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The reason I don't think you should send us a demo
Written by Tommi on 03.07.2008 23:17:09
When we finally got our own office a few years ago, we decided we need a P.O.Box. Not to handle our correspondance or to make access to our mail more convenient (quite on the contrary, as it's really tedious to visit the post office to get our mail). The only reason for the P.O.Box was the overwhelming amount of demos and promos sent by bands from all over the world to us and neither of us wanted the hassle of coming home every day to a mountain of demos.
Seriously, you read right. We're just a small-to-miniscule indie label with some 40 releases under our belts and who's biggest success has sold approx. 1500 copies. Our releases barely scrape the bottom of the Finnish national charts and our artists are seldom featured in any mainstream music media and when they are, they're usually in the smallest sections somewhere in the back of the magazine or in the off-hours of radio time. We're small-time in every sense of the word.
Still, a ridiculous amount of bands seems to have the notion that we'd be able to do something magical and miraculous to their career if we were to bless them with that one fabled piece of paper that's supposed to open all doors - a record contract.
I don't have a problem with people wanting to work with us. Actually I'm quite thrilled and feel very honored that so many people, out of whom a great amount are obviously very talented and driven people, feel we're worthy of the trust that an artist needs to have to give the representation of their work into the hands of another person. My biggest grievance is the total lack of judgement a lot of them seem to have when sending out demos. We get so many demos that just scream out the message "we didn't even have the courtesy of checking out what your label is about and we're just sending out random demos", which is the biggest turn-off imaginable for my ever-expanding label-head ego. Whenever I open an envelope just to find some horribly bland Suomirock-act staring at me from the tasteless promo-pic, I just can't help thinking "what were you dudes thinking". Ok, we haven't been the most profilic in our releases or too easy to pin down stylistically as a label (anyone care to tell me what Siniaalto and Rytmihäiriö actually have in common?!), so I can accept that people might be a bit confused on what we look for in a band, but I'd like to think that after reading even the main texts off our website and listening at least 15 seconds each to 2-3 of our key-artists, It'd be rather obvious that we're really not going to work with a band who lists RHCP, 3 Doors Down and The Foo Fighters as their key influences.
I'm actually a bit bummed, since I was looking forward to beefing up this post by linking this really cool piece of writing the guys at Combat Rock Industry had on their website previously, but it seems that they've gotten rid of it when they had their site made over a while ago. Anyway, they had this amazingly to-the-point "read this before submitting your demo to us" text on their contact-page, since obviously they had noticed the same problem as I'm trying to illustrate here. I can't remember the exact details of the text, but the main point was to drive home some very basic points of how the grassroots level music-"business" domain we operate in works.
See, the problem is that most people's vision of music industry as a whole is derived almost entirely from biographies, documentaries and interviews of established major artists. Especially if they haven't been exposed too much to indie culture in general. They think that record labels are these big industrial star-factories that just descend from heaven to the artist that has the patience to rehearse in their basement and send a vast amount of demos periodically to every label imaginable and that small labels are just... well, small versions of big labels. However, in reality, us small labels are a whole different industry altogether.
So, here's my own checklist on what you should know about us specifically (applies more or less to a lot of other small labels as well) before submitting your demo to us. The list rips off blatantly from what I remember about the CRI-list, so kudos to them on that:
There we go. Phew, I feel like I got a load off my chest just by writing that stuff out. Anyway, luckily these days the main motivator for making demos should be to get your music out there and try to generate a buzz. After all, in todays climate word-of-mouth is the #1 tool for labels - big or small - to break bands but in addition to that, it's the #1 tool for bands to get noticed. Even if I really do think that crappy demo bands killed MySpace (with a little help from web app UI- / architecture design that resembled donkey vomit more than a functioning application), it's vital to bands to find ways of getting people - real people, not record label monkeys - talking about your music. Hopefully on the virtue that it's just so god-damned good.
Also, if you send us your demo as email attachments, I'll be sure to do my best that Santa Claus brings you a bag of reindeer shit this Christmas. Go learn some netiquette, boy-o.
Finally, I just want to emphasize that I'm not trying to put anyone down! Every band has it's place and I don't want to communicate the impression that I'd raise myself above any style, look or genre of music. I'm just trying to advocate some sense into choosing who you send demos to.
Long post, but this stuff has been on my mind for a while now. Peace.
Eetu H. spotted the Combat Rock Industry text I referred to online: http://www.fireinsidemusic.com/info_julkaisuperuste.htm
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