Many recording artists use social media to contact record label execs, but is that the right thing to do? Here, Josh Bailey, SVP of A&R at WORD/Warner Music Group, shares his thoughts on the matter.
Do you use YouTube and other social media sites like Facebook & Twitter to find new artists?
Social media is definitely used as a research tool, but I think it’s a black hole of sorts when it comes to finding artists. I do believe that artists should use social media as an outlet to interact and build up their fan base, as opposed to trying to get the attention of a label or booking agent. What gets someone’s attention is when the artists themselves have this ability to interact with fans on a big level through social media. For example, there’s a young artist that we’re talking to in (Nashville) who has really used YouTube as a tool to build his whole career. He has over 100,000 subscribers who are always going to his channel, and he uses his online fan base as a foundation to support his touring. While he’s not the first one to do this, he has done a very good job at building his fan base. He uses the analytics from his channel to find where most of his fans are, and then he does a concert in their market; which is very smart.
Many artists are trying to use social media to contact A&R reps at labels about their music. Do artists hit you up on social media; and is that the right thing to do?
I get hit up all of the time. Every A&R is different, but I don’t have a ton of time to spend on Facebook or Twitter responding to artist inquiries. Occasionally, someone will reach out to me on Facebook and if I have some sort of connection through mutual friends then I’ll take a look. But, for the most part, I don’t use social media to interact with people I don’t already know. My recommendation is to only reach out to an A&R via social media if you have a mutual or personal connection. Random posts or tweets are not very professional and you’ll likely not get a response because of the time constraints on the A&R. We (A&R) typically look for new artists through reliable sources we’re familiar with. Also, never send me a blind-copied message via a mass email blast to tons of people because, as soon as I see that, I will hit delete. Those kinds of emails don’t feel legitimate or authentic.
There are a lot of A&R consultants out there pushing their services. Is that a good way for artists to reach you?
Actually, there are probably a few ways to go about reaching me. If a real manager, who’s not your cousin (laughs), writes me a personal email I will likely check it out. Whether I respond or not depends on what pressing matters are happening within the label when I get your message. Plus, my account gets flooded with emails so, sometimes I just look at emails from people I know. But recently, I signed an artist from Canada as a result of an A&R consultant I know. The artist hired this Nashville consultant who has a great track record and has been in the business for years. They basically went to the consultant and said, “If you think this has potential, help us make connections and get in front of the right people.” Yes, it cost them money to do it, but the end result is the artist was signed. But artists have to be able to differentiate between someone who has a credible track record, and someone who’s not really that connected. There are a lot of people out there who pass themselves off as A&R consultants, but they may not really have legitimate connections; so I’d advise artists to be careful.
What should artists think about when they approach creating music to even consider pitching to you? Is the 4 song demo still relevant?
I think the artist needs to ask his/her self, “Why am I making music?” If you’re just making music to get a deal, then it’s likely not going to make sense unless you are undeniably super talented. To me, if you’re making music then you should want to make music that will somehow impact people. Obviously, in Christian music, artists hopefully are creating music because they are called to it and have some ministry purpose that is greater than themselves. Also, you need to create music for people to consume, and then make it available for them to access. It doesn’t have to be in some kind of product piece, but if you’re touring you want some kind of product to sell. Fans also want to walk away with something in their hands that once they get in the car they can listen to it. As time goes on and things continue to change, we will see what that looks like. But, presently it’s downloading or streaming from their phones, or buying a CD from your merch table. As far as demos are concerned, I want to hear two or three songs, and if I’m interested beyond that I may want to hear more. If you have a full project I may want to hear it, see it, and understand the brand you’ve built as an artist. Ultimately, if you’re just starting out I think you should make music that you want to use in some way to impact people or gain some influence.
[Originally published September 13, 2013]