It’s not easy landing a record deal.
It’s labour-intensive, time-consuming and the results of your efforts are either hard-won or entirely fruitless.
Most record deals made with major labels or big indies are achieved because a band has established itself as a demonstrated and marketable brand.
The only real obstacle to your success, then, is convincing a label of your true value.
How to make the A&Rs pursue you
Start by inverting the way you regard the music industry.
First and foremost the industry is a business. A little-known fact is that getting signed to a label is less about the luck-of-the-draw and more about what active steps you’re taking to minimise the way you’re perceived as a potential financial risk.
Establish yourself as an investment with the capacity to yield high returns and you will quickly experience a marked shift in the way labels see you.
Be the flame
Stop chasing your tail and do the groundwork.
Nowadays, labels are less about artist development and more about talent acquisition.
Labels are drawn to, and look to acquire, bands that have worked to attain a certain marketable level. This minimises their need to invest time and resources in you and maximises your ability to generate immediate sales.
Best ways to make yourself ripe for the picking:
The harsh reality is that labels don’t sign terrible live bands, so having a killer live show is absolutely critical.
Make a list of 50 bands you would like to support: 10 small, 20 medium and 20 big bands. Start by setting yourself achievable goals with local bands. Contact their managers, go to their gigs, give them your music.
Back yourself: if you can’t sell your music, why should anyone else??
2. Radio friendly
Labels look at bands who write songs that work well for radio as well as stand alones. Keep this in mind when recording your album.
3. Social media
Master your social media channels and build a firm fanbase.
Bringing a solid fanbase to the negotiating table serves the dual function of demonstrating your value as an artist and highlighting your commitment to making the business arrangement work for both parties.
4. Track record
Labels examine your past releases, EPs, albums, how many records you have sold, how many units of merchandise you have shifted, how many tickets to shows you have moved, whether you have achieved radio airplay, how many people have signed up to your mailing list, whether your album has pre-orders as well as the size of your fanbase.
Ticking the above boxes shines a light on your potential; no longer just an individual chasing a dream but a legitimate brand.
The difference between getting a good deal and a bad deal, therefore, is your ability to make money.
DIY musician and digital distribution
Getting a record deal isn’t the only way to have your music heard.
A practical alternative many musicians are now exploring is self-releasing with independent online services such as CD Baby and TuneCore that reliably distribute through all major digital music channels such as iTunes and Spotify.
Key take aways
Develop your brand early.
Ultimately, labels sign a product that is ready to go. Proving yourself as a known entity and sound investment is the most effective way to get your foot in the door of the music industry.
Next week we’ll shed light on the best strategies to self-release an album.
Need help with your strategy? Email us or ask a question in the comments section below!
About the author: Sarah Lynch is content manager and all round creative spark at Jaden Social, a Digital music marketing agency based in Sydney. To hear more social media and marketing musings from Sarah, you can catch her for weekly instalments on the Jaden Social blog or follow her on Twitter.