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Marketing your music to the USA (Page 4 of 4)
(c) 2002 Myles Wakeham

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When you are trying to reach a population of 280 million people with an artistic message, it's all about getting the support from people who have access to resources that can reach this widespread audience. We might think that we don't need record labels, or that through technologies like the Internet we can market our art to the masses. But the reality is that the United States consumer marketplace has certain expectations on the quality of marketing that must be met or exceeded. These expectations are very high. And it's all about how much money you have to put behind the promotion. So if you don't have a few million dollars to put behind your music, I'll assume that you are going to need a major record label. My previous two articles were all about getting prepared to approach music industry executives with your music. This one's about who to approach and how to find them.

It all comes down to one thing - contacts. Contacts with people who really can make a difference. Contacts with people with a track record in the music industry who have been successfully able to bring other new artists from unknowns to household names. These people are out there working, but you have to find them. And the road to discovery of contacts is very difficult. What makes it even more difficult is that unless you are in a music center such as Los Angeles, you are going to have a real hard time to gain the attention of those that really can make a difference.

"So how can I gain the attention of the right people?", you might ask. There are a number of accepted techniques that seem to work. Or at least they are not considered "obnoxious" by the music industry. The best way is to have an industry accepted press package that can be mailed to the right people (we discussed what a Press Package was in a previous article). This is somewhat like a crap shoot. You don't have anything behind the package to entice the right person to listen to it. But you have to try. The best way to do this is to physically be in America and to use the telephone to gain the attention of the people you need to partner with for your career. But if that's not economical, practical or reasonable to you, then try this technique.

You need to budget to mail out press packages to a large number of music industry people. This will cost you money. So be prepared to spend here. It's not just the cost of the packages themselves, but it's the high cost of postage across the Pacific. You can try and keep the prices down by using surface mail as opposed to air mail, but you'll lose the timeliness of your music.

I would just ensure that you have enough budget to get at least 50 packages out there. Have the post office give you a price on one package and make sure you can afford about 50 to go out.

Contact Lists

There are a number of decent lists of music industry people floating around in Hollywood. There are two most common ones used - The Recording Industry Source Book and Songwriters Market. These are excellent publications and I have included the addresses to write to, to order these books. The Recording Industry Source Book is based on the recording side of the music industry in America, and focuses on record labels, producers, engineers and management. Songwriters Market is more oriented to the writer and features publishers, record labels, management, attorneys, and agents. Both books are reprinted each year with new information so that you can expect to buy one or both of these each year to keep up with the highly mobile lifestyles of music industry executives.

The Recording Industry Source book sells for around $US75.00 and the Songwriters Market sells for around $US29.95 depending where you get them. So expect to pay this per year to keep up to date.

Alternatively you can find lists through other musicians who have spent a lot of time and money finding contacts and are willing to sell their lists to other musicians. The problem with this approach is that there is no quality control over what's in the list and when you are going to be paying top dollar to send your press packages to the states, you better make sure that only a small percentage of them come back. And my own personal experience has been that these lists are never updated if someone moves, so you tend to expect a high return rate. But you won't pay that much for them and chances are that you might be able to get them as electronic files so that if you have a computer, the files of names and addresses will save you hours and hours of retyping. I believe that the Recording Industry Source Book have offered their book as an electronic file, however it is very expensive. Current prices on the electronic version of the Recording Industry Source Book is around $US395.00.

Using Agents to market your music

You will find that, for a fee, agents or organizations that specialize in music representation, will usually be willing to market your music for you. However finding the right one is difficult. My experience has always lead me to Entertainment Attorneys as agents for marketing music in the US. This is mainly because the music industry has a high number of attorneys working as industry executives and not only does it seem easier to have an attorney market to another attorney, but there is a high degree of concern about legal ownership of music. So if an attorney is representing your work, then this fear tends to be lessened. The assumption here is that your agent will check you out for full and rightful ownership of the music before marketing it (see my previous article regarding copyright of music works in the US).

There is an organization called Taxi, that is based in Southern California that offers an interesting service to musicians. I have signed up for this myself and although I haven't submitted anything to them personally, I have found that they do live up to their promises. After you become a subscriber to their service (which is about $US300.00 per year), they will mail to you every fortnight, a list of industry people they have contacted who are looking for specific pieces of music for a project they are working on. This might be represented by a particular song they are looking for or in most cases, a particular artist type that they are interested in marketing. For example, they might advertise something like "Well known A&R rep from major record label looking for alternative rock acts like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc. for record deal". There is a code number attached to the listing, and you submit your demo tape to Taxi, they will pre-screen it for quality and suitability and if it passes their screening, it gets sent on to the executive. They charge $US5.00 per submission to cover the labor cost of screening the music, but they do boast quite a lot of signings of artists of the years that they have been in business. Its probably a decent way to get your music to the executives and although you pay a fee to get in the running, it is pretty well focused and would be a decent avenue for any offshore artist.

Radio Exposure

One interesting approach might be to use the college radio market in America to get airplay for your music. Each radio station in America is required to submit songs that are charting or getting reasonable airplay to a magazine called "Radio & Records". This magazine is read by most music industry executives in Hollywood and if they see a song getting airplay on a decent station, but it doesn't have a record label associated with it, they will hunt down the artist to discuss a business arrangement. But it's very hard to get exposure on radio in America. Predominately this is because there is an industry accepted method of receiving new music, based on the use of song promoters that are hired by record labels directly. Certainly I would never approach a commercial radio station with a tape of an unknown, unsigned artist, but I would definitely consider approaching college radio.

College radio comprises the radio stations run by universities in various locations around America. There are over 500 college radio stations throughout America and they will consider giving airplay to unsolicited submissions if addressed to the music director at the station. They look for music that is unique and they try to get an edge over other college radio stations in their broadcasting range. So give them something different and they will probably find a place to play it. I have personally had songs played on college radio as well as some independent commercial radio stations in America. This lead to a record deal offering in Paris, France once.

The best way to obtain a list of college radio stations is through a publication magazine called CMJ (College Music Journal). This magazine is the industry magazine for college radio stations and they usually have an annual edition that lists all of the college radio stations in America. This list will give you what you need to market your music to college radio. Again, you need a press package for each submission and with over 500 stations, you better make sure you are well funded for this approach.


That's a pretty good start to get you exposed to the US. Be aware that it can be a dangerous experience if you try to market unsolicited tapes to people in the states. It's important to try and use accepted techniques to get your music to the right people. Ideally the personal touch is always the best, but if you can't do it yourself, you can either send tapes out through lists or use an agent or agency organizations to do it for you.

The bottom line, though, is: If your music sounds great and it's professionally recorded but you make no effort to get it to the world audience, then you only have yourself to blame for no-one knowing who you are. It's important to dedicate time to marketing yourself. Once you have found others that are willing to champion your music for you, then you can sit back and spend all your time as a writer and/or musician.


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