Written by Phillip Mlynar for LA Weekly, published October 6, 2011.
Most aspiring music artists who hope to get noticed nowadays have similar, tired routines. They post their songs for free, spam the usual social networks, and then sit back and wait for Jimmy Iovine to call.
Yet L.A.-based artist Vex Ruffin took a different route. The hip-hop-producer-turned-singer actually mailed in his demo CD to Stones Throw Records, with a stamp on it and everything! He somehow got label boss Peanut Butter Wolf to listen to the thing, and recently signed with them. The first fruit is his The Crash Course EP, which reflects his childhood taste, ie '80s new wave goth and rambunctious Ruff Ryders rap. The EP was released on September 20th; a full-length is due next year.
So he's a success! And you can be too. Below are five tips from Ruffin on submitting a demo tape and actually getting signed. As a bonus, you can hear his original demo track for the song "Total Destruction" right after the break.
"Total Destruction" demo. (It's a West Coast Sound exclusive, y'all.)
5. Carefully Choose The Labels You Submit To
"I mailed my demo to [six or seven] labels. For Stones Throw, I just looked at artists like James Pants and Gary Wilson and Dam Funk, and because I was a fan of the label for so long I just thought that I'd be a good fit. I have my hip-hop background — I started off making hip-hop beats, just like all the other artists on that label — so I thought I'd fit in, even though I don't make straight-up hip-hop now."
4. Stand Out With Your Cover Art
"I drew a cover for the demo. I really think that's what made Wolf want to listen to the music. I did this half-robot man; he kinda looked like Stargate SG-1, like a machine robot. It was just little scribbles and scrabbles. And all I wrote as a message was, "Vex Ruffin & The Lo-Fi Jerk Heads" — that was my alias back then. I just wrote all my information and left it at that."
3. Give 'Em Something To Choose From
"My demo was eight tracks. But the songs were all just scattered; there was no particular order to them. I sang on four songs and the rest were just like little beats, like these little loops sampling old rock 'n' roll songs. The songs that Peanut Butter Wolf picked were all the songs I sang on."
2. Be Confident If You Get A Call Back
"After I mailed it out, Peanut Butter Wolf hit me up the next day. None of the other labels got back to me. Stones Throw was my first choice, and Wolf got back to me on MySpace, and we started emailing each other. When we spoke, he just said: 'I like track seven, track one, blah blah blah.' Then he said, 'You should put out a seven inch.' I replied, 'Well, yeah, but I'm not really on a label. Would you like to put one out for me?' He said he would, and it went from there."
"If I had to give another artist advice on getting their demo heard, I'd definitely say, 'Pray!' Pray for your demo! Hope for the best, wish the demo good luck, and mail it out."
Here's a couple videos which weren't in the original LA Weekly article, but we thought might compliment the piece…