In this article, we will be giving you lots of useful tips on how to spot a fake manager or booking agent or just a plain old pirate – unfortunately, many of them are out there! Check out our ‘how to connect with booking agents and managers’ for tips on how to connect with a good ‘un.
There are many wonderful, intelligent managers and agents in this business, who will compliment your talents and brand but there are also chancers. Usually, the people leading others down the garden path are easy to spot – and sometimes they aren’t, especially when you are caught up in the hype and excitement about your future in music. And you should be excited! But you also need to be aware.
Are there telltale signs someone is a ‘fake’?
Some people are better than others at acting the part – but when you pay attention to the other person, it will be apparent if they are legitimate – and we mean really pay attention. When someone is throwing compliments your way and telling you all the great things you will achieve, take the focus off yourself in your mind, and pay attention to the person talking – this is the first step in identifying a rogue.
Whether you are speaking to a booking agent/promoter or manager, think about these things:
What they say sounds too good…
Ever heard your Mother tell you “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. This is true for everything in life. When you feel like something is so incredibly good and you cannot believe it….then you probably can’t believe it. Take a moment, sleep on it, take a week – talk it over with someone you trust – doing this can save you from falling into a web of money-hungry, exploitative pirates.
Let’s say a manager comes up to you after a gig and says you will be the next number 1 in the UK and will tour America and they are the only person to help with that, you’ve never seen them before, and they haven’t seen you either. Be prepared to ask them questions. “Why do you think that?”, and “how did you hear about me before this gig”, “who do you manage and what is your website”.
Legit managers will be happy to answer questions and will have a business card on them with a professional email and website.
An email with a Gmail or Hotmail extension should raise some questions for you. Professional managers will also set up a meeting to discuss matters further with you – they won’t simply blow hot air.
You’re asked to pay upfront
When a manager or agent/promoter asks you for money upfront – they are scamming you.
The most a promoter or booking agent will do is give you an allocation of tickets to a gig you’re playing, and ask you to sell them. This does not mean that if you don’t sell them that you owe them for the tickets. It means that if you don’t sell them, you won’t make money for yourself from ticket sales. This practice isn’t seen much but it does happen and it’s not weird. If they ask you to cover the cost of the tickets personally, then that is cause for concern.
When a manager says they need 1k from you to liaise with labels and set up interviews, and that money goes towards setting that all up – they are taking you for a ride. All professional managers and agents, labels, publishers, etc make money from you WHEN you yourself making money. They take a cut of what you make. If you make zero, they take a cut of zero. You got that?
Now, if you are not generating revenue, or aren’t in an immediate position to generate revenue, then it will be difficult to find a professional to work with – which is also a great way to spot a fake. Let’s say you have yet to get some press and don’t have an EP out and you are playing open mics. A professional manager or agent will not rush to work with you. So the ones that do rush to work with you are probably hoping to sell you lies. A professional will be made aware of you, through your work ethic and product, or through an intro via a good source. They will then watch you develop and ask to be part of your team when they think they can be helpful – and when you would be able to make them money.
If you take one thing away from this – it’s that managers and agents work for you, not the other way around.
They make outlandish claims
We think the best someone can do is promise to work hard for you, utilizing their contacts to get you as much forward movement as possible.
If someone promises to get you a cut on an artist’s track – hear alarm bells. If they say ‘I’ll see what I can do’, that is better as they haven’t promised anything. If they say they will get your song on high rotation on national stations, and get you a support slot with Beyonce – listen to those damn alarm bells. These ‘promises’ are usually followed by asking you for money to pull off such promises. If it’s not followed by asking you for money, they are still not good for you as they will only stall your career and have you running in circles with empty promises. If something sounds fake, or unrealistic, you can always ping a message to ASCAP or BMI, PRS or APRA. They can give you guidance on what practices are considered acceptable.
We know that being told you’ll get a major cut or that you will support a major artist feels very good. That’s what they are trying to hook you with – your own high. Let the high subside over a few hours or days – and you will see the situation for what it is. You deserve better than what a faker tries to sell you.
They are the ones who really want to play music
There are occasions where people become managers or booking agents because their music career didn’t take off the way they wanted it to. Or because they wished they could sing, but unfortunately weren’t blessed with being able to hold a note. These ones are tortured artists in a way, and when they promote others, they are looking for a way in for their music as well. So, they aren’t actually promoting you – they are hoping to promote themselves and give it ‘another shot’. This will become apparent if they start speaking about themselves in meetings, and if you see them giving their songs to promoters while they are supposed to be pushing you. People like this are not concerned about furthering your career. We suggest walking away from those situations.
We have heard a story through the grapevine where an agent took an artist to a label meeting. The artist’s material was received well and everyone was chatting about potential next steps. The agent then made it about them and attempted to find a way in for themselves, and also took the opportunity to rant about things that didn’t go their way in the past. This caused the label to dismiss the agent AND the artist.
Choose carefully who represents you – they are an extension of you. If they don’t come across well, you won’t either.
OK. Now I know what to look out for. What should I look for in a manager?
• A degree in music business is a good start – but not a must
• Experience in the industry – with a track record
• A list of people they represent – with some awards or accolades to match
• Evidence of understanding industry in detail, and that they can move with the times
• Must understand publishing, copyright, general contracts, royalties, and marketing, etc.
• Must have a detailed plan on how they will represent you and career goals with timestamps