Approaching the Industry as an Independent Artist

It’s true that industry professionals and artist mind sets could not be farther apart. They are on two totally different sides of the game, yet working together as a team. All industry people probably receive anywhere from 15 to 200 emails or calls a week from indie artists wanting to work with them or get their advice. This is not an exaggeration. Most of these calls/emails are unfortunately misguided and are not going to get the artist anywhere just based on their approach. As an indie artist I am sure this must be incredibly frustrating… constantly sending out emails to industry people and not receiving replies. You’ve been told that to be proactive you have to mail, call, email, and send presents to industry representatives to get their attention. This is NOT true… let me help you out here.

Here are some tips for indie bands at appealing to industry people and approaching them with higher chances of success. This is coming from someone who has been on both sides of the fence for many years! Some of it might sound harsh, but trust me it will work!

1.) Do not cold call. 

In this day and age cold calls are just downright annoying and disruptive. You will not get your target industry person at their best if you bombard them on the phone. Email and let it wait in their queue. They will get to it when they have time and will be in a much better mind frame to deal with you! Another thing, DO NOT cold call them on their cell phone or text them. I can guarantee this will result in them feeling annoyed and bothered that someone called them on their cell when they are out and about, when it could have been a simple email.

2.) See things their way. 

Industry people are business people. They want to hear great music but also want to hear profitable music. This mixture sounds different for every industry person based on their personal experiences and musical taste. Regardless of your sound, you need to show industry reps that you have something going on and something that they could profit from investing in. You have to show them that you’re on the right track without them and there is an urgency for them to get involved. Send a short and sweet email that outlines some of your bands biggest selling points. For ex. big press moments, tour history, good support shows, or festival appearances. This is how they can gauge how well your band is doing. Don’t forget to include links and your contact info. Make your email short, professional, and quickly get to the selling points of your band. Also, don’t forget an un-replied to email is not a waste of time. You have planted that seed and they will refer back to the email when the time comes.

3.) Make them come to you. 

If you’re thinking after reading that last paragraph, “but I don’t have any selling points” then chances are it’s probably too early on in your career to be emailing these people. Focus on building your story and value. Instead of spending your time making cold calls and sending emails spend your time building your plan and reaching out to media and promoters (a lot of which these tips can be used for as well). Also, don’t forget to perfect your craft. Live shows and recorded material should be top notch. Then when you have gained a buzz and the support of the media, trust me the industry will follow. It is their job to pay attention to indie bands that are making waves. They will notice when a band is really talented and building a strategy, I can guarantee it. This is the best situation to be in because they are coming to you and you are in the place of power because they really want to work with you! Creating that urgency isn’t easy but it is what sets apart the flocks of artists and the ones the industry and media call “up and coming”!

4.) Come on easy. 

Remember now, you want to build a team around your band that is as excited about your music as you are. You want your future manager, label, publicist, etc. to really stand behind what you’re doing. I highly recommend starting off your email relationship with inviting the industry rep to a show or asking them to take a listen to a link. Then see where things go. Your initial email should never read “I would love to work with you, can you represent me?” Most of the industry people who are good at what they do like to have a personal relationship with their clients and their clients’ music. All you have to do is put the invite out there and when the time is right they will respond. Who knows they might fall in love with your music or they might not.

5.) Be confident. 

When you send your email DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, make excuses for the material you’re sending, for example “here’s a link to our music they’re not the best recordings because we did them in my basement” or “here’s a link to our website, sorry the graphic design sucks because we haven’t updated it for 3 years”. If you are not proud of what you are sending them to do send it. Period.

6.) Learn how to truly network. 

We live in a world with multiple ways to get in touch with someone you don’t know. If there is a target person on your mind, find them on twitter and chat with them about something relevant. Look them up on Facebook and see if you have any friends in common who could possibly introduce you. Get creative. I have a golden rule I always stick to: If you are the first person who has ever told me about your band, chances are I am not going to think twice about it. I consider myself pretty involved and if there was something really hot coming out of Ottawa, for example, chances are I would have seen friends posting it on social media sites and someone would have told me about the great show they checked out. I am constantly asking local bloggers and music fans for their tips, so if you are the first person to tell me about YOUR band you aren’t doing a very good job blowing people away with your live shows. Get creative about meeting people and be genuine, this will go a long way.

7.) Be patient.

If the industry person you emailed is doing a good job at what they do, the more emails they will receive, daily. Your band is not their top priority. There are simply not enough hours in a day to get to all the emails. Do not take it personally.

8.) Proofread your email. 

Grammar is important. You wouldn’t send a resume in with typos, would you? Being rock and roll and typing emails while you’re high and drunk is only awesome when you’re making people lots of money. The rest of the time it will get your email landed in the trash bin immediately.

and last but not least…

9.) Never burn bridges.

Just because one industry person doesn’t appreciate your tunes it doesn’t mean an opportunity won’t come across their desk one day that’s perfect for your band. It also doesn’t mean they don’t have friends that could love your band. Another example… Say you hate major labels and a rep from Warner asks for your record. The stupidest thing you could do is tell him you’re not interested because they might have been interested in putting your band on a support tour for one of their artists, having you do some co-writing, etc. Always keep your mind open and remember the industry is very connected. Everyone who is in it has fought to be where they are and will most likely some value to your career at some point.

So there you have it. There is a right team for every artist. If you’re making good music and going about it the right way those people will find you because it’s their job to find you. Be patient and build something on your own in the meantime.

If you feel like you have no idea where to start building that strategy then ask for help. Lots of industry people will offer consultations, like us! Soak in the knowledge and put one foot in front of the other. Nothing happens fast in this industry. Every decision a person in power makes is based on a number of factors and timing. If you’re looking to speed up this development process then you’re in the wrong industry. Trying to rush this will mean you will end up working with the wrong people and learning the hard way that good things come to those who wait. I am not saying sit back and do nothing, I am saying start getting smart about your career and learn how to truly attract the people who can make you successful.

Good luck friends! Thank you for reading!

s.

*Picture above: Sandman Viper Command at #ABDOESNXNE Rooftop Party 2012 by Jessie Chang

*Originally published Aug 2011 on MusicThinkTank

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