This is not rocket science but the key ingredients of any band in attracting my attention are as follows (in order of importance more or less):
1. The Music/Songs/Talent
How good are the songs? In the end it really does come down to Music first and foremost – If I don’t find a connection with the music/singer or see the potential then you’ll never get to the second criteria. The good news is that music is VERY subjective so what one person loves another may not like at all. I usually know pretty quickly whether I like something or not but some stuff does grow on me more with repeated listens and sometimes I find stuff that I love right off and then it also continues to grow on me which is even better! Also depending upon whether I am checking out a band for publishing opportunities versus a full label deal might also determine genre and how much personal taste weighs into the mix. Country for example can be more of a challenge as far as TV placements are concerned so my publishing company has tended to not do tons of deals with country writers for example unless something really catches my ear.
2. The X Factor
That hard to quantify thing we label charisma, presence etc. … There are a lot of artists that are really talented but some just have something particular that allow them to have an extra special connection with their audience – It may be their songwriting originality, it may be their musicianship or their live show but often it is just their particular uniqueness in whatever form that shows up in. I get lots of decent sounding demos and see lots of live shows but you really know it when you see or hear something extra special.
3. The Work Ethic
How far have they come on their own? How hard are they willing to work? Is it truly their calling or do they like the “idea” of being in a band more than the reality? What kind of things have they done on their own? Do they have a lot of initiative or do they sit around and complain about the state of things without taking action? Have they set up their own shows? Do they keep their websites and social media sites current? Do they have a clear direction/set of goals? Etc.
4. The Live Show
Not that it is the case 100% of the time but a great live band who plays decent shows and is not afraid to tour will have a much easier time getting press and radio support, selling merchandise and music, and building their fanbase than one who does not. It is not always about the sheer number of shows as quality of the shows also comes into effect and also not overplaying the same spot to build a little bit of anticipation. This is fourth on the list because if you have a strong work ethic then I know that if the show is not in top form RIGHT NOW it soon will be because of your dedication. An act I signed actually resulted from seeing a band live first on a bit of a whim and the lead singer/ guitarist was so mesmerizing on stage despite a very poor PA mix. Luckily I also loved their tunes and record. Point: sometimes the order is not always the same as to what catches my attention first.
5. Goal Compatibility
Do I think that Sound of Pop is a good fit with the artist? Do I think that I can help you achieve your goals? Do I feel there is a market for your music and do I have access to that market and the expertise/experience to be a benefit to you. No matter how good you are if it’s not compatible with my strengths it’s probably not the best match.
This seems like a no brainer but life is too short to work with jerks so if everything else is in place aside from this it would be highly unlikely that I would do a deal with that person or band. This is basically a “niceness” litmus test. It’s much more enjoyable working closely with artists when those people are nice and treat everyone with respect, are open to feedback and generally positive.