17 July 2018

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5 Tips from the Pros: How to Contact Music Pros

 

Our community is built specifically for connecting artists and Music Pros. We provide a powerful platform with a directory (Markets) and jobs board (Music Ops Board). Though we’ve tried to simplify the process for artists, contacting Music Pros still requires a certain finesse and know-how.

Every week, a dozen or so artists contact me in ways that suggest a glaring lack of courtesy and awareness on their end. One of the first things to remember is that any Music Pro you talk to, from the CEO of Atlantic Records to some grunt at Spotify, talks to hundreds or thousands of artists / other music pros a week. Our mailboxes are full of artists bombarding us with questions, comments, demands, etc. We are busy and cannot be expected to prioritize hundreds of strangers over our own work.

1. Know Your Pro

Always contact a specific person. Knowing who to call or e-mail may take a little research, but if you’re reading this article you’re probably pretty good about educating yourself anyway.

Musicpage founder David Codr says, “One of the most annoying ways to be connected is when you send me a spam e-mail that you’re sending to a ton of other people. Or asking what I can do for you when I don’t know who the hell you are. I know it’s frustrating and time-consuming to contact many industry pros, but that’s the gig. If you call me up and don’t who I am or what I can do, and just ask what I can do for you, I’m gonna have zero interest in working with you.”

The resources provided through social media, platforms like Musicpage, can lead to an easy remedy. Codr says, “My suggestion would be to Google who you’re contacting. Reference something about them that lets them know it’s a custom e-mail or phone call. When they’re talking to me and they reference something about me, or an article about me, it shows they took the time to find out about me. Taking the time to know who you’re contacting, what you’re asking from them, and a little about them will get you a much better result than spamming.”

This tip extends beyond courtesy and principle. One practical result of the custom e-mail / phone call is that it will stand out, because it’s rare. When you have the same conversation 100 times a day, the unique conversation is far more likely to have a lasting effect.

Codr explains, “If I’m talking to someone who’s kind of famous, I talk to them about what they’re not famous for. Famous people have to talk about the same thing all the time. Find a secondary interest, like fly-fishing. That can open up a door very effectively. This can set you apart. If they know about me, I’m going to be be more curious to find out about them.”

2. Keep it Simple

Especially when it’s your first contact, do not send a novel explaining your entire history and your entire future plans for world music domination. There is a fine balance between providing enough context to be helpful, and oversharing to the point of annoyance.

Be direct. Going back to our first tip, find out how they want to be contacted. One of our main pros* with 16 years in the licensing business says, “The only way we like to get contacted is through e-mail. Send links to a website where we can listen. If you attach something you’ll automatically get deleted.”

Again, your Musicpage profile is a really kickass EPK. If you e-mail a link to your profile, you can keep the e-mail text extra brief. For example, “Hi (name), I’m writing to you about ____. Here is a link to my Musicpage profile which includes recordings, photos, a press bio, and licensing / performance details.”

Do not tell them about your health problems. Do not tell them about your dog. Do not tell them about your dog’s health problems. No matter how relevant you think that information is to your music and your story, it’s not. Sometimes those details will interest the press, but for the most part when an artist includes information like that it tells me their music isn’t good enough to stand alone.

Trust your music. When you start getting too depth with personal details it’s distracting.

3. Use Restraint and Common Sense

This section headline is a direct quote from our mystery pro (let’s call them J for simplicity’s sake). The general idea is related to the previous tip. Codr says, “If it’s a four-paragraph e-mail and we’ve never spoken, I’m probably not going to read it.”

While it may sound obvious, only contact Music Pros for relevant matters. How do you decide what’s relevant? Refer to section header. Codr explains, “Don’t ask pros to do stupid shit, to vote for you for some contest, etc. That’s for your fans. Don’t tag me in photos that I have nothing to do with. At least let me know ahead of time so when I see it I know what’s going on.”

J gets more specific with how to respond to licensing opportunities. He explains, “It’s gotta be targeted and what they need, otherwise you’ll get blacklisted. Or at least ignored. The main thing is to make sure you read what’s being requested. Follow the instructions. If we want songs, send a song, not an instrumental. If we want rock, don’t send jazz. I got thousands of people to choose from.”

Your song needs to match what they want, and it needs to sound really good. Do not submit demos for licensing requests. Typically the turnaround time for a Music Supervisor ultra fast, and there is not a song in world that’s so good as to change their whole process to take it from demo to broadcast quality.

J explains, “Quality counts. There’s probably more songs available than people on the planet. Your competition base is extremely severe.”

4. Patience & Persistence

A touch of each of these elements could save a lot of artists a lot of trouble. Patience comes first. Even when making your initial contact with a Music Pro, tap into that patience. You’re excited about the album coming out, so you start contacting the press, but if you don’t have your EPK together, these interactions will not be useful.

If you are truly ready to contact that game-changing Pro, go for it. When a week passes and you haven’t heard back, remember that countless other artists probably also sent a similar correspondence, and the Music Pro in question may not have seen your e-mail / heard your voicemail. Do not get defensive and entitled. This attitude will show if  you ever do reach them.

Next comes persistence. After two weeks of no reply, or indication of receiving your message, it’s worth reaching back out. Persistence should not involve being annoying or demanding. Codr says, “There’s a difference between persistence and stalking.”

As you follow-up, be sure to maintain professional lines of communication. Do not desperately start Tweeting at them, or tagging them in random photos on Facebook.

For music licensing and booking, it can be tempting to pursue every single lead, even if it wouldn’t actually be the best opportunity for you / your band at that time. Do not be tempted. There’s that old saying work smarter, not harder.

J says of licensing opportunities, “If you don’t have anything, don’t feel bad. Wait for the next one. There’s always something coming down the pipe.”

5. Make Yourself Available

Or as Codr says, “Don’t be your own cock block.”

This one has long given Musicpage grief. We sometimes receive angry / sad / confused messages and e-mails from artists about why their songs are never selected for sync deals, and yet about once a month a Music Pro will let us know they wanted to use one of our artist’s tracks but they haven’t answered their phone.

Music Pros, especially in the licensing game, will often not leave a message. Sometimes they will, in which case you need to be sure your voicemail is professional and functional, but usually they won’t.

J says, “Sometimes [artists] don’t respond. That’s a problem, too. I forward through Musicpage and say give me a call, I leave a number. If I don’t hear back I figure you’re not serious or you’re afraid of success.”

So answer the phone. Check your e-mail. If you’re too busy to manage these tasks, consider hiring someone (check out last month’s tips on how to attract a manager).

by Erik Jarvis

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