The Feedback Sessions get our students in conversation with professionals who work with major labels in the business. Reps from Universal and brandnewmusic responded to their tracks. Listen and read the Q&A below.
To preface the first Feedback Sessions, our guests Florian Richter and Alex Kralisch talked a lot about where they were coming from. Having a context for their perspectives would help dBs Berlin [now Catalyst] students get more out of what they were saying. For example Alex’s insight would represent a niche commercial angle, as he works for Universal Music as an A&R Manager. While Florian, the CEO of brandnewmusic and a music producer himself, might focus on criteria quite different to the preferences of the person submitting the track. Regardless of the style/genre of the songs, both Alex and Florian love to hear new music and were excited by the variety submitted by our students.
For the two events in this series so far, our students submitted a grand total of 81 tracks. A selection of those were chosen to be reviewed by our guests and we’ve assembled a playlist for you to enjoy featuring those works. Feel free to peruse the Q&A we had with our guests about the music industry as well.
What’s the best package to send to a label?
The best package is no package. Just don’t send it. Truth be told, no one is listening to them because the staff are disciplined in finding things on their own. They are also looking at market trends to tell them which genres to find and distribute. These conditions are for major labels of course, so at smaller labels it’s completely different. This means that your first steps must be taken alone these days. Internet platforms offer a lot of potential to be heard however. Don’t underestimate the numbers of listens. A few thousand on something like SoundCloud can reflect very positively.
Should you send it to actual people at the label, with their name in the subject?
Yes. That works. We get weird emails from “uncles in Nigeria” all the time and while we might listen to that stuff, most of the time it’s not really that cool. But that trick can work. However, you can only do that once. And when you make it, you have to be ready to answer the questions. One track isn’t enough. You need an EP, a band, a video, and you need to be ready to play live. If you aren’t ready – don’t do it. But again, these notes are for major labels. It may also be worth it to direct your stuff to a specific taste, because record companies pick up projects for specific niches.
When you approach a label, how ready should you be vs how malleable?
We are trying to expand the reach of your stuff, but we are not trying to position you. We need a ready product, artist and vision of what you want.
How much do labels care about the art direction? As far as look and a stylistic thing.
Well, you wouldn’t sign the same type of project twice over. And to be honest, the demands we have are so limited we can’t be picky. What comes and is ready and has the ability, the appeal, the approach – we’ll take it.
Do you think that subscription music sites have the potential to release music themselves and bypass record labels?
Are you scared of that?
Not at all. A label in itself is there for specific needs. We help get the product out to people. It’s easier to give your rights to a label and have them do that for you. But, I think digital distribution is fantastic and so is earning money from the first moment.
What are the top 5 things you look for in an artist, the things that make you sign them?
It’s very different so that is a tricky question. I (Alex) just signed someone with nothing, no soundcloud, but they had interesting songs, the best 5 songs I have ever heard in my life. What’s most important is that they have the artist gene and are able to sell out a stadium.
What is the balance between the quality of the song itself and the quality of the production?
This is blasphemous to say in our industry, but the song is key. It needs to be there. Only if it is at 100% – then you can add production. It isn’t possible to separate songwriting and production anymore. There is no song in the top 40 that doesn’t have a specific sound.