Getting heard, noticed and gaining traction in the music industry has to be one of the hardest things anyone can try to achieve, especially if you are an independent artist, songwriter, composer or band.
We live in a world that’s engulfed in music. Everywhere you turn you are presented with background music from films, television and advertising – all tailored to various people’s emotions and styles. From eye-popping candy chart hits to authentic legacy songs from eras gone by, you simply can’t avoid music in the fast-paced modern world we live in.
We were recently asked by one of our Music Industry Community members on how best to approach this topic. So when is it the right time and best way to approach people with your music?
Everyone knows that professional A&R at record labels, music publishers and music supervisors get bombarded with music, day in, and day out. So how do you cut through and get heard? We’ve turned to our CEO Jon Skinner who shares his own experiences on the topic, having been on both sides of the fence as an indie producer/writer and running his own successful record label and music publishing company during the ’90s.
“It can be a frustrating process when sending out your music and approaching A&R, and not hear anything back.”
Jon explains that over years, you should be aiming to build up a network of professionals and relationships in the industry that you can tap into when you have music and songs ready to present. This can be your clear route to a release being cut by an established artist or being signed if you’re an artist yourself. But what if you are new to the game, and have no experience or have very few contacts? What are your options?
Some record labels and publishing companies will accept unsolicited material and others don’t, so check their websites and do your research first. But, let’s explore first when is it the right time to make these approaches.
When is it the right time to present your music & songs to A&R?
First of all, is your music ready to send to people? Well, you hopefully should know if your song and/or production is good enough, but it’s always best to get constructive feedback from a trusted source, so here’s my first tip.
Collaboration and building a network are key
If you have a song and don’t perform as a recording artist, it’s still best to get a demo recording created. Ensure you get a half-decent home recording set up. There is no excuse these days, as recording equipment is so affordable, even if you just get the basics together, it should be a fundamental part of your writing process.
You should connect locally to other songwriters, musicians and producers but also highly recommend you reach out to other like-minded professionals and creators online, such as through our global music industry community that we have amassed over the years, as working internationally can offer many benefits and just working locally can be very restrictive. These days, it doesn’t matter where you live, you can remotely work online and share your files with other collaborators. We’ve created tools to help people project manage their file storage in the cloud and collaborate once you make a connection through our platform.
Some of your collaborations will work and some may not. It’s a learning curve for sure. but co-writing is essential to your development as a songwriter/producer and creative. Not only does it provide you with inspiration, but it also acts as a natural way of learning and improving your craft and a safe house to receive critique and feedback.
Learn more about the benefits of collaborating and get some top tips in our guide to music collaboration.
Once you feel you have a song worthy of performance the best way to get unbiased feedback is to ask someone to learn it and perform/record it for you. Singing the song yourself isn’t a must-do, but it’s a good idea for you to hear it in the context of the music and if the song flows correctly with the music or whether you need to adapt a melody, lyric or chord structure.
Having someone professional perform your song can make a huge difference in how it’s heard and received by an A&R professional. It kind of goes without saying, but if you think you have a great song, then invest time and even money in getting someone with an amazing voice to perform it.
There are thousands of people whose songs and music never see the light of day, which is a crying shame. It’s mainly because they either, don’t have the motivation or know-how or connections to take it to the next level. It’s through meaningful connections matched to your goals, that can be the key difference between getting a deal, release or placement or not.
What is the expected quality of a demo and would a piano and vocal recording be something which could catch somebody’s ear?
It depends on your goal, a stripped-back piano or acoustic vibe is a good clean and simple way of presenting a song, so the person is focusing on the lyric, melody and feeling of the song, rather than the polished production.
If you are looking to place a song with an established artist or say the Asian market, then you would normally need to record and produce something professional and pretty close to the finished product, ready to release and for the vocal to be replaced by the artist you are placing the song with.
How has the industry changed over the years and how can I adapt to these changes?
In my opinion, not much has changed in respect of the writing process, there’s more opportunity than ever to connect to the right people in the business to make things happen. The internet provides a wealth of understanding about writing and the process, so get reading! Sites such as ourselves at Мusic Gateway help level this playing field by funnelling talent though to those with a need EG the A&R professionals at Labels & Publishers.
Are there any good alternative routes I can take to get my music heard?
Yes, there is, but it’s a big one! Getting sync licensing placements in TV, Film, Games and Adverts is very hard work and super competitive. Trying to build relations yourself is very time consuming and expensive, but you do have options:
Option 1 – Network
Build a network and personal relationships with the media buyers and Music Supervisors and when pitching your music, there are some golden rules around how best to do that. We’ve written a whole article on how to contact music supervisors but below are some tips:
- Research the type of work, products, films or shows they are working on and provide them with music that’s matching their needs.
- Email them a link to a streamed playlist of your music and give them some context in your approach, maybe a reference to a film you believe they are working on or to an event you briefly met them at
- Make sure your playlist contains all your file metadata and your rights information and contact details
Don’t send dropbox folders or attach MP3 files to emails and from our feedback directly with music supervisors & A&R, it’s not recommended that you use Soundcloud, Spotify or YouTube links either. We actually developed a playlist tool that is matched to the needs of a Music Supervisor and A&R professional, and you can learn more about the features here.
Option 2 – Get a professional to do it for you
Get representation for your music. This would either be an artist manager, record label, publisher or there’s what’s called a Sync Agent, which is something we do at MG.
What kind of “Music Industry Professional” would it be wise to get to know?
This all depends on your goal. The key ones are record labels and music publishing A&Rs, artist management, heads of music and music supervisors, but you must do your research and if you are going to approach anyone, must sure you do it professionally with the right tools and add the right metadata to your music.
Are there any steps I can take to make it more likely that an A&R will listen to my demo over others?
Why do you need a publisher, label or manager? Most companies will normally look at the level of traction you have gained yourself, how many sync placements you have or songs you have got credit on as a writer.
You should actually be focusing all your efforts on developing your skills and writing craft, so don’t waste time pitching your songs or music, unless it’s ready.
By co-writing with other people that are managed, published or signed to a label will naturally create an environment for you to be introduced to those professionals, this is another great reason why collaborating and co-writing is essential to anyone’s career path and development.
These days you can self-release music with ease through various distribution companies online. So if you truly want to go from the studio to the A&R professional, focus on your craft first, get that song and production the best it can be and always go down the indie DIY route if you can’t get a response from your approaches or feedback from the professionals.
We hope you enjoyed the read and take our advice on board. It comes from a place of hands-on experience. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any tips you’d like to share or any questions. We wish you all the best in achieving your goals.