How To Get a Record Deal
So you are in a band and you think you have what it takes to get a record deal?
Count yourself among thousands of artists out there vying for industry attention, and trying to stand out enough to be noticed by a major label. And even then, a lot of the artists worthy of signing are making enough money independently to render a major label deal trivial. But for most, aspiring to a deal makes sense, because a major label has the marketing dollars to help an artists' career take off quickly.
Let's assume you're in that latter category. What does it take to get signed? Here are a few things that will help your cause and make you stand out:
1. Make your live show the best it can be--If a label shows any interest in your music, they will want to see your band perform to find out if you can translate that music into a stellar live show. They also will want to see how you look on stage and how the crowd reacts to you.
2. Build your own buzz--Whether you do this on your own, or with the help of a publicist, it's important to build a fan base in your hometown and regionally, and to generate as much media attention as possible. Keep all of your press clippings and make great reviews or press quotes readily available on your website. Get as much ink as you can, get on the radio, and get on TV. It's not easy at first, but the more of this you do in your home market and regionally will make everyone take notice. It's also important to send out press releases or media alerts any time your band has a big announcement (CD release, award, film/TV placement, national TV appearance).
3. Make friends with your local concert promoter--If you're good and you act professionally, they will eventually come to you for opportunities such as opening for national acts. And that's a great thing to put on your resume.
4. Have a great photo and video--Let's face it, the music is only half the equation. It's equally important to have some great color photos of your band and some great video footage that is easy to download from your website.
5. Have a great studio recording--These days there is no excuse for a crappy recording, even if you're doing that recording in your basement. This is likely what is going to form someone's first impression of you, so make it solid. But also, if you can afford it, hire a talented producer with a track record.
6. Take voice lessons--I don't know what the percentage is, but I'm going to guess that 1% of bands have the kind of vocal ability that will make a label take notice immediately. The indie music landscape is littered with mediocre singers and even singers that are very good but not great. And you have to be great to get signed.
7. Constantly work on your songwriting--No matter how good you think your songs are, trust me when I say that they could be better. Usually a lot better. It's important to work on your craft and to have great songs, because at the end of the day the music business is about songs. And don't ask your friends and relatives to critique your music--it's most important to have industry professionals weigh in with their opinions.
8. Be professional and gracious--Like any other business, the music industry is a people business. It's extremely important to be nice to everyone you encounter, but especially when you're trying to impress a label executive. And along those lines....
9. Don't waste anyone's time--Record executives do not have the time to talk to you on the phone. What's more, they receive hundreds or even thousands of e-mails per day, so if you do contact them by e-mail, make the content brief and by all means do not pester them. If they are interested enough, they will answer you or reach out to you first.
10. Make sure you want this more than anything--Because if you do, everyone will know it. Conversely, if you don't, everyone will figure that out as well.
So put your best foot forward, have fun, and best of luck!