16 January 2015

Chapter 12 – The mighty gatekeepers

So before I started contacting labels I needed a plan. First, I made a list of the labels I thought would be a good match for me. I decided this based on the artists they already had on their roster – as it would be pointless contacting a label that deals only in death metal. I put together a package containing our demo, photographs and a covering letter. Sending this alone would not be enough, as it could easily end up lost in a very large pile of demos. So I decided to call them …

I knew that in order to be heard I’d have to win over the secretaries first. People highly underestimate the power of the secretary in an A&R’s office (or any office for that matter). Behind every successful businessman/woman is a successful secretary. They are the GATEKEEPERS. They serve, protect, and make a lot of decisions on behalf of their boss, for example whether or not you’re important enough to bother their boss with. In short, if it wasn’t for one particular secretary, I never would have been signed ….

So I wrote a rough script containing all the key information in the first 10 seconds … I thought if I don’t pique their interest by then, it will be a lost cause.
I always asked to speak to the head of the label. I could have aimed for a lower ranking A&R but since any decision made would have to go through the president of the label anyway, I decided to cut out the middleman and aim for the top. I made sure I sounded professional but always warm and friendly, I‘m an artist after all, not a high flying CEO .… and you’ll be surprised just how far some cheeky-chappy cockney charm can get you in these types of situations. In fact, if you ask for the person like you already know them, sometimes the secretary will actually assume you do and put you straight through without asking questions. A bit “Derren Brown” I grant you but if it works, then hey ho! Otherwise I had to put my case forward, and hope for the best. If she gave me the go ahead I’d send the demo then give it a week or two, and if I hadn’t heard anything I’d follow it up with another call. Some of these calls came to nothing, and not all the secretaries were nice … some wielded their power over me like He-man with his mighty sword, but one secretary in particular was just lovely. Her name was Dawn John. Dawn John was secretary to Muff Winwood, who was the head of the record label Sony S2. She told me to send her my demo and she’d make sure Muff received it, and it was a promise she kept. Thanks to her, everything was about to change.