by Daylle Deanna Schwartz
Sep 23, 2002, 14:21
©2002 Getsigned.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Hello, and welcome to lesson #2 in my ongoing series at Getsigned.com! This month’s topic: How To Target and Reach Key (Music Business) Players.
In last month’s column, I listed the things you needed to have in place when approaching key industry people about your music.
Now, before you approach these industry players, you’ll need to do what I call pre-production. Music ‘biz homework, if you will. Start by focusing your energy on targeting people in the music industry who are managers, booking agents, A&R reps, and solid industry players who will further your music career. Create a target mailing list and put these people on it. Since everyone is getting deluged with email these days—and since it’s so easy to delete e-letters from unknown recipients without even opening them—I much prefer using snail mail lists for all my announcements and solicitations. Snail mail can be really effective at getting the message out about your music. And you don’t have to send material to a zillion people, either, to get maximum impact. A nice number in the vicinity of 10-20 will do just fine, thank you. But of course, more can’t hurt if you find new, reputable contacts to add to your list along your musical journey.
Even if the folks you want to reach don’t read your mail at first, they may at least notice whom it’s from. If people receive something regularly, they may become familiar with the name of your act. When I managed a band, there was a journalist on my list who I was always anxious to reach. I sent mailing after mailing with no luck. But one day I met her at an industry event and told her who I represented, and a light went on in her head! She replied, “I know that band, but I am not sure how. They’re doing well, right?” She didn’t realize that the name recognition was from seeing the band’s name on all those mailings I had sent her. It made my band’s name a known commodity and she took me more seriously when I actively pitched her thereafter.
Name recognition is so important in this business. When someone is familiar with your name, they’re more likely to pay attention when you approach them. It’s never easy but you can give yourself an edge. Here’s a positive thought in what might seem like a hopeless business: A & R people do want to sign new acts to their label. It’s their job—remember that! And managers are almost always looking for new acts to represent. And agents are always open to picking acts with the ability to fill seats at gigs. So there IS hope, if you can get their attention with your accomplishments and a professional approach. Once you have a targeted list to use, send out announcements of your gigs and other noteworthy accomplishments. But be patient, it takes time to get call backs.
So, where do you get the names of the “right” people to target? Well, Networking is the best way to make contacts, in my opinion. I’ll give specific details about doing that successfully in later columns. But for now, you can still get an effective initial list together. A great source of industry knowledge is the people working in record shops--especially the mom & pop stores. Get friendly with them! While many music industry people can be obnoxious, those who work in record stores are more likely to be friendly, accessible, and fountains of knowledge. Often they’re DJs, producers, or fellow musicians who work in record stores because they love music. When I started Revenge Records, my friends in record stores guided me along the way. I got my best education about this business by hanging out with them during off-hours, when they were bored, so I could pick everyone’s brains.
When you’re creating your target list of labels, you first need to figure out which ones are best for you. People who sell music know what labels are doing well with different genres of music. Some may even know the names of local A&R scouts. Get friendly with whomever you can. Play your demo and ask for input. Ask! Ask! Ask! Many people love giving advice. If you go to enough people, you’ll get a good idea of what labels you should start approaching.
Once you have your list of compatible labels to solicit, find the names of the A & R scouts that are responsible for signing the musical acts to these labels. If networking doesn’t do it, don’t despair. There are a few music ‘biz directories out there that publish this kind of information. My favorite is the A & R Registry (800-377-7411 or http://www.musicregistry.com/ ), put out by The Music Business Registry, Inc. It lists the A & R staff for all major and independent labels in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Toronto and London, with their direct dial numbers (!) and the names of their assistants. This directory is updated every eight weeks, since people change jobs fast in this industry. It’s a great resource to have if you are serious about getting your foot in the music ‘biz door. Definitely check ‘em out.
Also, be sure to check out these other industry contact sources:
Pollstar (800-344-7383, in California 209-271-7900 or http://www.pollstar.com/ ) puts out a ‘biz directory called Record Company Rosters. This publication contains a roster of artists signed to their respective labels and lists executive contacts for many indie and major labels.
If you use a directory, look up each label and write down the appropriate A&R person that you need to get in contact with. If you’re not sure, call the label and ask them which rep handles your particular musical genre. See, most A&R are assigned genres. At the majors and larger indies, there are A&R scouts for Rock, scouts for nu-metal, scouts for Rap, scouts for Pop, scouts for EMO and scouts for Country, etc. When you call up the label, sound professional and confident and someone will probably tell you who you need to speak with about getting permission to send your demo.
Now, if getting signed is not a priority for you, but getting good gigs is, you might want to find a manager and/or booking agent. Begin your search for managers and agents by asking around at clubs where your genre of original music is performed. Talk to promoters, bartenders, and other musicians and who might know of someone who is willing to represent new talent (that would be you!). Ask what agents book acts in their clubs. All you need are names at this point. But, don’t fret if you come up empty-handed at the local level! There are even directories that can assist you in compiling these names, as well. Performance (http://www.performancemagazine.com/ ) puts out a directory called Talent Management - a complete guide to personal management firms and their rosters worldwide, including a cross-reference from artist to management, agency and record label affiliations. This directory is a few years old but it is still a good source of information. Pollstar’s series of Contact Directories includes Agency Rosters directory--which lists almost every musical act that tours. It also has contact information on their booking agencies--including address, phone and fax numbers.
If you use either the management or agency directory, look up acts that are similar to yours. Put their reps on your target list. If you don’t want to buy a directory, call the label of these artists and ask them who manages or books them--or just search online. Other directories, such as the Musician's Atlas, (http://www.musiciansatlas.com/ ) have the contact names of smaller management companies and agents.
One important rule in doing all of this: If someone asks to be taken off your mail list, it’s a common courtesy to take them off immediately, otherwise, whether its online or offline mail, your announcements become SPAM, and that could land you and your band in hot water.
So, once you’ve created your target list, you can use the info in my next column to begin notifying them of your important announcements. Now that’s where the real fun begins!
Meantime, keep your passion strong. I'll see you next month.
About the author
NYC-based Daylle Deanna Schwartz is the author of the best-selling The Real Deal: How to Get Signed to a Record Label (revised edition) and Start & Run Your Own Record Label, both published by Billboard Books, and is a consultant for musicians and indie labels. Known for her mixture of practical music business strategies and an inspirational presentation, Daylle speaks at music industry conferences, colleges, and does full day seminars in NYC: Start & Run Your Own Record Label and How to Get a Record Deal. She’s been a guest on many TV and radio shows, including Oprah, Good Morning America, Maury Povich, and is a regular on Montel Williams. Visit her at www.daylle.com