It may sound like complete twaddle at first.
“Get a better response to my music demo submissions by writing my own rejection? Are you crazy?”
Depending on whom you ask, you may get a yes. However, when it comes to writing your own rejection email to get the improved results you seek, the approach isn’t as crazy as it sounds. How do I know? Because I’ve done it—and experienced those results—and in this short article, I’m going to show you how to do it for your own music submissions. But first, let me assure you.
I’m no special case, meaning I don’t have some special email list of elite music industry insiders. Like thousands of other creatives, I’m regularly faced with nameless email addresses and faceless online song submissions forms, all of which can be as rewarding as a rectal exam.
For years, I wrote submission emails according to the advice of online “experts” about “best practices,” “song submission etiquette” and “dos and don’ts.” I wrote emails like I was writing exams. That is, there appeared to be “right answers” to writing emails for song submissions. When I couldn’t get so much as a “thanks but no thanks,” I figured I was doing something horribly wrong. So I knuckled down and researched the “right answers” even harder. Yet I still got the same flat-line results.
Now I wasn’t so naïve to believe that the strength of a well-written email alone was going to convince some record company to snap up my music for one of their artists or shoot me into a studio to record my own album. The strength of my music was the most important thing. And if someone liked it, any attached email probably wasn’t going to detract from that (rejection-style or otherwise). The trouble was, without any feedback, I had no idea whether I was wasting someone’s time (and my own) because I didn’t know whether my emails were reaching a real human or some email address directly connected to a trash folder.
So I chucked the “experts” and their email advice. Instead, I borrowed a page from my marketing experience as a copywriter and sent the following email to an overseas record company along with a song demo:
Dear [XXXXX Record Company],
Two things you don’t know about me as a songwriter:
I’ve been writing songs for many years.
You’ve never heard of me.
Okay, you DO know that you’ve never heard of me, because I just told you that. So scratch that last point.
I’ll start again.
If [XXXXX Record Company] is currently seeking songs to present to its artists, I’d like to present the attached MP3 for consideration.
The song is called XXXXX, a rough demo recorded with a folk guitar, Abelton Live Lite and me warbling along on vocals as best I can to give you an idea of how the song could sound with a more awesome singer in a better recording studio.
If XXXXX appeals to you, I’d be pleased to chat with you further about that, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the song doesn’t work for you, I’ve provided the following cut-and-paste reply for your convenience:
Thank you for your song submission. We can see that you’re an enthusiastic and talented songwriter (and oddly charming, to boot). Unfortunately, one or both of the following things applies here:
We do not accept unsolicited song submissions.
We decided to pass on your song, even though we suspect another company will turn your song into a monster hit and we’ll totally regret sending you this rejection.”
(Yup, I went there. I played the guilt card.) 🙂
Thanks tremendously for your time, and I look forward to your feedback.
Within a short period of time, I started getting replies to submissions at about a 3-4% response rate (considered fair to good in direct marketing) based on how I’d written my email according to some key rules of copywriting:
- I’d written in a friendly conversational tone that avoided desperation or anything along the “what can you do for me” line. Instead, I wrote with a value-based offering that said, “I’m writing to offer you something that may help you.”
- I didn’t try to convince anyone that my song was “the best song ever!” They’d listen to it and make up their own mind about that. It was enough to just mention I’d attached a song.
- I made it simple and convenient for anyone to actually reply to me. No one needed to take time out of their busy day to write a single word. All they had to do was copy and paste what I’d given them and shoot it back. Said another way, all they had to do was press the Easy Button, and the incentive to actually press it came from a light blend of disarming humor.
And here’s the most important bit.
I started getting replies from actual people using their actual email addresses.
This is one of the most valuable resources you can collect as a solo artist or band submitting your music to someone, and why you may want to consider the rejection-style email or some other email style at which the “experts” would scoff.
You may initially face a wall of nameless email addresses and faceless submission forms. And there’s no guarantee that someone will hear your music the same way that you do. Yet the sooner you can find ways that work for you to get past those walls and reach real people on the other side, you start collecting real email addresses for real conversations, which are always better for getting you closer to the artistic success you seek.