Ten Reasons Why Your Demo Has Been Rejected By An A&R Rep

Posted on October 21, 2010


You can’t imagine the amount of music an A&R Rep gets on a daily basis; hundreds of entries per month for the majors and dozens for the minors. As I mentioned in a previous article, A&R Reps are not the devil and most of what they do hear they have to pass on, but this doesn’t make them evil – it’s a business.

Below I have a list of harsh realities as to why even some of the minor labels reject your work. None of it is intended to be personal, it’s just a blanket observation from a former A&R Rep … me.

Reason #1: Your music just plain sucks!

It’s true. Just because you have a guitar and you’ve learned some chords, writing a song of worth takes a lot more than equipment and a formula for verse-chorus-verse-chorus. A deeper understanding of what a hook is and why it’s used, structuring elements to be appealing and having a front man who can actually sing are all necessities for getting attention on a mainstream level. This is the number one reason why artists are typically required to have a professional music manager that the label knows before they even consider hearing your artistry.

Reason #2:  Unsolicited material being sent to the Rep.

Again, as I mentioned above – if you just blindly send your work to a Rep, chances are it wont even make his desk. Major labels spend a fortune in time and effort just returning unsolicited work. You should have a respected representation if you are on the level of being distributed by a major.

Reason #3: Sending your music to an off genre label.

For bands who know nothing about marketing, they often just send a copy blindly to whomever they find online. When a jazz label gets your punk demo, it becomes a Frisbee instantly. Tossed into the nether regions of the landfill, never to be heard from again. Know your market and deliver your respective sound to the people who push that genre. Anything else is a waste of both yours, and their time.

Reason #4: The recording is poorly done.

Having the machines to record doesn’t mean it was done well. It’s required that a recording engineer has some experience or education to get the job done right. Just panning the audio’s width takes a very experienced ear if it’s going to be done right and that is way after the recording has been put to the hard drive. The 3 million steps before that are something that can only be done by someone with pro experience if you are looking for pro output. There is a lot of competition; you have to make sure you meet the grade.

Reason #5: The musicians just can’t play well.

I’ve heard dozens of well recorded and well mastered recordings that simply had lousy players on the tracks. Sloppy solos, loose or out of time drum fills or rhythms that just don’t match up to the tempo. You can polish a piece of crap and make it shine in a dime store window, but the reality is – it’s still a piece of crap.

Reason #6: You’ve got a great product, but you don’t perform.

Artists with great music can be very marketable, but to capture an audience, they most typically have to be performing where that audience can experience the music in person. If you have a CD and want a retailer to carry it but you never play in that retailer’s area, why would they carry it? Labels want a total entity; studio musicians are just that – studio, and when no one sees it, the marketing falls short of a return on investment.

Reason #7: Over packing the promo kit.

A lot of artists go above and beyond to get every possible feature into their kit. Sending video instead of audio in an effort to show the magic of the band live is bad. A Rep wants to hear it and see if it causes a spark. If it does, they will make the effort to see you perform live – I used to set up a showcase for artists when Geffen was interested. We’d make the trip down to NYC to see them during a three show string, of course, they didn’t know when or who was coming, they just knew that they had to bring the goods. However, it all starts with a simple press kit and a great recording – don’t push it over the top.

Reason #8: You haven’t shown the best of the best.

It’s easy to send all you have to a Rep, but realistically, they haven’t got the time to listen to 80 minutes of music. If you want to include ten songs, add a note that says – tracks 2,4,5 and 7 get the very best response from our audience and airplay. Better yet – just send 5 strong tracks and let them know you have 15-recorded songs ready to fly.

Reason #9: You forgot to put contact info on the disc.

I know there’s a website, a Myspace (which I hate) and even a topband.com website. All I want is a telephone number and a name to call. I don’t want to follow my listening experience waiting for a page to load on the Internet. I’m in my car and I want to call you now – where’s the name and number? For best results, it had better be everywhere, INCLUDING the face of the CD itself. Mucho importante!

Reason #10: There’s nothing original about this music.

Hear me please. I know Godsmack and Metallic are great, but they already exist. Another Nickelback or a clone of Megadeth does not impress me. It doesn’t matter how well constructed the songs are, how perfect the mix and mastering is or how flashy the packaging is. If it’s already been done, it’s done. Notice there isn’t another Poison? It’s been done. Of the top reasons why your CD becomes a coffee coaster, know this – originality is where it’s at, and if you don’t have some – you’ve got NO chance of getting the call back after all the work you put in to get the A&R Rep to hear your work.

There is a bright side to all of this! With the modern conveniences of making short run discs, online promotion and self distribution – it almost doesn’t matter about the A&R Rep. If you have a great product and an audience, you can do this on your own and still make a feasible living. Today’s labels are pick and choose and you have opportunity to almost name the responsibilities you are looking for from a label.

Don’t let the joneses get you down. It’s a rat race, yeah, but you can theoretically have an audience that supports your career without the interests of a label. If, however, you are searching for the golden trident – consider the list above on your journey and make the efforts to do it right.

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