How do I get a record deal?
How do I get signed?
These are still the most common questions we get from musicians. There was a moment in time when it seemed like record labels would become obsolete but that day never arrived. They still have tremendous potential upside for an artist’s career provided that the deal that is struck is an equitable one. That said, these questions are often asked by aspiring artists who have yet to lay the groundwork to increase their odds of such a partnership. There are absolutely artists who get signed seemingly with very little work put in and without apparent reason but keep in mind that music is subjective. It’s also good to keep in mind that while it may seem that there was very little work put in there is often a great deal going on behind the scenes. Lightning does strike for certain people but it’s the exception to the rule. Here are some things to work on to increase your odds of getting a deal.
Be Great at Your Craft and Be Patient
It’s such a stock answer and I feel lame mentioning it but it’s true. Practice (not only your voice and instrument but your writing) and don’t rush releasing or shopping product. Get feedback and wait until one of your most critical (and brutally honest) friends gives you the thumbs up. There is a general feeling out there that music is just an innate talent. While there is some truth to this, talent is also putting in a ton of work. Remember the world isn’t waiting on your first batch of songs. Take your time, get better at what you do and get your first release right.
Make Sure Your Presentation is Professional
If you have to apologize for anything in your presentation don’t promote yourself or shop to labels just yet. You can’t say “I haven’t gotten around to it yet” or “I didn’t have the money to hire a professional to do x.” If you don’t present yourself as a professional who is committed to making a living at this neither industry nor consumers will take you seriously. Keep in mind that the production, mix and master of your songs should be of competitive quality. The same is true with your photos, artwork, social media presence and fan interaction of all kinds.
Collaborate and Make Connections With Other Artists
Musicians often overlook one of the most important connections within our industry- other musicians! Aligning yourself with as many other talented musicians as possible, in addition to cross promoting your music to the other act’s fan base, increases your chances at having friends and contacts who are more successful than you are. Proximity to success can yield favors to advance your career and recommendations to industry people who are hard to approach with a cold call. The same goes for your collaborators in the studio. Getting a credit from a more established musician or producer on your recordings provides a talking point that can separate you from the crowd.
A potentially career ending mistake waiting around for help. This is not to say you shouldn’t seek help from industry professionals and network for potential partners but it’s important to learn about all of the promotional tools available to artists and to put them in place on your own. It is much easier to convince someone in the industry to partner with you if you are in the process of building a business around your music. Keep in mind that everyone wants to be part of something that has momentum and the industry appreciates that one of the biggest indicators of future success is existing success.