You’re likely to face a lot of rejection working in the music business, especially at the beginning of your career. You’re going to hear plenty of “no’s”, “we don’t have any openings”, “there’s no room on our roster”, “contact us when you (fill in the blank)”, etc… if you even get a response at all. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of the business. The more popular a venue, booking agency, radio station, etc… is, the more their inbox gets pounded; and therefore, the more likely you are to receive a rejection or no response at all. BUT, what’s important to remember is that almost everything in this business is temporary, including a “no”. If you want proof, just go talk to anyone at the top of the scene. They’ll likely tell you about all the managers, radio promoters, agents, venues, stations, etc… who passed on them the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd time and possibly beyond that — and how those “no’s” eventually turned in to “yeses”.
So when you’re going through this trying time in your career, I think it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Don’t burn that bridge – Processing rejection, or someone not responding to any of the 6 emails you’ve sent them, can be tough; but as much as you want to tell them how you really feel, you have to just say “thanks for your time” and move on. That person may be a vital contact for you in the future, so don’t ruin that relationship before it even gets started. The last thing you want to do at the beginning stages of your career is to turn a temporary “no” in to a permanent one just because you wanted to vent.
- Don’t take it personal – The rejection or lack of response isn’t a shot at you personally, most of the time it’s “just business”. A talent buyer or booking agent wants someone they think will sell tickets, a radio PD wants a single they think is a good fit in their market, a radio promoter wants a song they think has a good chance of being picked up by stations, etc…and they would quickly be out of a job if that wasn’t what they were looking for. Once/if it looks like you can help make their job easier, they’re likely to hop on board; oftentimes regardless of how they feel about you personally.
- Tailor your message – I know everyone is different, but as someone who receives a lot of music-related emails, the more it looks like a mass message, the less likely I am to respond or even read it. I think if you’re pushing a single out to radio or making an announcement, it’s probably ok, but for any other scenario, I would recommend sending an individual email with personalized details (name, venue, company, town etc…). I know it takes a little extra time, but I think it’s completely worth it.
- Be persistent, but not pushy – Unless that person has specifically told you not to contact them again, don’t be afraid to “check in”, “touch base”, update them, or try again later. The truth is, even if you don’t get a response, your email was likely seen and at least skimmed, so if you have new and interesting information to offer, don’t be afraid to send it. For example, if you email a venue about booking a gig and they don’t respond and a few months later you play a 300 person fraternity party in the same town, they’re now fans of yours and likely to come out to a show in that town….that’s something that’s sure to catch a talent buyer’s eye and warrant a response, so let them know!
- Often it takes time and multiple attempts before you break through, but it’s also important to make sure you don’t cross the line of over-communication. Calling or emailing too much, is a quick way to get noticed….in the wrong way. If you’re not getting a response, don’t try to message them on their personal social media pages, tag them in every single post you make, or text/call on their personal cell-phones –once again, a quick way to get noticed in the wrong way. Also, the firmer the no, the more time you probably need to wait before contacting them again.
- Make it count, but make it brief – You probably have a limited number of messages you can send before they stop reading, skimming, or responding. So make the early ones count. Don’t write a 3 page email or leave a 15 minute voicemail, but make sure all the important and persuasive information is in your initial email and “above the fold”. If you’re emailing a booking agency, and you’ve put a hundred plus people in to a couple of venues in different towns that month, that’s something that should go in the first paragraph, not the last, and communicated as soon as you can.
- This is also true for the follow-up/update contacts. If you continually reach back out to that person with not-so-significant updates , they’re likely to stop reading them, and now you run the risk of them missing a message with a significant update. Save the contact for when it really counts!
- The person you’re contacting knows how the game works – A successful talent buyer, agent, manager, PD, etc… knows that a full inbox and constant contact comes with the territory. They know that not responding will likely result in another attempt from the artist. They know their current decision about an artist could change in the future and they know it’s fast-paced and ever-changing industry. They do their research and choose their words carefully. Learn how to play the game and don’t feel like you’re inconveniencing them when you make contact in the correct way.
- Patience is key – Sometimes the response you’re looking for will be immediate and sometimes it’ll take years. Artists don’t become stars overnight in our scene. It’s a slow process of steadily winning over more “yesses” than “no’s” and you’re going to have to grind it out for a few years or even longer before that really starts to happen. I know it’s difficult at times, but you have to stay patient if you want to make it in this scene, especially when it comes to communication.
Correspondence is often an art rather than a science. It’s a balancing act of timing, persuasive language, and relevancy, and every situation is different. Enjoy the wins, battle through the rejection or lack of response, keep grinding and try again further down the road if you don’t get the answer you want the first time!