How should you approach a record label or manager?

by Ian on March 24, 2009

What’s the best way to get the attention of a music industry executive when sending in a demo? 

Just picture their usual response – a cursory glance at a web page or a CD tossed in the bin without being listened to. I can’t begin to tell you how many thousands of demos I’ve not listened to – and I’m confident that I have never missed a great demo in doing so. 

If you’ve sent us a demo or a MySpace link in the last few months, you may well be reading this post. That’s because we have pointed all people approaching us in our usual job as artists managers to this blog as a shorthand way of telling them some of the basic, but often hidden, information that we think all aspiring artists need to know. If you haven’t already, you should sign up for and download our free guide in the sidebar on the right. It’s really very good and will speed your journey to fame and fortune immeasurably! No, really it will. 

It was only when I started writing the blog posts for here that I realised that one of the things that we get asked all the time is whether it’s OK to send us a demo, how should we send it in, who to, is a web link OK, and all possible variations on that theme. 

So, not only does that question need answering, but unique amongst Internet Music Marketing folk, I can answer it from the perspective of the submitter and the receiver of the demo! 

Is it OK to send a demo? Well, yes of course, and you should be pitching your demos to as many people as possible. But, the failing that we most often see is that what we are sent just isn’t good enough. The two main flaws are that, firstly, it simply isn’t good enough in terms of songwriting and performance. The recording quality shouldn’t matter too much if the material is good enough, but everyone in this industry does suffer from not hearing past the production to a degree, even if they deny it. So whilst it’s not a killer, try to make the production good too. 

Svengali How should you approach a record label or manager?Secondly, it’s always too soon. Again, almost without exception, we get sent demos or MySpace links to material and a band that haven’t been playing together long, have recorded a hasty demo and don’t really know themselves yet what they are aiming for. The main symptoms include the aforementioned poor quality songs, appalling photographs (see our MySpace guide for what to avoid!) and a general lack of focus. A band that have been playing together for less than a year or so are unlikely to have worked out a world beating line-up, a catalogue of quality songs, a blistering live show and some sense of where they fit in the pantheon of rock and pop. These are the things you need to succeed and it’s what we and all of our ilk are looking for. 

So, assuming you’ve got that stuff straight, how should you approach a manager, an A&R man, an investor (just as likely these days), or anyone who can raise your career a notch or two?

Well the most important thing is to do your research and make sure that the person you’re sending something to will receive it and have some kind of affiliation to your genre. That means, in short, there is no point sending your Rap demo to a Metal manager. Obvious, but so rarely followed. 

I, and my kind, don’t want to see an email that doesn’t address me by name and that I know has been sent to 100 or so people at once. I want to see that you know who I am and what I do, who my clients are etc. If I can tell that you have bothered to find out why we might be able to help you (you are similar to a band we rep, or something), then I am immediately more likely to listen. This is going to hold true for all people that you approach. So, use a name to address the mail or letter, and start off with a reference to what makes us interesting to you – not ‘we like your roster ‘ but something like  ‘we loved what you did with Nine MM Slayer X and how you broke them through MTV’ ….’and we think you might be able to use similar tactics to help us out’. It not only shows me that you’ve done your homework but also that you’re thinking about how to win the game. 

Next, send me something that tells me all I need to know. And, as I have already had to defend on the blog, I need to know what you look like as well as how you sound. I’m not going to dismiss you out of hand if you look like the back end of a bus, but I need to know so that I can balance all the factors. Please, please, please have photographs that aren’t laughable. 

Let us hear the best song first – ask your mates what that is and tell them to be honest. And then ask a few people in your age and peer group that you don’t know – test it at random on people in the mall to get an honest feel. 

Although I want to know how many friends and plays you have on MySpace, I also want to know where you play, how often and what kind of crowd you get. Virtual numbers can be manipulated, which I’m all for, but real world numbers need to be real. 

Something that people don’t often think about, seeing as most now email a link, is when to send the email. Over a holiday or at the weekend is just dumb. My inbox and everyone like me, is so full on Monday morning that I reckon you have halved your odds before you start. For me, make it Tuesday early afternoon. I’ve just got to grips with the week and I’m predisposed to hearing something new. 

I’d also recommend reaching out when there is good news to report. You’ve got a self financed single coming out, or you’ve made it to the last three of a local Battle of the Bands contest. These days, I’ll also be impressed if you have a track being used on a commercial or in a TV show, or if your weekly podcast is getting 5000 listeners. 

At the very least, I’ll be hoping that you’ve contacted me when you have three or more shows lined up within a fortnight that you know are accessible for me. That way, I have a real chance of coming to see you before I forget about you. Don’t ever send someone an email if you are a live band when you don’t have shows coming up – that’s just stupid. 

Lastly, and this is the killer, can you get someone who knows your target person to pitch it for you? This is the harsh reality. The reason that I am fairly sure I never missed a diamond in a demo pile is that 99.99% of the things that hit are picked up by a recommendation. Managers, promoters and A&R men are to some extent filters of what is good and bad and one of them can filter out acts that will never make it so that only the half decent ones even get in front of people who have decision making power. 

You need to get your stuff in front of one of these people at some point, so you need to cultivate relationships with people who can help you do that – all of the above applies to getting even those people to listen and help – it’s like a vicious circle in reverse – in fact it’s a vicious funnel! 

But, when someone they trust recommends that the people in power listen to your demo and that person’s view has some weight, then you are getting somewhere. Whose opinions count? – venue owners, small-time promoters, local indie record shop owners, music store owners, bloggers, anyone at the front end of the music business. 

Go and find them, polish your act and make your pitch!

Related Posts:

ten steps you must take to succeed in the music industry

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Comments

{ 98 comments… read them below or add one }

search email May 11, 2009 at 4:45 am

good good

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Micheal April 27, 2010 at 10:31 am

This is not on topic but I have no idea where to start. My wife and I are starting our own business and need to speak the record labels. Our problem is not one that we need to be discovered but one of a legal hurdle.

Is this possible and where do we start?

Thanks you in advance Micheal.

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Admin May 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Micheal

Email me at ian [@] makeitinmusic.com and explain what help you need. I’m sure I’ll be able to help.

Ian

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Chillings March 25, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Thanks much for such a useful information..i would like it more if u feed me on how to cope with financial stress..i have a good music…and many ppl say my music is wow, but when i ask ppl of a management deal they will say mm…but i believe i can push my music up to a point where music executives can notice it….but the p is there is no resouce…how can i raise money to mobilise my music carrier?….Chillings (producer and artiste).

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Ian March 26, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Chillings – that’s a bit of a cart before the horse question. If you get a ‘wow’ reaction to your music you need to use that to build an online and local fanbase (we write about how to do this all over this site). That can be done with effort and very little money. If you can do that then the next level will happen as people come to you.

Ian

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A&R Unlimited May 28, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I’ve been looking for a resource much like your blog for awhile now. I’m a aspiring muscian and I cannot get enough information on anything band oriented. I added you to my Rss.

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krista August 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm

What I need is not on topic but I have no idea what to. I sing but I’m not a songwriter, I just write lyrics but I don’t know how to put melodies to them.
Is it possible to get signed if you are not a songwriter, won’t the record label have any songwriters who can help me?

Krista

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Admin August 15, 2010 at 10:16 am

Krista

It is perfectly possible to make it without being a songwriter.

Most pop artists signed to major labels can’t write, or certainly not on their own. There is a whole part of the industry that is dedicated to hooking up singers / artists with writers and producers. The easiest access to these people is through a record label or manager but that’s a little chicken and egg as you usually need songs and demos to get these people interested.

You can go and find these songwriters and producers yourself.

Search on Google for them – look for songwriter workshops. Call local studios and ask them if they know anyone – they may well. Look in the studio gear magazines – in the UK ‘Sound on Sound’, US it’s several such as ‘Electronic Musician’. People looking to help singers often run classifieds in there.

Then get on MySpace and look for collaborators and try Gumtree, Craig’s List, Facebook etc.

You can even try getting an industry trade directory and calling pubishers (the companies that songwriters sign to – the ying to the record label yang) and tell them you’re looking for collaborators. And look for management companies that manage them as well.

Hope that helps.

Ian

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Kate July 26, 2013 at 3:05 am

Ian,
Thank you so much for that advice. I am in the same position as Krista and had no idea where to turn to. That was a lot of help and I’ll definitely look into the options you mentioned. Thanks again!
Kate

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Kriya joseph October 6, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Well i hope not,because if u bother your self asking them that question,they wont even bother giving a contract to sign u in,all they do is just listen 2 ur demo and lyrics..if u ever ask them for a favour,ah u blowing ur self out..buy the way invyt me on facebook i’ll tell u what u dnt knw…heres my email “frank@yahoo.com” or “frankie@yahoo.com”. Bye

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caroline August 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Im a singer and I have written songs with melodies, I have a demo of four contrasting styles of music which are very well produced. I would like to get signed but I’m not sure how you go about this given that its been difficult to find musicians who you can get to play with. I dont want to post music on myspace unless i actually have gigs to post up and invite others along to.

I would like collaberators as well as players. Does anyone know where you can find these a little easier?

Carrie

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Admin August 25, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Carrie

We’ll look at this in detail as soon as possible on the site. Make sure that you’re signed up to our mailing list so that you can be alerted whwn we do that post.

In short, I would be making every effort to get more songs written and I would build a website and a myspace page asap. It will help you to come to the attention of record companies….eventually, but also collaborators and band members will see that you’re serious.

Plus, your site is your most important tool in building a following and awareness.

Where to find collaborators – local scene, online ads – Craig’s List, Gumtree – rehearsal rooms, recording studios, Production magazines, music production forums – a host of places.

Hope that helps.

Ian

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pequeno August 25, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I’m a latin rapper I had a international distribuition deal out of mexico and I had tour there a few times. I had sold over ten thousand Cds but I haven’t been able to land a record deal yet I want to know if there is something am doing wrong or can u get me a tip on what todo next I even went to the Bill board conference this year and gave away my new stuff.

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Admin August 26, 2010 at 8:24 am

Hi

I think your best course of action is to take that success and build iyt online to the point where the record companies come to you.

If you’ve sold 10,000 albums you have to be getting the music right. Connect directly with those fans and collect their email address to build a fan list. The more you do that the more obvious you’ll become to a record company.

Read this post and do the steps at the bottom – http://makeitinmusic.com/how-to-build-your-fanbase

Ian

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John December 28, 2010 at 7:19 am

I am someone who is in an awkward position nowadays, in that I write classical music, and would love to record with an orchstra. How do I approach someone with this in mind (I’m a shotty performer, but write very well)?

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Admin January 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm

John

Sorry it’s taken a while – I took a proper Xmas break!

There’s no simple answer to this one, but I’d start with finding non-professional orchestras – youth, school or community ones, try Google – and see how you can network with them.

Recording shouldn’t be a problem – provided you can write out the score for orchestral parts, which I assume you can if you write the piece?? – any reasonable local studio ought to be able to handle the recording as long as space isn’t an issue. Cost – UK£200 per day upwards depending on where and studio standard.

As for approaching them, I’d be well armed with the piece you’ve written ready scored and the make-up of the orchestra and the parts all ready to go. And just find as many possibilities as you can. Ask them if you can send them your piece first and then talk about the recording later.

One other option is to find foreign orchestras and use them and local recording facilities. I once recorded the full Budapest Film Orchestra in a very cheap studio in Budapest for about 1/10th of what it would’ve cost to do it here. There are countless great smaller orchestras in parts of Eastern Europe and some really good ones in India.

How about raising the money to record by using fan funding at Kickstarter.com or pledgemusic.com? Then you can afford to go to Eastern Europe to record. If you study our site (see these posts on the Dailies site – http://makeitinmusic.posterous.com/?sort=&search=fan+funding&x=0&y=0) and others on fan funding I think it would be pretty viable to raise £2500 to record an album’s worth of material with a full orchestra and release it on DVD and as a digital download.

I’m excited to see you do it!

Best of luck and let me know if this helps.

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Griz June 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Hello,
Ive been writing music for years now and i am now ready to let it be heard. I am a singer songwriter, my demo will only be vocals and guitar. Ive played many acoustic shows and have a following by word of mouth.
Whats the best way to approach my situtation? create a website? record an acoustic demo and pitch to record lables before a website? -giving the label a chance to be the first glance at all my material… or should i start putting myself all over the internet? Copyright my demo before anything right? i want to approach this in a unique manner… help please. Thanks a bunch!

-Griz

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Ian June 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Do you have any material online anywhere that I can hear? MySpace, SoundCloud, Facebook?

Unless it is a guaranteed ‘home run’, I would advise focusing on building your online and offline fanbase until there is a genuine buzz about you and your music. Online, that means your own site and some kind of email list building so that you can regularly contact your fans. Giving away something in return for the email is the usual trade.

MySpace is less important than ever but I would have a simple page there with music and a bio and upcoming dates, but Facebook is now essential. See our forthcoming posts on best practice.

You could approach labels but generally, without any real world buzz and material that isn’t shouting ‘I’m the new GagGa’, your likely to get no response at all and have blown your first shot.

Read this awesome presentation from Topspin. It is a brilliant plan to build your following – http://www.topspinmedia.com/2011/02/getting-practical-a-step-by-step-guide-to-building-an-online-marketing-plan-that-works-ians-presentation-from-new-music-seminar-los-angeles-february-2011

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Holy August 27, 2011 at 2:02 am

Thanks for this.
This is half of what I want. My problem is; I am an artist (afro Pop), I have researched and found music managers I will like to work with But I don’t know how to send them emails, demo’s and what to include in my email. as said ‘first impression matters’, I don’t what to make the mistake to send them wrong emails which will be a turn off for me. Can you please advice me on How to contact Music Managers that I want to work with, step by step how to write them emails and send demo’s, what should I include in the emails to avoid turn down and emailing or calling them through phone which should be my first step of contact.
Thanks. I will be grateful if you could help.
Holy

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Ian September 1, 2011 at 10:16 am

Hi Holy

The best thing you can do is to have GREAT material and have some kind of a following and fanbase offline and online. Then, a manager will find you.

As you build that (by following our advice on the site), make a concerted plan of who to target. I think you’re in the UK, so get the Unsigned Guide which lists all the management companies. Research them so that you know who they look after and that they deal with a similar genre of music. Some do all kinds, some don’t. Get names. It isn’t enough to blanket email people. Each approach needs to be targeted with a reason as to why the person might like you and your material and why you are asking them to check it out.

The best approach is to send a link to a site page where you have set up a player with two or three of your best tracks plus some images, maybe video and press. If they like what is there, they can look around the rest of your site for more info. Having a good functional site makes people think that you are serious about your career.

Never email large mp3 files – it just pisses people off.

Calling before you send the link is a great idea. Get hold of the right person, ask to send your link and then follow up.

The truth is that if your material is good enough and you approach people professionally you will find someone to take you on.

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Orly Lari September 9, 2011 at 2:23 am

Hi Ian!

Thanks for some great advice!
I’m the lead singer for a fairly new Rock band called EarlyRise and we recently self released our debut album.
So far we’re getting great feedback and our fan base is growing pretty fast considering we’re an independent band, so of course we decided to take a long shot and send out some copies of our album to a few record labels. I was looking for some information and tips on what is the best way to approach them when I came across your article and I must say it really helped and pointed me in the right direction. Hope it works!

Also, I’d love for you to give us a listen and let us know what you think (:
http://www.facebook.com/EarlyRise

Thanks again!
Orly

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Ian September 9, 2011 at 9:09 am

Orly – I’ll check it out.

Ian

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Orly September 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thanks! Looking forward to hearing from you (:

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Ian September 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Yep, you seem to be doing a lot of stuff right. Appealing to your genre and building a fanbase. Build your mailing list!

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Tim October 15, 2011 at 10:12 am

Hi, Thank You For The Advice , Im Really Taking It Into Condsideration , Could You Check Me Out via Youtube and let me know what you think? http://www.youtube.com/ofiicialtimt i would really appreciate it!!!!

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Ian October 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Tim

The Rap game is the toughest game in town – everyone thinks that they can rhyme over a beat and that’s it.

Your stuff sounds OK to me but I’m not an expert in it.

Mixtapes, getting blogs to write about you and building your own fanbase from your own site is still the way to build momentum as we talk about on the site – no matter what type of music you make.

All the best with your music.

Ian

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Brandy October 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Hello Ian!
Thanks for the blog advice. Your Ebook is very informative as well. I am representing my husband until we find a quality Manager that will be able to lead him in the right direction. Please take a look at the website and give me your best advice!! I definitely welcome it!!
http://www.orchestratedent.com
The Youtube video “Perfect Strangers” and pics are available. As well as clippets of songs he has produced in the past.

Thanks in advance!!
Brandy
http://www.facebook.com/theartistvegas

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Dane Rios November 8, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Hey Ian I have a question for you. I am a entrepreneur, I am starting a clothing company and I am making connections with music video productions and and with individual rap artist but I trying to approach a music label like young money. Im wondering how to get the phone numbers to even the front desk of any of the rap labels

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Ian November 9, 2011 at 9:42 am

Hi Dane

There are several directories that you can get hold of that list music companies – the best one for you is probably the Billboard directory – http://www1.billboard.biz/bbbiz/directories/index.jsp

Other than that, it’s all about hustling – look at who the people you are after follow on Twitter. Generally they only follow a few and some of those will be friends / colleagues at the label. You can often get to them that way. Or try calling up somewhere that you can get a number for – maybe a main label like Universal – and use a story to get the number you need. e.g. – you have a package that you just sent to the wrong address and you need it to get there for a studio session or something – if you’re a good ‘blagger’ as we call it in the UK, you may well extract the number that you’re after from the receptionist there.

Basically, buy a directory, and chase them down. You can reach any of these companies if you try hard enough – whether you’ll get to the right person and get a reply is a different question though!

That’s all about giving them a great pitch on what you have to offer. Remember that they get free clothes all day long so work out what you can do that is different that makes them realise the ‘what’s in it for me’ answer. They won’t promote your clothes for you unless there is something in it for them that they aren’t already getting from someone else!

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Ashton April 24, 2012 at 1:14 am

Hey Ian,

I really appreciate this article. I’m the singer in a Proggressive Rock/Metal band and we’re looking to get signed (who isn’t?), but really had no idea where to start. This answered a lot of questions I had and gave me quite a few ideas on how to approach our current problem: getting noticed.

Would it be okay if I e-mailed you a couple of our songs to check out? You mentioned bloggers in your list of “whose opinion counts’ and I’d like to hear what you think…

Much appreciated sir,

Ashton

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Ian April 29, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Ashton – you can by all means send us a link to a few songs and I’ll do my best to give you an honest account and opinion.

Ian

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Betsy June 10, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Hey Ian,
So I am only 14 and I love to sing and I want to make it my career. I dont sing anywhere, or have a band or anything but I want to send in a video of me singing to some record labels or producers. So, my question is, should i send in the video to a record labe or some producers or managers, or what? I want to sing pop or in that area. And how do I find a good song to sing and how many should I sing?

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Ian July 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Betsy

Sorry for not replying earlier.

It’s essentially pointless sending a tape of you singing to producers or managers if you aren’t doing it elsewhere. There are 1000′s of people with good voices who ARE doing more.

My suggestion is keep working on your talent and start doing some shows with friends from school and record a few videos to post on YouTube. Don’t expect to get there by posting one song – learn your craft and build your way to success.

Ia

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Isaiah July 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Well this is really, really good advice. I was wondering what do you do if your under 18 and you don’t really have any money is there a way for me to do this in another way, because i dont have money to make a demo, all i have is my video camera.

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Ian September 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm

YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine and brilliant for aspiring musicians. Record yourself playing, singing and maybe doing covers. It’s a start.

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Lillie September 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm

hey Ian,

i am origionally from europe and planning to move to america to further my chances in the music industry next year..
1.what is the best area to move to, to get started and possibly discovered (e.g. LA, NYC, etc)?
2.also i am just a singer and not really good at songwriting will it be a problem/advized if my demo contains cover songs from other artists and not origional songs?
3.in my presskit what exactly should my bio mention, and what style of photography is best suited (e.g headshots, fullbody shots, fashion-model shots?)
4. if i post videos on youtube which type will catch most recognition.. live, amature like singing in your bedroom etc or self produced music videos like Lana Del Rey’s – Video games?
5.and lastely how and where could i find a directory for managers etc with contact info?

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Tawny September 17, 2012 at 5:55 am

Hi Ian,
Thank you so much for the advice. I would really appreciate if you could go to youtube.com/ CodyMartinMusic and listen to some of the covers. He is about to release an accoustic album and has numerous live shows scheduled. The next show being at Jebb’s Place in Morrilton, Ar on the 28th. Feedback would be appreciated.

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brendon ireland October 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Hey guys. just wanted to let you all know how i have somewhat progressed my career( just so you can use it yourself and see if it helps).

i was 14 when i first performed in front of a croud. it was on a small piano and i didnt even have to sing. that was my first experience of the stage. i then didnt do anything untill i was 16 when i first tried to write my own songs. at this point people were saying, “dont quit your day job” or “it was ok, but not my cup of tea”.

it was harsh of them (i was 16) but i needed it. so what i did is pick up a ukulele and guitar. and tried to see if i could do any better. and it did as i then started playing different styles of music and different genre’s. so i continued with my own music but noticed one flaw. people dont care about your music as much as famous peoples (even if you really do have the best song ever written down on paper). so i started covering other artist’s and really finding my voice and style. and it took me 2 years to find my true style whilst playing the guitar.

after i found my style i did the best thing i could of ever done. i went busking ( not for the money, purely the experience). it was scary and the first time i did it i forgot half the words to most of my songs. but the songs which got peoples attention were of the famous ones. so i completely stopped performing my own and just did famous songs. after 2 years (so when i was 20) i was approached by a couple who asked me if i would perform at there wedding ( i was astounded at that point). so i did and one of the people who were at that wedding gave me critisizm back when i was 16. and she said to me “your not the same lad i heard back then. keep at it”.

and well ive kept at it and im now supporting local bands. setting up my own gig’s which i perform my own songs on a regular basis. ive still got a long way to go but i still enjoy every moment of it.

but the key points im trying to get across are:

1. dont expect to be the top artist in your first years of doing it. you need to polish everything before you get chance of that
2. dont limit yourself to what you sing or cover. try everything
3.call local artist and bands of your style and see if you could support them or get a joint gig together
4. ask at your local venues for spots or gigs ( always offer for free when your starting out, only go on to money when THEY want you to come back)
5.go busking if you can, get a spot by calling your council (you can make a fair bit of money if you travel around to different towns and citys)
6.play your demo’s to everyone; parents, co-workers, random people ect….every person is a critic!!!
7.always support new talent( they may become famous before you and could actually help you out aswell)
8. avoid contacting record companys/ managers( even if you really want it). get your music out there, and if your really as good as you think you are. they will be calling you!
9.”your only as good as your last performance”

hope it helps :)

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Admin October 23, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Brendon

Sorry for the delay in our reply and THANKS for those 9 great tips.

Best of luck in your continuing efforts.

Ian

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Admin October 23, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Hi Lillie

Sorry that we’ve taken so long to reply. It’s been hectic round here.

Our answers:

1. Online is more important today than location but moving to a city with a rich music scene and industry does mean it’s easier to find collaborators and gigs. Either NY or LA will do – they both have massive music biz importance. My personal preference is NY as it’s in the middle of between Europe and USA!

2.Your demo can just be covers but your voice had better be one of the best of all time! Alternatively find people to collaborate with.

3. In your press kit, give a bio that tells a story of how you got to where you are, highlight achievements and for photos don’t worry about the type just make sure that the image you have fits with your music.

4. Great songs will attract attention regardless of the type of video.

5. In the UK, use the Unsigned Guide (paid) an in the US, Galaris (free) and Billboard. There are other paid ones too. Look for recently updated listings. The Music Week Directory in the UK is updated annually.

Ian

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Jessie Rohrer December 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Hi Ian,
Thank you so much for the great advice. I’m a singer/songwriter in college and all I can afford really is basic demo tapes with my lyrics/melodies and a drum beat. I saw in other questions you answered that sending in a demo is pointless if you haven’t done live shows, so what’s the best way to be booked for performances if I don’t have any background doing so? Do I need a resume, better demos, etc? Where and how should I start?
Thank you!
Jessie

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Ian January 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Hi Jessie – sorry it took me so long to reply – I switched off over Christmas!

I’m not sure that I have said sending in a demo is pointless unless you’ve done shows as well, but my general view is that you will be unbelievably lucky if you manage to attract attention from a label, a manager or agent (or whatever you’re looking for) if you just send out rough demos cold.

If your material is outstanding, you will get a reaction but generally if you’ve already reached that point you should also be networking, playing local shows and attracting attention from local ‘what’s on’ bloggers and radio and generally being talked about.

If you can’t yet put a band together and perform shows, concentrate in the first stages on building a presence online and build from there.

Specifically on the ‘getting gigs’ point, read this from Amanda – http://www.makeitinmusic.com/do-you-know-how-to-get-gigs-and-play-live/

Hope that helps.

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chanel February 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Hi. I am A 16 year old girl that is trying to make it in the music business. I have connections with the manager of mtv. His sister is my mom’s bestfriend, and his sister told me to make a demo and she’ll give it to him. I do make songs , but with no melody or tempo. I sing it with a rhythym but I don’t know how to apply the music to it. And a question that I’ve been trying to figure out is if he is the manager of mtv does that mean he can sign an artist? Does he have the power to do that or does he just have connections… ?Thank you.

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Ian February 6, 2013 at 10:44 am

Hi Chanel

As the manager of MTV, no he can’t sign an artist but he is obviously a very powerful ally to have and yes he will know everyone that you need to be noticed by.

If you’re writing your own songs but need help to find a producer (you must make a reasonably professional demo that showcases the song) then start at http://www.indabamusic.com/ and see if you can find help there. Otherwise try your local music tutors, and local studios or colleges with music production courses. With a little effort you’ll find someone and if they think you’re any good, they’ll help.

Ian

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Alexandra Warshawsky February 17, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Hi Ian,

My best friend Jessy’s is an amazing DJ/Producer. His track Give Me Love was just released on Tiesto’s Black Hole Recordings. http://www.blackholerecordings.com/music/albums/jessy-give-me-love/ As soon as it came out it was supported by Paul Oakenfold, Erick Morillo, Markus Schulz, Above & Beyond…etc. While all this is great, what is the next step? How can we get more of his tracks heard by big labels. Give Me Love is just one of them and I think some of his newer ones are even more impressive. Anything advice would be greatly appreciated.

Best,

Alex

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Ian February 19, 2013 at 11:17 am

Hi Alex

The next step in dance music is to keep releasing great tracks on cool labels that have credibility with the fans of the genre and add to that with remixing for those kinds of labels. Leverage that to make more DJ gig offers come in.

Getting bigger labels to listen to his tracks comes from knocking on doors with great material in hand and backing it up with an effective online presence so that when they check that out they see that he is building a fanbase.

Ian

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daznez February 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Fantastic article Ian, thankyou!

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Christian February 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Hi Ian,
Thank you for this article and your comments. Could you check my songs (I am a singer/songwriter/guitar player) and let me know what you think? http://www.cristianorocks.com
I would really appreciate it.

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Ian February 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Christian

Glad you found it useful.

Honestly I think your material has a long way to go but that journey towards a really quality song is part of the process. Great to see that you have a website coming together. People who join you on that journey can follow you there.

I’d concentrate on developing your material for now and getting material onto SoundCloud, YouTube and Facebook as you grow.

Ian

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Valerie March 14, 2013 at 3:52 am

Hi, I have a big question, if you haven’t recorded any demos, which is my case and don’t have any equipment to make music, how can I get a record label to notice me? Not even that, how can I get started? I just have my voice.

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Ian March 15, 2013 at 10:30 am

Hi Valerie

Unless you have a truly spectacular voice, and you get lucky being able to get in front of someone to show them that live (and that could happen), you are going to have to find local people to collaborate with and record some demos. We will cover this in a post shortly.

Ian

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Asim Ali March 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Hi there..!! Nice topic i have a question that there is no way i can get the E-mails of the record label to send them my original song’s demo tracks. Even i tried to get some filmmakers emails to send them my complete songs for free to add in their films. Well there are some sites which allows us to send the record label but those sites are too much expensive that the normal musicians cannot afford that. Its much easy to advertise the band on song on tv instead of paying them if we can pay them. Well do you have any suggestion about it.
Have a great day….!!

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Ian March 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Asim

You’re right that there are lots of directories of record company contacts and unfortunately often these are expensive. But if you want to go that route and email music to labels you’re going to have to find a way to get hold of those lists. Alternatively you can get on the phone. Work out what labels would like your music and then get on the internet. Work out the names of the A&R guys and find them on Twitter, Facebook etc. Call up the label and work out a way to get a receptionist to give you their email. Tell them you need to invite them to a school reunion or something. The determined aspiring artist can get this information.

HOWEVER, it will all normally be pointless as almost no-one at a record company is going to take nay notice of an email coming from someone they have never heard of. Almost all artists that they get interested in have either built a following and gained attention themselves or have been introduced to the label by connected managers, producers, PR people etc. So, start with them and use the same techniques.

Much better overall is to follow our advice and build a fanbase that will get you noticed and have the label guys coming to you. And that’s a fact.

Ian

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Lassiertr March 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Hi Ian,
I had a good read of your post you seem very clued up on the music biz, i am in a band Reload The Radio which has been around for over 4 years, we took a break while i got married and i gave us time to re evaluate ourselves. So now we have decided to start from the bottom again an work our way up properly with a battle plan, the first two year we played over 150 shows which didn’t give us much chance to step back and fully understand where we were going. We released two EPs on itunes and used h sales to fund our studio set up so we could record ourselves as we felt we wold be able to not rush our next EP and hav it sounding perfect in our eyes and ears before release, my only issue i have found is that managers and booking agents seem to never respond to anything i have sent emails that follow your guidelines yet we still get no response, i know our music is good and struggle to understand why we just get overlooked, could you have a listen to some of our songs on http://www.reverbnation.com/reloadtheradio ? And just give me some feedback on our music as you might know something we dont
Regards
Dan

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Ian March 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Hi Dan

I’ve checked out your stuff and whilst it’s not my area of musical expertise it sounds like your material is of a high enough standard to get you noticed – certainly in terms of writing if not final production.

I think the key issue you haven’t dealt with is that you’re not actively building a fanbase. As far as I can see you don’t have a website and your social profiles aren’t being used very effectively. If you concentrate on creating a buzz about the band and your music then the managers and labels will come looking for you rather than you desperately seeking them out – and it’s way more effective that way.

If I was looking after your band I’d slow down the gigging and get a LOAD of material written and recorded and lots of that process on video – in the studio, at rehearsals etc. I’d build a mailing list by giving away stuff (no point in selling it if you have no core fanbase to sell to) and I’d focus on building a presence locally (see the Martin Atkins tip in the post I link to at the end) and in your musical niche globally by working that scene online. Look for forums and blogs that cover your sound and actively work with them to cover your material.

I’d look to have 10 great songs recorded minimum and I’d give half of them away. Don’t think about albums, just keep recording tracks and get them out there. Put all of it on YouTube as statics and encourage people to subscribe to you there. Make your YouTube channel the go to place for your sound in your local area. Feature other bands.

Etc, etc. Do this and you will gain momentum far more effectively than 150 random gigs.

In essence, I cover most of this in my post below.

Here’s the 7 steps link – http://www.makeitinmusic.com/break-your-band-2012/

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Checkmate April 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

Hi there,

I’m Checkmate by name, an airtist and song writer in Nigeria. I need
your advice oN how to get a record deal, who do I mail and how I get
it done in the wright way.

I’ve tracks done that already make up album. I’m trying to promote
myseLf as well. I have released two songs online and I managed to have
a video to support myself. Now I wish to contact managers and record
labels online perhaps luck might come my way.

Please I need your help, tell me what to do and how to go about it.
ARemember i’m from Nigeria. I sincerely hope to read from you soon.

Thanks.

Checkmate

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Ian April 25, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Hi Checkmate

I’m afraid I’m just going to refer you to the reply to Dan above.

The bottom line is that you need to build a following and interest from fans in your music BEFORE you look for a manager or label. They will not normally be interested until you have some kind of following so getting that started is up to you and is covered in that reply.

Best of luck.

Ian

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MissMusic May 22, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hi,

I am a songwriter, musician, singer. I recorded the remix of a song last year for a producer and it was heard by a big independent label and they offered me a deal to record the song as the artist. The only reason initially that I was recording it was so it could be pitched to the independent labels artist. But they liked how i did it instead. The song is however not my style or the type of message I want to attached to my name since I have plans of recording music of my own. so I declined initially and the producer came back and asked me to record it as a Ghost singer/artist where my name or likeness would not be involved and I would do a work for hire get paid one time, in which they will come up with another name or person to sing it. What are your views on that and is that something that happens often. How much should I charge the producer to do something like that? What legal things should I prepare for. I will also have the chance to let them here what I can do as well. Can I bring some of my own music in? Bc I was told I could not really bring my music into a label for them to hear unless i had a lawyer manager, or producer to represent me. Finally, the producer is hoping that in return for him bringing me or exposing me to the label through recording this track that I let him be my manager. I don’t know much about music industry… I want to make sure I know what Im getting into before I sign anything.

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Ian May 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Hi MissMusic

This is one of those kind of questions that has as many answers and raises as many new questions no matter what advice I offer!

In your position you need to decide whether you want to have anything to do with ghost singing a track at all. At some point in the future this performance could come back and haunt your future career. Then again,, if the track is at least credible, there may be no harm. And, of course, this seems to offer the chance of getting your own material that you are more comfortable with in front of people who may have some way of helping your career.

I think the core advice is to make sure that you get proper legal advice before you sign anything just to be sure that you know what you are agreeing to.

Ian

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Joey June 7, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Good Afternoon Ian,
My band and i have been together for about 2 years now and have been fortunate enough to get featured in the AP&R Section of AP Magazine, this definitely created a buzz for us, we also just put our epk together which is the first link below. I am kind of worried in that I hope i have not done the wrong thing which is emailed labels our epk in a very professional manner however its been like 2 weeks on a couple and have had no response or anything, I am convinced that they do not even look at the submissions or just do not like it or it is just too early to have done that. I would love to hear any and all advice/constructive crticism you would have for us because we are TOUR ready and midway through writing our full length and just want to get on the road.

http://www.sonicbids.com/farewelltofairview

http://www.altpress.com/apr/artist/september_2012_ap_290/24803/

Thanks so much
Sincere Regards

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Ian June 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Hi Joey.

Bottom line – you and your band are good.

BUT, sending stuff to a label is a one in a million shot. Almost always a label or a manager is going to find you because you are making something happen in your scene, town or online – and despite getting a mention in AP, you aren’t doing that. There are bands that have had a two page feature in AP and 10 other magazines and been written about by 100 blogs and that sell 500 tickets to a show in their hometown and they don’t get a sniff of interest from a label.

Your Facebook fans are passable but not engaged, your YouTube views are non-existent and I see no website.

How much music have you recorded, where is it? Don’t tell me and other people that you write to that you aim to write an album and tour – DO IT. Make fans all over the West Coast, play 7 nights in a row, release 20 tracks online in the next year.

THEN, maybe you’ll get noticed and have a fanbase that wants to see you play.

You haven’t done anything wrong in sending in the EPK, but it will be ignored. You make the noise and either that noise will get you in front of a label or in front of someone in your scene who will make those opportunities for you – a booker, manager, studio owner. Whoever it may be, they tell guys at labels if there is something happening.

But, first, make something happen.

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Damian June 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Hi Ian,

I’m a singer songwriter in a band called Lanark, we’re from Perth (Western Australia) and we’re in our early 20′s. We play experimental/indie rock and both band mates and I have been in bands before so we have experience behind us.

Lanark formed in early 2012 and we have since played decent shows around town and supported some great local acts, some of which are doing quite well overseas. In September last year we started recording our debut record and it’s currently in the final stages of mixing and mastering. We recently released “Abel Oust”, the first track of the record which is getting heavy rotation on Perth’s best radio station for local music (RTR FM), the song has had a good response so far, with bloggers also giving it nice reviews online.

Our goal for the next few months is to release the record and tour the eastern states, find a publicist, management and finally contact record labels. My question is, should we contact publishing companies/labels before we go ahead and press the record or should we just self release it and then try and contact people. Our producer told me that I should maybe start researching who to contact now, send them one track and if they’re interested send them the rest of the album once it’s finished.

We have a good idea of where we want to be but we just need some advice and guidance, from a professional like yourself, on how to make the right steps forward. Your feedback is much appreciated!

Our Youtube links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvxY9YgL994

(Live footage) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG1BwzrgbVM

Bandcamp for a HQ version of the song: http://lanarkperth.bandcamp.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lanarkmusic

Cheers,
Damian

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Ian June 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Damian

I think your band and material are great.

You could try sending a track or two to local and national players – try and find some managers and booking agents and maybe some junior guys at labels (all of whom you need to check out to make sure that they deal with music like yours) and test it out. It can still happen that doing this will lead to a person who thinks you’re great and will come on board and help you out.

BUT!

…in reality you have the same problem that everyone who comes to our site has. You just aren’t doing enough to bring it all together and focus eyeballs on your talent. And releasing an album in that vacuum isn’t going to get you where you want to go – unless, again, you get really lucky.

Where’s your website and your mailing list? (I know you’re getting some from the Bandcamp giveaway). Why are you only reaching less than 700 people on Facebook and getting less than 5% TAT (Talking About This) ratio? Why don’t you have more music on YouTube? Where are the bloggers writing about you, locally, nationally, internationally?

In your position I would not be thinking about releasing an album. I’d get those 10-12 tracks and release 6 2-track singles or 4 3-track EP’s over 6-12 months and I’d get it all online (every track on YouTube as a static, on SoundCloud etc) and I’d hit local scene blogs hard and international ones that fit as well.

I’d add thousands of Facebook fans and build a mailing list by giving away half those tracks and then release a special edition of the album with the best tracks and five new ones in a year’s time and tour that. Use Martin Atkins five pointed star technique to build local followers (Google it).

That way, you will definitely build a fanbase – because you are good enough. Doing it any other way you might, but you might not.

Our digital marketing side can help you if you like (but we cost! and are on the wrong side of the world) but there’s an outfit in Oz who really know what they are doing -http://jadensocial.com/ – I’ve never met the guys but I know they are good at what they do.

Best of luck. You can build a career. Many people who come by here just aren’t that good, but you are.

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Damian June 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Thank you for your feedback Ian! We’ll definitely sit and consider what you’ve said :) Great insight!

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Una August 3, 2013 at 1:29 am

Hi Ian,

I’m a singer in a band who’s just had our first single mixed at home/mastered in a professional studio. Based on the feedback I received, I’m looking at exploring other options as a solo artist. I’d like to have it produced properly in a studio with a similar arrangement without the band to achieve the quality I want. I wrote the chords and melody, but did not arrange any of the instruments. We have no contract, so I don’t know if I am legally entitled to take the song I wrote and produce it myself with basically the same arrangement.

Secondly, I feel lost as to where to begin building a solo career. I invested a lot of time working with individuals who weren’t professional musicians and weren’t as dedicated. My current plan was to re-record the demo with a producer, release it on youtube, find an acoustic guitarist to play lots of gigs with to build noise, and find a manager to book gigs and advise me generally.

The issue is I don’t know what order I should begin – without “noise” my song probably won’t get hits, and you seem to be saying to everyone on here that a manager won’t notice you without a demo. I’m also highly reluctant to find a drummer/guitarist/bass player etc to help me gig as I don’t want to waste time committing to people who aren’t reliable. At the same time, I think my songs won’t connect to an audience just using a live audience – I need drums as well. Am I better off just hiring session musicians?

In short, I am highly motivated but don’t know what steps to take first. I don’t want to blow my first impression in the industry. I’m prepared to pay high quality for radio quality songs to use as part of my promotion strategy and the same with hiring session musicians, but I’ve already spent time and money home recording so I want to make smarter choices this time.

P.S. I’m based in Sydney

Any advice would be highly appreciated!

Below is the track I recorded with my band (sorry, it links to a large file)
https://www.hightail.com/dl?phi_action=app/orchestrateDownload&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.hightail.com%2Ftransfer.php%3Faction%3Dbatch_download%26send_id%3D2240591376%26email%3D1bf90088e76fe218b30a5b6128cf4903

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Ian August 23, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Hi Una

Sorry for not replying before – I was on holiday.

The track is average and I’m afraid you need much better vocal production. Although I can hear something in your voice (reminiscent of Kate Bush) I’m hoping this is just a poor performance and recording – the vocal wobbles and is out of tune.

You’re right – this is not the first impression you want to give.

That doesn’t mean however that you can’t find the right people to work with and make some great material.

The only advice I can give you is that you are going to have to find a way to record better material at a better quality before you can begin to try and promote yourself. The best way is to look for collaborators – my much delayed article on songwriters will cover this.

All that said, don’t give up and best of luck.

Ian

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Jason Trann August 21, 2013 at 6:20 am

Well, hey there Ian,

I did really enjoy reading this blog and found it to be very useful. Anyway, my girlfriend and I started writing music together quite a while ago (that’s how we started dating actually), and I write and record all of the music (backing tracks), then she writes the lyrics and we write the melody for the lyrics together, so we’re quite the duo if I say so myself. But, what I was wondering is do we have potential, because honestly, I love our music, not just because it’s ours, but because we wouldn’t have written/released any music if we didn’t think it was good to us. Below is a link to our youtube channel, and the crowd favorite seems to be our song “Finally”. If you could give it a listen and provide any feedback, that would mean so much to me. We’re just a couple of entrepreneurs in college trying to make a living off of what we love more than anything.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fETs3QeAAbQ

Thanks again Ian,

Jason

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Ian August 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Jason – sorry for the delay. I have been on holiday.

Yes. It’s rare for me to be able to say ‘yes’, but yes, you definitely have a chance of making a career.

Your voice is good, but I love Teryn’s. Real tone and quality. The song is good too. And it’s great that it’s all very real and authentic and fits with your story.

You seem to be doing a lot of stuff right – YouTube is the place to put all your music – like the packshot video for ‘Finally’. Put all the tracks up.

I wouldn’t think about releasing anything on iTunes.

Make a website and give the EP away. Build a mailing list and build fans.

I’ll happily take a call with you guys if you like.

Ian

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Mohit Pandey August 23, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hi Ian,its the greatest info i found online for aspiring musicians.I am from india.
I am a singer/songwriter/guitar player and my debut single titled ‘Tujhse Main Mila Kyun’ has been released few months back.Finding a record deal in india is now a days very tough because record companies are mainly focussing on bollywood films music due to music piracy and non film music not giving them good returns .So every aspiring musician in india wants to get in to bollywood whether their heart lies there or not,because getting a single opportunity in bollywood makes you star overnight and make you rich where as if you try doing non-film music it dosen’t get noticed easily.I am not considering bollywood for my career as of now.The problems i am facing is

1-Money->I had to spent out a large sum of money for my first song and i dont have sufficient money for producing my future songs.I wana learn electric guitar and want to have a sound system including a wireless mic so that i can start performing my own songs and also covers of other musicians as soon as possible but i don’t have any money for it.currently i own a entry level acoustic guitar.

2-People’s orientation->In india most people don’t know that there is new music being released everyday besides bollywood.but there is no mistake of people in it because independent musicians in india don’t have money for promoting their releases.Even mainstream media here including TV and newspaper don’t support independent music to that extent.The only powerful media for independent artists is online presence.

I wana become a diverse artist independent of genre and languages,my native language is hindi so obviously i will write most of my songs in hindi but i love to write songs in english too.At present i know only these two languages.In future i will try to learn other languages also ,if not possible will try to record my songs in other languages with help of translation and other artists. One of my dream is to collaborate with Avril Lavigne as she is one of my top inspiration,god knows when that day will come but i am hopeful.

You may not know hindi but i will be obliged if you listen my song and give your valuable feedbacks about it.you can watch my music video on youtube.I have captions upoladed in english so that atleast you can know the basic theme and meaning of song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJekbX_oDxg

also please help me because i also wana get signed by record label based on us,uk.I will definitely write english songs in future.As i am not located in us,uk what should be my strategy so that record labels took notice of me or in what way should i approach them.Currently iam working on my debut album and as soon as i will arrange money i will start finishing it off and i am thinking to put one or two english songs in my debut album so that it will help me to promote me as an international artist and get noticed by international record labels.what do you think what further steps should i take.

Once again thanks for a wonderful article.

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Ian August 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Mohit

I listened to your track and was impressed that it’s already had over 3,000 views. Many people don’t even manage that. Plus the production is pretty good. I can’t really comment on the sing since, as you guess, I don’t speak Hindi.

The short answer to all your questions is that you have to build an online presence, focusing on India and Hindi speakers around the world – that will allow you begin building a fanbase which then may lead to Indian record labels taking notice and perhaps even some in the US or UK.

Bottom line is that you have to make that happen yourself – start with a website and Facebook page. Run Facebook Ads in Hindi targeted only to Hindi speakers and offer some free tracks for download in return for email. Focus locally to your area as well and do some live shows.

Keep writing and recording and keep up a very regular (daily if possible) flow of music and information to your fanbase as it grows.

I hope that helps.

Ian

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Ben and Jon Garwood. September 3, 2013 at 8:24 pm

We are identical twins age 20. In 2010, we got through to BootCamp on X Factor. In 2012 we made it to the grand-final of Factor Essex which was a local competition. Music is our life. We mainly sing covers of pop music. Do charity events and would love to make a name for ourselves in the music industry.Recently, we have a made a demo CD of 4 covers.

Would you at all be interested in listening to it? We need help with promotion and management.

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Ian September 19, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Hi Guys

Sorry for the late reply – we’ll always listen. Drop a zip file or links to support@makeitinmusic.com.

Ian

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Hi there Ian thanks for all the info and guidlines that u give to all indie artist. You've open my eyes and give me more hope! To keep doing what i do Best! we are RND Twinz (age22) indipendent artist from South Africa,we do R&b,POP music Can u plz ta September 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Hi there Ian thanks for all the info and guidlines that u give to all indie artist. You’ve open my eyes and give me more hope! To keep doing what i do Best! we are RND Twinz (age22) indipendent artist from South Africa,we do R&b,POP music Can u plz take a few minutes of yr time to listen 2 ur music on on http://www.reverbnation.com/ndtwinz listen to the tracks ”baby You’re the one” and ”ConFused” we do got 1 Quest for u after lstening to music! Is our music on the Market and ar we ready to be realise?

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Ian September 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Hi

It’s not far off, but it’s the same as I tell almost everyone on this thread. You have to get the music right and then build a targeted fan base yourselves. Record companies are looking for that fanbase and connection. If you can’t make that happen, how will they?

Ian

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Arabella Latham September 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Hi Ian,

My name is Arabella Latham, I’m sixteen years old and unlike most of the commenters you are likely to get on this post, I live in South Africa. The reaction I get to this statement online is usually quite constant – an immediate disregard because of my living in a second world country and what not. I have been playing the guitar and writing music since I was nine years old, have recorded a demo in a studio in Nashville Tennessee and have won an international songwriting competition based in London, but have found it progressively more difficult to get help from people in the industry who could catapult my career to where I dream of it being.

I have a soundcloud account where I put all my music up for my friends and family to but because I’ve never put a proper video on YouTube, I find it very difficult to grab the attention of the overseas market. On seeing your post yesterday, I decided to create a Myspace page where I have put up the two songs from my demo and a few professionaly taken photographs of myself.

I would be extremely grateful if you could have a look at my page and let me know if you think I would be able to succeed in the music industry or if you could give me an idea of where I should go from here. The link to my Myspace page and songs specifically is https://myspace.com/arabellalatham/music/songs

Thank you so much for the advice Ian

Arabella

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Ian September 19, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Arabella

Apologies – I thought I’d replied before.

I think I need to be critical but positive. These songs aren’t bad but they aren’t good enough. And, your voice isn’t strong enough on these recordings. Perhaps that can be down to the production or you might need to work on that some more.

However, I can see that there is songwriting talent in your work but you probably need to find co-writers to help you write the commercially viable material you are after. I think the lack of traction is more to do with the fact that your material isn’t quite good enough yet rather than where you are. If you get that right (and it’s not miles away but does need work) then you can build a local and national fanbase and work from there. Do not expect to send even great demos to people on the other side of the world and get signed – it is very unlikely to happen. But, if you do that and are selling tracks on local iTunes and selling out shows of even a few hundred people, the right A&R guy will fly to SA to see you.

Material first, local fanbase second and then push for recognition and assistance.

Ian

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Marvin Bridge September 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Hola Ian
Thanks for your post, its been really helpfull. I have a bit of a problem in my hands, maybe you could give me some advise.
I have a band that we play english spoken indie-psych rock. The odd part is that we live in Uruguay, South America! We’ve released 3 EPs, filmed 2 videos and have won 2 local music contests .
Im pretty sure american and british listeners will like our music but its much harder for us to reach them from here. The audience for our kind of music in Uruguay is almost non existent. We are trying to go and play in Argentina and Brasil because in big cities (Buenos Aires, Sao Pablo) its easier to find international crouds.
Our local record labes are not interested in our music because its in a foreign language and has foreign influences. Uruguay is a pretty small country…

Could you please advice me in how to reach record labels that could be interested in our music (UK, USA, Australia) from such a long distance?
I think we have an added value by being of a tiny far away country…it gives an extra intrigue to the listener. The only problem is getting them to know our music!

Kind regards,

Marvin

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Ian September 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Marvin

I hear what your saying but the response you need is already in my answers on this thread. You HAVE to create a fanbase yourself before anyone will take notice. And that can be done entirely online wherever you are oin the world. You have to identify an audience wherever they are in the world and reach them through Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and your own site. This is possible.

Ian

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Ray Moore October 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Mmm… i write songs and melodies mainly in the style of electronic dance etc, i am hopefully going to work with a DJ in my local area at the Venue i work in and he has DJ’d and supported artists like N-Dubz etc. I want to make a track with him as he is a DJ/Producer although i write/compose and sing with an ok vocal. I am more about writing songs perhaps for other people.
I have the will to write and compose and with connections i’d like to be able to approach aritsts with material. Is it a good idea to write/compose in the music business and can you make a career out of it?

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Ian November 12, 2013 at 8:41 am

Ray

This is definitely a career path that can work if you are good enough. That said it is very very hard to make it as a songwriter. The mammoth post on this that I have promised for a couple of months is on its way – look out for it.

Ian

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Sue October 28, 2013 at 2:03 am

Hi Ian,

What about artists who aren’t making mainstream music or preforming live? People who are not bands/singers/rappers. People that create their music at home/small studios and it falls into other genre’s. For instance like world music or electronic music? Any advice for people in that situation? Do they still have to have a fanbase online to show off before approaching a record label?

I know someone who has her music on her own website, facebook, and bandcamp but hardly any traffic. Just having the music available doesn’t make people find/listen to it unfortunately. Thanks.

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Ian November 12, 2013 at 8:34 am

Sue

Pretty much any artist in any genre needs to build their fanbase online now. And in doing so you’ll both attract the attention of record labels and perhaps decide that you don’t want to do a deal with them and stay independent.

Having your music online is the first step. Learning how to make people find it is the next. Look for a post on that in the next few days.

Ian

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Ronn Merlin November 18, 2013 at 6:33 am

Hey Ian!

Firstly, thanks for being of such help to everyone!! Accept my gratitude!

Secondly, I’ll tell you about myself. My name’s Ronn Merlin. I started listening to music since class 6th. My first artist was Michael Jackson, And first song was Beat it. My most favorite artists are Michael Jackson, Guns N Roses, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon and The Smashing Pumpkins.

That was when the seed was planted and now its huge than anything!

Im of the genre Rock-Pop you could say. Frankly, I just believe in making music I love, I believe in and leave the task of naming to others!!
You know, I know where I wanna go, exactly. but I’ve always believed that without someone’s help you can never amount to anything. People gotta help others and should also get some from others! That’s the way it works!! Right ?

Look, few months back, I didn’t wanted to be an artist. More than a great singer Im more of a great songwriter! But since few months, I’ve had enough of Justin Beiber, or One direction and artists like these. You know I genuinely wouldn’t wanna be an artist if today we had artists like Jackson, or Springsteen, Or Roses (originial lineup) or all those 70s 80s 90s. But now i think i gotta take the stand! After listening to all these Beiber’s and Direction’s, I can genuinely say, even after having all my modesty, I make great songs! And most importantly i BELIEVE IN THEM! This feeling Ian, is very true!! Its not just a daydreaming you know! Its reality !!

I sing in American accent! But the problem is that I live in India. And this is the only question that’s been ticking me, that whether I’d be refused by a label because of my nationality ?? Will they take an Indian guy ? Even if he’s real good than many other artists produced my them ?? How much it affects, the nationality ??

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Ian December 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Ronn

Apologies – I thought I’d replied to this before.

Bottom line is it doesn’t matter these days where you’re from. All that matters is that the material is good enough and that you work out how to build a fanbase yourself because only then will you get a deal (although you might not need it then). Just look at Psy – he’s not in the US!

Ian

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Hayden McNabb November 21, 2013 at 7:16 am

Ian,

I’m a 19 year old songwriter/producer from Seattle. Here’s my band’s first EP. Do you think the music is good enough to get signed? Here’s the link: https://soundcloud.com/thenegatives

thanks,

Hayden

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Ian December 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Hayden – Sorry that I haven’t replied earlier.

Honestly, I like the vocals and the production and song quality are good. I think they aren’t quite good enough yet but there is real promise in there. Keep writing and recording.There’s a huge mountain to climb for every artist but your material is better than 95% of stuff I hear. Keep developing, keep working and you’ll have a very good chance.

Read my 7 steps post too – http://www.makeitinmusic.com/break-your-band-2012/

That’s your basic routemap.

Ian

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Gilly January 8, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Hello Ian, your page is very useful thankyou. I am a songwriter, producer and rapper, and I have been making music for around ten years (like you say the rap game is a tough one), I am nearing the end of my energy now when it comes to hoping for success, I am 33 and really need to get some help if I am going to have one last push to get my music out there. I would be very thankful if you could have a listen to it, if you have the time, you seem to know what you are talking about and it is hard to get any solid advice here in Cumbria UK. We perform at a few festivals in the summer, and occasional local gigs but the night life here is nearly non-existant and it really is like flogging a dead horse. I was nearly signed by a well known management company / label about 6 years ago but they messed me about badly and it has massively reduced my ability to focus on music. I am unsure whether to look again for more labels, or maybe I should just forget it like everyone has always told me to :) Many thanks, Gilly

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Brady Runk January 22, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Hello,
Thanks for writing everything you do here! It really all is great and people can learn a lot from it so keep it up! But I do have a question that is in dire need of an answer. Unlike the majority of people who comment (I read through to see if there was a similar problem) I am musically talented but through drumming only. I am 18 and currently do not have a band since where I am from no one seems to have time to start one or can play an instrument. My question is that could I write to a manager of a recording label that has pioneered in a style of music I enjoy playing stating who I am, send in a video, or a few, of me playing solos or songs and everything else you have stated above? Would that help my situation or would someone just see that and think “Oh it’s only the drummer we still need 3 or 4 other instruments to make a band here *toss in the trash*”? Thanks for taking the time to read this and reply whenever you can!
Brady

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Ian February 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Hi Brady

I think you’ve answered this question yourself. Bottom line is that if you are an incredible musician (or just get lucky as you have the right timing and the ‘look’) then approaching labels or managers might get you a slot in a band that the label or manager has on their books. If you approach them and they just happen to need a drummer at that moment then you’re in with a shot.

So you’ve nothing to lose.

Generally though – as it’s a long shot – you need plans B, C and D. Get your own band put together, play for a bunch of local bands (I always know drummers who play in more than one band as there’s a shortage of good players) and plug away at any opportunity. Look for those slots at rehearsal studios, let the owners of local venues know, put up notices on college boards – you know the drill.

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Anaïs March 4, 2014 at 2:23 am

Hello Ian,

I have read that when you send a demo to a Label, they often want you to have those songs you are sending, never heard by anybody, in case, they want to sing you and sell your tracks. I’ve read that they don’t want to see that you have so many views on the songs you send them, because you already released them for free.

So I am a little hesitant to build an online presence, it is a little scary to release your track without them to be heard first by the record labels.

What do you think ?

Thank you

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Ian March 11, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Anais – this is untrue. Almost every artists signed today needs to show ‘traction’ and that means having songs out there for people to get to love.

If anything the opposite is the case – a label would want to see lots and lots of views so that they know your music can succeed.

It is a little different when you’re already signed because at that point the label want to be able to hit all media at once with your new release – so they wouldn’t want you uploading it first. But if you are unsigned, put all your material online. If a track starts to take off, every label in the world will be fighting to sign you.

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Ronn Merlin March 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Hey Ian,

Got a question again, and looking at your generosity of answering each one’s answers with so attention, all of us feel so free to ask you!! So, first of all, I wanna thank you on behalf of myself and everyone who feel the same but maybe due to the busy lives forget to tell you that. THANK YOU IAN!

Now, my question is, while struggling to get a big record deal, is there any chance, of how i can send my lyrics to them? or how to make them know the lyrics i’ve got is really great stuff? or how can i sell my lyrics to major local bands so that they know my lyrics? do you have any links to people ? who want/need a good lyricist? and willing to pay a good sum too? maybe small record labels or so you know. I think you’ve got what i wanna ask, i just wanna get started by somewhere, and i think lyrics is my strongest portion to start with. you get it? how to sell my lyrics? i want someone to pay a good price for it,so that i start earning too. Help me out man! Ciao ;)

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Ian March 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Ronn

It’s doable – but it’s almost unheard of. Bottom line is that to sell lyrics with no melody and no recorded demo, you’d need to get a very lucky break and put them in front of someone who just loved what you’re doing. Unfortunately almost every artist and songwriter thinks that they can write lyrics (how do you think those boy band puppets get a writing share?) and so it’s very hard to pitch just lyrics cold. If you network like crazy and build a reputation somehow as a gifted prose/poetry writer that would get you an in but even then the chances of someone picking up on the lyrics only is tiny.

Best bet by far is to try and collaborate at a level where you can get a break. Find a producer and/or a songwriter or even an artist to work with and build your own chances from there.

There’s a big post on collaborations for songwriters coming up.

Ian

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Ana March 17, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Hello

We are a team of professional and we are preparing an album here in Los Angeles I am a song right now but I’m French and I just suck at lyrics writing we really need somebody to write all lyrics
Could that interest you ?
If so contact me at gracia.anais@gmail.com

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Ian March 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Ana – hopefully Ronn and you can make that happen – as I said you need to get very lucky!

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Ronn Merlin March 20, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Hey! Ana, Im intrested in writing lyrics for you. I also emailed you :)

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C. Adams March 15, 2014 at 11:59 am

Hey there,

Thank you for this post, it was really helpful! I’m in a band and we’re around 15/16 years of age and as a result we’re finding it quite difficult to get taken seriously. The few labels that have replied to my emails (this is probably, as I’m sure you know, one of the only industries where 500 emails can get 5 replies) have taken a liking to our music but turned us down based on our age. Obviously record labels want bands that are old enough to have a packed schedule, but bands like The Strypes (aged 15) have managed to work their way to the top, so how would we? We gig as often as possible, playing showcase gigs to three hundred or so around once a month and couple of smaller gigs too and we have to fit this all around GCSEs and our school life, but no record labels ever take an interest, based purely on our age. Is it a case of waiting until we’re older to get taken seriously, or is there a way of getting around the age issue?
Thanks!

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Ian March 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Hi

I think from your question and the way that you have framed it, you probably already know the answer – and it’s covered in these comments more than once.

Your age is a factor, but – bottom line – if you make a noise and get attention, people will find you and you can break through at any age (old or young) as you have pointed out is the case with The Strypes.

My guess is that your inability to attract interest of labels isn’t down to your age but down to the fact that you haven’t built a noticeable following online and locally – one that a record company executive would see and think was a marker as to your future success. Or it could be that they just don’t feel that your music is right – yet.

Do you have a website, Facebook page, SoundCloud profile, Instagram, YouTube channel etc? Are you building followers there? Do those people come to gigs?

If not, you need this in place (on top of all your school work!) so that people can find you and be bowled over by what you are achieving. Then, you will get a reaction. If you find it difficult to build that traction it’s most likely that your music isn’t making a connection with an audience.

If that’s the case, change it up. Don’t worry though – you are so young that you have plenty of time to get it right. But the sooner you realise that it needs improvement (if it does) then the sooner you’ll be on your way.

Great music that gets a reaction PLUS online and local/national fanbase building activity gets you noticed. Fact!

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