We all want to be with people who are business-like and who know how the business works. That protects us from lawsuits and it also protects us from some of the crazy crackers that try to bust into the music business in bizarre ways. Oh, the stories I could tell! I compare it to someone walking into a doctor’s office and saying, “I want to see Dr. Cobb”. The person at the desk would politely ask “Do you have an appointment?” You reply, “No, I just want to see him.” So, she asks, “Are you an existing patient?” “No, I just want to see him, I heard he’s a great doctor.”, you answer. She would likely say, “Ok, let me see when we can work you in. What are your symptoms?” You might answer, “Oh, I’m not sick, I just wanted to spend 30 minutes with him in case I ever do get sick”. You can imagine in this scenario; you would be asked to leave, and the office staff would be talking about what a nut job you are for weeks to come.
That scenario happens daily in the music business. Daily. People show up out of the blue asking for time from someone they don’t know and don’t really NEED to see just yet. Their songs aren’t quite good enough, they only have two songs, etc. They are called “squirrels” by many in the business. And they are the reason most doors are literally locked along Music Row. No one wants a squirrel in their building. If you want to make things happen in the music business, you have to learn HOW the business works and WHEN you need to approach any given person in the business.
Here are some of my tips for increasing your chances of success in building your team:
Don’t try to meet with ANY publishers or PROs until you have at least 8-10 great songs. I mean songs that are radio ready and competitive. This is the biggest mistake most people make. You go in with 10 songs, only one is great and the rest are very amateur sounding. Bridge burned. Make SURE you have 8-10 great songs before you worry about meetings.
Realize that everyone is busy with people they DO know. If you are trying to set up a meeting with a stranger, it’s going to be hard and will take time for them to work you in if they are willing to do so. Be politely patient. Don’t bug them to death. You can call back if you haven’t heard anything in several weeks, but don’t call every other day.
Know the job of the person you are talking to. My job is “songwriter”. It’s not my job to pitch other people’s songs. Publishers pitch and do the admin for songs. Asking them to critique your work is not really their job. Some may be able to do so. But that’s not their job. Make sure you are asking the right things of the people you talk to.
Understand that it takes time. Most people succeeding in the business took 5-7 years before they had any real success. There’s no shortcut. Take your time. Get to know people organically. Be nice and personable. And be respectful of people and their time. Thank anyone that is willing to give you their time. Doing those four things can keep you out of the crazy category and keep you from being called a “squirrel”. Be business-like!