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Getting discovered at cyberspace ‘Schwab’s’

There used to be only one way for musicians to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. In old Hollywood, actor hopefuls could always try their luck at Schwab’s Drugstore. Today, you can go online.

Music attorney Danny Hayes of Nelson, Guggenheim, Felker & Levine has been using online bulletin boards to successfully advance the career of at least one of his clients, an alternative music artist who possesses a similar-sounding name – Haze.

So far, attorney Hayes has used E-mail to generate a cornucopia of industry contacts and to distribute singer/songwriter Haze’s demo tape to executives at record companies and radio stations. At the same time, he’s also contacted music journalists and built substantial grassroots fan support online. Hayes is confident that Haze will be signed and that she’ll have product released in July.

Ironically, Hayes found the Net the old-fashioned way: through word of mouth. His father suggested it. Last March, Hayes fils was talking with his father about ways to inform the industry that his client had just been awarded Best Alternative Music Tape at the SXSW (South by Southwest) music conference in Austin, Tex. At that point, his father suggested using American Online.

Although skeptical at first, Hayes was amazed at the response his initial online posting generated and the number of requests he got for his client’s tape. Subsequently, the more he learned about how to use Email services, such as the directories of independent record labels and how to assemble mailing lists, the more industry contacts he was able to generate.

“All of a sudden,” he recounts, “Boom! I wasn’t sending out three tapes, I was sending out boxes of them. It got to the point where we sent out 200 tapes through contacts made on America Online.”

And the response was shocking. Instead of the normal form letter he’d been accustomed to receiving, Hayes discovered that the record execs he’d reached online were not only accessible, they were supportive. Most amazing, Hayes recalls, even if they didn’t like the music, they responded personally anyway.

“I was shocked that major A& R people took the time out to call me on the phone and tell me they didn’t like the tape. And I know they wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t met them through a non-threatening channel like America Online.”

While conceding that he wouldn’t recognize any of his contacts at a party, and vice-versa, Hayes believes that there’s something about the non-personal nature of the medium that’s made the contacts more effective and allowed him to reach so many more people.

“I’ve been able to triple my contact base in months by going online.”

That’s because it’s controlled, he surmises. “You don’t call up and they don’t have to talk to you for 15 minutes. You’re not going to ask them twenty questions. And they don’t have to go out to lunch. You’re not intruding on their work day. It can be done really quickly.”

Musician Haze, who is an avid onliner now, also has a theory about why the Net has been so effective for her.

“Everybody loves to hear that little ‘You’ve got mail’ announcement (when a user logs on),” she explains.

Hayes and Haze also appreciate the way online services have fed fans’ continual craving for the next “new” thing.

“There’s a whole market out there with people who want to be the first to know about something,” explains Danny Hayes. “By the time you’re in Billboard, they’ve already dumped you because now you’re a sellout. You’re ‘commercial.’ They want to be the first to know, and they want to be already over you by the time you’re breaking.”

Speaking of knowing her when, the only online accoutrement of success left for Haze is about to fall into place. She currently has a web page under construction which is expected to be up soon. Her Email address is CoolHaze@aol.com.

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