How To Help The Music Industry Take You Seriously
by Chris Standring
month I have to listen to tons of artist submissions. Sometimes
it's painful, other times it's a pleasure. Usually the
pleasure or pain threshold is not to do with how the music
sounds, although God only knows that is the ice cream!
No, the enjoyment factor begins when I know that a package
has been carefully put together. I'll be honest, and this
sounds bizarre but A&R's will understand this. Usually
I know whether an artist is worth any salt before I've
opened the package. What??? I hear you scream - how can
this be? Well, let me just say that an artist who is serious
will do it right from the start. The size of the envelope
tells me what is inside (whether it is a thrown together
CD with a Polaroid photo or a proper press kit with 8x10
photo etc). The return address will tell me a great deal
too. Is it scribbled from someone's home address or is
it a professional label with a company name?
OK so that's a start. Of course the music's got to measure up when I open up
the package but this tells me a great deal right off the bat. Of course from
time to time I am wrong but 99% of the time I know whether something is worth
spending time with or not before I've opened it.
So what I want to address here is the power of professional package submission.
All too many artists will literally throw something together and hope for the
best. Kind of like throwing mud against the wall. A poorly put together package
wreaks of laziness - a trait that no artist can possibly expect to live with
today. It's just too competitive. And most importantly we want to know that you're
serious dammit! If you're not serious how can you expect any music industry
person to take you seriously?
So please take this aspect of the business seriously. And I'm not talking about
just my company here, I'm simply using my experience, for what it's worth, to
show you how industry people will probably respond to you. I am talking about
any music industry person you send something to. Assume these people are busy
and only want to deal with professionals. Even if you are not pro, act like you
are because I'll tell you - perception is everything. Alright let's get into
the nitty gritty....
Now let's assume that for every musical situation you will be required to put
a different type of package together. I want to talk very generally here.
I get packages from some artists who refuse to give me any idea who they are!
Why? Why? Why? How can anyone omit this basic information? Your contact info
should be on every single item you include in your package. Assume the
worst - that items in your package get passed around the office and separated.
Of course this could be the best scenario too - anyone passing your ingredients
around the office must mean you are damn good (or embarrassingly bad!). Your
contact info should include the name of your company (fictitious or otherwise),
a contact name, an e-mail address and a phone number. Get a stamp made up or
a label and mark this on all the items. Most of all, make sure you have all this
information on the CD.
Why do I get Polaroids sent to me? I'll tell you why. It says on the A&R Online submission
form "Photo must be included". So what do many do? "Hey Franky, can you
take a shot of me over here with home dude so I can send in my tracks!" Please
- No no no! What does this tell me? This tells me you aren't used to dealing
with professionals. And from this we can extrapolate that you probably aren't
up to the mark. (And I can tell you - I have never listened to a CD that WAS
up to the mark when a Polaroid photo was included. Never.) So get a proper photo
done. Hire a professional. Spend some money. Save up if you have to. Take pride
in how you present your image - it means everything. I'll tell you - in many
situations it's AS important as your music! Sad I know but true. How many young
pop stars today DON'T look good. You know, the puppets of the world. Not many.
So look good.
Make it easy to open your package
The amount of times I have to use a frickin' chainsaw to open a package - it's
not even funny. Please, do yourself a favor. Remove the shrink-wrap from the
CD and don't over tape the envelope. It's not the bloody crown jewels we're dealing
Label the CD
Here's my real pet peeve. I get so many CDs sent to me with absolutely nothing written
on them. No label - not even a felt tip pen marker. Nothing. Nada. Why? Why?
Why? For Pete's sake label the CD. Tell me who the artist is and include your
contact info. Help me just a little - PLEASE!.
Keep everything professional
Another thing that I get constantly is hand written notes begging for record
deals. Well first, that is one big turn off because it tells me you need absolutely
everything done for you. You are living in a dream world. Do your homework. Know
exactly what you want from everyone you are sending a package to. Be specific.
Don't just say "Hook me up dude!". What the hell does that mean? I can't
tell you how many times I get this. It's meaningless. How should I respond? "OK,
Be at my office at 10:30am on Wednesday, I'll have Tommy Mottola waiting. He'll
have the money for you!".
Think carefully about any document you include. If it's a one sheet, make it
look intriguing and impressive (amongst a sea of one sheets!) Craft a bio that
doesn't give away the fact that you've been knocking on music biz doors for 30
years. Create some mystery at every level. The word "veteran" should not be in
your vocabulary unless you have had a very successful music career. Get a nice
logo and use a computer for everything. If you want a reply, include a stamped
self addressed envelope. Most of all, show those you are submitting to that you
really care. If you care, people will pay attention. If you don't
why should anyone?
Now, having said all of this, it's important that you get the music right. This
is your number one priority. If the music's just lame, no amount of beautiful
presentation can save it. But if the music is stunning, and you present yourself
professionally, you just may have something. You just may.
Standring is the CEO and founder of A&R Online (www.aandronline.com).
He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed
to Mesa/Bluemoon Records. The music is marketed at NAC and
Urban AC radio. For more info on Chris' recording career go
to his personal website at www.chrisstandring.com