To state the obvious, as a label owner I tend to receive demos. One of the best things in the past ten years in regards to demo submissions has been Soundcloud. Prior to Soundcloud, A&R guys would dread opening their emails to find they had to download hundreds of megabytes of MP3s every morning. Prior to that, there was a stack of un-solicited, un-opened mailed in CDRs.
Soundcloud has clearly streamlined the process giving artists the ability to simply send a link containing all of their tracks, bio information and social links. And lo label executives gave a rather loud and long sigh of relief. Soundcloud however did not fix every problem with the demo process. The artist still can turn off a label’s A&R department faster than Borderlands 2’s Ellie, naked and covered in jelly.
Every now and then, I get a demo in and the artist requests some tips on how to represent themselves better. Today, I thought I’d share a few of them. Let’s start out with setting your expectations.
Make sure that you’re sending your music to the RIGHT labels.
Research the labels that you are sending demos to before you send them. A dubstep label cannot and will not release house music. They do not have the audience. In sending labels demos that are not suited to their audience, you are wasting your time and the label’s. And pay attention to the subtleties of the label as well. A tech house label doesn’t release every type of tech house. Some are more progressive and melodic than others. Some are very dark and tribal in nature. Some blur the line between tech house and deep house. Know the label.
When sending your soundcloud as a demo, either send specific tracks or a single playlist with that clearly defines what you are submitting.
A&R guys can’t read your mind. If you submit your normal Soundcloud page, they’re probably going to listen to whatever is first on your page or randomly pick out some tracks on it. If you want them to hear only certain tracks, you need to be blunt and tell them which ones. The easiest way to do this is to link directly to them or better yet, create a demo playlist and send them that.
Keep in mind as well, A&R guys are busy people. They may not have the time to listen to 2-3 tracks in a demo. Chances are also high that they will skim a track rather than listen to the whole thing. Just like you would shop for tracks on Beatport for your shows, that’s how the A&R guys will treat your demo. You’ve got one shot, make it good. Maybe even consider only posting 2 minute samples of your tracks, just like Beatport does. If they like what they hear, they’ll contact you and ask for more.
Never expect a return response.
80-99% of what labels receive is either very poorly produced OR is derivative of other music out there. DJs barely have time these days to go through their promos these days. Why would an A&R guy have any more time? Downloading a promo and commenting takes time. Demos are the same way. If an A&R guy doesn’t respond within a week or two, you can assume that he’s not interested. Feel free to send one follow up email, but be polite and not pushy. Also, be willing to accept that your demo fits in the 80-99% crap pile and move on.
That’s it for part one. More tips are coming soon with part two where we will talk about the music that you produce.