There are many, many wonderful things about music industry conventions and conferences like the TAXI Road Rally, Folk Alliance, or South by Southwest (SXSW), and handing someone your music on CD in person is one of the biggest career-propelling opportunities available at such events. So, it’s important that you make a good impression when you do.
Here, then, are 7 Pro Tips to keep in mind when preparing your CD package to give to people you meet:
1. Identify Yourself
Everything in the music industry runs on relationships between people, not organizations. So if you are in a band or other organization, just having the band or company name on the CD is NOT ENOUGH! You must identify yourself as a person. Even if you only have one name (as I do), people need to have an individual to identify with, especially with the potentially hundreds of people they meet at the event. If your CD is just for your band, then make sure to include something (e.g., a business card) with YOUR name on it along with the CD.
2. Include Contact Info
There is no point in handing someone a CD to listen to if they’re not able to get back to you after the fact. At a minimum, include an e-mail address in your CD package. A phone number, Facebook link, and website URL are also good to include. You want people to have every opportunity to get hold of you, so give them multiple options if you can. But the e-mail address is a must.
3. Put Your Contact Info On The Physical CD
Since the case and the disc are likely to get separated at some point in the future, it’s always best to have your contact info on the CD itself. If that’s not practical (e.g., your CD disc’s face is already printed), then your CD and your contact info need to be physically tied together somehow, so they don’t get separated in the hustle and bustle of the event and afterwards. Ideally, place your business card inside the CD case/sleeve. If you can’t do that, then place a printed sticker containing your contact info on the front of the CD case, or simply tape the CD case and card together (both of those options are better than your contact info getting lost).
4. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Songs
With all the people we meet at an industry event, it’s very easy to lose a mental image of someone shortly after the fact. By including a photo of yourself on your CD and/or business card, you’ll be presenting others with an un-fading mental image of you to take with them. If the photo on your CD is very stylized (i.e., it’s artistically very cool, but doesn’t really look like you), then you might want to include a “straighter” shot (preferably with you smiling!) on your business card as well. A really basic snapshot will do just fine for this purpose. A good example of this is songwriter Debra Gussin, who used an excellent shot of herself with a friendly smile, sitting next to a piano in front of a wall of gold and platinum records. It not only reminds people what she looks like, it also suggests the positivity she feels about her music career!
Here are the front and back of Debra’s business card:
5. A Fancy Package Or Full-length, Professionally-packaged CD Is NOT Necessary
Professionally-packaged CDs are very expensive to produce. It’s okay to extract your three or four best songs from your professionally-packaged CD and put them into a more basic but still professional-looking package (e.g., a printed disc in a paper sleeve). People in the industry are used to receiving music this way; unless you’re a band/artist looking for a record deal, you don’t need to get “extra points” for a full package – your MUSIC will speak for you, regardless. Also, single discs in paper sleeves take up a quarter to a third less space, so they’re easier for people to pack and take home in their luggage.
6. If You Have A CD With A Lot Of Tracks, Identify The Key 3 Or 4 That You Would Like People To Listen To
This accomplishes two things: first, it forces you to seriously consider what your truly strongest three or four songs are; and second, it saves the person time sifting through your entire CD. Three or four songs are plenty to let them know what you and your music are all about.
7. Categorize Or Otherwise Narrow Down The Music Selections On The CD
This practice means you’re being extra-considerate to recipients of your music. For example, at one TAXI Road Rally, I received a 3-track CD with the following description on it: “3 DEMO SHORTS: Country/Singer-songwriter, Rock/Blues, Instrumentals.” That’s perfect! It tells me exactly which track(s) to go to depending on my role and reason for listening/providing feedback to the submitter (in this case, Terry Gorka of Three Chord Rope Productions – extra kudos, Terry!).
Here’s what Terry’s CD looked like:
And the winner is… drum roll, please… writer/artist Luke Davids! Here’s a collage the CD package that Luke presented at that same TAXI Road Rally, showing the CD sleeve front and back, disc face, and business card front and back:
Luke did submit a professionally-packaged CD, but that’s not what made the package impressive. It had the following characteristics:
- Just a single cardboard sleeve – no shrink wrap, no plastic CD case. There’s no waste, it takes up very little room for transport, and it’s easy to open.
- An excellent photo of Luke’s face on the back of the CD case (when I saw the photo, I recognized him instantly and remembered talking to him at the Road Rally).
- A nice, big, easily-readable sticker with 1) all of his contact info; 2) a list of three “recommended tracks” on the back of the CD sleeve.
- Both contact info and recommended tracks on the face of the physical disc as well (extra points!).
- A simple business card, inserted in the CD sleeve, with excellent photo on the front and contact info on the back.
It’s The Little Things…
While each of the items above might not seem like a big deal by itself, the more of them you follow, the better results you’ll get from your CD package. It’s the attention to the little details — and the consideration of others that they imply — that that can add up to a big win. As someone who has received many hundreds of CDs from music conference attendees over the years, I can attest that anything that makes my job easier will likely move a CD to the top of the pile and add points for the submitter — even before I hear their music!
Do you have any additional suggestions that might help others get the most out of their CD package? In particular, are there any little things that made a surprisingly big difference for you? I’d love to hear about them, so please comment below.