Your Demo And The A&R Department Executive

Posted on September 3, 2010

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Have you ever considered the roadblocks that are keeping you from getting “ear-time” with a label A&R rep? Have you ever said – If I could just get that one guy to hear it, I know he’d love it! We all have, but it’s never just that simple.

To start – unsolicited material is rarely reviewed. What I mean by that is, if it doesn’t come from a music lawyer, a known promoter or someone who is a familiar representative to the label A&R Rep, it’s most likely not going to get a listen.

Many people think of the A&R Rep as the devil. So much power and he only listens to stuff friends give him. Oh, you are so wrong if that’s your line of thinking. His or her living is based on finding quality music to sell and distribute to the music marketplace. Truthfully, that rep cares about you and your efforts. It might not show on the surface, but it is true.

Lets say you’ve got his ear and he’s going to listen to the CD. Understand that he most likely has 50 things to do today and most of those things are extremely imperative and don’t include items like: Eating Lunch, Using the Bathroom or Talking to his wife and children. A&R is one of the most harrowing jobs a person can undertake and each A&R Rep should be respected with the utmost professional considerations.  The job is hard!

With all that said, the rep might be able to lend a single ear to the music while doing something else, or even while talking to someone in his office. You might consider this unprofessional, but this is often how it gets done and these guys are pros, they’ve built this industry. Chances might be that he throws the CD into the car stereo on a drive from one location to another. It’s a place where he can have a moment’s privacy to hear what you’ve got. I used to do most of my listening to submissions in the car too. It’s a great stereo, has peace and quite from the outside world, barring telephone calls, but it’s a good chance to hear the music where the common listener might hear it. In the car.

So here’s your chance. Your demo can be flipped through, track by track with a push of the button on the steering wheel – so it comes down to the material you are presenting. You’ve got one shot; it’s got to be right. Long intros, lots of dead space, and weak songs right out of the gate – all these things will hinder further review. Your demo has to be on the spot. Capture the listener in the first riff of the first track. Keep the music consistent and maybe drop off the couple of songs you recorded that don’t have as much impact. They can be brought up later, but right now – you’ve got to kick a dent in that man’s auditory system.

For best results, include a little information about the kind of music the guy is going to hear. If you band is called Summer Breeze and it starts with a driving dropped D riff in 16th notes, it’s going to take him by surprise. Consistency is key – from the name, to the songs and even in the appearance of the act. It can all be shaped later – but you have to present a package that supports the music. Start with a concept that makes a good foundation and you’ll get the chance to build from there.

Remember that these guys get 700 choices a week of demos to hear. The market is flooded with aspiring stars looking to make a mark. Spend a little time to polish that puppy and you’ll get a better response from the A&R Rep. Your best judgment will apply, but a little common sense will cash in on a job well done.

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