Legit record producer interest? Or just wanting $$? How to tell

Hubby is a songwriter and performer on the side (teacher by day, open mic dude by night), and this past summer I organized his demo CDs and barraged every recording company in the 2006 Songwriter’s Market that sounded remotely like they are interested in his musical genre.

He’s received the typical “No thanks, not right for us, blah blah blah” form letters, but he received one the other day that has us scractching our heads. They claim hubby’s talent is “exceptional,” but the production values of his demo CD weren’t up to snuff, suggesting that with quality production he stands a better chance of success. Sounds good, but our bullshit meter is on full alert. Is this someone genuinely interested and legitimately wanting to record with hubby, or someone wanting to milk hubby’s cash?

Before posting some of the content of the letter (or who it’s from), I’d like to hear what you all have to say. What would a “legit” producer say versus one just wanting to dangle carrots and collect checks from us?

Did they recommend you any specific studios? If the recording is truly awful, they may truly be wanting to hear something cleaner. If the recording sounds half decent, then I’m not sure. Could be legit, might not be. If they didn’t recommend any studios I’d be more inclined to believe it’s real since it’s not like they’d be getting any kickbacks if they didn’t tell you who to use. Now my understanding is that studios are really expensive, perhaps you could tell mr producer to come and check out a gig and send him a schedule. If he’s not in the area, and you don’t want to pony up for a studio, then I would suggest buy/rent/borrow some better recording equipment and go from there.

I should note hubby used a professional recording studio (granted, it was that of a friend–but the friend uses his $80,000+ worth of equipment full-time to create soundtracks and whatnot that he is hired to do). The sound quality may not be top-notch, but it certainly doesn’t suck.

And no, no specifically recommended studios…BUT…I Googled the name of the producer and the business name (which curiously doesn’t appear in The Songwriter’s Market–he claims hubby’s demo was sent to him from another group, as they felt his talent “was at a level that it deserved the attention of a stronger, more established company”), and had some interesting results.

Many of the hits were from other recording artists quoting this producer’s review of their work, and their words were about 90% verbatim of what this producer wrote to my husband. I’m not sure if that means anything or not, as the letters I sent out to all the recording companies were all the same; if they’re interested in talent, perhaps it’s in keeping that the letters would have nearly identical language.

Some of the similar language included the part about recording, specifically, “Without question with quality production, a little luck and with the right person on your side helping to guide and direct your progress, you could stand a much better chance of success within the entertainment industry.”

Is that a red flag?

Can you look up the company itself? As in Companies House or its American equivalent. How long has the company been trading? What’s its turnover? Has it published accounts?

I tried Googling the name of the company and got just a few hits, and they were more or less the same as what I found in Googling the producer’s name. Is there a site where I can find out the info you recommended, Quartz?

My opinion: hell yes, it’s a red flag. A big stinking football field sized banner whipping up a frenzy in a hurricane. You can’t tell by websites, either. It’s easy to design a pretty one. My rule of thumb on stuff like this is that if they really believe you’re good enough, they will be willing to bankroll you.

I’d agree that this stinks of a scam. I don’t think a legit producer would use any demo for anything other than checking out the act: if it sounded good, he’d sign you and produce it with better quality if there were any problem.

I’ve seen this often in writing: “your work is great, but just needs some editing. Pay me.”

Remember, money flows toward the artist.

It stinks of corruption. If you and the hubster think your production quality is crappy (and all you have to do is compare it to productions you’re impressed with), you don’t need someone else to tell you that out of the blue. If you feel your friend did a fairly decent job, a truly interested company will see through your production flaws and concentrate on his talent. Then THEY pick up the cost of the super-fantastic production. “See ya!” is what I’d tell them.

Is it possible the producer is just, well, being a producer? As in, he’s looking for people to produce; it isn’t his job to sign anyone, but make a recording sound good. He doesn’t expressly state “pay me to record you,” although that certainly is the implication.

Perhaps hubby should make a quick call, and if Mr. Producer says what RealityChuck quotes: “Your work is great, but just needs some editing. Pay me,” we say buh-bye.

It isn’t that we’re grasping at straws hoping he’s legit; we’re more likely to think he isn’t (thus the post here). We just don’t want to toss him aside without being sure.

I’m missing something here. Are they offering to do anything? Are they trying to sell you anything? How do they stand to get money from you?

It sounds more like an agency than a production studio. A studio doesn’t care about your having “a better chance of success”. It reads like a come-on to redo the demo, with their facilities of course. And it’ll cost you. I like how RealityChuck put it: the money should flow to the artist, not away from him. The agent is where that goes backwards.

It sounds fake to me. If his recording was done in a studio like you say, that is good enough for someone to hear what they need. I have friends who rent studio space to produce their own CD’s and I know it sounds fine from that kind of equipment. It’s not like the guy used a cassette tape and a $20 mike.

Anyone who needs to hear a musician to see if they have talent can do it from that kind of CD. I have never heard of an agent who demands super high quality, professional recording studio type samples of music to be able to tell if they want to do business with them. This sounds just like the modeling “agents” that say, "you are beautiful, all you need is a good portfolio and some headshots. " Then they just happen to know someone to refer you to to have that done. If he hasn’t gotten the bad recording message from people you know are legit, and these people send out the same message to everyone, that is a huge red flag. I wouldn’t even try to contact them.

Yes, that’s what I suspect as well. My question comes from not seeing anything in the OP that says “We will do this for that amount of money.” It alludes to spending money, but doesn’t actually say what this outfit is proposing. As written in the OP, the message related just sounds like advice. If we knew exactly what they are asking for, we could better evaluate the situation.

It sounds to me like a variation of the "Wow, it’s great! You’re really talented, but we’re looking towards other styles right now… " or the actor’s version “You’re fabulous, but we’re going a different way now.”

If they aren’t asking for anything, nor expressing interest, it’s a brush off couched in compliments. Wow! The right agent could do wonders for you. Best of luck!

Sorry, I’m a Brit and much of my knowledge of present-day America actually comes from the SDMB, cross-referenced against other sources. But presumably this company is incorporated and the corporation has to file tax returns to the IRS. In the U.K., the central resource for corporations is called Companies House. I expect America has something very similar.