Sunday, March 13, 2011

HOW TO REACH A&R PEOPLE, MANAGERS & AGENTS: Part #3: Making Initial Contact

by Daylle Deanna Schwartz
Nov 11, 2002, 14:48

In my last column, I gave suggestions for targeting people to make them aware of your music. This month my focus is on how to best get their attention and make a good impression when you do.

If you think that getting the attention of labels, managers, and agents is a lot of work, you’re right! Be prepared to work your butt off in pursuit of ways to market your music if you want to attract the pros. Musicians lament all the time that everything should just be about the quality of the music. I agree. It should be - but it’s not. It’s about money.

You’ll need luck to find someone who just cares about your music. Most industry pros prefer your potential to earn money. Good music is often the last part of the equation. A & R people, managers, and agents want acts that are generating a buzz and have the potential to sell large quantities of CDs or fill seats at shows if a bigger machine is to support them. That’s why keeping them informed of what you’re doing can make a difference.

Before approaching pros, create a company, no matter how informal it is. From a business perspective, it’s a good idea to register the name. But at the very least, use it as a front in the beginning. Saying “I’m David Lane from XYZ Productions” sounds better than just identifying yourself as another unsigned artist. A company name shows that you’re taking your music seriously. Since many pros prefer not to deal directly with an artist, a company provides a degree of separation. Use your company name on all mailings and to identify yourself when making calls.

As you have events or successes to announce, color postcards are a good promotional tool to use to get your message out. Currently, offers 5,000 small color postcards for $250, if you provide camera ready art. For a little more you can get larger ones. Or, search the internet for other companies with even better deals. Put a CD or a logo on the front of the card. Great (really great!) photos work well, too. Industry people may get familiar with you as they get those cards regularly. Consistent mailings brand you.

On the back of the card, include relevant info at the top: your web site URL, contact info, quotes if you have any, and info on how to order merchandise. Leave the lower half blank. When you do a mailing to your targeted industry list to announce a gig or something noteworthy, print the announcement on self-stick labels that just fit the space left on the card, and paste them on just the amount you need for a mailing. These can also be handed out at gigs or events that you attend. They’re nicer than homemade fliers. If you only have generic info on the card, they can be used for years.

Press clippings make great calling cards, too. You can say anything in a bio to make yourself sound good. Press clippings give you more legitimacy because it’s assumed that an impartial journalist likes you. Publicist Elaine Schock, owner of Shock Ink, who was instrumental in breaking Christina Aguilera and Tyrese when she worked at RCA, told me she believes that press clippings are the most important part of your press kit because people take them more seriously. If an artist has clips, the best one is always the first thing the recipient sees in any kit she sends out.

A good press clipping is more likely to draw someone in. Send your best one on top of a press release or flier. It might make someone check out whatever else you send. If you’re trying to get industry people to come to a gig, send a good clipping with a personal note written right on it. Artists tell me that a personal touch usually gets better results. Write something like “I’d love for you to come to my show.” You can also add that you’d be happy to put them on your industry list at the door of the venue (so they don't have to pay to get in to see you perform). It can get more mileage than anything else. Put a personal note on your postcards, too. Anything that makes you stand out from everyone else’s mailings gives you an edge.

Another way to make contact at labels is by reading the Billboard Executive Turntable each week. It’s a section that announces people who’ve taken new positions within industry corporations. Take a peek at the column each week in the store and write down appropriate names. Also, the A & R Registry, which I talked about in my last column, lists A & R people who are new to labels. See if anyone just began working for one that would be appropriate for your music.

Drop a note to each new A&R person that scouts talent within your music genre, handwritten, wishing them much success in their new job or whatever makes sense for their situation. My friend, publicist Terrie Williams, who wrote a wonderful book called, The Personal Touch: How to Get Ahead in a Fast-Paced Business World, emphasizes the value of writing personal notes to people you’d like to work with. It can break the ice initially and nurture a more long-lasting relationship.

Just signing your first name to a note can make someone think they know you. Make sure your full name/band is somewhere else. If you contact them later, they may take your call. I create notes on my computer that say “From the desk of Daylle Deanna Schwartz.” They have my phone number and email under my name. I make 4 on a sheet of nice paper and cut them. They’re nice to attach to other things I send. A few handwritten words work well.

Keep your database organized so you can follow up on whatever is necessary. I recently discovered the Indie Band Manager, a software program designed especially for musicians by Charlie Cheney, a self-proclaimed computer geek who’s also a musician. It’s inexpensive and easy to use. If I can figure it out, it has to be simple! It allows you to make notes of the dates you sent things and other pertinent info you want to keep track of.

If you do your pre-production of approaching industry pros, you’ll be in a stronger position to make a more direct approach. I’ll talk about ways to do that in my next column.

Keep your passion strong,

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

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