Without a doubt, the most frequently asked question to the A&R community is: "How can I get noticed by the people making the decisions?".
I believe your efforts start on a local level with knowing the correct protocol and tactics for maximizing your profile. The age old saying of "Build It And They Will Come" is really the best motto to live by when you are trying to get noticed.
Following are some very helpful hints and suggestions that should be implemented in your plan of attack for building a following and getting noticed.
#1. The Golden Rule: Never ever send your package to a label that doesn't accept unsolicited material. This applies mostly to major labels and managers.
#2. Your Press Pack: This is your connection to the music community which will be buying your independent piece of product, booking your band, writing or reviewing your material or perhaps just forwarding it to a friend. It should include the following: Your product (CD, cassette, video), properly labeled with all the necessary information--band name, song titles, contact person (crucial). And make it legible.
#3. Your Photo: This is a big one. Make sure you have an up to date picture of you or your band (the spandex and chains from 1986 won't do any good in today's market place). The community wants to know what you look like now! This is show biz and image is everything. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, just current. This quite possibly may end up in a local trade paper or magazine or it may be used to promote your image at a local club or on the internet. So please make sure you present yourself in the best light.
#4. Live Shows: Make sure your live show is intact. If you're not ready to perform live, DON'T!. The millions of people who haven't seen you yet won't mind waiting just a little longer for you to get it together. In many cases you only get one shot with people so make it count.
#5. Fanbase: Growing your fan base and keeping them informed of your developments is paramount. This is sometimes the most prominent element that labels and managers look for. How many people are you drawing to your shows? How many people are on your mailing list? How many units have you sold independently? How many T-shirts have you sold? Make sure at every show you have a place where new fans can sign up for your mailing list.
#6. Local Press: Include the local press in your plans. Find out who writes tape, CD and gig reviews and send them your stuff. Invite them to a show and get them excited. They can become great allies for publicity and hype.
#7. Local Resources: Exploit all your local resources , like music stores, high schools, colleges, festivals, holiday events. Build locally, first.
#8. Network!: Seek out those people in your neighborhood who are connected, or who know someone--possibly an attorney, manager, or even your local record store. You'd be surprised just how close you are to a direct contact in the industry.
If you are an artist seeking to grow and spread your music, these suggestions can help you. A career-minded artist never rests on his laurels and must keep reinventing himself. It's a much better bet to start out small and grow step by step. Your foundation is the key, not the amount of your first advance.
So, to repeat what I said earlier
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME!
Jamie Talbot is an artist manager and independent A&R consultant. He was formerly a manager at SDM and Big F.D. Entertainment where he worked with such acts as Guns N' Roses, Goldfinger, Danzig, The Gap Band, The young Dubliners and X.