What They Really Mean: The Musician’s Guide to Industry Speak

Sari Delmar

Sari Delmar
Photo Credit: TheImageInterview.com

The following blog post first appeared on AudioBlood.com in July of 2014, written by Sari Delmar (@Saridelmar), Founder & CEO of Audio Blood Media. Marcato and Audio Blood go way back; first connecting in the genesis days of both our companies. Since then the Toronto based artist & brand development company has grown to become Canada’s premier music marketing & publicity group. We’re super proud of them! 

Dear Bandsies,

You email your heart out to target industry people and you are probably used to not getting many responses. This is the life of a hustling artist. Don’t hate it – embrace it. I always tell my bands – if you feel like you’re doing it wrong, you’re not! You’re doing something proactive; therefore you’re doing it right. First things first – don’t get discouraged by rejection (you can read my other blog here with more info on that). Sometimes you might not get any responses. But when you do, they are seemingly cryptic. As a fellow industry person, trust me when I say we aren’t trying to make you rip your eyes out. We are talking in industry speak. We are moving quickly, managing a million things and sometimes the idiosyncrasies can get lost in translation. Sometimes we are too short and a more elaborate answer could help, we know. It takes that one email sent in the right moment to the right person to change everything. Hopefully this blog helps to navigate some of our answers and feedback. 

Industry Speak (IS): What are you looking for?

Read as: Please clearly outline what you want from me so I can consider it based on my position and capability to help. Is it a record deal? A pat on the back? A recommendation to a producer… err… what!?

What to do: Be clear and concise with your request. Know who you’re speaking to and how they can be the most use to you. Be realistic and approach professionally.

IS: There isn’t much we can do with it right now.

Read as: I am trying to be kind and let you know that we just aren’t into it. It has nothing to do with right now or later, but we don’t have the resources or interest in helping your band. But in the rare event that you guys blow up, then I want to leave the crack in the door open – so, I’ll just say ‘right now’ to leave that 1% chance there.

What to do: Back off. They are not the right team for you. 

IS: We’ll have to see what the next quarter looks like…

Read as: I have some interest in you, but not as much interest as all the other artists I want to sign or release right away. Hang tight while I see how many other projects present themselves with more urgency than yours.

What to do: Create urgency. Call in support from industry champions of yours to apply pressure and express excitement about the band. Ensure the interested party knows you are in demand and having conversations with competitors. Make sure they are hearing about you from a number of other people, other than yourself. Make them feel like they will lose the opportunity to work with you if they do not take action soon. If they still say they can’t do it then back away and find a partner that works within your plan.

IS: Ohhh it’s somewhere in the stack on my desk…

Read as: I am not promising anything, I am being a friendly human and saying I will try to get to your music, but it’s really not a priority and don’t expect me to get to it within the next 6 months. I’m busy and get lots of music.

What to do: Don’t harass. Create reason for that industry person to run home and dive through their stash of desk CDs to find yours by focusing on blowing away your fans, building a story with the local media, and having their friends and industry peers sing your praises.

IS: There is great potential here, but…

Read as: I genuinely think you will one day be great, but you just aren’t ready yet and I don’t have the time or patience to help you get there.

What to do: Focus on your craft and working on it intensely. Circle back with said industry person in 1 year to keep them updated on improvements.

IS: I’ve got so many emails… it’s in there somewhere.

Read as: I lost track of what you sent me because it is not as important of everything else I have to deal with right now. I am disorganized and despite wanting to be a nice human and get back to you, you are not my boss or my clients so you have to be patient.

What to do: Be understanding. Accept your relevance to them and work on building that in other ways that don’t include bugging them.

IS: It would be great exposure…

Read as: You will probably get exposed to new ears therefore we won’t pay you for your time. Also your band doesn’t present enough value in this situation to get paid and your agent (you probably don’t have one) isn’t hounding me for money so playing for exposure is indicative of how we see your value in this situation.

What to do: Evaluate the opportunity based on your own realistic knowledge of where your band is at. Will this allow you to increase your value and make you look good? Will you build good relationships that will lead to bigger and better opportunities down the road? Or will this hurt your band’s image and relationships? Will this conflict with your other gigs? Do what is best for the band in the long-term and move forward. Don’t be afraid to walk away from the opportunity if you need to, but also don’t be silly and turn it down if it will help you.

IS: There’s no room in the budget

Read as: We don’t need your band bad enough to take money away from the other more valuable artists. If you say no to this opportunity we will just move onto the next band. We used up the budget with larger artists of more value.

What to do: See above answer. 

IS: Our hands are tied…

Read as: I’m a wiener and don’t like taking responsibility for my own decisions and being confident when I’m delivering bad news and speaking to people.

What to do: Back off. This person lives their life thinking things just happen to them rather than taking control and making things happen for themself. Chances are you don’t want them on your team.

IS: You have a really unique sound.

Read as: You confuse my ears and I don’t know where to place you in the market.

What to do: This could be a good thing or a bad thing. Ask for clarification.

IS: Looking for something more indie.

Read as: You are not the next Lorde or Arcade Fire so I don’t have time for you right now.

What to do: Back off. These guys are fad chasers and will come back to you if/when they realize you produce solid music that stands the test of time. 

IS: Looking for something female fronted.

Read as: Our boss wants us to sign the next Paramore.

What to do: Be yourself. If you are not the next Paramore do not try to be.

IS: Not the right fit.

Read as: We have a specific sound in mind and vision for our company (which is a totally healthy thing) and you are not within it. **I like this one!

What to do: Say thank you and move on!

IS: Our roster is full.

Read as: You haven’t blown us away enough to make us bend over backwards to do whatever we can to work with you.

What to do: Prove your value one show at a time. Put your head down and work hard on your writing, gigs, and building fans one by one. These people will notice if you create a ruckus. 

IS: Our release schedule is full.

Read as: We have a plan and are very organized. You are not killing it enough to make us change that.

What to do: *See above

IS: It’s just missing that hook…

Read as: Your song could be good, but it’s not really demanding anyone’s attention. It plays from beginning to end without me being pulled in so you should go back to the drawing board.

What to do: Question who the feedback is coming from and whether you agree or disagree. Do what feels best to for your artistic vision while incorporating feedback from those you trust. 

IS: They’re missing something.

Read as: I don’t know what it is, because I have a hard time speaking but something about this band is not ready. An element needs to be better developed or I just don’t fully ‘get’ an aspect of it.

What to do: Keep working on your craft.

IS: Not ready yet.

Read as: There is a slick sheen on a well-toured and experienced band, whether it’s seeing them live or hearing a recording – and you just don’t have that yet. You are not ready to market and export to larger audiences because you have to work on your songs or performance more.

What to do: Get to work.

IS: How long has the band been together?

Read as: I want to get a read on how fast you grow to understand where you will be at in 1 or 2 years based on where you are now. If you say 1 year and you suck I am ok with that, if you say 5 years and you suck I need to leave now.

What to do: Be truthful, but disregard their judgement. Work hard and grow as you were.  

IS: Needs a bit more development

Read as: Need to bring in some professional help either in a song-writing, performance etc. capacity to improve the existing situation but they are on their way to awesome-ness.

What to do: Work with those you trust to further develop!

IS: How long has X been in the band?

Read as: Get rid of X, he is holding you back. I like the band, but would like it better if X wasn’t in it.

What to do: Tell them to F off and stand behind your band mates.

So after reading the above, it might have been better for them to just not reply in some cases, right? Sometimes the ‘no’ reply is even better than the above.

IS: No reply.

Read as: I have nothing to say to you right now and you haven’t warranted enough importance in my life for a response. But you might one day and there is a chance I have flagged or forwarded it on and will come back to it one day.

What to do: Stay positive and understand that you value is just not there yet. Focus on the things you can control like building your fan base and email replies will come when you aren’t obsessing over them!

Happy emailing my friends!




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