merch tips for bands

Music A&R Reps and How to Approach Them

Whether you want to be signed to a big record label or a more modest but equally awesome indie label, you gotta learn how to approach music A&R reps. These guys have been getting flocks of demo reels and e-mails a day that you really have to know how to sell yourself. Here are some tips to follow if you’re planning to approach a label:

YOU MUST BE PROACTIVE IN ACHIEVING SUCCESS

Unlike before when the labels pick up talents that from scratch, today, labels through their music A&R reps want musicians that are already doing things to achieve music career success. The days when a good band with great music could think of a label as their savior are over.

APPROACHING A LABEL WHEN YOU’RE NOT 100% READY IS BAD

Because everyone’s so tightly wound and there are fewer A&R to go around, the consequences of shopping too early can be drastic. Before you even think about labels, you should invite other industry (like managers, producers, media or former A&R) to a showcase and get their opinions. If you approach too early and the label aren’t convinced, it would take six months before you can re-apply.

IF YOU’RE GENERIC, DON’T EVEN TRY

Music A&R reps don’t want to sign clones so you better have something original to put on the table.  Find your signature sound and make sure it’s current. Even if you want to do the indie route, a pinch of originality is a must.

COME UP WITH A SELLABLE STORY

You might think “Bollocks. So sell out!” but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. People are not just interested in music, they’re interested in the lives of the artists behind the music. “What’s your story?” is one of the top three questions that the A& R will ask you. You better come up with a good one but make sure it’s authentic. You must not fake this. You just have to know which one to highlight.

FIND YOUR MATCH

Approach A&R who work with your style of music to increase your chances of winning. If they work with your type of music, then they’re experts at selling your type of music. Plain and simple.

KNOW WHEN YOU’RE NOT WANTED

Following up once or twice to see if they got your package is fine, as long as you’re polite. If you haven’t heard anything after a month, though, move on. Approach them again after a few months if you really find them a good fit for you but make sure you make some changes.

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James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.

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