How To Reach A&R Scouts, Managers & Agents
by Daylle Deanna Schwartz
Aug 31, 2002, 16:51
©2002 Getsigned.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
My name is Daylle Deanna Schwartz and I am thrilled to begin a monthly column for this terrific online resource! Each month, I will share lessons learned on my journey from being a NYC schoolteacher to running a self-sufficient indie record label. If I can succeed in the music industry, anyone can!
When I started out in this business, I knew NOTHING. My students laughed when I decided to make a rap record. They said, “A white woman can’t rap.” I learned through hard experience, got nicknamed the “rappin’ teach,” opened Revenge Productions, then Revenge Records (my positive revenge against those ripping me off), wrote two successful music 'biz books, and the rest is history. I got into the industry to prove a point to my students about not letting stereotypes stop you. It’s been sweet revenge ever since!
In my first few columns for Getsigned.com, I will give you concrete suggestions that answer a question musicians ask often: “How do I make contact with ___________(fill in the blank)?” You may be trying to shop a deal to labels, find a good manager to represent you, hook up with a booking agent to expand touring, etc. It’s not easy, but if you understand what you’re up against and develop a professional approach, it’s possible to at least reach whomever you choose. You may not get what you want from them immediately, but you will make contact, and that's half the battle.
Here’s the Real Deal: Labels don't like dealing directly with artists. Many managers won’t represent you unless they see a potential to make money, since they only make a percentage of your earnings. Agents want musicians with at least some regional success. But, you can get to people that can advance your career, IF you work within the reality of the industry. First, develop patience, which is tough for most of us.
When I began Revenge Records, people laughed at me. Here I was, a rapping schoolteacher, with no industry experience, running an indie label. AND, I was a woman - uncommon in the late eighties. They’d pat my head and call me “teach.” Everyone liked me but no one took me seriously - except me. My sense of humor deflected the comments and attitudes I hated. My strong belief in myself fueled my determination. I slowly gathered the tools for success in this industry, and I succeeded.
And I will show you, too, how to succeed.
ANYONE can do it! I knew NO ONE in the music industry and nothing about the music business. But I quickly learned how to network and approach people in ways that got results. Way before I was known for my books, I could get to anyone I wanted in this business with a couple of phone calls. You can, too, if you don’t get jaded into thinking you know it all.
But don’t rush out and follow my advice until you’re prepared. Most musicians who love their music and have even a small following think they’re IT, and ready for the big leagues. Put your ego in your back pocket and fine tune yourself. For the revised edition of my book, I interviewed dozens of top A&R people, managers, agents and successful musicians.
From my research, I consider the following essential before approaching industry people...
*THE GOODS: A&R people insist that if you have THE GOODS and work your butt off, someone will recognize it. I don’t mean the goods. My editor at Billboard Books changed my capital letters to lower case but I insisted on keeping them, because it’s critical. Everyone thinks they have THE GOODS, but few do. I’ve heard hundreds of musicians with talent. But it’s rare that that one grabs me by the, um, balls and holds on! Hone your craft first! Get critiqued by pros, practice like crazy, take songwriting workshops, master craft sessions and vocal lessons. Never think you’re good enough now! You can’t be too good! If you polish your talent to perfection, you can get a deal.
*Foundation: Be ready to impress. Wait until you have ammo (press, fans, a good recording, airplay, etc.) before contacting anyone. Good music alone rarely gets deals. Industry pros want musicians who developed themselves, with material illustrating why they should sign you. Why work to get someone’s attention and quickly throw materials together when they request it? Wait until you can put your best foot forward. Since few labels do artist development any more, put your energy into proving your music can attract lots of attention.
*Professional attitude: People prefer working with artists who have a professional manner. If a label, manager, or agent has a choice of talented artists, they’ll choose the ones who show responsibility. They don't want to work with divas or head trips. So...be on time. Return calls promptly. Act confident, not cocky. People in my workshops laugh when I emphasize using a firm handshake. It shows confidence, even if you’re faking! A professional attitude makes folks take you more seriously.
*BALLS: Talented musicians with balls progress faster! Musicians ask me all the time why industry people would take them seriously. Hello! If you think you’re nobody, then they won’t take you seriously. You’re a somebody, whether people know you or not, as long as YOU know it. Rene Decartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” Live by that! I know who I am so others have no choice! Achievement requires risk and risk requires balls. It takes balls not to quit when you get turned down. It takes balls to say “yes” to an opportunity when you’re scared to death.
A great ballsy technique for reaching people is to speak with authority. I once called Quincy Jones’ publicist to request a quote. I said to tell him Daylle Deanna Schwartz was on the phone in a confident voice, as if they should know who I was. I got through! The publicist was flustered, and asked how I did it. I told him I used a technique in my book. We laughed and he still takes my calls! If you respect yourself, it reflects in your attitude. “I think, therefore I am.”
In my next column, I’ll tell you how to find the appropriate music 'biz players to approach, and how to get them familiar with your name and your music.
See you all next time,
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