As one of the longest-serving members of the Toolroom team, Pete has heard his fair share of demos. Having worked his way up from Label Assistant to A&R and Artist Manager at the label, Pete has been responsible for signing a raft of artists and singles to the label over the past nine years. Having caught up with A&R Matt Smallwood last month, we spoke to Pete about the question we are asked the most by aspiring producers – what are the best tips to aid the chances of your demo being signed by Toolroom?
Pete’s Top 3 Tips
1. The Personal Approach
‘Without meaning to sound corporate in any way, approaching a label with a demo is kind of similar to how you’d approach a job interview. You’d do your research, find out all about the company, and crucially make sure you know all about the place before you turned up. It’s the same with us – if a producer sends us a demo, with a few words about why the track will fit in with where we are musically, then that goes a long way. It shows you know the sound of the label, and as an A&R it makes me feel this demo has been personally sent to me.
On a similar tip, being personal in how you communicate with the A&R staff can also be really advantageous. I appreciate that A&R contact details can be really hard to find – the weird thing is that even though labels want to be sent lots of music, if they published individual contact details we would get so inundated with emails we wouldn’t be able to get anything done. That said – if you look hard enough – you can find our details. Social media can help – I’d personally say Facebook is a no, you’ve got to be careful not to overstep the line. But Twitter is great for this sort of thing. Strike up conversation with the A&R, give a bit of banter – it all helps in making you stand out from the crowd.’
2. Finishing Touches
‘While we totally understand you are still learning your craft – what you are sending is a ‘demo’, after all – don’t be too hasty to send your track to us once you’ve nailed an idea. You should ask yourself – would this track be even better if I spent just a few more days on it? If so, spend a few more days on it. If on the other hand you’ve got a great idea, but can’t finish it off, don’t be afraid to invest a bit of your money into an external engineering/mastering service to get you over the finish line. If you can’t afford that – look at the plethora of online learning tutorials there are out there. Maybe get yourself a cheap mastering plug-in and use the default setting, if you’re unsure. A little bit of extra EQ work and mastering can make all the difference when an A&R listens to your track and gets that all important first impression of your work. Adding more ‘life’ into the track this way can only help your chances.’
‘In terms of how you send us your productions, I’d really recommend not just sending an email with a link. Offer 2-3 options for the A&R – a streaming link (soundcloud is always good); a download link to a 320′ and a download link to a WAV. Please, under any circumstances, do not attached a high-res music file to an email! And finally, please do not get disheartened by knock-backs. I know quite a few high profile acts that didn’t get anywhere with their productions for years – but they kept plugging away, getting better, and eventually they got signed. Stay true to your sound and work hard, and you’ll give yourself the best possible chance.’