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LABELS SPEAK: WHAT CAN A NEW BAND DO TO GET YOU TO LISTEN TO THEIR DEMO?
Label Manager, Sacred Bones
93. Do not blindly email, mail or call labels if you want them to listen to your demo. Instead have a long hard listen to that label’s releases and decide if your band really makes sense for them aesthetically. And before you send any demos anywhere, you should ask yourself one thing: “Does my band want to be a band full-time or is this just a hobby for fun?” If your answer is the latter, you should look into self-releasing your record. You can’t expect a label to work full-time on your band if you don’t. If your answer is the former, you should try to find an organic in with the label before you blindly solicit. It’s like applying for a job. The label is more likely to respond if you are friends with people on their roster and their bands like your band. I’d say 99 percent of the bands we sign come from friends or roster artists referring people to us.
General Manager, Hardly Art
94. I think the key in gaining interest—whether you’re working with a physical or digital demo—is to not beat anyone over the head about it. If the music is good, it should speak for itself. If the live show is good, that’s even better. We look for bands who are making music that we’re excited about and think should be heard by a larger audience. I don’t know if it’s possible to whittle the specifics down further than that, other than we generally try to avoid working with total assholes. (Pro tip: never send an MP3 attachment unless prompted.)
Founder, Captured Tracks
95. Don’t have a manager or lawyer send an email, that goes in the trash.
96. Don’t send a demo with a UPC, that gets thrown away.
97. If you’re sending us a demo, don’t already have records out.
98. It always helps to put some thought and care into the email or CD-R to make it personal and show the artist’s affinity with the label.
General Manager, Luaka Bop
99. We listen to everything that comes in. I was happy to see that was the case when I came to the label. We know immediately if it’s not right for Luaka Bop, so it may only get 15 seconds before someone yells to turn it off, but we listen. Sending out a demo is not going to hurt you if your music is any good and you send it to the right people in the right way—as a link to the music hosted somewhere else instead of crashing my email with unsolicted MP3s. That makes me want to stab you in the face. But even then, if something great arrives unsolicited in the mailbox it’s a rare treat.
Label owner, Slumberland
100. Show that you really know and understand the aesthetic of the label you are approaching. It’s so cheap (like, free) to send out demos digitally that I’m sure it’s tempting to carpet bomb every label out there, but nothing turns me off more than getting something totally inappropriate for the label with a boilerplate note stating how much you love Slumberland and how perfect you are for the label. All of the indie labels I know and respect very carefully select the bands they work with, and as a band you should just as carefully select some labels you really want to work with and approach them in the most personal, genuine way possible.
Founder, Wierd Records
101. I get so many links, videos and promos, both to my address and discs and vinyl delivered in person at the weekly party, it’s pretty impossible to keep up. But I always make an effort to listen to absolutely everything I get. I’m not a huge fan of download links, nor do I usually react very well to mass emails, but physical promos in the mail with hand-written letters and artwork are always the best and most inspiring, and say a lot about how much conviction a band has in getting their music out there into the world.
"I always had the idea that this was a really great thing to do: it's fun, it's important and we'll do it as long as we can."
Mar 29, 2012