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5 Music Industry Scams To Avoid

5 Music Industry Scams To Avoid

The sudden appearance of successful artists makes the music industry seem like it’s hiding a back door somewhere! Rather than attempting to navigate the complexities of the industry, it can be tempting to find shortcuts and jump the line… 

It is the desire to find a shortcut that enables so many scammers to do what they do best: scam. In every industry that has opportunity, there will be individuals who take advantage and prey on the vulnerable. You need to watch out for frauds, self-promoters, liars and outright thieves waiting round every corner. 

Here are five of the most prevalent scams in the industry right now. 


A tale as old as time, just with a younger looking face. This scam is a form of bribery: a “pay-for-play” music scheme, that dates back as far as the 1950s. Back in the 50s, this was known as “Payola”, where DJs took bribes, making you pay for a placement in commercial radio.

Now, it’s poked its ugly head back out in the form of playlist scams.  The trouble is, most of these scams look and sound legitimate, even going so far as to name the Spotify playlists you will be featured on, reviews from happy clients and numerous success stories. But the reality is, these companies can’t hack into curated Spotify Playlists and slot your music in there for you. 

You should not be paying for placements on Spotify Playlists. Instead, enlist the help of experts at a trusted institute, such as your distributor, who have playlist pitching experience. 

You can find out more about how to avoid these scams here: Avoiding Spotify Playlist Scams.

A&R Charges

Have you ever seen an A&R person scouting talent who then charges you for them to review, or share your music? We hope not, but they are out there…

A&Rs have a great power within the music industry. Using their network of contacts and their music knowledge, they can help to break artists to big opportunities.

That being said, A&Rs are paid to listen to music as part of their job. So be careful of those asking you to part with your cash. You should never pay to have an A&R listen to and share your music. 

These scams can often come in hidden styles, such as charging for “event submissions” that look almost like a contest. You can even get people who charge you to broker an introduction between you and an A&R. You need to put the time and effort into finding A&Rs and outreaching yourself. 

Pay-for-Play gigs

Playing gigs is an essential growth strategy for many independent artists. It is important that you get the right opportunities, but it’s also important to ensure you don’t get ripped off!

Some places will try to charge smaller acts for the opening slots. Now that just doesn’t sound fair to us! If you are performing, you should be being paid, not paying. 

These kinds of scammers will sell you on how amazing the show is for you, and that you would grow so much and gain so many fans. But these shows are rarely as good as they are made out to be. 

Be prepared to be paid smaller amounts if it reflects that you are a smaller artist, but absolutely avoid paying for a slot. Your fee may also be based on how many fans you bring, or you may be required to sell a minimum number of tickets.

Fake Results

Again, an essential part of older-style scams, that has been modernised! DJs used to log a fake spin, or play a record off-hours to change the stats. In this modern age, there are programmes and bots who similar. Now, they will fake streams and followers.

It may seem tempting to pay for a boost of “5000” followers in order to seem popular, but this creates issue. 

Firstly, the platforms regularly scan for data outliers like this. A sudden growth that far exceeds an expecting growth rate would ring alarm bells. If you get caught out, you will be punished by the service, losing your revenue, your profile and your authentic numbers. 

Some platforms may forbid you from re-uploading. Additionally, these followers and listeners don’t actually interact with your work. So it will be obvious that the account was stuffed with bots.

Just don’t do it kids!


Similarly to the others, this is a bit like the old Payola style scams. As technology and industry evolve, scammers evolve to make their scams more effective, more convincing and more dangerous. While we write this article these scams are affecting the industry. But, in two years time, who knows what will be plaguing us again!

Some bloggers will try to charge you for writing a story or posting your music. If a blog does this, it’s a sure fire sign that nobody is reading their content. Most blogs make money through featuring advertisements, and are paid the big bucks for achieving high view counts. 

A good blogger will want the best content to keep their audience engaged and returning. Those who are charging for other services don’t have a high enough viewer count to sustain income from advertisements, meaning that the audience they are reaching is probably smaller than they are telling you!

Do your research

You might be wondering how scammers get away with what they do, and it’s simple, they rely on ignorance and innocence. They will take advantage of the uneducated, the lazy and the newbie. All of these people create an opportunity for them, but have to power to stop it. If you want to stay safe and avoid scams then protect yourself and do your research. Talk to a trusted advisor, negotiate a better deal and check out information beyond their social media and website. 

There are no shortcuts to success. The music industry presents challenges for everyone within it. Despite what the media may imply, there is no overnight success for artists. You need to grind, work and keep at it. If you do look at hiring any kind of service, take responsibility for the safety of your career and make sure you are confident in it. 

By setting up your music distribution with Identity Music, you can take full advantage of our music promotion support services and get your music out to all corners of the globe. You can get in touch with our team to discuss your options here!

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  1. […] Be careful of A&R reps who aren’t what they seem! You should never pay an A&R to review your music. You can find out more about scammy A&Rs in our recent blog. […]

  2. […] out our recent article on common industry scams, so that you know what to look out […]

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