In the year or two since I wrote this guide a lot of things have changed, most notably the ability of everyone to send and receive high quality MP3s via email. And obviously everyone has their music on Myspace. In light of that I’ll get round to updating this guide soon, but in the meantime I think much of it is still relevant, especially as I know a lot of A+R people who still only want to hear demos on CD etc.
Anyway, here’s the original article, copied from my old blog:
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As an A&R guy I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of demos. Probably thousands. And the vast majority have had major problems. I’m not talking about the music. That’s another thing entirely and warrants a whole boook itself.
What I’m talking about is making your demo stand out from the pile and making it easy for someone to get in touch with you once they listen to it.
Firstly, and most importantly, put your contact on the CD itself. There’s one thing that will be guaranteed is that the CD will be separated from the case and they will probably never see each other again. Imagine your phone number or email is on the case which is lost down the back of the label’s stereo and there are no contacts on the CD itself. How are they going to get in touch with you to offer you a deal? They may not even know the name of your band if it’s on a blank CD.
Secondly – make sure it stands out. Whether you record it to bright pink CDs, or have a big picture of a snail on it just make sure it can be found amongst the pile. When you send a polite email or give them a courtesy call a few weeks later to check they got it ok, or whether they’ve checked it out the first thing they’ll say to you is “Which one is it? What does it look like?”. The pile on the A&R man’s desk could be hundreds deep. Now imagine saying “Erm, it’s on a silver disk, with erm, some writing on it, in a white case”. That probably accounts for 80 percent of the demos he or she receives. It only has to be slightly different (a band portrait is fine) but it has to have some distinguishing marks.
Thirdly – The follow up. In most cases your CD won’t get listened to without a bit of a nudge. As an A&R man, this is my preferred method of receiving a friendly reminder. A week after you send it, send a polite email to say “Hi, I’m X from X. I sent you a CD recently. It looked like etc. I hope you like it. I’ll drop you a mail in a week or so to see what you think.” Then a week later drop them a reminder “Hi, it’s X again. Just checking to see what you thought of my CD”. Even after 2 weeks and 2 emails there’s a chance you may still hear nothing. Don’t be afraid to phone a week later. You’re perfectly entitled to follow it up. If you do, just be aware that these guys are very busy. Just be polite and respectful. Don’t hassle them. If this doesn’t get a response then let it go, you’ll just have to wait for them to get round to listening to it and hopefully respond. Hassling them won’t make them view you in a good light. At the end of the day they’re probably as disorganised as most A&R men so it’ll just take time. If they do their job properly they’ll listen to it eventually. And they may just give you some feedback. But don’t count on it!
Thanks to everyone who attended “The Gathering” at The Pop Factory, who inspired me to write this little piece. Good luck to you all!