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Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting Your Music Heard pt 3 - "Be Specific In Your Search"

Are the songs supplied by the artist and/or the producer? If so, you have a pretty good idea, though not a certainty, that sending songs to this artist is a waste of time. Those few songs you'll see on the Billboard Hot 100 charts with writer names that differ from the artist and producers' names are the ones to analyze for casting purposes. You'll find more of these opportunities on the Country and R&B charts. This information alone gives you a savvy-sounding opener for your industry calls.

Here's a hypothetical example: In Billboard you see Bonnie Raitt's name on the charts with a new single. You don't have any of her CDs yet (you'll buy them today) but you've heard her on the radio and think you might have something for her. You've also read an article about her in which she talks about the songs on her new project, where she got them, who wrote them and about working with her new producers.

Though you've also seen their names listed as writers under the song title on the chart , you've also noticed other writers' names so you know she's open to "outside" songs. You also learn she's on Capitol Records. So you call Capitol and ask for the A&R coordinator. "Hi! This is so-and-so at This and That Music.

Will the same producers be working on Bonnie Raitt's next album? Do you have a numbers for their companies? Who's doing A&R on the project?" Get those names down quick. If you ask them to spell it for you, you're already another step away from credibility with them. They figure that if you're the pro you seem to be, you'll already be familiar with the names. (Look to directories such as the A&R Registry (SRS Publishing) or the Recording Industry Sourcebook to help you out.)

Once you have the name of the A&R person at Capitol or someone in the producers' offices, call them directly and ask about the musical direction of Bonnie's next album and how to go about submitting songs for it. It's a good idea to ask if there's a code you should use on the package. They often use a personal code so their secretaries or mail room personnel know that it's actually been "solicited."

All the trades publish special-focus issues which will contain a treasure of information on specialized areas of the industry. Among them are children's music, classical, heavy metal, alternative, folk, music publishing, Latin, Celtic and film music. They may focus on cities and countries that are emerging as music centers such as Minneapolis, Seattle, Atlanta, Ireland, etc. You'll get information on the movers and shakers in those genres or places, the record labels, publishers, producers, managers, radio stations, booking agents and artists, along with stories about who signed whom and their career strategies.

Following music industry trends is also important. Industry legend Russ Regan, now CEO of Starbound Records, gave me a great bit of advice once. He not only looks at what's on the charts now but what isn't there. Looking at it that way, we shouldn't have been surprised a few years ago when, on a chart full of drum machines and sterile, sequenced tracks, an acoustic-based record called "Fast Car" by a new artist named Tracy Chapman broke through like a breath of fresh air. It's the business of the trades to help the industry predict and follow trends.

Technology is also a predictor of trends, and you can find some useful information in the trades about how new technology will affect the industry. Here are a few examples.

The Billboard Sound-Scan technology revolutionized the industry by providing accurate retail sales and airplay information showing country music to be selling much more than was thought to be true. It's now showing several new country artists on the "Hot 100" pop chart.

CD-ROM projects have opened a new market for songwriters and performers. Live radio over the Internet has opened a new avenue for exposing and selling music though monitoring these performance has presented the performing rights organizations with a new challenge.

- Excerpt from "Getting Heard In A "No Unsolicited Material World" listed on the Songwriters Resource Network.

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