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How To Get A Record Deal

Updated on September 20, 2012

So You Want To Be A Rock Legend?

You formed a band, wrote a load of great songs, practiced them until you are blue in the face, worked on you stage prescence, your look, your attitude. You have all the key ingredients to being the next big thing so what now? If you can honestly say you tick all these boxes then read on. Otherwise go back to the practice room, a label won't touch you until you have ticked all these boxes.

For the few of you left reading this I am going to share some of the secrets of getting a deal. Although I never got a record deal myself I know a few people who did so I think I have a bit of an insight to this topic.

Getting a Deal

Finding a record deal is the holy grail for most bands and artists and with the kind of opportunities the involvment of a label brings (professional managment, recording in decent studios) its not hard to see why. But is a deal all its cracked up to be? Well its certainly not a guarantee of superstardom, for instance did you know that over 90% of artists and bands who get a deal do not go on to release anything? Probably not what you wanted to hear but you need to be aware that a record label is a business and, like any other business, will use any low down dirty rotten trick it can to secure its bottom line. One particularly nasty trick they sometimes employ is when they are investing heavily in a new band they will sign up other bands of a similar ilk who are coming through to keep their competitors from signing them and reducing the market competition for their own band, like I said its a cut throat business.

Things are even more difficult at the moment as the music industry is in a transitional phase, now digital downloads and sites like itunes have become hugely popular, no one is really sure what record contracts are going to look like in the future if indeed they even exist at all. The Arctic Monkeys proved a few years ago that you don't need label support to get your music out there. They used a combination of the traditional method of playing loads of gigs and building a fanbase, and a highly effective viral internet marketing campaign so that when the time came the record labels were lining up to sign them and they could take their pick of deals. As time goes on, more and more bands are proving its possible to make their mark without a label to back them up, and you could too!

Making Contact

OK so you've been to the studio and made your demo, its time to send it out to the record labels. You need to put together a press pack right? Wrong! At one time it was the standard thing for bands to make a 3 track demo, bundle it together with a 4 page biog, a few photos and send it all off in a jiffy bag. Nowadays there is nothing stopping you putting all that on a facebook page and emailing out a link to it, its certainly more convenient for the A&R man. At the end of the day the labels are looking for only two things, great songs and a proven fan base. If you can show you have both these things then you are in with a good chance of further negotiations.

It has bever been easier than it is now to get in touch with labels, most list email addresses for their A&R people on their websites, some even write their own blogs and it is worth researching these things before you make a submission. One of the biggest topics an A&R blogger will talk about is their own pet peeves when dealing with unsigned bands sending in CDs. Read through these things and find out which people want email links, who prefers a physical CD in the post, whether they like pictures, biogs. I'll be surprised if any of them are interested in reading 3 pages of a contrived biog about how you are the future of music (that you spent hours and hours writing and sounded really good at 4am last night) but this is the way to find out.

Why Did You Start A Band?

What was your main reason for wanting to be in a band?

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Signing The Deal

So you've sent your demo off and they liked it and want to sign you! Unless you are the Arctic Monkeys and can take your pick of deals, you are most likely to be offered a contract that sounds amazing but when you check the small print is a total rip off. There will normally be an advance offered which will sound huge, quarter of a million, half a million, but before you rush out and buy that jetski you always fancied remember the label will expect the cost of all your studio time, video shoots, and any other services they arrange on your behalf to come out of it. Then all the people in your band will have to survive on it for anything up to a couple of years, or as long as it takes to get a record out and selling. Once you do have some music for sale you wont be earning anything as your advance is basically a loan guaranteed against future record sales, and you won't see any royalties until you recoup your advance in 2-3 albums time. Another thing to watch out for is contracts that ask you to sign over the publishing rights to your music. Personally I would never accept a contract like that as publishing is potentially your biggest future revenue stream. Hand it over and they have the right to sell your music to mobile phone adverts, MacDonalds, or even movie soundtracks and you wont see a penny of it.

The best move you can make when offered a deal is to secure the services of a good music lawyer. They will know what is and isn't acceptable terms on a recording contract and will steer you in the right direction, and often just the fact that you have a lawyer will get you a fairer contract from the off.

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