The New Predator Hunts Online
I believe I can safely say that we are past the point of calling
the Internet a mere fad. The web is quickly becoming an
inextricable part of modern daily life.
The sheer magnitude of opportunity and access available to
the individual is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, these attributes
are not lost on those who embrace them for a very different,
and sinister practice.
Criminals have found thousands of ways to bilk the general
public online. This is basically the same scumbuckets that run
phone, mail order, credit card and other such scams and they
are not going to go away anytime soon.
The real new danger is the on-line sexual predator. Be it the
'lonely hearts' type going after single women in chat rooms,
or the (to me) even more reprehensible pedophiles luring kids
to motels, the fact is clear- this has become a serious problem.
Now there's a distressing new wrinkle in the music business.
There have always been millions of people who want to be
pop stars, producers, engineers and session musicians. In the
old days, the budding musician had only three ways to gain
access to music industry folks- (1) write a letter, (2) call the
studio or (3) try to hang out where they make their music.
Now the internet has merged #1 & 2 into a new way to
plead for help.
Simply by being listed in a music resources web site as a
producer /engineer, I found myself inundated with e-mails.
The range of sender and origin is incredible. I've had e-mails
from guitar players in Kansas to 9-11 year old kids as far
away as Malaysia!!! Every age, race and continent has
contacted me at least once, male and female alike. All with
the same sincerity and passion bubbling out of their
sometimes horribly constructed notes.
The truly frightening reality is that many of these
e-mails come from kids, and owing to the popularity of
Teen Pop Singer/Divas and others, an alarming
number of teen-age girls, all wanting to be big stars.
They frequently include personal information in their
fervent pleas. Age, names, sometimes even addresses
are often included. They simply don't know any better.
Frankly, it scares me. I shudder to think of my neices and
nephews taking such chances. Also, the daunting volume of
requests was in itself becoming a serious concern.
I posted an essay about starting out in the music business,
generally combining the advice that I have given to producers,
engineers and musicians over the years, and recommending
some directions for study. It begins with this admonition;
'I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT MINORS,
AND CHILDREN DO NOT E-MAIL STRANGERS
This reduced the incoming mail by about 85%. I still,
however, get several requests per month from young people
who have merely clicked on the e-mail link under my name
in the list of producers. It's apparent they have not read my
page, or the above-mentioned essay. They often ask questions
that are answered in that text, and are obviously ignorant or
unafraid of the internet version of 'don't talk to strangers'.
Everyone of these sends chills up my spine. While I could
never begrudge anyone wanting what I myself want or have,
it breaks my heart to read these e-mails, because the question
is always too broad or vague to answer.
Still, we have kids taking the risk everyday. The web gives
them unprecedented access to the world to follow their dreams,
and equal opportunity for danger and heartbreak. E-mail addresses,
home addresses, phone numbers, names and ages, links, cookies
and credit card numbers are the tools of the online predator.
And those musical hopes and dreams are the bait.
Well, as bad as it is, we can do something about it. At least
from the entertainment industry, we can eliminate this budding
opportunity for the stereo-typical 'Hollywood Sleazebag Producer'
to forge new hunting grounds on the web.
We simply need to point our kids and peers at places where
answers can be learned, not merely given, and encourage them
to practice professional etiquette.
Ironically, every question they are asking is now answered in
some published form from books to magazines to websites and
videos. There are more music industry magazines and 'How To'
books than ever, and quite alot of it has made it's way onto
the net. There are bio-books about bands from every style
of music, and of course, there's always the LIBRARY.
This is the preferred alternative to writing or calling
strangers in the industry for advice. The way to make it
has always been to learn and perform as much as you can,
and to do the third choice above. Remember the third one?
Try to hang out where music is happening, with people
who are doing it right. Ask them in person, while reading,
learning and practicing as much as possible. I suggest
starting with the local music stores and lesson studios.
We can close at least one door that lets in the vermin.
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