First off, any A&R exec is likely to have a desk full of demos and publicity packages. Which will he or she listen to first?
Easy, the ones that look the most promising from the outside. And if the demo comes in an unpadded envelope, bashed and beaten up – well the contents are likely to be pretty scruffy too by this time.
Bottom of the pile material then.
However in this case, a package from The Authentics by chance emerged on top of the pile when I dropped a bunch of demos on the floor. Clumsy me, but maybe someone's opportunity for exposure.
One feature I did like was a sticker with the band's name and logo. It's not a bad idea to start the marketing process with the envelope itself. Make it inviting to open.
Inside we find a promo sheet, which has a different logo to the one on the envelope. But importantly it features two pullout quotes from magazine and web reviews right at the top. The rest is pretty tough going – I wonder how many A&R managers (or live gig bookers) would read it all the way through?
There are some more quotes at the bottom. This is good because people have a tendency to read the top and the bottom and merely skim the material in the middle. Don't ask me why, maybe it's human nature.
A nice additional touch is a page of screen shots of websites that have mentioned the band.
Actually I rather like this and I feel that more could be made of it. One of the sites is actually the BBC. OK, only BBC Leicester, but any comment by the BBC deserves prominence.
Some other material includs photocopied flyers. Coupled with other matters I shall mention shortly, I found the overall look and feel to be rather cheap and shoddy.
Never forget that the whole point of this exercise is to enter the music business. Guess what the music business is?
Yes – it is a business! Any band taken on by a record label will be expected to function as a component in a business team. So you have to look businesslike right from the start. OK, you don't wear a suit and tie, but at least you need to demonstrate how seriously you take what you do.
Now the music. Ever since I'll Be There For You by The Rembrandts (The Friends theme song) there has been a rash of poppy/indie/rocky bands (excuse my imprecision but I'm not a big fan of genrefication) in a similar vein. And I think it is a style that still has plenty of legs left in it.
The Authentics, at least in their first song on their demo, show that they can do this very well. This style calls for a lot of precision in the 'ensemble' (the togetherness of the playing), and The Authentics would do well to improve this even further.
However, if I were responsible for booking bands at a live venue, my hand would be reaching for the phone right away.
The other three songs on the CD (there should only be another two, maximum), didn't tell me any more. I have a theory that for marketing purposes it is better to disregard conventional wisdom and only put your one best song on the demo.
That way, whoever you send it to will simply have to call you to find out more, rather than discover immediately that the rest of your songs are not as good. The longer you can prolong the 'wooing', the better chance you have.
Going back to the demo CD itself, I have to say that the presentation is not good. Nowhere near good in fact. The artwork is fine, but the CD is presented in a plastic wallet with a very cheap looking printed insert. Printed on photo paper and accurately cut and folded it would have been much better.
Also, the CD itself is completely devoid of labeling. This is a must as sooner or later the CD and packaging will get separated. Imagine if someone found the CD, liked the song, but didn't know who to get in touch with!
And… there is another CD in the package by a different artist! What is anyone supposed to make of this?
Here's a nice touch though – The Authentics have already added their demo to the Gracenote database so that when you load the CD into your computer, the track names come up automatically.
In summary, a competent band not well supported by the presentation of their demo. And… er… would I be the only person to think that they need to look a little more 'exciting'?
Do you want to hear a track?