Today I received a letter in the mail from HillTop Records. In brief, the letter said that HillTop Records has begun a recording project and is interested in my compositions. The letter requests that I send 3 or 4 of my best compositions to them and they will arrange, produce and record my songs if chosen and pay me royalties on the back end. Whaa? Like any songwriter, I must admit that I was a little itty bitty bit excited to be getting correspondence from a record company, especially since their address is in Hollywood, CA. However, I did notice some strangeness in the letter. They didn’t say what artist or artists they were marketing the songs to – they just mentioned that their artists had performed with some very famous names in music, like Barbara Streisand and Dolly Parton. Performing with a famous artist really doesn’t say much. I performed with Shania Twain in October of 1998 at the Hulman Center…as a backup person – for one song – along with 5 other people. But, I could say that I’ve performed with the stars, as Hilltop Records would put it.
After doing a google search for “Hilltop Records” the first thing I saw on the list was “Hilltop Records Scam”. My heart sank. The itty bitty bit of excitement vanished entirely. I read the other people’s reviews of Hilltop being a scam. Apparently, they collect names from the Copyright office when people file to copyright their songs. (These are public documents and available for anyone to review.) After they choose one of your songs to put on their compilation CD, they ask you to pay around $400 for recording fees for your song. Then, they arrange it and have crappy musicians record it. The final product does not sound remotely professional, produced, or even edited. The sound quality would not have even “cut it” had these songs been recorded in the 60’s before the use of music technology became a must in the industry. Anyway…back to their services. After they have a product to sell, they list it on Amazon. I have seen other reviewers say that they couldn’t find HillTop Records CD’s anywhere, validating that they ARE indeed a scam. So…it seems that in order to prove that they aren’t a scam, they listed some things on Amazon.
The CD they have listed on Amazon is a compilation CD of Christmas songs, sung by “Hilltop Records Singer”. Ah yes, I’m sure LOTS of people will search for that when they want to purchase a CD.
They took the time to upload one song from the compilation CD, which has a picture of an Asian man on the front of it. The sample song is of a woman singing. The singing is not good. Not good at all.
There are 2 other CD listings from Hilltop Records. One of these has an image, and the description of the songs directs the buyer to zoom in on the image to see what songs are on the CD. There are no samples to listen to on any of their Amazon listings besides the one song. Oddly, all of these CDs have “only one copy left”.
HillTop Records has even created their own rebuttal, insisting that they are not a scam, that they are a legitimate company doing as they promise. One of Webster’s definitions of “scam” is “A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.” Webster also defines it as “To swindle, by means of a trick.” Aha! They definitely fall into that second definition of “scam”. And they seem to have their bases covered just enough that they think they don’t fall into the “fraudulent” department…but with enough research, you will see that they are fraudulent.
On their website, they state “Our emphasis is on Production Value, Promotion and Sales”. OK, Production value is objective. Promotion? They want writers to believe that Hilltop will promote the music, but what is being promoted is more Production…so that Hilltop Records can make more profit. Their emphasis certainly isn’t on sales of the product/songs. What they are selling is the service of having your songs recorded at your expense. You won’t make any royalty money, because Hilltop is not promoting your songs to sell them. They are promoting themselves to sell the scam.
You will also see on Hilltop Records’ website that they have Internet Radio. OK, possibly a legitimate way of promoting for the artists, right? No. It isn’t even radio. It has been pre-recorded, and advertises Hilltop Records’ services. We get to listen to a short snip of a song from one of their artists. You can rewind the pre-recording…it’s just an audio track…NOT radio.
On the right hand side of their website, they have artists and their songs with buttons that say “play” and “buy”. If you hit the play button, you will hear about 20 seconds of the song. 10 seconds of intro, and then 10 seconds of the first verse…with the singer not sounding so great and the intro music sounding like a karaoke track from a cheap DJ. Basically, given such a small sample of the song and not even in the chorus part of the song, I would not say that having a song up on their site is worth the $400 they are charging.
I did say that they fall in the “fraud” description too…and here’s how. Their songwriter’s testimonials are fake. If you compare the page that has their written letters of thanks and appreciation with the page that has the list of all their “Hilltop Records Songwriters”, you will find that none of the names match up. NOT ONE of the names that are signed in the testimonials can be found in the list of their songwriters. This is fraud, because it means one of two things. 1. Hilltop Records falsified testimonials, creating a lie and thus a fraudulent trick to make people part with their money or 2. These artists that sent letters of thanks were not included on their list of songwriters, a benefit that these people (if they are indeed real and not falsified people) paid for.
Tread carefully musicians…and be sure to research anything that smells fishy.