Anatomy of the Industry: Mailers!

As you may have figured out by now, I’m a music lover, a musician, and also somewhat involved in the music industry.  The full disclosure: from a band in the 90s, to a theatre degree, to a music industry diploma, to intern work for a major label and now a unique company here in Toronto, I have always been immersed in music in one way or another.  So I can confidently say I know a ‘few’ things, but I’m a humble soul and would never consider myself an expert.  So please don’t consider me one either.

I ‘am’ however happy to advise!  And I think I’ll try to make Tuesdays a day for info or advice.  Today I’ll start with the simplest of the simple: mailers!

What is it?

Simple!  It’s taking your CD (…whether or not CDs are still relevant can be discussed later!) and stuffing it in an envelope with a bio and contact info, and sending it to people you don’t know! (…or don’t know well…or know ‘of’…but I’m getting complicated)

Why should I do it?

You should mail your music to other people because how else will they hear it!  The trick is to send it to people who can do something with it…anything you consider useful: send it to someone who can blog about it, put it on a radio show, talk about it in their article in a local indie press, maybe help you record an album (a producer?), or even as simple as ‘someone who can offer you an expert opinion.’

Remember: EVERYONE loves getting mail…NO ONE enjoys getting email anymore.  Yes, it’s much much easier to click an mp3 attachment and get a listen, but if it’s free and made up of digital ones and zeroes it’s value is about worth as much…mostly zeroes.

My perspective: I’m more prone to give a serious listen if I can pop the CD into a player and sit back. (…hint…hint…contact me for my mailing address)

But they don’t WANT me to send anything! Some people do NOT want your mail because they get so much.  Double check.  How do you turn Unsolicited into Solicited?  Easy: Get in touch!  Start a conversation!  Ask if it’s OK to send them a copy of your CD.  Send it directly to them.  Thank them afterwards! Easy breezy!

How do I do it?

First you’ll need some supplies:

  • Copies of your CDs, enough for each person you want to contact
  • A list of people you want to contact (build a database if you must!)…make sure you’re sending to real people.  Letters to ‘Music Director’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’ will get laughed at!
  • Envelopes: I suggest the special CD mailers that usually come 12 in a pack!  If you can’t find ’em, #0 or #1’s will do
  • A page that has your important talking points, a simplified bio, contact information (include social media like Twitter), and anything you can use to spice it up: tour dates, links or press clippings, a nice b/w picture
  • Money set aside for postage…assume at minimum $1.25 per CD to mail it (of course, this will vary…today is April 11th, 2011! Double check by bringing a full envelope to your post office and getting a price!)

Now, put it all together! The CD, the page, a business card if you like, all go in.  Seal it.  Stamp it.  Send it!

What can I expect to gain?

Do you want people to hear your music?!  Now you have a better chance.  Did you want advice or feedback?  Follow up and ask, or if you’re really lucky they’ll get in touch with YOU (be ready to answer strange phone numbers on your cell phone!)

Be realistic…you might be spending a couple of hundred dollars or more…but what you’re aiming for is exposure, not money.  The money comes later.  So assume that 10-20% of people will actually get back to you or answer your call.  The only difference between this and sending your mp3s is that it’s real, not digital.  Which might be the other half of the lesson.

The point is that it might get played on community radio, or campus, or maybe someone at a big station might love your tracks and want to meet you for coffee!  Or maybe someone’ll want to represent you as you get started off, a manger or publicist.  Or maybe you’ll get some good advice.

You can’t get anything by doing nothing, and emailing mp3s or having a MySpace is pretty close to nothing.  ‘Act and you shall receive!’  A mailer is a good way to take those CDs you have just printed up and put them to some good use aside from selling off stage or to your friends!

Does this seem like a good idea to you?  Have you tried this and have any feedback?  Think I’m a raving lunatic?  Let me know in comments or by email!


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