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First Impressions

By Ken Klar
© 2003 Ken Klar. All rights reserved

This goes out to ANYONE sending ANYTHING to ANYONE ELSE. It is critical that you get these details. While it may seem obvious to some, we continue to get submissions that don't follow these simple guidelines. So, I am going to spend some time to clarify a few things and give some rationale as well. Please try and incorporate these things in every submission you make no matter who you are sending them to.

For the record: If you can't do these simple things, don't bother to send it. There are plenty of stories of demos that have simply been thrown away without a single listen based on the package alone, and other stories that have been passed along third and fourth hand, finally getting the recognition they deserve. Do you think that would have happened to a song surrounded by sloppy handmade packaging? Not very likely!

Packaging – It's very important that you invest a little money in packaging. And I do mean "a little". Before you send a demo tape to a potential client/publisher (or whoever), you need to make sure you have all the pieces. It may sound like I'm being picky, but take it from someone who has seen some horrific packages that this is important.

Call Ahead – Always get permission before sending a demo. This can be done a variety of ways and these days, we get a lot of email requests. That's ok, but remember that the more personal you can make it, the better off you'll be. You are trying to establish a relationship with this person, right? So, when you do finally get a hold of them, Be sure to ask if there is anything "special" you should put on the package, because some offices look for a code on the package that lets them know that a package contains unsolicited material at a glance. Many places are so swamped with demos that they simply do not have enough hours in the day to listen to everything that gets sent to them. Those demos they have not specifically requested (or agreed to accept) are simply returned as "unsolicited" material. Others are just put in the `round file (i.e. trash can) without another thought...don't let your package be one of them!

Padded Envelope – Try to send your package in a container that says, "I care" about whether or not your submission arrives undamaged. Padded envelopes are not that expensive, I prefer the kind that are bubble-wrap filled and have self adhesive enclosures for secure closing and easy opening on the other end.

Cassettes – Be SURE your song is on the tape and that it is cued to the beginning of the song. Trust me; I have learned the hard way that the only way to do this is to play it for yourself after you record it. It doesn't do you any good to send a blank cassette..

CDs – You need to make sure things went right with them too. Although it is much more unlikely, it always pays to be absolutely sure. By the way, CD-R's are the preferred demo format these days. It's just so much easier to scan through songs and the recording quality is so much better, it's hard to get anyone interested in listening to a cassette these days.

Labels – every piece of what you submit should contain contact information in case the package gets separated over the course of the next few weeks or years (however long the package remains in the hands of the addressee). In most cases your package should include a Padded Envelope with Label, Demo (Cassette or CD), Cover Letter, and Lyrics. Optional items would include: Business Card, SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope), and a Headshot (Photo)

Cover Letter – Your cover letter should look like professional business correspondence. Generally, you put your contact info on the left upper most corner of the page and include the date that you sent it. It's a very good ides to save copies of these letters on your computer hard drive so you can recall what you have sent and to whom you have sent it. If you intend to do this, it is critical that your cover letter include WHAT you have enclosed in the package (this is for them as much as it is for your records later), especially which songs you have sent. Invariably the industry professional will call or write you an email requesting more material, and you will want to know what you have already sent them… so you don't send the same stuff. Also, always be sure to let the recipient know why you have sent them material and/or what you want. It doesn't do any good to get a great looking and sounding package to someone who has no idea why it is there. Lastly, signing your letter by hand shows your personal attention to the package. Lyrics – Please look closely at the lyrics you send. Specifically, I type lyrics so that they are more or less in the center of the page (but still left aligned though, not "centered"). This presentation will help you pay closer attention to the lyrics that you are writing. If you make sure the verses line up, then they should have the same rhyme scheme and each verse should be able to fit in place of the other (in terms of length). By that I mean that the first line of each verse should have the same amount of syllables in it (same as the second lines and the third etc…). Count them if you need to. This will also help the melodic structure of the song too.

Closing It Up – One final comment: Be sure not to make the package too difficult to open. There is a fine line between sending your package in a container that says "I care" and acting like it contains "Gold Bullion" and you don't want anyone to get inside. Few things are more frustrating than a submission that is wrapped so tightly that you have to call in the demolition squad to get to it. By the way, those types of packages are also frequently found face down in the dump, unopened.

Ken Klar is a Producer, Songwriter and Managing Director of Must Have Music (BMI)/Must Have More Music (ASCAP), which has spent the last ten years, developing an extensive catalog of top quality original songs ranging from Adult Contemporary, Pop/R&B, Contemporary Christian, Pop-Rock and Country. The current catalog includes more than one hundred songs that have been placed with Independent Artists across the country. For information about this and other music industry related topics, go to

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