As I sat to write this blog I was approached by a friend who asked me the question that I was going to write about in the first place. I get asked it all the time, probably once a day. I’m flying to Boston tomorrow to sit on a panel at the Boston Music Conference, and the main subject of the panel revolves around this same question. The question is “how do I find the music or bands that I want to work with?” Or from a band’s perspective, it’s “how do I get the attention of a label?” The answer is there really is no specific or easy answer. I find music the same way most music listeners find music: on-line, word-of-mouth, press, radio, conferences, whatever.
For example, a producer friend of mine whose taste I trust and respect told me about a band he recently worked with in the studio. Without hesitation I listened to the songs and loved what I heard and I’m now seriously considering working with the band. Another example that I’ve used in this blog before is the band I met at the Atlantis Music conference a couple of years ago, who I ended up signing (Hey Monday). Or another band I work with, Manchester Orchestra, had created such a buzz and such a legitimate following that literally every label in the industry wanted to be a part of what the band had built. Or more recently the local support that 99X gave to The Constellations which, along with hard work on the band’s part, lead to their recent signing to Virgin. There are many ways to find the bands; we just have to be alert.
I get a lot of music sent my way throughout any given week. Almost all of it is unsolicited (un-asked-for), and sometimes unappreciated (massive MP3 files that clog up my inbox forcing me to do a clean-up every other day due to the limited space on our company’s server), but I digress. For the most part, I listen to everything I get, but there is definitely a priority stack (with the large, unsolicited files being at the bottom). The stack that get’s priority is the stack that I’ve heard about from a credible source whom I trust, or that I’ve heard about on my own just from physically (or digitally) being out and about in the music scene, both here in Atlanta and across the country. The bands that have done their legwork and have hit the road and have recorded original, competitive, imaginative, music are the ones who always seem to rise to the top the quickest.
Most A&R people have networks set up in various cities, whether with band managers, attorneys, scouts, club owners, or just friends who are big music fans, we usually hear about bands that are making waves in their hometown. We all have our ear to the ground, that is after all our job, and if you are legitimately doing the work you need to be doing on your end, more than likely we will find out about you. Nine times out of ten a band gets discovered because they were out doing their own thing, creating their own mini-empire, and word got out about them and the labels (big and/or small) converged on them. The constant barrage of CDs and MP3s we receive each week is all well and good, but it’s so much more effective when we as labels hear about bands through good old fashion buzz. If there’s a buzz then you are doing the right thing, and you are more likely to get noticed, than the ones who try to get signed without anything going on and who expect their troubles to be over once a deal is in place. As I always say, there are no guarantees, but if you are doing the work on your own you are much more likely to make a living at it than if you are sitting around waiting for success to come to you. Bottom line–do what you do best, do it smart, do it well, and whether you secure a deal or not you will at least have made a real effort and you will increase your chances of doing it longer.
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