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Ask Mike!

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The venerable AskMike is a fountain of WAMA-related information. Click on one of the topics below for answers to common queries... (Warning: some of AskMike's answers are more tongue-in-cheek than others)

... or just e-mail the guy if what you have in mind isn't there!

I'm a new manager without contacts in the music business - how do I go about getting my group's music heard?

(This question was answered by the renowned music business manager Michael Oberman.)

Don't waste paper or time and money with long distance calls. Most A & R reps don't even return calls of managers with track records. There are several other ways to go about getting your acts' tapes heard.

Some would suggest that you try stalking a major label A & R god. Wait outside their office building, grab one - take him/her to a deserted warehouse in Secaucus. Play your tape over a 20,000 watt system - you'll have to set up the system (at your expense) before the godnapping. To assure his attention, tell him your act is from the buzz city of the time. Also tell him he can hear the act live in a club that is close to an area where there are plenty of hookers.

AskMike suggests that you try the following: Contact an entertainment industry attorney and arrange for them to hear the tape - hoping they will be able to help you get it heard. Try co-managing the act with a manager who is well connected in the industry.

Study library science.

How do I get a manager while I'm still unknown?

(This question was answered by the renowned music business manager Michael Oberman.)

AskMike suggests that you might try chloroform and a blackjack. If that doesn't work, you'll probably have to shop for a manager just as you would shop for a label deal. A demo tape is your calling card to managers and management companies. First, call the manager to make sure he/she is looking for new artists and will listen to your tape. If the answer is yes - send a 3 or 4 song demo along with a photo and any pertinent press clippings. A biography is unnecessary as at this stage of your career it probably will be rather dull.

Give two to three weeks to get a response. If you don't hear back in that period of time, don't assume there is no interest. Call and politely ask if your tape has been listened to and what they think.

If they're interested after they hear the tape, they will most certainly want to hear you at a live performance. If they're still interested after they see you play in some dive in front of seven bikers then it's almost time to talk turkey.

Just as the manager has checked you out, you must check them out - track-record, honesty, contacts in the music business on a national level, etc. Remember, the manager could make or break your career. Do your homework.

The Recording Industry Sourcebook is a good reference to find names, addresses and phone numbers for management companies. Also, check with other bands in your area, radio stations, music writers, etc. In addition recording studios, music business attorneys and producers could help in your search.

Hey man, how can I get nominated for a Wammie? Do I bribe someone, or what? Is there a Wammies application? I don't get it. I joined, where's my Wammie?

Lot's of people AskMike that question. No, bribes won't help, unless you want to pay off the whole WAMA membership. If you decide to go that route, see your copy of the WAMA Pages for member addresses.

There isn't an application, either. The Wammies are voted on by the WAMA membership. The voting and nominating committee mails blank nominating ballots to paid up WAMA members. When returned, the nominating ballots are then tallied and a final ballot is created and mailed to the membership. The results of the nominating and final voting are a direct reflection of the knowledge and tastes of the membership.

The best way to influence the voting is to vote, and to encourage others to join WAMA and vote. Another AskMike suggestion would be to tell the membership about yourself by advertising in that great industry trade paper, WAMA News.

AskMike receives several calls and letters a week about how to get nominated for a Wammie. In response, AskMike would like to remind you that Wammies are nominated and voted on by the WAMA membership. You need to develop name recognition and respect among the voters.

I am a local star waiting to be discovered. I put a lot of time into recording and sending out demo tapes. I sent them to club dudes and the record companies and others in the biz. I even sent one to WAMA. No one ever calls me, not even WAMA. I think my tapes are great - what gives?

AskMike is constantly amazed at the number of tapes that come in without contact information. AskMike has a large collection of unnamed tapes or tapes without phone numbers or addresses. Many of these tapes are ones that AskMike likes or would like to contact.

AskMike says - identify yourselves. Put the artist name, contract name and phone number on the tape itself, as well as on the case and on any promo material. Sometimes tapes get separated from the promo, as was the case for the hundreds of tapes that came in for the Crosstown Jam. When the Crosstown Committee heard a tape they liked, many times they couldn't call the band.

AskMike also suggests a follow up phone call to make sure the tape was received and to find out about a good time to check back. Don't expect that great talent is going to carry you.. Be aggressive - but try not to be obnoxious.

How come WAMA doesn't have more alternative music in the Crosstown Jam? And, why don't you ever do anything at the 9:30 Club?

Actually, AskMike hears that quite a lot, but about different genres of music. People ask, "Why isn't there more Jazz or more Big Band or Go Go or Metal or Polka music?" WAMA is committed to presenting all musical styles, but that must be based on the resources that are available. We consider whether our volunteers have enough knowledge to assemble and promote a show with a particular style of music. For instance, not a lot of our volunteers have a background in Polka music. Then we consider whether we have the right venue and the right groups. If a good club, for say - metal, is available and the volunteers believe that we have a show that will be successful - then we do it. It's that simple. On-the-other hand if we don't have the resources to promote a show properly, it serves no one to force it.

As for the 9:30 Club, we would be pleased to do shows there. However, the decision is not ours alone. It is based on many factors including whether a date is available, and if the club is willing to donate 100% of the door to charity. Operating a club is a tough business, each club must weigh for themselves whether a Crosstown Jam show is in their best interest. For whatever reason, the 9:30 Club did not choose to participate. That does not mean that WAMA doesn't want to promote Alternative music.

How do I find opportunities to sing for commercial promotions/productions? There are often vocalists/singers used in radio and television promos, lottery commercials, product and business commercials, film soundtracks, etc. Is that kind of work being done here in Washington? If commercial promos are handled by independent production companies, could you tell me how to contact them?

Most major recording studios in the area do the business to which you refer. AskMike will forward a list of production companies specializing in that type of work.

In the mean time you could call area studios for suggestions to get you started. Check your WAMA Pages in the Studio section. Washington, Baltimore and Richmond are filled with many advertising agencies that handle both local and national advertising clients. The Federal Government, state governments, county governments and private industry produce tons of documentaries and instructional videos.

I was thinking about becoming a WAMA member until I heard that you must have six commercial releases to your credit. Is there another way of joining, or do I have to wait until my career catches up? By-the-way, is it true that when you join WAMA you can vote for the Grammies?

Membership in the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) and membership in the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) are completely separate.

The main requirement for WAMA membership is an interest in our region's music. All you have to do is fill-out an application and make your payment to WAMA. Full voting membership in NARAS (the Grammy people) requires that you have released six commercial recordings. Associate membership does not have this requirement. The reason for the confusion is, as printed on the October/November 1992 WAMA News, that WAMA and the Philadelphia Music Alliance (PMA) have formed the organizing committee for the new mid-Atlantic chapter of NARAS. But, I repeat, NARAS and WAMA are separate organizations.

All the time people are saying, "Hey man, volunteer for a WAMA committee." You know AskMike, I only have so much time. I work full time and I've got to keep the band going. What I want to know is, why should I volunteer? What's in it for me? You gonna give me a Wammie or something?

Ask not what your WAMA can do for you, but what you can do for your WAMA. Consider this: By working for our music community, you actually serve yourself.

When you volunteer with WAMA, you meet people in the industry and they have the opportunity to find out about you. Volunteering helps to develop the local music industry; which in turn makes it easier for you to develop your own career. Volunteers are able to work with professionals in the music business and learn new and useful skills.

AskMike can think of several volunteers who have advanced to new jobs in the business as a result of having worked for WAMA. So you see, working for the community is an excellent method of self- advancement, coupled with a sense of accomplishment. And yes, maybe you will get a Wammie because more people know you and your work.
Copyright © 2000 by Washington Area Music Association.
Washington Area Music Association