Home of the Live Music Calendar Follow STLBlues on Twitter Follow STLBlues on Facebook Home of the Live Music Calendar Live Music Is Better, Book It Here!! Live music is better, book yours now!
  How should a demo be sent to a record label?

  By Bruce Iglauer, President of Alligator Records
   republished with permission of Alligator Records

  One of the problems that all of us in the record business face is the constant submission of audition materials from artists looking for a recording contract or to sell or license a finished master.

We all know that there are some "secret" artists out there who are capable of making great records. I found Little Charlie and the Nightcats from a demo and our first Corey Harris album was a finished master which was produced by someone I knew. But all of us are swamped with tapes and CDs from artists who aren't ready to be making records, if they ever will be. The availability of inexpensive near-studio quality recording and companies that manufacture 1000 CDs at a relatively low price means that a lot of musicians can afford to make their own album for bandstand sales, and to submit to labels.

Here are some tips for getting your demo listened to and responded to -

• Submit no more than four songs. It's not reasonable to expect someone from a label to listen to an hour of your music. Choose your best songs and put them on a cassette or CD. Don't expect us to weed through a full CD to find your best material.

• Make it clear if you are submitting as an artist or as a songwriter. If you're presenting a song, we don't need to hear your solo (unless the solo contains an instrumental "hook"). If submitting as a songwriter, lyrics sheets are always helpful. And make sure the vocals are loud and clear on your submission.

• Make sure your name and address is clearly on the cassette or CD. Don't assume that we hang on to every envelope that we receive a tape in. And write clearly, don't scrawl.

• Include whatever information you want us to know about yourself in the package. Don't call the label and describe your band over the phone. Chances are that if your audition material is listened to at all, it will be weeks or months after your call.

• Make it clear what you're looking for. Are you trying to license or sell a finished master? Trying to be signed? Submitting songs as a writer?

• Don't write a long letter of explanation (or apology). Most of these are going to be listened to while someone is driving or working. We don't need to read about how this was recorded, or how bad the sound quality is, or how the members of the band met.

• Don't send familiar songs (unless they're cleverly rearranged) or long jams. Give us the essence of what you do. Originality is always a plus. We don't want to hear a 10 minute version of "Got My Mojo Working" from a garage band from Idaho. Most of us heard Muddy do it live, and you're not going to top that.

• Never send a tape and ask us to find a band for you to play in. That's your job.

• Don't send a video. They're hard to watch while we drive. If we want to see you in action, we'll ask.

• Do send a gig schedule. In the blues world, a live performance is your best selling tool. We're impressed by how much you're working, even if it's locally.

• Written recommendations from local club bookers or festival talent buyers always help. We want to know that you can put on a good live show and that you have a professional reputation.

• If you're sending original material, make sure it's copyrighted. If you can't afford to copyright, send a copy to yourself by registered mail and keep the sealed envelope with the postmark on it. This is a "common law copyright" to prove when you created the songs. (As far as common law copyright, it's not as good an idea as a real copyright; there have been some court battles) One of the biggest reasons that labels don't like to listen to unsolicited material is that they can be accused of stealing an original song or song idea.

• Don't call and badger the label for a response. It generally leads to ill will. I try to listen to everything that's submitted. That means I'm usually about six months behind. Your annoying phone call may result in your material being tossed out before it's listened to. And just because you call does not mean I will dig your material out of a bin and give it a priority. If you want to know if it was received, send it "return receipt requested" or use Fedex or another service that requires that we sign for your package.

• Be prepared for rejection. 99% of all submitted material gets a "no". No matter how good your presentation is, most labels will never listen to your material. The ones who listen are the exceptions, not the rule. The best way to get a label deal is to get out and gig, even locally, and create a "street buzz" so that we hear about you through the blues grapevine. That's how I first heard about Shemekia Copeland, Son Seals, Lil' Ed and many more. There's no substitute in the blues for an exciting live performance.

  Back to top
 Live Music Calendar | Send Blues News | © STLBlues 2000 | Privacy Policy