, managment or other non-360 deals) one year is a testing ground. They’ll invest in you, get you out there, if your numbers are good then, they’ll renegotiate with you. Would you commit to hiring someone for 5 years if you just met them? if your numbers are in the record companies favor, they’ll generally go for a 3 year deal next unless your numbers were incredible, 5 years or longer wouldn’t be crazy.

5. You are asked to spend your own money to sign the record deal. ( This does not include Development Deals or membership based labels) I’ll make another point about this in a minute but, this would apply to major record deals. If you get a message to the effect of, “$300,000 signing bonus and all we need from you is to pay for your flight and hotel ($700)” – This is bogus. That should be very clear. A record company is not going to offer you $300,000 to have pay for anything. They will fly you out, they will put you up.If their interest in you is enough to the point where they’re going to give you a large sum of money, they’ll take care of amenities.

  • Counter point: Some indie labels will have a sign up fee around $300-$500 to get you signed to their label. There are deals like this that are legit but, it’s more of a promotional deal rather than a full fledged record deal. They’ll more likely than not use that $300 (or whatever amount) to pay for advertising and get your name out there to gauge where you stand in the music world. This is very common for new artists with no history of real streams, finacial revenue from their music or a huge following. Record deals are always held for the more "seasoned" artist that has been in the industry for a while and has a proven track record of sales. At the end of the day, the record label isn't in the business of "giving" money away their in the business of making money as a FOR PROFIT ENTITY or CORPORATION. It is extremely important that you do your research with these types of deals. Google, google, google and, when you’re done googling, goolge again.

6. Lack of a physical address. Record companies are often times owned or operated by media companies. Def Jam records for example was in part owned by UMG (Universal Music Group)and was founded by Rick Ruben and Russell Simmons. Even if there were no physical address for Def Jam, There would be enough info available on UMG to find theirs. If it’s just a website. Steer clear!

7. Email. Guess what… Def Jam doesn’t use their Yahoo email to contact you. if you get an email that says I think it’s safe to move that email into the trash folder. Record companies can afford professional email addresses and websites and do not have to rely on free email services. In fact, companies spend Hundreds of Thousands of dollars to hire a third party company to manage their email contacts. Masked Wolf’s Secretary isn’t sitting there sending out emails to 1,000,000 people.

8. Asking for personal information via email instead of done with contracts. Yes, you must pay taxes on what you make so, your accountant will have all the necessary info for your taxes. If you get an email that says, we need your birthday, social security number, physical address to get you into our system. So long sucka!

Listen up folks. Go by the old narrative that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Use common sense to guide you through your music career. There are deals that will look legit and if you run into one that’s too difficult to tell then, spend the $250 and hire an entertainment attorney to look it over for you. It’ll be a lot easier to handle a loss of $250 rather than $250,000 – Imagine you gave personal info out and now someone else now owns your house or ran up a $10,000 credit card debt. Your info, your responsibility. This is why I noted the signature section as the first point. If you sign and send the “record deal” out, it’s super easy to scan a piece of paper. You then give all your personal info and, disaster. Be careful.

Scammers are targeting independent artists with false promises of major label promotion. We can help you avoid becoming the next victim.

Every artist dreams of attracting the attention of an industry gatekeeper. Many see that event as the moment their lives change forever. “All I need is a little help,” they tell themselves, “and then my dreams will be a reality.”

Some people see dreaming as a weakness meant to be exploited. They look for ways to leverage the hopes of the aspiring for personal gain through lies and misdirection. It’s an act as old as time itself, and unfortunately, it continues in 2024.

Today’s scammers target independent musicians through social media. They seek out those looking for attention and slide into their DMs with false promises of exposure, often in exchange for money.

We’ve seen dozens of scams over the last decade, but there is one scam we see repeatedly.

Scammers first contact an artist through Instagram masquerading as management or A&R under contract with a major label. After complimenting the artist for their music and social presence, often regardless of their popularity or following, the scammer will ask if the artist is interested in working with a label.

If the artist replies yes, then the scam is on.

Now the scammer has the advantage because they know the artist wants their offer sight unseen. The next step is to ask for an email, which is then used to send a variation of the following message:

I’m [NAME GOES HERE] and I handle all business proposals and inquires for WARNER RECORDS. The A&R & Head of WR.For more than four decades, Warner Music Group has been an industry leading force in providing a world-class  array of service designed to help artists and labels grow their careers and their businesses.Artist and Label Services is the umbrella of for WEA , the pioneering WEA distribution and marketing network – and Alternative Distribution Alliance(ADA) the groundbreaking global distribution company for independent artist and labelsWe’ve checked out all your musical activities and you’ve been selected and offered a provisional promotion and nomination with Warner Music Group. We encourage your creativity and would love to invest in your potentials.Therefore be prepared to appear for an interview at our head officeWe are located in 1633 Broadway New York , NY 10019 United States. Signify If interested so, we may proceed with the necessary steps.We upload your music with your preferred and befitting artworks,distribute and collect your sales and send your money via Cash app,zelle and any other payment method approved by the Company music board.There is a small fee of $300 which will state that the offer was Unsolicited.NB: An application Form will be sent as an attachment to the above mail.Taken from an email received by an independent artist in July 2022.

Several issues arise as you’re reading the message above.

  1. There are multiple grammatical issues.

  2. The phrase “head office” isn’t a real thing.

  3. Major labels don’t pay artists through CashApp or Zelle.

  4. Why should YOU pay $300? Don’t they want your music?

The issues are even more apparent when you review the PDF attached to the email. The so-called “application form” is a clear scam. It looks like this:

Several more problems arise as you’re reading the message above.

  1. The phone number doesn’t work.

  2. Why would a label ask if you want to sign a deal?

  3. The signature doesn’t match the name.

  4. The use of “next of kin” is unusual wording. Also, why would WMG need that?

  5. “Future plans” is vague and offers no explanation.

  6. The form doesn’t tell you what you’re applying to do/accomplish.

There are at least another half dozen things wrong with the form above, but the issue should be clear at this point.

Record labels won’t ask you for money or next of kin information. They also wouldn’t consider working with someone without first meeting them or having an introductory video call. Nobody does business strictly through DMs and email without any voice communication.

When in doubt, call the phone number.

If it doesn’t work, then you have your answer.

If it does work, ask for the person who initially messaged you. If they don’t work there, run the other way.


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