Making An Album | Use The Force!
When you’ve finished making an album you have to ‘Use The Force’ to get the CD noticed.
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My sister (and marketing wiz) Nicola Cairncross and I have been racking our brains to come up with contacts – no matter how distant or tenuous, to try and spread the word. I started by approaching a good friend to send a copy to a well-known pianist/composer to ask for a quote for the cover. Hopefully, with her personal cover note, we may be lucky.
My inclination was to wait until the CD was actually manufactured, so that it looked more professional, but Nicola was keen to get it out there and believes that people in the industry like to be in at the ‘ground level’. She thinks you have to try to make them believe that you’re sharing a wonderful secret, that they are lucky to be party to. Like most musicians that I know, I’m a bit rubbish at self-promotion and always feel awkward about approaching my colleagues. Nicola, on the other hand is totally fearless and will think nothing of going straight to the top. She messaged me on tour to say “it appears that Stephen Fry is following me, so I can message him: so I private messaged him with a link to the sneak preview of At Last. Hahahahaha there’s no stopping me now!”
I wonder if Stephen will spot it amongst the huge pile of requests he receives?
She was referring to a YouTube video she made, which has a copy of the album cover design as an image, with the title track playing. The video is not available for searching yet, so it’s a neat trick to get people interested. My delicate ears hate the fact that the YouTube platform spoils the beautiful quality of the audio which Andrew Cleyndert has created. Nicola thinks it’s an easy, quick link that busy people can click on, to see if they want to listen further. On the information about the track there is a short CV and history of the project with links to my website, and details where they can get hold of the whole album.
While Nicola has been beavering away on Facebook and Twitter getting contacts, I’ve been running off CDs and printing out the latest proof of the CD cover and booklet. I’ve been really careful to put a clear contact address, website and phone number on the actual CD (they can easily get separated from the letter and artwork). I’ve then been drafting a short letter of introduction – outlining who was the initial person who ‘introduced’ us. Gradually, as I’ve started to get interest and feedback from various people I add that into the introduction letter as an incentive that the CD is worth a listen.
Happily there has already been some really positive feedback that has spurred me on. Here are a couple of quotes:
“WOW!!!!!! It’s absolutely stunningly beautiful! I’ve just listened to the album and have been mesmerised from start to finish. Wonderful. All my favourite tunes too! Ruddy love it!”
“Heather’s voice is sublime and David Newton’s credentials are impeccable so yes, I’m impressed.”
Nicola had contacted one person and received an email asking me to send some CDs. He called me when I was still asleep in my hotel bed in Pisa. The previous night we’d done a concert in Pisa Cathedral of Stravinsky and Bruckner with the Monteverdi Choir and I’d stayed up rather late chatting to my colleagues. He left a message telling me that he’d left a longer message on my home phone but had been cut off in the middle of giving me his home number. I rang home excitedly and retrieved that message where he said that he loved the album. He had already passed on the other two copies I had enclosed to a well-known Jazz Radio DJ, who had played it to his boss and would hopefully pass it on to their record label. He asked me if I could call him and when I’d picked myself up from the floor, I did. He turned out to be a DJ himself, as well as having a company that produced radio programs. Watch this space!
All this meant that when I sent a copy to another Jazz label (via a producer I had recorded some baroque music with – use the force!), I could tell him honestly that other labels were already showing interest. All this, in the hope that my CD wouldn’t be tossed into an enormous pile of hopefuls.
I remember when I was travelling around the States with the Swingle Singers. We were given a tour by a friend and a cappella fan, of the big christian record company who had signed Amy Grant. I never forgot the moment when he opened a door to a small room filled to the ceiling with padded envelopes. “This is the hopeful cupboard,” he told us. I asked how he could possibly get the time or even choose what to listen to. He launched himself onto the pile with his arms outstretched. When he had extricated himself he was holding two envelopes. “These are today’s lucky hopefuls!” he quipped.
As a musician the random nature of the choice made me shudder. I knew what enormous personal cost, effort and most of all hope was contained within each of those envelopes.
Linn Records warn would-be artists on their website:
“We are inundated with requests to look at websites and listen to demos. If you want to be heard seriously please put a media pack together which should contain:
- Sound files together with a description of what they are – e.g. demo recorded at home studio or pre-mastered files ready for licensing. Each disc must be clearly labelled.
- Gig-list including a list of past and future gigs.
- Press coverage including reviews and airplay received to date.
- Online links including links to photos, videos and music.
- Your contact information including your telephone number, email address and postal address.
They also warn: Due to the volume of music we receive and listen to every day, we cannot return any material supplied.”
Eeeek – I wonder if they use the launch technique to choose what to listen to?
My task (ably aided by my marketing-terrier sister) is to get my CD to the people who will actually listen to it. Nicola is hard at work on Twitter and Facebook making contact with anybody she thinks might help. She has a much wider net than me – typing in generic terms like Jazz into the search box and following people’s tweets. She’s busy commenting and re-tweeting and trying to form a connection with them before asking if they’d like to hear a sneak preview. I’m slowly getting to grips with all that too. (My Twitter name is @altovoice) I found an old colleague (and wonderful fretless bass player) who now, it seems, just happens to be the reviewer and jazz editor of a well known London publication. I sent him a message asking if he’d be willing to review it and he gave me his home address to send it to. If you don’t ask……
The DJ suggested I might send a gift with the CD when contacting radio stations to attract attention! Bribery – surely not! I do remember though that chap who won The Apprentice did just that! He told the receptionist that he had to deliver a gift basket personally when he was trying to show his curved nail file invention to the Walmart Buyer.
Maybe it’s time to get baking – perhaps a Bree Van De Kampf style muffin basket?
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