Biting the hand that feeds? More like deafening the ears that listen.
I love you all. I dearly do. You do something that is truly beautiful; you make music. You create lyrics wrapped in metaphors and similes that paint pictures within my over-active imagination. You produce melodies and harmonies of tones and keys, sometimes con brio yet other times melancholic and sombre that can elevate feelings of upmost joy or supress emotions of downright dejection.
But blimey, sometimes you don’t half annoy me.
I’ve asked a few of my industry chums from all different areas of the music business to tell me the things that artists do which annoy them the most. I’ve collated them here, chucked in a couple of my own and presented them to you, the great musicians of this world, to read, digest and hopefully influence your future actions.
Chances are you’re probably guilty of at least one thing mentioned below, but let us not forget the mantra of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ so don’t beat yourself up about it. Although saying that, feel free to beat yourself up somewhat if you’ve done all of them and even after reading this will go on about doing it even more.
The contributors to this post are the people you need on your side. Keep them happy and they’ll help you, play you, push your music, talk about you etc. Annoy them and unless your music is perfect in their opinion* then they’ll push you aside and help someone else who won’t drive them to Echinacea/Heroin.
*chances are your music won’t be perfect to them as they’ll all be ‘too cool’ for current music and only like artists who are either dead, split up or are so obscure even they themselves are unsure if said artist ever actually existed/exists.
So, I’ll kick off shall I?
Artists who fail to apply self-censorship
I know you believe in your music and it should be no other way, but every so often you need to step back and think “Are we actually right for this?” My gripe here comes mainly from artists submitting tracks for the various synchronisation briefs we send out as a company. For example; a couple of weeks ago we sent out two briefs on the same day, one of which requesting a track that sounded like ‘Around The World’ by Daft Punk (which you can listen to here) and one which requested a track that sounded like ‘Goodbye Mr A’ by The Hoosiers (which you can listen to here). I humbly asked for the artists to submit tracks they felt ‘worked’ for either brief and received a song from a certain artist X stating: “I wish to have this track considered for both the Daft Punk and The Hoosiers briefs”.
Needless to say it didn’t sound like The Hoosiers, nor Daft Punk, nor a bizarre hybrid of the two. HooPunk or whatever you will.
Basically, please don’t send me what I haven’t asked for. There are examples of other artist sending in the SAME SONG for any brief we sent out over a 12 month period until one day he inexplicably gave up. Great for us, but come to think of it a worryingly sudden change of character; I should send someone around to see if there are loads of milk bottles outside his front door.
Artists who don’t read an email/message/general correspondence thoroughly before replying
This usually results in them asking a question which has already been answered in the previous message. With me being kind, patient and proud owner of a Mother Teresa-esq personality; I cannot bring myself to simply write ‘see original message’ because let’s be honest; that’s a bit of an arse thing to do. So I find myself answering it again but worded differently as if to fool my conscious that I’m not actually wasting my time.
Artists who, for some INEXPLICABLE reason, don’t use the BCC field when emailing a number of people
Attention people who do this: WE’RE IN THE 21ST CENTURY. COME ON NOW, THAT’S ENOUGH. Apologies for the shout there, but nearly every single contributor to this blog had this as one of their gripes. If you don’t know what BCC and CC is when it comes to emails then read here.
Every time an email gets sent out to the masses and my name is on the CC list I die a little inside. Because I know that on the same list will be someone who’ll hi-jack all the addresses and add it to their mailing list and so on and so forth until I’m so inundated with emails I never asked for that I consider (insert something inappropriate here).
So they’re my three! Now for some others…
Artists who email presuming I have:
- Heard them on the radio
- Seen them written about somewhere
- Have a clue who they are already
- The time to read more than 100 words about them
- No problem being called “mate” “buddy” or “[insert name of other person from the media from rushed copy-paste FAIL]
- I want to be on their email list and repeatedly ask me to vote for them in some shit competition, even though I’ve never contacted them before or have a clue who they are.
- Any interest in their music without doing any research about what music I like
Simply: Assume nothing and be succinct. Kthxbi
Editor of a popular industry product
Bands/companies that include me on their mailing list then email me with false claims, such as ‘Thanks for getting back to us about our demo. Glad you loved it…’ or companies that say ‘We received your email about blah blah blah…’ as a way of getting a foot in the door. I really don’t mind being added to people’s mailing lists to keep me informed of what is going on, but I am fully aware of every email I send and who I correspond with so opening your email with what is effectively a big porky is a bit irritating. We may be very busy, but we’re definitely not stupid!!
My other bugbear would be bands not checking out what it is our company does before picking up the phone and calling us. Most people do have access to the internet these days and it only takes a couple of minutes to check out a website and get the lowdown before you pick up the phone. For instance, I get quite a lot of enquiries about us representing bands, or releasing their music. We don’t offer any of those services which is fairly apparent from our website so just spend a couple of moments checking out the basics first. And it will mean that you don’t open your conversation by asking irrelevant questions which then usually throws people off track, so it’s best for you as well!
My final bugbear is receiving badly written emails in text speak, or receiving calls from musicians who sound like they’re barely awake or couldn’t care less what you’re telling them, even though they called you in the first place. It never hurts to come across as professional, rather than as a lazy teenager! If you are wanting to take your music career seriously, then you need to make an effort!
Ville Leppanen – Owner of Animal Farm Studios and another gent who shunned anonymity
I love it when artists diss pop bands and X-Factor types for being talentless manufactured shit and in the same breath ask you to melodyne and beat detect anything that moves. And if that doesn’t make their record sound like everyone else’s, they ask you to replace every original sound with the same samples that everyone else uses.
A prolific DJ at a station you’d all love to be on
Far and away the biggest pain in the arse thing artists do to DJ’s is incite their online friends and fans to besiege us with requests for their music. Street Teams are a right royal pain in the butt and actually go a long way towards antagonising presenters and producers. At worst, the musicians just hand their fans a list of email addresses Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy, Edith Bowman, Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Marc Riley, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie and tell them to write in and request the new single. We then receive a f**kton of near identical emails, all cc’d to every other DJ on the list that say
Please please pleas can you play “F**kwit Drivelling” by THE MINGE MAGGOTS – it’s so great and their my favourite band and deserve to be herd on the radio.
Thanx (smiley face)
These get deleted on sight by every radio show I know, and don’t make the smallest difference to the likelihood of the track getting airtime. Except that the more of them we get, the more annoyed we become at the extra work of deleting them and the slimmer the chance of us considering the artist favourably in the future. Don’t get me wrong, if their next record is great we’ll play it, but if it’s borderline good, and it comes to a tossup between playing band A or band B, it’s better not to be the one that caused us all that grief three months ago.
Whether a particular radio show plays a track depends on what it sounds like. If it’s a great sounding record that’s appropriate for the show we play it. If it’s not in the right style or genre (or simply sounds pants) then no amount of emails from your fanbase will make it sound any different.
On the other hand a small handful of intelligent fans (or let’s face it, the band themselves) CAN actually use email and texts to a radio show to affect the chances of their record getting pulled out of the pile and at least listened to. Golden rules:
- Write personally to just one DJ at a time – don’t send mass emails
- Actually listen to the show you’re targeting, get to know how it works.
- Email or text while the show is on air, making some comment on something you’ve just heard
- If you sound like you’re interested in them, they’re more likely to be interested in you
- No need to pretend to be someone else – it’s fine to admit you’re in the band
- Say “there’s this great song I think you’ll like” – and give the Myspace where it can be heard
- Get their attention. If you can make some comment on the show that’s funny or interesting enough to be read out on air, you quadruple the chances of them bothering to check out your song afterwards.
Demos with no names on or the other extreme; demos with 15 pages of biography. I don’t have time to read that!
Music Supervisor for TV Production Company
- Not being aware of the type of music the people you are sending it to are looking for. There is no point sending through music that is in no way relevant to the project you are sending it through for.
- Using vague D-list celebrity connections to promote yourself, I.E ‘you may have heard of this band, the bassist is going out with Melinda Messenger, or ‘one of the lads from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps really likes this band’. Oh right, well they must be good then.
- Just saying yes to everything. For example, if a Music Supervisor asks if your music is covered by the IPC Agreement, don’t say yes even if you’ve absolutely no clue what the IPC Agreement is. They would much prefer you asked what they mean and give you information to help rather than be sent on a wild admin related goose chase.
Major Label A&R
Quite a lot of the time I find artists very charming, interesting, and a pleasure to work with. When someone does ‘piss you off’ it’s usually just affirmation that you’re not right to work together anyway.
One thing I’d say is that you should be open to the ideas people suggest, and take things on board. Just because someone is giving you constructive advice doesn’t mean you’re rubbish. It’s important to understand that if people are trying to help, they can usually see something in you and only want to help you get to where you deserve to be. People are only trying to help you achieve your potential, not crush your art or ideas.
Why ask someone for their opinion when if the answer is anything other than ‘it’s amazing’ you don’t actually give a shit?
Have your own identity. There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation. In my opinion there’s no bigger turn off than listening to new bands that sound exactly the same as every band that’s around.
Be patient. Decent, good people will always get back to you. Feel free to give them a gentle reminder.
And if none of that works because you’re shit, make sure your artwork is hilarious. This way, whilst your demo CD is sitting in the bottom of the recycling bin, your artwork will be gracing the office wall.
So there you have it! Please don’t be offended by any of this, like I mentioned before; take it all on board and it will help you on your music quest.