These days it is extremely hard to get a record labels attention. Record labels get tens of thousands of demos each year. The competition for an A&R reps ear is fierce. The easier and cheaper it has become to record music, the more packages record labels will get. They just don’t have the man power to listen to all of these demos. That is why they are outsourcing this job more and more to managers and attorneys and independent A&R reps like myself. By outsourcing this part of the business, they get a lot of the junk filtered out and end up having a lot less demos to actually listen to. The odds are much better that if they listen to something that came from a trusted source like a manager, attorney or independent A&R rep that they have done business with in the past, that it won’t be a complete waste of their time. It’s kind of like asking a friend, who’s opinion that you trust, what the best sushi place is in town. You are more likely to avoid having to eat at every sushi restaurant in your city to find the locals favorite.
Well, how do you break through to these A&R reps? It’s not easy, especially if you are representing yourself. Most, if not all record labels will not accept unsolicited material. They will just send it back to you or throw it in the trash without ever opening the package. Trust me, I use to do it. Don’t waste your time or money sending A&R reps your package if it is unsolicited. You can try to call them and ask permission to send your demo, which turns it into a solicited package. This sometimes works, but most of the time they will not even take your call unless they know who you are. You can try to find record labels that will accept unsolicited material, but just make sure they are not asking for some kind of submission fee to do so. That is not a good sign that they are on the up and up if you know what I mean. I have read some articles that say your first step is to have an attractive looking demo package, which is something you should already know, along with having good songs, but it won’t matter if they don’t even open the envelope. Short of attaching your demo to a rope and harpooning it through their office window, which will get their attention and get you sued, there really isn’t any other way to get heard by an A&R rep but to pay your dues. I have heard people say that they have paid their dues and that didn’t work, well, it might have worked but the material just wasn’t up to snuff.
To pay your dues, you have to play live shows all the time. Get tons of fans on myspace and facebook. Start selling a lot of units, preferably being tracked by soundscan. And last but not least, have a hit song. If you are on your way there, find a manager or attorney or an Independent A&R firm that is willing to shop you to record labels for a record deal. All of this combined is your best shot at getting signed. There really aren’t any short cuts. It’s not just one or the other, but all of this that makes a good package that A&R reps will take notice of. Radio play is the fastest way to get noticed but virtually impossible unless you have a great connection. If you are trying to get radio play, you are going up head to head with the record labels themselves.
A&R - How to Shop Your Demo to Record Labels