“Can you lend me a filter please, mate?” Getting under the noses of the good, the bad & the ugly of the music industry…
You know when you read all these blogs and attend all these conferences and watch all these panels and listen to all these talks by all these people who you’d love to be able to get just ten minutes of their attention?
And they all sit there and go “Email me!” and you give them your CD afterwards and they promise they’ll listen to it, but you’re quietly confident they’ll probably just leave it in the footwell of the passenger seat of their car?
I was considering this the other day when I was chatting away to a singer at one of the many conferences you’ll find me knocking about at, who gave me a rather scrubby looking CDR which didn’t have any contact details on it, nor anything which would let me know what I was actually listening to once I put the CD into my computer. The perfectly lovely gentleman said to me; “I’ve given one of these to [MUSIC SUPERVISOR PERSON] over there as well, so hopefully she’ll give it a listen and use it on her show.”
Looking at this train-wreck of a demo submission in my hand I knew that [MUSIC SUPERVISOR PERSON] wasn’t going to listen to this. In fact; I’d have been surprised if it even made it back into her office, or indeed, anywhere near a CD drive. I knew this, not because I regularly work with her, but because pretty much anyone given a CDR with [BAND NAME] and nothing else written on it, during a time when you’re also given fifteen to twenty other CDs which have actual useful information on them, is going to treat it with the same disregard.
But then I realised this; if I emailed her the following day simply saying “Hey, listen to this because I think it’d work really well on your show” and supplied her with a link to download or stream the song on the CD that she probably binned before even checking out of the hotel, then she would listen to it. And if she liked it she’d probably use it, because I’ve spent the last five years becoming a trustworthy source for her.
Basically I’m a filter.
So I started thinking about this (I mentioned it briefly in the ‘How To Land A Sync Deal’ blog I wrote a short while ago) and realised that pretty much anyone you want to get in touch with in the music industry who could aide your career in some way (be it a DJ, music supervisor, A&R scout, agent, promoter, journalist etc.) will have two different types of musical filter; personal & professional.
Everyone has these; they are the things, places, people, services etc. where you go to discover new music that you’re confident you’ll enjoy. They’re sources, which, over the years have come up with the goods time and time again.
They could include:
- Certain friends (I put certain here, because I’m going to take a punt that if you’re reading this blog you may very well be ‘the certain friend’ in question for other people who haven’t as much of an inherent interest in music as you)
- Radio Stations (I know a couple of people who swear by rather niche online radio stations where the playlists are pretty much akin to their own tastes)
- Radio DJs (where you might not like the station as a whole, but you believe certain DJs within that station have good ears)
- Podcasts (including my very own podcast, obviously)
- Blogs (DrownedInSound, The405, Popjustice, The Line Of Best Fit, This Is Fake DIY, Pitchfork, Artrocker etc.)
- Traditional press (NME, Q Magazine, Mojo, The Guardian etc.)
- Certain journalists (again, they might write for a magazine you personally dislike, but have good taste themselves)
- Absolute strangers you’ve befriended on SoundCloud, Twitter, MixCloud etc. (I’ve genuinely discovered some of my favourite ever music from sources such as this)
For me they include a number of the mediums mentioned above, plus a handful of people in the industry who I regularly swap tips/links with.
- What a sync agent is to a music supervisor
- What a plugger is to a DJ/radio station
- What a PR person is to a blog/music magazine
It’s the people whose job it is to get their clients and their product (ergo you and your music) to the people who can make a difference. To those who can get it played on BBC 6Music, who can get it featured on the front page of DrownedInSound, who can get it used on the next iPhone advert etc.
It’s their job to build and maintain these relationships. A job which genuinely can be rather tricky as they’re up against hundreds, if not thousands, of others all trying to do the same thing. If they damage that relationship by pitching them something completely irrelevant or generally being rather unprofessional, then that contact is ruined which means they can no longer (or ‘should no longer’) charge clients as much as those who genuinely could get their product to the right people.
These ‘Professional filters’ are the ones that you as an artist can have an element of control over. You can do the research and find the right radio plugger for your genre of music, commit some spend and trust them to do their job. You could sign up to Sentric and trust muggins here writing this to push your music to sync agents around the world. You could, you could, you could etc.
With ‘Personal filters’ however, you have (in theory) very little control. These filters are organic and should result in the ‘tastemaker’ or ‘gatekeeper’ or whatever other poncy name you want to give them, coming to you and requesting your music.
So in summary: before you go and directly contact the ‘tastemaker’, consider an approach that would significantly increase your chances of getting the result you want, by going via a trusted source.
It might cost you a bit of cash, or a percentage, but it’s better than a swing and a miss, right?
Just a musing I had. Feel free to agree/disagree/troll me via the usual methods.
What I’m reading this week: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.