How to gain access to the people in the music industry…….Pt 2

In my last blog I wrote about researching your own record library. If you haven’t read that blog DO SO NOW!

OK so you have a hit list of people in the music business that you think are somehow important.  You live in the age of Google, in the age of the total surveillance state, in the age of narcissism, all of these people will be listed somewhere on the web.  This is a huge blessing for a band looking for an agent, manager or label. In the old days you had to piece all the info together in your head and in your phone book. (Ya,Ya I know who gives a shit about the old days)

Now build up a list of targets, say ten names of people or labels or agents. Start at the top of the list and dig for phone numbers on the web. Start making calls. This is where you act dumb, and dumber.  If a person answers the phone at a music industry company you must be hyper polite. The people (usually female) that get stuck fielding incoming calls are harassed grumpy people. I usually start with trying to get this person’s name in the most polite manner possible. Remember, everyone else calling is being a self important asshole.  I will give you an example of how this might work.

In the mid eighties I was managing Miracle Legion. They wanted to be on Columbia Records. (we eventually got an offer from Columbia but then they fired me so that never worked out) I found out everything I could about Columbia. I had a little bible of stupid facts I wrote down about Columbia.  I would call and speak to the two operators. I always had A & R, the part of the label that gives out deals, as my target.  I read an article about Columbia buying a small San Francisco label and the label owner David Kahne, joining the A & R department. I also knew the Columbia phone system and the operators. Each area had a main secretary that took the incoming traffic. I called, greeted the operator BY NAME, she knew me I called regularly and often spoke to promotions peons looking to get info or offer favors so I could get tighter to the label.  I asked to be transferred to David Kahne, this took me to the A & R secretary. This woman was tough, really, really tough. She had a list of approved callers. She also worked in a huge corporation so she was always polite. I would call and she would stop me cold. But I was extremely nice and would try to engage her in conversation. She never gave an inch but was still civil.  One day i called, asked for David Kahne and she said “Brad, you know that I won’t put you through to his secretary unless you are on his approved list.”

I said “Yeah I know but you know I’m just gonna call back”

Her reply “Well, don’t call back in 15 minutes cause I will be out to lunch and Amanda, David’s secretary will be covering the phone”.

I hung up and realized that my twice weekly calls and unending politeness had paid off.  I called back and sweet talked Amanda into giving me her extension. I then called her twice a week. I soon knew her sons name, her vacation schedule and she would often bitch about what a shitty job she had.  Within a few weeks she told me she had told David of my calls and he said “Yeah, I heard of that guy. What’s he got?” This got our demo in the door.  Soon he was taking my calls. Then he got promoted to head of A & R. Within six weeks we had an offer.

This is just one small example of how to get through the wall that is built up around the music business.  Use your head and do the research and most of all be persistent. ……

©Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2013


4 thoughts on “How to gain access to the people in the music industry…….Pt 2

  1. Hi Brad,
    I am super stoked about your blog, the topics almost always covers what I’m currently trying to achieve with my projects. That last post is no exception.
    I just spent something like 10 days on the phone trying to talk to someone somewhere who might be able to show us a hint of a shadow of a licensing deal.
    Humbly, I think my P.R. skills over the phone are good, and they are definately getting better and better everytime I’m being told “Sorry”.
    My question is this: Do you REALLY have to call twice a week for an indefinite amount of time until they give you what you want? Aren’t you simply going to “burn” your name there? Or is it a sign of unhuman perseverance they are looking for?
    Would you do the same with the small independant labels?
    We are based in Quebec, we sing in French, plus we play alt. rock, so let’s say there isn’t a huge bunch of labels that are specialized in what we do, do would that change the “call them ’till they say yay!” kind of strategy?

    • Simon,
      I feel your pain. I lost count of the go nowhere calls over the years. I do believe in persistence and i also think you should be working as many angles as you can think of.If you speak to any successful band and ask them what their big break was they will likely laugh. The vast majority of people succeed through and endless series of small triumphs. The end of the Columbia records story is that they didn’t offer Miracle LEgion a deal at that time. A few months after I broke through and started to talk to David Kahne I landed a English act that happened to be licensed to Columbia. They started to listen, a little. Then i landed the band the worldwide Cure tour (1990 prayer tour) Now suddenly, i could do no wrong. They offered Miracle Legion a deal. The band fired me since they figured they had what they wanted. I then pulled a few strings and the deal disappeared.
      Are you licensed in France? Have yo tried the vinyl single only garage scene in the US? Often it’s the small guys that can hear talent. The big labels snap it up after it has proved itself elsewhere. Yes, you can burn your name, I’ve done that too. You learn the limits over time. Keep going. Post a reply and add a link to some of your music. I’m amused that most of the musicians that end up in my comments section don’t do that. I always listen to those tracks……………

      • Brad,
        Wow, those Miracle Legions guys really sounds like a bunch of douchebags (on paper)… anyway, thanks for the reply.
        For one, we definately not looking for the “big breakthrough” and, as a band, we admire nothing more than longevity and perseverance (Motorhead and ZZ Top are prime examples). Honestly, we just want to work. It’s that simple…but it’s also that hard, you know…. well, I know you know.
        There’s a ton of bands here who are going to play pretty much any gig for free, and in a market as small as the one I’m in, burning my name is, I gotta say, my #1 paranoia. I know you can do it, these bands are constantly proving it for me.
        I did the music program in college, that’s where I met my drummer, and want it or not, in a way, it’s frustrating to think that we went to school only to be broke for the next decade or two, to compete day in/day out with amateurs just because…uh…because I got a bad karma, I guess.
        We tried to get some government subvention for our album (which is about to be ready), but ultimately got turned off because we couldn’t hit a licensing and/or a distribution deal. In the process, I got to understand how that subvention thing works, and got disillusioned about the industry once more.
        Gee, I could rant for hours, I should really put that energy towards a more constructive thing…anyway …

        France is the ultimate objective for us, since day one. Playing there I mean.
        I have no idea how to get a feet in te door, tho. An actual feet, not a digital one!
        We would have to go as a support act to someone pretty cool, but it’s easier said than done.
        Do most indy labels operate only in their country? Like, are “worldwide” deals something you don’t see often, or it the opposite? We don’t care about it at this point?
        After we are done with the finishing touches on the album, I’ll send you something to listen to for sure. Maybe you won’t understand a word, but I thing you’ll like it.
        I will also look into that vinyl single only thing, that might be interesting!

        • Simon,
          Yes, i guess i made Miracle Legion seem like douche bags. It’s probably closer to the truth to say that Mark Mulcahy, the lead singer, was/is pretty nuts. Like many genius stars he had an out of control ego. He has immense talent. He did extensive damage to his own career. This is often the case with talented people. He is just an extreme case of shooting himself in the foot whenever he gets a break. Maybe he is learning something finally ( he is somewhere around 60 now. He ended up being influential instead of massively famous and rich. For example Thom Yorke from Radiohead admires Mark and almost worships him. He deserves it. He is a unique talent. He is just a nightmare at close quarters.

          i’m not going to reply to all your comments. I can see that you are just venting. That’s cool. Being a musician trying to put together a career is deeply frustrating. it’s also magical. Nothing compares to walking onto stage, pluggin in and playing. ( I have been a performing musician since I was 11). Keep trying, keep playing. Read all my posts. You may learn a thing or two……
          Warmest Regards

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