You’ve finished a version of your track that you’re happy to share. Now what? The first thing you should do when getting ready to send a demo to someone is to put yourself in their shoes…
Imagine receiving hundreds and hundreds of demos a month. It must be overwhelming, right? The end goal is to make it as easy as possible for your recipient to know who you are, what you’re about and be able to listen to your music without any hassle. But, chances are, they will not have time to get to every single email or listen to every track in full. So how are you going to stand out in their inbox?
Make Sure Your Links Are Easy To Stream
We strongly recommend that you send all your music over as a streamable link for easy access. DON’T send them a download link or file unless asked. The vast majority of people like to ‘try before they buy’ (i.e. they don’t want to have to download a .zip file, uncompress it, navigate through folders and open your tracks in their desktop media player only to delete it if they don’t like it etc). Feel free to give the option to download, but always make sure that streaming comes first as an option.
If you’re sending tracks that are past the demo stage and live online, the most professional looking link is your Spotify or other store artist profile, which you can build out with a bio, image gallery and links to your socials.
For unreleased music solutions, SoundCloud still leads the way. Not only does it give you easy private link streaming with optional downloads, but it can also let you see who has listened to your track (on the paid version). This can be really helpful when it comes to chasing up people for reactions (but, more on that later)
Dropbox is another popular option; but it involves more clicking about (you have to click on each individual file name to open up a media player to listen to it, then click to go back to the original folder — or else open up individual tabs for each track etc). On the plus side however, it lets people download the entire folder you send them as a single .zip file – whereas with SoundCloud they would have to download each track individually.
We would recommend getting around that by sending a SoundCloud link along with a full download .zip link on WeTransfer, or even Dropbox.
Make Sure You Have Good Metadata
Your tracks need to look professional if they’re going to be downloaded by the person you’re sending them to. They also need to have all your key information readily at hand. So, make sure you fill in artist name, track name and album name (at the minimum) in your file metadata. If you don’t know how to do this or have never heard of metadata before, read our handy guide to good music metadata.
Don’t Be Afraid To Namedrop In The Subject Heading
When trying to cut through the noise of someone’s overflowing inbox, you need to do whatever you can to make your email stand out (without going over-the-top that is). If you’ve received support from key industry figures, radio stations or publications, don’t be afraid to work them into your email subject. Only put it in there, however, if it makes grammatical sense and actually adds some helpful information. It should give the reader an idea what to expect. Journalists, A&Rs and bookers are usually looking for something they can fit into a box – or a micro-box – so do everything you can to help them put you in the right place. Just make sure you aren’t being deceptive or misleading.
Do Something Different With Physical Demos
While the vast majority of people send digital demos, there is still a place for a carefully crafted physical demo. There’s not much point sending someone a plain burnt CD-R or unremarkable USB. But what about creating some interesting custom design USBs? Or sending the USB or CD in unusual packaging that can’t go unnoticed or with a memorable piece of merch? Many people no longer have a CD drive anywhere, so the USB option is probably the best.
Don’t Be Afraid To Chase Up
Although being bugged relentlessly can definitely get very annoying, a good rule of thumb is that one chase-up / follow-up email is always OK. People may have every intention of opening your email and listening when they have some free time, but not everyone is as organised or available as they’d like to be meaning emails can quickly slip down inboxes. A polite reminder after a week or so is fine.
On a related note, as mentioned earlier, SoundCloud lets you see who has listened to your private track if you have one of their paid plans. If you use it to send demos, make sure you check to see if someone has listened in the stats before emailing them “hey did you get a chance to listen to my demo?” If they listened and they liked it, they will be in touch…
Do you know the label you want to send your music to? Maybe you even know the name of the A&R person you want to reach, do a quick google search or maybe look for them on LinkedIn to see if their contact or email address is online.
These days most labels will have demo submission email addresses which will usually be monitored by the A&R team, who will filter through the releases and get in touch with anyone they like the sound of.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind is to BCC people on email if you’re going to email more than one person. Sending personalised emails to each A&R or label is advised, however if you’re doing a big send and are short on time a group send is okay so long as you BCC the contacts. Nothing looks more unprofessional that receiving a demo with over 200 email addresses of people from other labels and companies visible to the recipient. Doesn’t exactly make them feel like you want to be signed specifically to their label…
Getting Noticed With Spinnup
We’d be silly not to mention ourselves here. Spinnup is a distributor that was made purely for independent artists to help them distribute their music. But it was also created by Universal Music, and our friends at the labels are always keeping an eye and ear on the music that gets released via Spinnup to spot their next signing.
At the time of writing this we’ve had 67 Spinnup artists get noticed and signed by Universal labels around the world, so uploading your tracks to Spinnup is just as much an option to picked up by a label as sending in a demo.
Getting your music listened to can be really challenging and often a disheartening process. But don’t lose heart and make it part of your job as a musician to do everything you can to maximise your chances of getting heard.