Field of music dreams: ‘If something is good, people will find it’

When trying to get your name out there, you have to deal with a lot of bullshit.

You make many mistakes.  You bother the wrong people.  No matter how good your creation may be, it’s often snatched up by a singular mass of unknown music that more often tends to annoy rather than entertain.

If something is good, people will find it.  The problem is there’s too much to sift through, now more than ever.  I was once a contributor to this problem – the reason why there are so many assistants, voice-mail boxes, and contact forms to fill out on websites, but no actual contact information.

With the advent of extremely user-friendly music creation programs, inexpensive production equipment, and social networking, there’s an exponentially increasing amount of sub-par music shoved in your face.  How many times have you logged onto Facebook and seen an ad for an artist saying “check me out!”  I had one of those.  A producer was advising me on the best methods to spend advertising money, and he didn’t say Facebook.  I asked if that was a good option.

“Haha, NO.”  I spent about $1,200 last year on Facebook ads.

I didn’t get into songwriting until I was a sophomore at UMD.  I had a friend who worked for a now-defunct major record label.  I would reach out to her for any unknown artists.

“We just signed this band Maroon 5 from a smaller label.  They are like BBMak, but more rock-ish.”

My friend gave me access to something every unsigned artist wanted.  The Necronomicon of the music industry – I had a rolodex for every major and independent label, as well as the direct contacts for many major players.  Eminem’s cell, Diddy’s home office, Clive Davis’s e-mail.  Presently, this information is probably easier to track down, but to have this in 2005, with no research needed, unbelievable.  My friend told me not to bother with any direct contacts, or even major labels (Sony, Columbia, Universal, etc.), and to e-mail every independent label I could.  So I did.  Hundreds of e-mails.

The Highlights:

I always made sure I intro’d the email with the most relevant contact.  Some labels had more than one person listed.  I insulted a smaller label in NYC because I didn’t address the correct contact as “Dear Mr. ‘Smith’,” and accidentally just put ‘Smith.’

An independent label in NYC showed a great amount of interest.  They asked for more music than the links I provided, some insights in to what we were working on, and our direction for the future.    I believe it was the closest I ever actually got to an offer from a real label, as opposed to a production team or manager.  They passed.

I accidentally sent an email to Hollywood Records, at the time a major label and subsidiary of Disney.  A man named Jason Jordan responded to me, who was cryptically interested.  Jason was one of the youngest executives ever at multiple major labels, and was now one of the top A&R reps at Hollywood Records.  I lucked out.  After months of back and forth, we were able to secure a show in NYC for Jason to see.

My partner said he thought he saw Jason at the bar we played, for around five minutes.  When I got an e-mail from Jason the next day saying he didn’t realize we were only a duo and was impressed, I immediately responded with (and I’ll never forget this because I had no idea how to ask if he was going to sign us) “So what is our status?”

The music business is about making ‘many mistakes,’ but you learn and move on and keep playing.

He laughed, and explained that despite our abilities, no one knew who we were, and we needed to build on our own at first.  I was crushed, but it was naive of me to think something would happen after one showcase.

I began to see that if the time comes, I won’t be the one asking for updates.

The strangest interaction I had was with a man named Tom Callahan out in California.  Tom was a middle-man of sorts.  He wasn’t a label, he wasn’t a manager, but he did represent artists.  He explained he did PR, but also developed artists.  Per his website, everything he told me was true – his website listed his clients as Goo Goo Dolls, Lionel Richie, to name a few.

Tom explained to me for $50k we would make an album together.  He would manage us with the intention of getting a major label to pick us up.  This was about a year before the offer I mentioned in my first blog (30k for the duo in Nashville), and I completely dismissed the proposal.  My faith slipped in Tom when he threw around a nice, huge, round number so easily.  I was just an unemployed kid living at home.

Tom continued to explain to me that if this were 10, even five years ago, he would front the money himself to develop us, but the industry was changing.  Music sharing killed it.  Disposable income for unknown talent was disappearing.  I believed him, but still wasn’t sure he would be able to do anything for me, even if I had the cash.

Last year I was watching an episode of Shark Tank.  There was an unusual proposal being offered.  A band named CB-40 performed live on the show.  They were seeking $200k for a 30 percent stake in all of their musical ventures, except for licensing.  The Sharks were impressed, but smartly wanted licensing included.  They made an offer, but the band ended up declining.  CB-40 had a manager with them doing most of the talking and negotiating.  He was short and calm, wearing a black suit with hipster glasses.  His name was Tom Callahan.

I have a new song being mixed and mastered with some talented young guys out of L.A.  The song sounds like it’s something you’d be driving around to in the Hills of California in 1987.  Very Less Than Zero.

In the meantime, the most popular song on my soundcloud is a unique cover of Drake’s “Practice,” which in itself is a re-do of a Juvenile song.  Take a listen, and download if you like (


Recommendation:  Pretty Lights.  He is a master of remixes, as well as original heavy-beat electro songs.  Much like the Weeknd, all of his stuff is free to download.  Check out “Ask Your Friends.”