writes on February 9, 2018
The longer you stay in the business, the more you’ll encounter specific types of people—some good, some bad. It’s important for an artist still learning the ins and outs of the music industry to be able to recognize the archetypes, and how to properly react to them.
Below are 5 common types of people you’ll meet in music, how they operate, and how to avoid (or find) them.
Scammers pop up in every industry where people are desperate enough to fall for their tricks. I’ve talked before about peeping their game. The easiest way to spot a scammer is by asking yourself: Does this sound too good to be true? Scammers play on artists’ common weaknesses: wanting to be liked, ambition and drive to succeed, and their utter need to be at the top now. Don’t fool yourself, it takes a lot of hard work to succeed in this industry, and anyone making promises that put you at the front of the line is very, very likely trying to take advantage of you.
People may dislike Justin Bieber on a monumental scale, but the kid performed on sidewalks for years before he was annoying his rich, SoCal neighbors with fireworks.
Another dead giveaway for scammers: they promise you the world, for a fee. Beware anyone that guarantees you placement in a top Spotify playlist, opening for a major act, a record deal, etc. (especially without hearing your music first) and then follows it up by asking for money. RUN!
Avoid scammers by embracing the hard work it will take to break into the business. Legendary music executive, Steve Stoute, said only ten artists know the music business—causing most artists to fail or get taken advantage of. Strive to be the eleventh artist. Learn as much as you can about contracts, record deals, recording splits, performance rates, and pretty much every other aspect of the music business. Don’t skip steps, you’ll only end up tripping yourself.
What’s the difference between a scammer and a hustler? While both are money-minded, you can tell the difference by their work ethic. People on their hustle work hard to earn what they get (scammers game the system for easy money). You can recognize hustlers by how busy they are (no time to go out for a party) and their passion (they’ll eagerly talk about their goals). Hustlers have a “how can we make this work” attitude.
There are hustlers in every field of the business: ride-or-die managers, music-obsessed A&R’s, artists who don’t stop no matter the setbacks they encounter. Not only should you work to become a Hustler, you should want to have one on your team. Some find hustlers harder to work with because they are so laser-focused and driven—almost to a fault—but when pointed in the right direction, hustlers get the job done.
This one’s a little more complicated than others on the list. There are good, great, bad, and horrible promoters. At its core, promoting is something anyone could do, and that ends up attracting a wide array of types—everyone from those who just like to party, those who have a lot of Instagram followers, and those who just want to get in the club for free.
Ideally, working with a promoter can get you gigs and help build your following and visibility. But because not all promoters are created equal, it doesn’t always end up like that. When hiring or working with a promoter, do your due diligence. You can’t just Google them or check their social media—this may weed out *some* of the bad promoters, but most are pretty adept at putting up a convincing smokescreen of success online (because it’s not that hard to do). To check a promoter’s credentials you’ll have to actually talk to people (call venues they’ve worked with, other performers) and attend one of their events (see what kind of crowd they can draw).
It’s important to know your true value in these interactions too. Don’t take too little in performance pay, but don’t expect more than you can bring in in ticket sales.
These types are almost kind of tragic. Their self-esteem and confidence are through the roof, but their music and branding are stuck in the basement. The goal here is to not become one. Gather feedback from as many people—and as many different types of people—as possible. Understand that your family and friends want to support you and do not want to say anything negative to hurt your feelings.
Build a network of peers (other artists, bloggers, producers, A&R’s, audio engineers, etc.) to act as your “trusted ears”. One of the biggest mistakes artists make when networking is focusing on themselves and their needs. Good relationships don’t start with, “Can you do [X] for me?”. Check out their work, follow them, compliment them if it’s genuine—vintage, real-life friend stuff. People will be more open to doing you a favor when you’re not a random stranger in their DM’s.
The Connect is sort of like the popular kid in high school, he or she knows everyone and is somehow universally liked by them all. Being friendly with one of these can be like finding the golden goose for your career. Music industry connects can work in any area of the business, and they have probably worked in quite a few.
The Connect’s many years in music have helped them build a vast network of useful contacts. Need a photographer? An engineer? A lawyer? Check, check, check. The hard part is how to approach one. Again, no one likes to be pestered about handouts. So the trick is to make yourself another one of their valuable contacts. What do you have to offer? This isn’t exclusive to your musical talents either. Think of your whole self, not just your artist persona. Work for a rental car company? Offer upgrades. Know how to build websites or optimize SEO? Those are valuable talents. Be genuine, work hard, and build real relationships. It’s a winning combo.