The following is a guest post by Jason Davis.
Jason Davis is a music business veteran with two decades of experience. He’s co-founder and president of multiple companies including One One 7, Radar Label Group, Noble Management, and Awaken Records. He has worked with artists such as P. Diddy, Boyz II Men, Jay-Z, Dolly Parton, Lonestar, and many more. He and his clients have secured record deal offers from several of the largest music companies in the world, including Capitol, Sony, Interscope, Island / Def Jam, Epic, Atlantic and RCA. In this article Jason shares his perspective on how an artist can potentially land a record deal in the modern business.
Larry Page stated the key to success is “Always deliver more than expected.” Making it in the music industry is no different. In order for an artist to be successful or increase the odds of getting signed by a record label, musicians must understand what labels want, know what makes a label profitable, and think of themselves as entrepreneurs.
The changes within the industry have labels taking fewer risks with their money, and with so many talented singers flooding the market, it is nearly impossible to obtain attention unless you are extremely well connected as well as an exceptional talent. Consequently getting signed to a label is more difficult now than ever before. This makes it critical for an artist to bring more to the table than expected in all aspects of their career. In order to achieve recognition, the song quality, work ethic, reputation, loyalty, performance ability, presence and current music industry contacts must place them above the noise.
The bottom line is, all labels are looking for a hit song. The music has to capture the attention of fans and the Industry professionals alike and that means there has to be a balance between creativity and marketability. Having a defined brand – so the appropriate audience can be targeted – has to play a role in song choice and development.
Also, many songwriters and artists in the music industry who are successful have written religiously for several years. They were writing fifty plus songs a year, releasing new material every year, and really developing their craft before things started moving for them. An artist has to work on songwriting by writing and coming up with new concepts regularly.
And quality in every aspect is key. The difference between a good and a great recording is immediately noticeable, and having a professional sounding recording is a reflection of an artist’s own professionalism. Make the investment to make the music that everyone will want to hear, because a label wants to see the effort an artist has made before committing their own finances.
Contrary to popular belief, nobody really becomes famous overnight. Even those who appear to have done so have put in extensive time and effort into all aspects of their career. It’s been said that “patience is a virtue” and in this industry, it’s a required personality trait. The individuality, reputation, work ethic and reactions to challenges within the musical journey convey an enormous amount to a record label. With social media being at the forefront of today’s societal interactions, social media platforms must have the same level of professionalism as the artist themselves and must be a reflection of the artist’s brand. It’s not enough to “talk the talk”; artists must “walk the walk” if they want to be a true artist.
It’s not enough to have amazing vocals. In order to potentially gain record label attention an artist has to be constantly working on becoming the best singer, while also concentrating on what makes them unique as an artist. This is what will differentiate a great technical singer and a true stylist. To be a true stylist, a singer needs to hone in on the uniqueness of their voice. Once known as a great talent with a distinctive sound, networking will become easier and opportunities often increase.
How the music industry makes money has dramatically changed over the last several years. Touring is now often the cornerstone of the profit seen by artists and labels alike. For that reason, labels want to know if an artist is already performing. Having a strong stage presence is absolutely critical to making it in the Industry. If a label knows an artist is already drawing in a crowd, they know the potential for a favorable profit margin exists which increases the possibility of an artist being signed. An artist should be performing 4 to 8 times a month. The amount of performances will also demonstrate an artist’s work ethic.
Lastly, an artist can’t succeed in the industry without true passion. Their exhilaration for music has to come through in their songs, professionalism, reputation, ethics and brand. Personality combined with talent, are keys that can make all the difference for a musician. If an artist can put themselves in the shoes of the label and treat their music as a business they have much wisdom to gain and a better chance at notoriety.