Fleecing Indie Artists: Awards Shows
MuseWire COLUMN: Let’s say you want to make some money in the music business. Let’s also say you have no scruples about how you get the cash as long as it looks somewhat legit. There are many dark alleys down which you can run, but there’s also a brightly lit pathway that is a relatively safe way to screw artists out of money: You can put on an indie awards show.
Here are the steps you need to take to become a player in the indie scene by selling naive musicians the dream of fame and fortune.
To begin, you will need a name. A few moments of searching on the Internet will reveal the names of your competitors so you’ll know what to avoid. Then, you can simply put several words together to capture the spirit of your particular dodge. How about this: Southern California Audience Media Music Indie Event.
That’s right: welcome to the S C A M M I E S.
Next thing you do is get a website. See if you can get a friend or relative to host it for free by promising them they’ll get access to all the female contestants backstage.
You will also need a snappy logo that you can put on the website as well as printing it on stationary, press releases, and banners.
Set a date for your show that is many, many months in the future. This allows you to work your “magic” for as long as possible.
Then you start affiliating with as many firms, companies, sponsors, managers, attorneys, artists, publicists, bookers, agents, and music publications as possible. “But some of these people are bottom feeders,” I hear you say. Ah, but that’s known as “name recognition.” Sign ’em up with an online trade: you run their name, photo and logo if they’ll run your logo and write up an announcement in their newsletter.
See if any of the legitimate industry publications will be fooled into affiliating with you. Some of the Hollywood trade papers often have an intern assigned to increasing their “web presence” and you might just wind up with their logo on your page sitting right next to some of your fellow bottom-feeder organizations, thus lending you a bit of perceived prestige.
Bottom line here: any time you can trade logos with anyone, do so. The idea is to have so many logos on your site that it looks like a NASCAR jumpsuit.
It is very important that the SCAMMIES have a large number of categories. Let me emphasize this: you need LOTS of categories for your awards show. The more categories, the more entries. The more entries, the more cash up front from the entry fees.
All the indie awards shows do this. In five minutes of searching some online sites, I looked at the awards categories for seven different indie awards shows. The fewest categories offered was 27; the highest was 80.
Eighty! It’s actually not that difficult. Consider: Best Male Guitarist, Hard Rock. Then feature the same for Bass, Keyboards, Drums and Vocals. Then feature the same for Female. Then do it all again for Pop, Jazz, Blues, Country, Hardcore, Reggae, and Cover Bands. Oops, sorry: “Tribute Bands.” Add categories for manager, publicist, songwriter, band name, logo, CD package design, video, etc.
Okay, okay, I know that the Grammys, an organization to which I belong, has more than a hundred categories. But the Grammys are not taking money from indie musicians. You have to have a commercially released recording to enter. Presumably, this means there is some actual business being conducted.
Make a deal with an electronic presskit firm to charge independent artists at least thirty bucks for each entry.
Then you post invitations on eight hundred thirty-five thousand websites, blogs and ezines. Be sure to hit up all the niche music sites and discussion boards.
Make lofty-sounding promises that cannot quite be measured. You want every artist who reads about the SCAMMIES to think that their songs will be heard by every important person in every aspect of the music industry. Just don’t say that.
Consider this sentence: “Now is the time for your music to be heard by platinum-selling artists, superstar producers, ad agency production teams, motion picture and television music supervisors, and the presidents of every major music distributor and touring organization in the world!”
Or this one: “Your music deserves to be played for true industry insiders, the people who can put your career into fast-track interstellar overdrive to fantastic success!”
Or this: “Of course, you can hold back and not advance your career, or you can Make Your Move today towards achieving every bit of success you know you deserve!”
Of course. Who wouldn’t want all that? Put those sentences right next to the “Enter Now” button on your website and lots of gullible artists will dig into their pockets or ask their parents for the entry fee.
Get some local promoters, industry hangers-on, and questionable managers to agree to judge one aspect of your venture. They don’t have to be involved for more than a few moments. All you have to do is arrange to send them some MP3 files for them to “judge.”
For example, if the booker for that run-down blues club on the wrong side of the tracks will agree to judge the preliminary round for best blues guitarist, that’s great. Now you have another “name” to feature in your long list of judges on your site. If they want to show up at a bunch of your preliminary events as well as the main show, terrific. If they just want to be quoted in one of your press releases, then that’s fine, too.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and find an aging rock star who wants a bit of publicity. In exchange for using their name and picture, you feature them as a “Celebrity Honorary Judge” in all your press materials. They don’t actually have to do anything. (Hell, I have seen some shows where the celebrities listed on the site had no idea their names were being used at all.)
Send out a weekly e-newsletter about what’s happening with the SCAMMIES. It can be long or short, but it needs to say that “There are still great opportunities to get on stage, get your music heard, get a bigger fan base, and get on track for success!”
Offer entrants the opportunity to feature their artist photo and/or logo on your site. It’s simple to create a “Featured Artist” page on your site and each entrant who pays a few extra bucks gets the first position on the page. And they stay in first position right up until the next artist pays a few extra bucks. See if you can encourage a competition in this part of your site. Hey, you might create another category: Artists Showing Support. (What a fitting acronym that makes.)
Upsell. Hold monthly showcases at local clubs. Tell artists it is absolutely not mandatory but that it is a way to build fan awareness (you are going to make online voting one aspect of your award show, right?) Plus, you can let them know that the “special, unique, spotlight premiere platinum artist showcase events” will help influence the judges when artists are in that all-important Final Round.
Oh, did I mention that these are pay-to-play showcases? Each artist will purchase tickets which they can sell (“you can make a profit on your performance participation!”) prior to the showcase.
You can also sell pay-to-play slots for the pre-show performances. And pay-to-play slots at the pre-show dinner. And pay-to-play slots at the main show itself.
Naturally, you will encourage each artist to buy seats to that pre-show dinner. And buy seats to the main show. (My favorite line from this ploy was worded this way: “Dinner seats are $45 or reserve a table for ten for the special price of just $450!”)
Worried that the press will expose you? Not a problem. You have already offered to trade online banners with all the local press. And you are offering judgeships to the writers and editors of those publications. And you will be running at least one co-op ad paid for by one or more of your sponsors. Remember, the mainstream press rarely attacks advertisers, so you can imagine how rare it is for smaller publications who you have roped into participating with your show. Plus, some of these publications may be running their own awards shows, so they know how the game is played.
Follow these steps and you will be on your way to hell. Oops, I mean you will be on your way to a highly-regarded position in the indie music community.
Article is Copr. © 2010 by John Scott G.