Fleecing Indie Artists: The Music Conference
MuseWire COLUMN: You say you want to make money in the music business and you don’t care how. Let’s see if you’re ready. Greedy? Check. Ruthless? Check. Predatory? Check. Okay, you just might be well-prepared to screw artists by putting on a music conference.
Indie musicians dream of many things. Fame. Fortune. Somebody playing one of their songs. Despite the realism of that last point, a great many indie artists are so naive that people can sell them a load of hooey if it’s called something like “the tools you need to succeed” and packaged in some important-sounding music conference confab clusterfrack event.
After enduring too much verbiage from all these affairs, I wanted to react in an appropriate way. By screaming, of course, but also by exposing a lot of the telltale signs that indicate you are about to be fleeced. So, here are the steps that an immoral group of bastards need to take to begin financially raping unwary musicians.
You’ll need a solid-sounding name for your event. Quick, write down everything that pops into your big greedwhore head, like “Weaseling Cash From Musicians: The Tenth Annual Music Millennium Summit.” Sure, the first part of that name is a little too on-the-money, if you know what I mean, but the second part is very strong. In fact, let’s go with it. Say it with me now: Tenth Annual Music Millennium Summit. TAMMS. Very cool.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to have actually conducted nine previous events. That’s just a logistical detail. Besides, musicians are too self-absorbed to look up anything about the history of your event. Nor will they take the time to research all of the lawsuits in your own background, or any of the interstate commerce complaints filed against all your business partners. Trust me, they won’t do any checking up on you at all. They’re musicians! Need I say more?
A snappy-looking logo for your event is something to consider. A good design will help attract the sensitive singer-songwriter types. However, the vast majority of musicians have no visual sensibilities (have you seen the album cover designs and band logos these people use?!) so you can pretty much put “TAMMS” into any type font you want. Let your web designer pick something. We all know how much taste and sensitivity those people have.
Painting a Word Picture
In all of your online communications, you’ll want to insert lots of Key Phrases that trigger a strong reaction and act as a CALL TO ACTION that will excite the typical musician. Consider utilizing a few statements like these:
“Is it time that your music is heard by people who can jump-start your career?” That’s a great question because every indie artist and music wannabe will say “Yes!” But you are not promising anything with that question so everyone associated with TAMMS is in the clear, lawsuit-wise.
Describe your confab in a way that cannot be disputed. “Our panelists are the type of industry pros you only dreamed of meeting, but now you’ll be in the room with them!” Dreamed of meeting, had nightmares about meeting; pretty much the same thing.
Tell your readers that “We will feature the movers and shakers who have a direct line to the platinum-selling artists, top hit producers, ad agency production teams, motion picture and television music supervisors, music distributors, and touring organizations you’ll need for your own superstar career!” Who’s to say these dweebs on your panels are not movers and shakers? Look, they move. And some of them tremble from drinking their lunch, and that makes them shakers.
You Are A Smart Reader
And you are so good looking, too! See how this works? Tell musicians exactly what they want to hear: “Your music deserves to be played for true industry insiders!” Can’t argue with a statement like that.
Also, use scare tactics just before asking for them to send you a check or give you their parents’ credit card number: “Don’t hold back just when opportunity presents itself. Don’t miss this chance to advance yourself and your music to the next level and beyond!” Yeah, you don’t want to miss a chance to go beyond the next level.
Phrases for Free
Since I am such a helper, here is a list of phrases that are proven effective in creating hype for music conferences:
Top-Tier Gathering of Professionals
Get on the Road to Inspiration and Success
Obtain New Insights
Make New Contacts (same as Networking! but use it anyway)
Top Industry Talent (same as Top-Tier Gathering of Professionals, but use it anyway)
Access to Business Professionals (same as Networking! but use it anyway)
Premiere Event (alternate with Red-Carpet Event and Industry Insider Event)
You’re going to want to hire a word nerd who will deliver hard-hitting prose. Anybody can write something like this: “The Tenth Annual Music Millennium Summit is at the very heart of today’s entertainment scene!” But it takes a pro to write something if your event is being held in Jerkwater, Florida or Fungusbrain, Alabama. You may need wording like this: “While we’re outside the traditional entertainment capitals, TAMMS features major industry players direct from the very heart of today’s entertainment scene!”
Try to sound important without saying anything: “With the intense focus of a laser beam, TAMMS takes you beyond the cutting edge of where the entertainment industry is right now and explores where everything will be tomorrow!”
Do not be afraid to pile on the words: “You will be able to take advantage of a plethora of non-stop Industry Seminars, Exciting New Talent Showcases, Vital Hands-On Workshops, Creative Concert Presentations, and much more!”
Promise great results without promising results: “By featuring the go-to professionals from the frontlines of the entertainment industry, our seminars and workshops will enable you to take your talent from amateur to pro and from good to great!” Sure, whatever.
Be specifically vague: “Here is where you’ll mingle with the executives and company representatives who are dedicated to discovering the new talent and new artists who will be ready to succeed in all the vibrant areas of the industry!” I wrote that sentence and even I don’t know WTF it means.
You probably should come up with a Mission Statement that sounds lofty: “Created, developed, and produced by a cadre of acclaimed industry veterans, TAMMS and its founders are using our decades of success in the entertainment industries to follow through on our dedication to providing opportunities for new talent to flourish in the always exciting and continually evolving world of entertainment.”
Remember: you only need to be truthful in a Romney-esque sort of way. Actual facts are not required.
Affiliate with Everybody
All large companies employ someone whose job it is to get that firm’s logo in front of as many eyeballs as possible. So ask every music-related corporation to become a sponsor of your event. If they just want to have some brochures on the Media Table, fine. You’ll still be able to put their company logo on your Sponsors Page (that part of the website that looks like the side of a NASCAR racer).
But if they give you some products to use as prizes, or they send you money, or they provide some broadcast or print advertising, then you might toss their name into the name of the event: “Tenth Annual Music Millennium Summit Brought to you By Universal Musical Instruments Retailers.” Which would be TAMMSBTYBUMIR but you’ll still be able to keep on using your TAMMS logo.
Don’t turn down anybody or anything. There can be product mentions anywhere, even in the mundane line-item listings: “Build Better Bookings: A Seminar on Getting the Gigs You Deserve, sponsored by Flivitz Hair Extensions, the Rockstar Wave of the Future.”
Have some awards: “TAMMS Star of Tomorrow.” Think quantity not quality on this. Arrange the award categories by genre and by gender so there are lots of them.
Plus, you might be able to rake in extra cash by selling plaques or trophies to the “winners.” Remember, indie artists are desperate for some recognition and many will shell out an extra hundred bucks for a three dollar laminated certificate. And some of them will pay two hundred bucks for a seven dollar bowling trophy that has a microphone or musical note glued on top.
Bigger is Better (and it’s bigger, too)
Don’t be afraid to list everything several times. In addition to describing every part of your presentation, take each heading and put it in a litany of offerings, like so: “Pre-party gatherings! Exclusive industry parties! Guest speakers! Showcase performances! Red carpet interviews! Celebrity photo-ops! Panel presentations! Networking! Round-table discussions! All happening in real time! Taking place in the physical realm! Actual people will be attending! All attendees will be breathing actual air!” And so on.
Always hype these events to the max: “Your opportunity to be seen in front of media, A&R, and industry decision makers! Enjoy delicious food and great cocktails during these superb opportunities to meet and greet the people who may control the next steps in the advancement of your career!” (Note the double-dip in using certain power words: “opportunity” and “opportunities.” Sure, this is from the Department of Redundancy Dept., but musicians won’t notice and they are always impressed by the sheer number of words in any document. You’ve seen the contracts these people sign, right?)
Seminar Naming Schemes
The trick is to take your normal, everyday, mundane panels and name them so they sound like “Must See” assemblies of the best talent and latest technology from the leading companies in the entertainment world. Thus, a panel discussion on streaming becomes “Using New Technology to Boost Your Music Income!”
Here are a few suggestions for making rubbish sound fascinating and worth the horrendous price-gouging fees you will be collecting from unsuspecting indie artists:
***Brand & Brand: The Togetherness Synergy Concept for Global Success!
***Money Can be Music to Your Ears AND Your Wallet: A Profitable Look at Revenue Streams!
***Team-building to Maximize Your Profits!
***Touring Tips & Tricks: Your Guidebook of Money-Making Opportunities!
***New Media Means New Revenue for You!
***Impress the Press and Reach All of Your True Audience!
***$elling Your $tuff: Super Secrets of Merchandising Millionaires!
Indie musicians are fine with pay-to-play, so you should have no problem getting hundreds or even thousands of dollars for artists to play your pre-show events, your lunch breaks, your lobby display areas, and your evening networking cocktail schmooze-fests. Remember, you just have to say this to musicians: “Now is the time to Show the World What You’ve Got!”
Goose everything up a notch or two with the promise that “Showcase performers will be competing to receive industry contracts!” Well, sure, they’re competing just by performing, right? “Plus, there will be awards of fabulous gear and accessory packages!” (A box of earplugs counts as a gear and accessory package.)
And who knows, maybe some P.R. geek will offer a “V.I.P. Marketing Campaign” to some lucky winner. (Yup, I was roped into this once; the band was so disgusted with the event that they never asked me to do any work for them.)
Reach a wider audience by conducting a “Creative Film & TV Production Summit” and a “Movie, TV & Theater Acting Summit” at the same time. Get a local college to hold student film screenings at the afternoon break and you can claim to be offering a “TAMMS Film Festival” at the same time.
Don’t forget the models. You’ll want a “TAMMS Model-of-the-Future Contest.” Same thing can work with dancers, poets, rock critics, comics, DJs, booking agents, gardeners, and yoga instructors, for all I know.
Video everything. Maybe you can sell podcasts of each panel discussion. That way, you can pick the pockets of the indie artists in other cities. Who among them wouldn’t want to pay fifty bucks for a grainy, out-of-focus, and barely audible 40-minute video of people droning into microphones while the audience members count the death of their own brain cells?
Who’s Not Who
So many record company personnel have been let go, downsized, terminated, retired, or fired in the past few years that you can pick up a lot of panelists who actually have decent-sounding resumes. (This is quite apart from the fact that they are out-of-work and ain’t never going back into the record industry unless they learn new technological skills.)
I won’t belabor the point here, but you’ll be able to mention dozens of people appearing as part of your Exclusive Industry Insiders, and all of their bios will look something like this:
Barry Backslapper has a three-decade-long history of success at the very pinnacle of the entertainment industry. Long recognized as one of the premiere observers of new talent, Mr. Backslapper was instrumental in the careers of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, N’Sync, Madonna, 2Pac, Cher, The Who, Elvis Presley, ABBA, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Miles Davis, Merle Haggard, Mariah Carey, The Bee Gees, Justin Bieber, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Pink Floyd, Kelly Clarkson, Rod Stewart, Carrie Underwood, William Hung, Rihanna, and The Three O’Clock. He currently is serving as CEO, President, Chief Operating Officer, and Office Manager of Backslapper Entertainment, a very limited partnership.
Go For It
Follow these steps and you will be on your way to the bank as well as on the 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. © 2012 by John Scott G, and originally published on MusicIndustryNewswire-dot-com before the site was revamped as MuseWire.com in March 2015 – all commercial and reprint rights reserved.