Databases pretty much never work – unless you pay…. and even then you gotta take what you can get. I mean on a surface level that makes sense. Like everything else in the freemium age, the good stuff is hidden behind a paywall and I think we are all to eager to ignore. However – at least when you get past paywalls for most other services you have some guarantee that they will come through. Unfortunately with databases this is not the case. Why? Because databases require a human element on the other end. This isn’t asking some programmer to give you access to the cool thing he created, this is you asking for email addresses for people who are probably already bogged down with work.

I’ve been frustrated lately trying to get some of my clients onto the summer festival circuit. It’s not exactly an easy path to take, and why? Because of the fundamental rule of the music industry – no one cares until you make them care. So many people in this industry simply aren’t going to be interested, because they have hundreds of other people asking for the same thing. That’s not the point of this article though – even if I have talked about it before. What I want to really get into is the importance of personal connections – and what that means for you.

Why Databases Don't Work - Understanding Cold Calling In The Music Industry

The reason that databases of anything don’t work in music is that you are basically always asking for favors – and that’s fine, that’s how the system works. But still – you are asking for favors. For example, the website Do DIY is a great resource – but the percentage of responses you are going to get is hilariously small, because in music cold calling rarely works. The same goes for services that offer to send your bands record to four hundred blogs for $100. Yeah – you get what they offer, but with a lack of personal connection then what they offer really isn’t worth it. Unless you are a big name band most people probably aren’t going to take an interest. That’s why people shell out for big producers, fancy studios and top notch PR companies. Not because those things are going to be by default better, this is the internet age, you can technically do this all on your own. Instead these things matter because they have a name behind them and they make people care. If you get Billy Anderson or Sanford Parker to work with you at Morrissound people’s ears are going to perk up – even if it is your first EP!

In the modern music industry, radio play means nothing, press only matters if people click and the world is literally crashing down around us. I’m not really sure what to make of this whole thing but neither is anybody else. I mean – we’re coming up in a sort of post apocalyptic wasteland and realizing nothing has changed. Crusty Pete in Camden might really like your band if he bothered to listen to them and maybe even book that show you want at the Crab Shack. That doesn’t matter though, since you reached out to a listed email and not through your friend Pretty Boy who happens to know Crusty Pete from the Extortionist days. In a world of constant demand almost no one cares. You are going to get a lot further by making friends than by just reaching out to strangers.

Why Databases Don't Work - Understanding Cold Calling In The Music Industry

That’s part of why it’s important to be a big contributor in your scene. So that when the time comes for you to ask for something people will want to do it. This entire thing is a system of checks and balances, screw ups and ameliorations. You are either with us or against us, you can either support the scene or make it suffer. This isn’t a question of pouring money into going to every show you can. No – it is much more one of being willing to sacrifice your free time to help the musicians you love. It’s being willing to go out and realize what really matters to you – and then acting on it. In a day and age where few people care about anything, getting even a handful of folks to act on what they like can change everything.

This is a perfect example of the 80/20 rule or even the 95/5 rule – the famous notion that 20% of the people do 80% of the work, or as some slightly more nihilistic types suggest, 5% do 95% of the work. If you look around you at the music industry though you realize that it is nowhere near the democratic place we all hoped the internet and technology would make it. Instead you have people more bogged down than ever having to deal with more requests than ever from people who don’t really ‘get it’. It creates a cycle of overwork and stress that could drive anyone insane.

Why Databases Don't Work - Understanding Cold Calling In The Music Industry

That being said – there definitely is some merit to getting a big ol’ masterlist of venues and reaching out to every single one of them. Festivalnet for example has helped me set up a handful of solid dates for a client of mine and Do DIY has come up in the clutch in a few others. These aren’t things you can rely on though and if you are – then I’m sorry to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Instead you need to stand up and be ready to fight for a future that isn’t at all certain. I can guarantee you that at some point you will stay up all night and send emails – and the few connections you do make will be worth it. Just remember that the connections made will be minimal – that’s just how this goes.

Simply put – databases are not whats going to help you. One email to someone you have a solid connection with is worth more than a thousand to people you do not. Sure you might get a few more results, but if that connection really is true then it will lead to results organically and on its own. The music industry is hardly a fount of infinite money, and it’s largely held together by people working on passion alone and desperately hoping that they don’t accidentally destroy the cool thing that we have created here. It all hangs by a thread and it’s partially up to you to help keep it going. Don’t go out and act on some stupid rumors. Yes – you do have to spend long nights going through databases sometimes, and its admirable to put in the hours simply because you have to, but realize that more than anything else what ‘s going to carry you through is what got you into this in the first place – your friends.

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