Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How to identify real internet music gurus in 4 simple steps

Interested in the music business?

Want to learn how to write your own book?

Do you want to learn how to play the piano as a virtuoso in 8 days using nothing other than email lessons?

Pay $37 for this unique book/course/e-book/audio CD/DVD!

Sounds weird right?

And so it is.

Internet is cool because there’s a ton of information and...
Internet sucks because there’s a ton of information.

It’s the dual nature of the beast. While you can find data on anything you are interested in, you are also never sure of who is writing it.

There are tons of sites with self-proclaimed guru’s – that just so happen to be ready to sell you their product. They use scripts that are tailor-made to appeal to your curiosity, secret desires for wealth and abilities. You become addicted to reading their sales pitch and cannot but help to buy their product when you reach the end of the page. You go ballistic when you see the live timer saying “Hurry – this offer will expire within the next 9 minutes after which the price will for from $37 to $299”

I've spent a lot of time in 2007 reading music business, promotion and marketing books. Other than taking time, it also takes money if you end up being enticed to purchasing their “fantastic” products.

The bad news is that every day there's more information out there. There's more guru's than ever before. I’ve experienced first hand that the web is bursting with frauds. So how can you tell if the information you’re on to is valuable, or if it’s just a bunch of useless baloney?

Searching the internet is easy. The hard part is to learning to sift the web

Sifting the web means learning to identify the very few valid & consistent resources that give you what you really need. How can you tell if the source that claims to be a guru is an actual one and not a fraud? Here are some ways I learned at my own expense.

1) Look for the author's biography (or “About Us” page if it’s a company) and make sure you know who you are dealing with.

Example: I recently came across the site of a person who for $199 would teach you to improvise on the piano. But he didn’t give his name out, although he spent pages and pages listing vague accomplishments and accolades. Why would a person with such a great experience want to hide his name? Hmmm…

2) Serious business owners

Also to consider: Is their company listed in the BBB (Better Business Bureaux) list?
Although it's not mandatory for a company to do business, it often (but not always) denotes seriousness on their part. Careful, though, because seriousness does not always rhyme with honesty.

Also, do they operate multiple companies under different names and then let you bounce between them thinking you're on to something great? Be careful of the ping pong effect.

3) Cross searches on the internet.

Use the internet to find frauds by… searching for them!
If you do cross-searches on search engines, what comes up?

Try using different search engines as you will often find different results.
Do you actually find independent reviews of their products/services or do you only find links to their own website(s)?

Also, remember that a guru is an expert - it takes time to become one.

If I run a search on someone even hinting to be a guru, I expect to find old references or articles by them dating 10+ years ago. Then I know they’re serious, have been around and that I may benefit from what they have to say.

4) Compare Reviews

I have had a review that I supposedly wrote show up in a sales pitch for a music book. In this review, I gave the product my full support. You can understand my amazement to find this out especially since I wasn't the one to pen one single line and furthermore was totally dissatisfied with the product (which I had unfortunately purchased already).

Do like Julian Angel (a rocker from Germany) who read my review of another publication (which I actually wrote!) and took the time to send me an email to double check that I was supporting this product. Write to people who claim to have used it and see what their real feedback is.


Here’s two examples I have had encountered that I can speak about. It's my personal experience using these “gurus” and their materials.

Take indie music guru Bob Baker also known as Mr. Buzz Factor.

Bob is on all the major social networking sites. His materials have been reviewed by thousands of people and he has even had his book show up on a major motion picture (School of Rock). He candidly writes and speaks about his origins, both as an indie music expert and as an independent author and publisher. He studies successful tactics of modern indie bands and turns them into concise reports that are simple as they are brilliant. He’s invited to important music events as a guest & speaker and he’s not afraid to show his face on YouTube.

His ideas are steady (he keeps sending great emails to those who register to his newsletter), realistic (his ideas don’t even need $100 to be implemented) and innovative.

Bob claims to have been around for some time since he had his first journal in St. Louis. Monitor his career and you’ll find that he’s consistent with what he preaches. And he has recently landed a great new job by delivering a course for Berklee’s Online College of music. Very prestigious assignment... This type of transparency shouts “honest” on all sides.

Similar cases of music business people that fit this category are David Nevue, Derek Sivers, David Hooper and Peter Spellman.

On a separate note, my candid warning is to beware of anything tied to the name “Ty Cohen” and his company “Platinum Millennium Publishing”.

This company offers a ton of seemingly useful products using impelling sales pitches. I ordered some of their courses that claimed in their sales pitch to unveil "secrets" of the music business only to find out that the course they advertised as being huge was indeed huge: there was a manual about 1 cm thick with VERY wide margins. The ton of CDs that came with it looked cool at first, only to realize that each CD contained about 5 minutes of audio files (or less) and were nothing else than the exact same text written in the book, which was read and recorded in low quality!!!

The book began something like this: "To make music you need a band and some songs..."

Duuh - what a secret! There were no secrets at all. I flipped through the pages and it was all entry-level material. Actually it could be defined as PRE-ENTRY level!

I sent the entire course back to get my promised refund (as advertised on the site) and was told I wasn’t entitled to any refunds.

I had fortunately printed out the sales pitch and its reported “iron-clad refund guarantee” so they accepted it but eventually they claimed that the materials I sent back were received "in such a poor condition" that they would not issue refunds.

Instead, all materials were mailed in the pristine conditions they were received in, which were shipped with USPS insured mail.

My email to Ty Cohen stopped being answered. Their phones ended in everlasting loops and voice mails which were never addressed or replied to.

I opened a complaint with the Better Business Bureaux (BBB). After months and months, they informed me that there were many open complaints against this company and my only alternative was to pursue legal action. Go figure. Wish I had known sooner. I wonder why they’re still allowed to do business?

The package I mailed with USPS was insured, and last I spoke to them, they were going to investigate into fraudolent behaviour for this company.

If I search for their names on the internet I've only found their parallel sites that feature their products.

If I were purchasing something from them now, I would read his presentation pitch which says he’s “the online music industry's most recognizable voice”.

But why is it that I can’t find anything on him on any type of cross search? Maybe my Google just isn't good enough? Why can’t I find any hit songs he penned or no articles on his record label?

Let's put it this way - even if he were music’s ultimate guru, his lack of transparency and (at least in my case) dishonesty invalidate any worthy words he may have.

One last word of advice: print everything out. Print the page’s sales pitch, enquiry emails you send out. It may end up useful to you in the future.

Hope this little bit of information spares you the hassle I've had to face because of dishonest people!

Fortunately, there are many honest people and companies out there. In any case, follow these steps outlined above and avoid surprises.

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