After all the years of legwork you finally got the ear of an A&R who wants to bring you in for a meeting. While this is exciting, there are some things you should know to better prepare yourself for this meeting.
First and foremost, show up on time. If you’re 10 minutes early, you’re late. Being punctual shows you’re professional and respectable. A perfect example is Big Pun signing his first deal with Loud Records. In a time where rappers were notorious for showing up late to meetings, Big Pun arrived at his meeting early, and without ever playing a record in the meeting, Steve Rifkind signed Big Pun.
On the other hand, showing up late is a sure-fire way to have your meeting cut short or canceled altogether. I was told a story from a former boss; he and his partner were on their way to a meeting in New York City, got caught in standstill traffic coming into the city and were 15 minutes late. Even after calling the office in advance, when they arrived, they were told the meeting had been canceled. Luckily enough, they were afforded a second chance. They left three hours early for this meeting and again got caught in standstill traffic, which led to them being late again. This time when they arrived, they were told to sit in the lobby. After sitting in the lobby waiting for hours, they were told the person they were meeting with couldn’t meet with them. They never got another meeting.
Second, understand what type of meeting you’re having. It could be an introduction to meet you and your team in-person. It could be a meeting because you have reached a tipping point in your career. It could be a meeting to present you with paperwork and/or finalize paperwork. It’s important to know this information beforehand as all these meetings require different preparation.
Third, be prepared for the meeting. Walk into the meeting knowing who you are meeting with and what you are looking for. There is nothing worse for the label representatives than to meet with artists who have an unrealistic view of what they are looking for. I heard a story about an artist walking into a meeting so high they didn’t know which label they were meeting with. On top of this, the amount they were asking for was substantially more than what they were worth. These factors made the label second guess their decision to proceed further with this artist, and the label decided on not doing the deal.
Along with being prepared personally, be prepared professionally, too. Come to the meeting with a USB containing your EPK, most recent songs, high-res photos, and blog features. The label representatives in the meeting will have done their research on you before the meeting, so while they will be aware of this information already, it is good to have to show them in person. If they ask you to sing or play an instrument, be confident, this is a common request. Take this request as a compliment, because they are genuinely interested in hearing you perform live. I have seen multiple occasions when a label representative has come to the studio and signed an artist based on their live performance.
Fourth, do your research on the label so you understand what they are looking for from their artists. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive the reaction you were looking for. Not all music is for everyone, and sometimes the music you play doesn’t resonate with the person sitting across the table. This doesn’t mean your music isn’t good, it just means the music isn’t the right fit for the person you’re meeting. A group like Griselda has outstanding music, but if they take a meeting with Ultra, the meeting might not go well. Not because the music isn’t great, but because a boom-bap hip-hop group isn’t the right fit with a dance label.
Fifth, respect everyone in the room. Treat everyone as if they are the head of the label. Conducting yourself in the right manner during these meetings can be the difference between getting signed and getting passed on. Listen to the label’s needs, business ideas, and plans. This information will show you their outline for working with you. However, remember you are courting them as much as they are courting you. Ask questions and see if your ideals align with theirs. Just as they want to illustrate why you should sign with them, you want to illustrate why they should add you to their roster.
Sixth, come to the meeting on brand. This is your opportunity to show the label who you are as an artist. As is true with everything, you only have one chance to make a first impression. The label needs to see you as you see yourself. Don’t overextend or misrepresent yourself, however. Early antics by Kanye and Diddy in meetings only worked because that’s who they were, and the outward expression was passion. On the other hand, Kendrick Lamar’s quiet nature is who he is, and staying in that character has worked wonders.
After your meeting, congratulate yourself on a job well done. If you were
disappointed with a particular aspect, note that for the next opportunity. Everyone fails, and successful people probably fail more than anyone. It’s how you deal with failure that sets you apart from the rest of the crowd.
FRANK DEMILT is a 10-year music industry veteran currently working in a consulting role as the Head of A&R/Artist Development for the Grammy award-winning music publishing company Water Music Publishing where he has collaborated with numerous Grammy & Emmy nominated/winning artists and producers. In 2021 he authored his first book, The Blueprint: A Bible For Becoming A Success Performing Artist In The Digital Age, to provide artists with a complete guide to building successful careers. He currently resides in Nashville where he works with the commercial partnerships team at Sony Music Nashville/Provident Music. Email: [email protected]