Why aren't the record labels actively looking for YOU? Take 2...

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Monday December 17, 2012

In response to Why aren't the record labels actively looking for YOU?...

The simple answer to this question about record companies is that hey have too much product being submitted, and out of every 1000 demos received EVERY DAY, they probably only have time to listen to a handful. Also rememember that of over 50,000 submissions every year, the odds are very small that your great music will make it into the top 20 or top 40 that these companies compete for. You have a better chance at winning the lottery. Here is an example.

I had been 'shopping' demos and finished product for years, wondering why my 'hit' songs were not being listened to. I decided mailing demos and phone calls were not working (forget e-mail, it just gets deleted along with attached MP3's). Finally, demos tucked under my arm, I spent 2 full days walking door to door in NYC's publisher row. To name just a few examples, I had a contact at then CBS Records (early 80's) and their publishing arm, April Blackwood Music. I actually got in the door at CBS for an interview after having failed 8 years earlier with an interview/audition with the East Coast Director of A&R at Epic Records.

Basically, at the earlier meeting, I was told that the competition was 'fierce' and although my stuff was really close to the pop on top 40 radio, it was nice and nice things "come down the pike every day". They passed on me, and I EVEN GOT IN THE DOOR WITH AN APPOINTMENT! Well, thinking back now, I should have remembered one other important image and I learned an important lesson. I continued my journey down through publisher's row, I think 54th street or whatever, and climbed the stairs to Dick James Music, Elton John's publishing firm. I was shocked! It was a narrow, dark, brownstone, and up 2 flights of stairs! Paint chipping on the walls, stairs painted a dull dark brown ... this was a famous publisher with millions of dollars?

Well, surely they would LOVE my music.

I walked in to the office, and there was a receptionist chewing gum and 4 guys standing in a back room laughing and then staring at me ( they were engaged in a BS session it appeared, and my entrance interrupted them I guess). Very laid back and no one was really working as far as I could see. Well, the sweet young lady asked if she could help me and I presented her with my package .. at that time they wanted demos or cassettes or CD, but preferably on professional reel to reel tape (yes, I had an analogue studio).

Forget the demo, the genre of music or even my quality of productions. HERE IS WHAT YOU ARE UP AGAINST.

In back of the woman was a pile ... no lie .. of at least 300 or 400 packages, still sealed and in a pile reaching almost to the ceiling. The woman told me that they were received in the past 2 days and this was the volume of work they had regularly. The woman nicely took my package and I asked when I could expect an answer and a review of my music. She smiled, turned around and told me to look at the pile. She said that it would be listened to, but as I could see, I would be added to the pile and would have to wait until others had been reviewed first. Months went by, and despite repeated contacts to them asking about my demo, I never got it back and never got an answer.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Like a job that pays 200k a year, you gotta have a HOT resume that gets attention in the first 15 seconds or you're history. MAKE SURE that your FIRST songs knocks them out. Make sure your art work slams them between the eyes! Market yourself like it's your last chance? You bet! I had a chance few get, and that was an audition and interview with Epic Records. Guess what killed the deal? One of my writing partners didn't feel like going, and said he would pass and I could represent him as part of the band. Knowing ahead of time that he wasn't going, we wrote and did sloppy recordings of 5 new songs the week before, without the missing party in the sessions.

Thinking that going to the meeting with new material would obscure the missing elements, we drove the hour to Manhattan, guitars in hand. Well, CBS was interested in us because we sent ONE song months earlier that they liked, and I hammered them until they gave us the chance to come in. Well, the minute we walked in, the A & R guy said, "Where's the other guy? .. You guys aren't serious". He listened to the new music, handed me the demo and said that it wasn't what they had heard in the first place and that we should get the original act back together and return when we had something more to offer. In other words, "bye ... next plesae". Needless to say, we never got back into CBS ... never again.

Make your first try count. DON'T try to use FILLER songs that are lame, it won't help you. MAKE THEM ALL HITS. Better yet, forget the big companies, your odds are very poor. Put it out yourself and retail on the Internet. Give the music AND artwork the best you've got and make it sell. If they notice you, you'll get an offer to see them at some point. IF you do get this opportunity, make sure you treat it like a job interview ..they want to make money and if you aren't the polished 'product' that they are looking for, you'll never get in the door again. Study the charts .. music is like the clothing fashion industry ... popular today, dated tomorrow. Be on top of your game. Good luck!


RP responds: Excellent story and advice. Thank you Ron.

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