How to Be Heard When You’re Based Outside the U.S.

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For better or worse, a lot of the articles and websites you find about the music biz tend to be centered around North America (particularly when you’re perusing sites or magazines which are attached to American organizations).  There are DIYs and FYIs abound if you’re coming from within the U.S., but that still leaves about… 195 other nations.  So what’s different if you’re an international act?  In this article of our Music Promotion Guide, we’ll talk about how to be heard when you’re based outside the U.S.

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Don’t: Focus On Record Labels

Many of the world’s biggest industries are associated with a country renowned for either inventing or perfecting the art.  For example, many people associate great cars with Germany, or electronic innovation with Japan.  Fortunately for musicians around the world, there is no single country which is hailed as the end-all-be-all of musical achievement.  Many countries boast prominent acts, major music festivals, and glamorous award ceremonies.  Many musicians become huge successes in their home countries with or without America behind them.

That said, the U.S. has historically enjoyed a reputation as a country where people go to “make it,” and people interested in the entertainment industry are no exception.  So for international bands who want to building a presence in the United States, what’s the starting point?

Many international artists think that the first thing they need to do is get signed to a record label in the United States. Simply put, this just isn’t true.

In fact, aiming for a label first is a little like moving backwards, considering how much work artists need to put in before they become attractive to a given label’s A&R team (e.g. playing gigs, making aggressive promotional efforts, networking, submitting demo tapes to non-commercial radio stations).  That isn’t to say labels should be discounted entirely, because labels are immensely helpful when it comes to making yourself heard.  They just shouldn’t be your first stop.

Instead, focus on the media.

Do: Build a Presence in the Media

If you want to be signed to a record label in the U.S., fight the temptation to make a bee-line for the label itself.  Why?  To begin with, many record labels simply won’t accept unsolicited submissions.  The ones that do are already inundated with mountains of demo CDs, and yours is just another on the heap.

In other words: if you don’t do something to distinguish yourself as a viable act before approaching a label, your chances of being signed (or even listened to) are limited.

So, what should you do to strengthen your appeal before you shoot for a label?  Take it to the media.

You may have heard the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”  Now, we’re certainly not suggesting you set out to become embroiled in a scandal; but we are highlighting the point that working up media interest is one the very best ways to capture popular interest.

If your band is able to attract media coverage, two very important things will happen.  First, you’ll gain invaluable exposure; and second, people will start to wonder why you’ve been chosen to receive coverage. Labels are constantly on the prowl for the latest and greatest, so when a new band is given an article, a review, or an interview, an A&R rep may notice and want to investigate for themselves.  Not only will nurturing a presence in the U.S. media help expose you to casual consumers and label personnel, it will also help to attract attention from managers, booking agents, and other industry insiders who can help hoist you up the professional ladder.

In short: attention from the media is roughly synonymous with attention from everyone else, whether that means laypeople who want to buy your music, or industry people who want to sell your music.  In either case, it’s a win-win situation for the artist.