Face the Music: What I Tell Baby Bands That Cold Email Me

Ahh the baby band… so much promise, so much concern for how to take “the next step,” by which they usually mean getting a manager, signing with a label, or landing an agent/publicist. See Hutch from the Thermals for what happens when you’re buzzing and managers are coming to you (and why you might not want one), and Judy from Motormouth PR about why you don’t really need a publicist (with specific ideas to get your band off the ground organically), but I’ll take it one step further: don’t worry about cold emailing music industry professionals… ever. The truth is it’s highly unlikely you’ll get proper team members on board by reaching out to someone you don’t know, and when you think about it, you wouldn’t *want* to. Here’s why:

Managers and labels, good ones, always have artists on their radar with whom they’d love to work. They also have a trusted network of fellow managers/labels/artists to tip them off to something that might be a fit. In other words, even if your song/record is amazeballs, there’s little chance of them giving you more than a passing glance unless a) you’re already on their radar or b) you’re getting recommended by a trusted source.

So if the good ones are very much “don’t call us, we’ll call you,” what about that rare miracle of a band reaching out of the blue and bagging a label/manager/agent/publicist. I can’t say it’s never happened. I *can* guess it doesn’t work out 99.99% of the time though. And I’m not saying you get a positive response .01% of the time (I’d peg that around 1%). I’m saying of the positive responses, even THEN, maybe .01% become successful. Any guesses as to why? Anyone? Yes, you there-

“Because the managers/labels/agents/publicists who would take on a random and/0r unknown artist usually suck at their jobs?”

You said it, not me. But yes exactly. Think about it. Are good managers/labels/etc really sitting around waiting for cold call emails to hit their inbox so they’ll have some clay to mold? Fuck no! They’re working what they’ve got (a good label/manager’s work is never done), or scouting new bands themselves. If a label/manager/publicist/agent responds positively to your random email, it’s a dead give away that they don’t really know what they’re doing, and you should actually run the other way. In other words: don’t bother cold emailing, ever. It’s just not worth the stress, especially when there’s so many better uses of your time/energy.

“But I just need that one team member to get the ball rolling, and they can vouch to the rest,” responds the baby band.

Quite right, quite right. But that first team member is the one you *most* want, dare I say NEED to come to you. The early days are tough for a new band. If you approach someone about being on the team and they accept, aside from probably sucking for the aforementioned reasons, they’re doing YOU a favor by taking you on. If that same potential team member reaches out to you, you’re doing THEM a favor by accepting them on to your team. Maybe they’re just getting started, maybe they suck for now (I sucked for a long time), but at least the dynamic is where it should be (they work for you, not the other way around), and who knows, maybe they’ll eventually be great at whatever their role is.

“But I have to do SOMETHING, I have to TRY,” pleads the baby band.

I hear you, and I empathize. It’s not easy to face the music, as they say. But that’s literally what you need to do. Here’s what I tell baby bands that cold email me asking about label/management services:

Focus on what you can control: songwriting, playing great live shows early and often, being engaging on social media, establish a fun/cool/whatever aesthetic you’re going for, making friends in your scene. These are the things that get label/manager/publicist/agent attention, and there’s plenty to do on that front. If a team member does come along, you’ll be in a much better position vs. seeking them out. If they don’t come along, it’s highly, highly unlikely you would’ve gotten a good one via cold emailing anyway, and you saved a lot of time/frustration/worrying about what you think you “should” do to reach that elusive next level. Just do what you came to do, hope the rest follows (if that’s what you want), but don’t worry if it doesn’t.

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