1. “Do you shop music?”
NOTE: I am not involved in music law practice at this time. But I am keeping this up for artist information.
Attorneys should only shop music that we believe is a “perfect 10.” It has to be ready to go. One of our mentors (a music attorney) said that you could spend your entire career trying to pitch a “perfect 10” to record executives and the artist may never get signed. Another reason is that as entertainment attorneys who deal with A&Rs, publishers, managers and others on a regular basis, we need to maintain high standards so that our clients’ music will be heard when presented. If you develop a reputation for disseminating mediocre music to industry professionals, that is hard to shake and reflects poorly on everyone we work with.
2. “We have a whole new genre” and “we don’t sound like anyone.”
Perhaps this is a personal preference, but hearing this makes me cringe. Identify your market. Who are you selling to? What genre are you in, really? iTunes, WalMart, Best Buy and any surviving record stores are going to put your music in one genre or category when your music is offered for sale to the public. Even if you do have a super new fantastic sound underheard by human ears, you have to classify it at some point. You may be overlooking competing artists. I suggest going to the Apple iTunes store and seeing where you fit in. Ultimately, don’t be afraid of being classified with other artists, after all, people who like music had to buy something before your music came out… think about what your ideal customer is buying and listening to now.
3. “Oh, don’t go to my MySpace. That has my old/bad/unmixed/unmastered music.”
Always keep your MySpace updated with the most current and cutting edge music you are producing. The industry has come to rely on MySpace, for better or for worse. If you let unprofessional, outdated or otherwise unshoppable tracks sit around on your MySpace (especially when you are already contacting music attorneys to represent you), nobody will be interested in hearing more about you. Add friends and get unique visits too – the counter is important to A&Rs. They know those numbers can be gamed but it still justifies their decision in a way (“Who knew they wouldn’t sell?!” The A&R will say to the label VP, “They had 400,000 hits on their MySpace!”)
4. Don’t try and shop music using a famous beat you are rapping over. If Jay-Z made the beat and sang on it himself on a multiplatinum LP, don’t bother trying to redo that.
5. Don’t used unlicensed samples in music you are shopping. We strongly encourage you to create original music. Without licenses for the beat from the publisher and the label, you’re infringing the copyrights of the music creators and owners, even if you’re just giving it away and not selling your mix. If you can’t produce beats then find someone who can and will make an original one for you.
6. File your music with the copyright office before you shop.Click here to register!
7. Because the American music market is what it is, we will probably ask your age and for a headshot photo. Now, in some genres this doesn’t matter as much – usually the older the target demographic the more customers are tolerant about age. In pop, hip-hop and rock there is a definite preference to find younger artists and these drive the market. Please confront these issues realistically and be ready to address them. Many (or most) older performers in the industry started young and stuck around. If you wait too long to begin building a national career the mountain to climb is undoubtedly steeper.
8. There are no overnight successes. You will probably not be miraculously discovered. It takes large amounts of time, effort, dedication and endurance. Develop your music and start marketing it on your own. I’ve said it before: labels nowadays are more like investment banks that buy and sell established businesses (artists with a regional following) instead of sinking money into startups.
9. Be ready for rejection, but look to improve because of it.