Hundreds of unsolicited country song demo’s are sent in every week to country music record companies, many of which are never listened to. Even the most conscientious A&R person will only listen to the first 20/30 seconds of a demo song before sending out a rejection letter, so how does an artist/band get their masterpiece heard?
First of all its important to understand that it takes several factors to create a 'buzz' and gain enough interest from an A&R person for them to listen to a demo song or make the effort to see the country artist live. Performing in venues frequented by A&R personnel, TV and Radio appearances, Reviews in Music and National Press and Recommendations from respected managers, DJ's, promoters, producers, venues, studios, lawyers, journalists are more likely to help an artist/band succeed!
Style and genre of country music
Research the record company to ascertain the style and genres of music favoured prior to contacting anyone, read music press to discover which A&R personnel frequent showcase venues and then speak to the A&R Departments Secretary to get the name of the person to send your publicity pack.
Getting a deal
Call A&R departments a week before a gig in well known Showcase Venue in their area of operation Don't be depressed if you don't hear anything for a while or receive a rejection letter, the companies deal with so many demos it could take over a month before you hear anything and many well known artists/bands were rejected many times before getting a deal!
The artist and A&R
There are several record companies who operate as a 'go-between' between the artist and A&R, offering appraisal of your music, showcases and compilation albums for distrubution to A&R. Do check them out before parting with any cash, most will provide a free service with small admin costs (like Taxi and Talent Scouts).
Song demo material
If an A&R person likes your song demo they will ring you or write requesting more new material. Mark the outside of the package "requested material" with the band/artist name, send it quickly, telephone to confirm its in the post and always put any A&R person who has shown an interest in your material on the guest list for every gig you do (include a gig list with the song demo).
Take criticism of your country songs
Congratulations may be in order if you manage to get a meeting with an A&R person, but don't start getting your hopes up! At this stage all they require is a chat to get to know you or arrangement to see the band/act live. Be prepared to take criticism of the songs, recordings and performance (if relevant), be prepared to discuss your goals, career progression and influences or to perform a 'Showcase', which can either be a specially arranged gig in a proper venue or a rehearsal room. Using a venue are prone to the usual technical hitches, lack of audience and other hassles, although a huge appreciative crowd raises the energy & interest. Using a rehearsal studio allows you to get the sound right, grab a few mates for encouragement and run through the songs before anyone arrives!
A&R labels and publishers
A&R people are notoriously elusive and known not to turn up, but if there is a lot of interest in a particular act/band a Showcase can start a bidding war between several different labels/publishers.
If you have sufficiently impressed them they may offer to put up a demo budget to record further tracks or fund a private showcase.
Record company A&R person producer
When a record label or publisher makes an offer it is standard practice for an artists manager/lawyer to tell rival record companies in the hope of starting a bidding war, be careful not to sign a deal just for the extra money.......look at the long term picture and aim for a company/A&R person/producer who are easy to get on with and creatively in tune with you.
A&R like The Band Register and Taxi
Several record companies advertise for acts/bands to appear on Compilation Cd's which will (allegedly) be sent to A&R personnel or distributed to shops. Take care before signing up to one of these companies and research them before parting with any cash! Whilst some are reputable and actually play a part in bringing together artists with record/publishing A&R like The Band Register and Taxi, other more unscrupulous companies charge large fees to appear on compilations that are never sold or listened to by Record Companies!