Life as an unsigned musician is frustrating to say the least; hours on end rehearsing, months in the recording studio, every last penny on promotional material and yet when it's time to send out those all-important emails to the industry you can bet that replies will be few and far between.
Industry folk receive hundreds of emails every week and whilst many emails are no doubt overlooked, there are certainly a few things to avoid if you want to make yourself heard. The first thing to remember is that A&R guys, managers, promoters and booking agents are all normal people like you and I, it's part of their job to find new music and so if you contact them with a personable, non-salesy approach you stand a much better chance of starting up a conversation.
I'm not really in the music industry myself, I run a booking agency for function bands, but still, I think the principle is the same regardless. Every day we receive emails from new bands and musicians in the events industry looking to join our books, we check out every single act that approaches us but unfortunately very few are up to the standard we're looking for. This article is more about making sure that your email is read and that your work is heard in the first place, most of it appears to be common sense and yet a lot of people aren't following the basics.
Be Personable in Your Approach
Rule number one is to be personable and approach the right people.
Sending out a blanket email with hundreds of people blind copied in (or worse, CC'd in!) is definitely a big no-no, if you haven't got the time to send out a personal email then why should anyone be bothered to read it.
Do your research, find people in the same field as your music and write to them on their level.
Try to avoid sending emails to generic addresses such as info@, you want to reach the individual and it isn't usually too hard to find out what their email is, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com is probably a good starting point. Using social media to message can work but I still think email is an important first point of contact, after all, Facebook messages will end up in the "other" folder of death and Twitter is all too easy to ignore due to the sheer mass of information available.
Don't be a Salesman
Nobody wants to read an email that kicks off with a long rant about how good your band is, what your inspirations are and why you're the next big thing; be confident and friendly in your opening line and for goodness sake, be "normal."
HTML or flyer emails are a massive no-no, it comes across as spammy and in my opinion is the completely wrong approach. If I receive an HTML email my finger is so quick to hit the delete button that it barely even registers - that's if the spam filters don't get to it first.
Use the recipients first name, open with a line to introduce yourself, perhaps even mentioning that you've supported one of their bands or that you were passed on their info by a fellow musician or associate - having a mutual contact will definitely go a long way. Include a brief paragraph about yourself and why you think they might be interested, that's the most you can do at this stage. The longer an email is the less likely the chances of it being read. Finally, check your spelling and punctuation. (Queue comments about my punctuation.)
Link to Soundcloud and Youtube
Avoid large attachments such as mp3s, it clogs up the inbox, takes time to download and is a general annoyance in the age of the cloud. Instead, include a link to your Soundcloud or Youtube page, whilst your website may be awesome, people generally like familiarity and prefer to visit a page that they can quickly access without the need to actually engage their brains.
Create Great Demos and Promotional Material
Promotional material is the key, you are essentially a brand and in order to sell yourself you need high quality photos and fully-produced demos - whilst lots of musically-minded people like to think they don't need the production to recognize a good band or well-written song, I beg to differ; a great song is a great song but sometimes a good song can turn into a great song with a little bit of help in the studio.
Think about your target audience and help an A&R guy to visualize exactly what it is you're trying to be, whilst you may have the outlook of "we just do what we do," you can bet that they will need a clear plan of action if they're going to pitch you up the chain of command.
Don't Be Disheartened When You Get No Response
When you get no response to your well thought out emails it's easy to assume that they aren't being read but the truth is that 99.9% of music that gets sent out simply isn't what that particular person is looking for. My advice is to continue to write great music, build your fan base and ignore the industry, they will come to you when the time is right.