The Imposters – Spotting the Pretend Record Label

If you happen to be in the market for a label deal, or you think that’s on the horizon for you in the not-too-distant future, you might want to keep the following in mind as you pursue all the options.

We’re all aware that things have changed considerably in this industry over the past decade or two, and there’s little doubt more flux and flummox is in store. In this regard, the digital scene is spawning all types of new critters related to the music scene, including one enterprising Internet-based species we’re starting to see more of: the faux label.

These outfits may call themselves labels, but be clear: they aren’t really record companies. They’ve launched on the relentless digital wave that’s seen by many as the sounding of the death knell for the traditional industry, on the premise that the old label model should be viewed as dead. Having taken the liberty to recreate the label concept in their own image, some now tout themselves to the unsigned as today’s real deal.

Well, I’m sorry, but digital marketing does not a record company make. Sure, that’s part of the package one would expect nowadays from a label, and having all the in-fashion social networking “follow us” and “share” buttons on the home page looks really cool. But a label’s mandate is much more than simply improving an artist’s presence in social media circles, placing music with online retailers, pushing merch on their “Store” page, and launching campaigns in collaboration with music community platforms.

In most cases, I’d classify such “label” players as little more than self-glorifying service companies at best, and scoundrels seeking to milk unsuspecting artists at worst.

Here are some clues you can pick up from a website that, individually or collectively, may help you determine whether you have probably sighted such an animal:

> no physical address or phone number

> ads unrelated to their activities

> a rather fuzzy description of what they do

> little information on who’s involved (or none at all)

> fees to get on board with them

> no track record to speak of

Happy hunting.

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