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How To Help The Music Industry Take You Seriously

by Chris Standring

Every 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.

Contact Info
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 with here!

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.

Chris Standring is the CEO and founder of A&R Online ( 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

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