Don’t Feed The Sharks


Every musician’s dream ….

…. Grand Ole Opry.  Hollywood Bowl.  Madison Square Garden.  –You on stage.  All eyes on you.  A sea of lighted cell phones proving  their adoration ….

However:  Beware.  Because, like anywhere, in The Music Industry, there are con men.  –Hustlers; swindlers.  Rats.  Snakes, Sharks.  –Face it:  THERE ARE SHARKS!  They lurk in the jungle; or circle the water.  Smelling blood.  And it is yours.  And they are waiting to scam you.  To feed on your dreams.  And to annihilate them to extinction.

So – as I repeatedly tell you – Remember That You Are A Business Man, As Well As A Musician.  …. Which, above all, means: DON’T FEED THE SHARKS!

They open-up their suitcase and lure you with their bait.  BUT DON’T TAKE IT!  Here are just twelve of the infinite warning signs that you are about to be scammed:

1.  The deal sounds too good to be true.  (If it does, it is.)

2.  They want your money up-front.  (If they get it, kiss both them & your money goodbye.)

3.  They promise you the moon.  (Only astronauts have been to the moon.)  (And maybe aliens.)

4.  They push you to sign a contract – fast.  (Remember the tortoise & the hare.)

5.  They claim, “We only make this deal to musicians who can make it big”.  (So…is Garth Brooks on their roster??) This is a Shark.

6.  They say it’s a one-time deal; it won’t be here tomorrow.  (Why?  Will the sun stop shining then too?)

7.  They tell you, “You’re the best we’ve heard in a long time.”  (“Why thank you!  But if so, then you guys can probably wait a bit.”) 

8.  Their address is a P.O. box. (‘Nuff said.)

9.  They say you don’t need to talk to a lawyer.  “You can trust us.”  (Didn’t Benedict Arnold say that too?)

10.  They are insistent they can make you a star.  (Wow!  Really?!  Great!  How?!)

11.  ….Awww…tsk-tsk…unfortunately…they can’t pay you to play anywhere – because selling tickets is the promoter’s responsibility; sorry…. (Then, “Bye-bye fellas; Have a nice life.”)

12.  They say they can get you to open for a major act.  (“Book me first; then we’ll talk.”) 

Now, in light of the above, you might want to give up.  Just go back to Kansas and forget about Music.  Make a living pitchin’ hay on daddy’s farm.  But don’t!  As long as you know what to expect in The Jungle-Gnarled, Shark-Infested Music World, you absolutely can protect yourself.  

(But don’t forget:  You MUST expect the above.  It’ll happen, one way or another, and it’ll make your Music Journey a lot harder & more challenging than “competition” alone.  Expect sundry arguments.  Confrontations.  Miscommunications.  Misunderstandings.  Expect to get screwed over; jerked around; disrespected; or ripped off.  –And this could only be the beginning of what might become a nightmare – unless you’re primed in advance.)

On the other hand, opportunities will arise.  And here’s what you need to do to fully take advantage of them …. while, simultaneously, avoiding the sharks lying in wait to devour you:

* Ascertain which opportunities – and people offering them – are legitimate.  (Remember the “Too Good” rule, #1 above.)

* Approach opportunities with guarded optimism.  Always.  Thoroughly analyze & evaluate each one – as well as your response to it.

* Don’t become so overly wary & defensive that you overlook legitimate opportunities when they do come up.  Besides sharks, The Music Industry really is filled with fine, good people.  –If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be in it either!

* When it comes to contracts, don’t show all your aces at once.  Reserve some of your best business tactics for “push-comes-to-shove” time, when contracts are on the line and money is about to change hands.  Be picky about the details.  And know them.  First.  And only then, and when you are satisfied, be willing to sign on any dotted line.

*  Never sign a contract – EVER – without a good, reputable lawyer first reviewing it!  (This means an entertainment industry lawyer, not your mother’s real-estate attorney.) 

*  Speaking of your mother, NEVER have your mom or dad represent you.  (This is not only a big joke in the industry, but just a bad, bad idea.  Sure, save them front-row seats – but never let them be your agent!

So …. Follow these rules; avoid these pitfalls; watch out for the sharks.  AND DON’T EVER FEED THEM.  And you too might just someday be well on your way to Madison Square Garden.

Till Next Time,

Tom Sabella