Staying safe online in the music sector Jump to main content

Staying safe online in the music sector

Kirsten Peter, ISM Digital and Insights Manager

With more people spending time online, we might be more susceptible to stumbling upon a scam when trying to find a good deal. Unfortunately, the use of scams also extends into to the music sector. Occasionally, the ISM staff team is made aware of cases where scammers posing as potential pupils ask for money to be transferred in unorthodox ways, expensive qualifications are advertised by unregulated institutions, or an artist is approached on social media with an illegitimate offer of providing online promotion. The scammer takes the artist’s money and becomes uncontactable, meaning pursuing a refund is impossible.

There are no hard and fast rules for spotting a scam, but some research should help you work out whether you’re pursing a legitimate opportunity or potentially putting your money at risk.

Research online

In the first instance, search for a company name on a search engine – adding quote marks around the business name can help you find results, like bad reviews or suspicious overseas registrations that you might not have otherwise uncovered. You can also use services like the Wayback Machine – a useful tool that helps you see the previous versions of websites. If an organisation’s website seems to show it has been involved in many sorts of business over several years, this might be cause for concern.

The ISM legal team advises you to look for a UK street address for a company. ‘You shouldn’t make a purchase if there is no address or you can have no legal remedy if things go wrong. You need a name and street address to take something to court.’ You can then run a search for the business address and phone number, to see if a variety of businesses have existed using those credentials, as this can be the sign of a scam operation. You can get information on spotting a scam via Citizens Advice.

If you are paying for a service overseas, stop to think how you can get justice if things go wrong. For example, if a company is in the USA, how are you going to afford pursuing a scammer in a foreign country with a different legal system?


Online reviews can help build your confidence in a service or product. Sites like TrustPilot, which aggregate reviews for various companies, may help. You also might want to tap into your networks to see if other musicians have had dealings with a business. If you are an ISM member, our Facebook group provides an active group of music professionals who may be able to help you find out if a company’s reputation proceeds them – for better or worse.

Investing your money in education can be very valuable, but the same rules apply when looking at your course provider. If you are looking into paying for a qualification, you may want to see if your accreditation is recognised by Ofqual or a higher education provider is listed with the universities regulator for your country.

Emails and payments

We have some advice on how to spot spam emails that occasionally come through on our music directory and this advice is applies in a wider context. When receiving emails from organisations, pay close attention to the address to see if it is in the format you would expect to see. Look out for an odd writing style or design, and be suspicious of any request to make money transfers in an unusual way.

If you feel confident enough to make a payment, make sure you are paying in the safest way possible. Remember, if you pay via credit card, you have rights under section 75 of the consumer credit act that make credit providers jointly liable for a service being delivered.

The ISM legal team will try to help if members have been scammed, but reclaiming money under these circumstances is difficult. There are also other steps you may take such as reporting scams to the police via ActionFraud. However, if the scam is operated from outside the UK or the EU, unfortunately it is highly unlikely you will get recompense. With that in mind, do your research and if you remain unsure, it can be better to return to providers you know and trust.