|I hear every day that it's impossible for a band or singer to get a decent record deal, that it's a waste of time sending in demo's as they just go in the bin. Like most things, if you don't go about things in the right way you can waste a lot of time, effort and money with no result. The problem is similar to getting a photo published by a national newspaper. People say it's impossible for an outsider to get their picture published. The fact is that picture editors on every newspaper are desperate to find great pictures for the next edition. If you can come up with what they want, at the right moment they WILL use it and pay you for the privilege. Likewise the Music Industry NEEDS new acts and songs like a car needs gas. The Music Industry worldwide is HUGE, the simple solution is to offer the music companies what they want!
The Music Business may be huge but there are also a huge number of artists, bands, songwriters and producers wanting to get those deals. Your challenge is to rise to the top of the pile. A big slice of those people are just not good enough! The industry is awash with CDs of singers who can't sing, bands that can't play their instruments and songwriters with catalogues of boring songs! Another big slice of aspiring "talent" is perfectly competent but that's all, their demo's sound fine but are unremarkable or sound exactly like some established act. Another much smaller slice are brilliant, have all the right ingredients, but don't get signed because they are ignorant, or greedy, or arrogant, or awkward, or lazy, or...just a pain in the butt to deal with.
Take all those people away and you're left with the ones who are going places! Let's assume you're in this category!
Now you need to do just two things.
1. Make yourself into the perfect investment vehicle for a music business company
2. Identify which people, companies or deals, are best suited to your situation.
Make yourself into the perfect investment.
Whatever type of music you're into its constantly developing and so must you. Music is a fashion industry and you must be following or better still leading that fashion. The industry types you will deal with will be immersed in what's selling, what's getting the attention of the media etc and you must be as well.
You have to be the best so you should surround yourself with the best collaborators you can find. If you're a band you can't afford to have a weak member. If you're a songwriter who is better at tunes than words or the other way round, consider a co-writing partnership to bring in those skills you lack. Quality should be at the heart of everything you do. It's better to record a three-track demo well than a hurried 6 tracks. Take the time and make it better! Don't try to do everything yourself. It's already a long shot that your act has the potential to be worldwide stars. It's unlikely you will also be a brilliant producer, recording engineer, publicist, graphic designer, photographer, webmaster, researcher, plugger....
The next thing is profile. You have to be famous to sell a lot of records and get people queuing to get into your shows. Labels spend vast amounts of money promoting artists to the media to get that all important airplay, TV appearance and magazine space and guess what, the media prefers to feature people who are already famous! If you were an A&R guy, given the choice, you would sign an act which has already made a name for themselves, it makes the project a whole lot cheaper. So, you need to take every opportunity to get your music reviewed in any media available, enter competitions, put up your website (please not black), build a fan-base (and get their e-mail addresses), do shows and create a buzz, so you have plenty to shout about. Ideally when your demo arrives the reaction should be "Oh yeah I've heard about these guys."
What do you know about the business side of music? Do you know about copyrights? Do you know the difference between performance, mechanical and broadcast royalties and how you collect them? Have you thought about what a recording, management or publishing contract should cover? Do you know the difference between a recording deal and a licensing deal? Do you know the two basic kinds of publishing deal? Would you know the difference between a fair contract and a rip-off? If you don't you may miss out on a good deal or you could lose vast amounts of money with a successful career built on a bad deal. Educate yourself in these things, entertainment lawyers cost a fortune so you could save $1000 just by skipping the basic explanations if you know what they're talking about from the start.
Talking of education it's amazing how many letters and e-mails I get with the simplest spelling and grammatical mistakes. It creates a poor impression. If your demo arrives with a press release and biography full of errors maybe your demo won't even make it to the player!
2- Identifying the right deal
Right, so now you are a hip act with top quality distinctive demo's, a string of media clips, a professional demo kit and an eager fan-base. Now you have to connect with the right piece of the music industry to suit your act, music and ambitions. Which is right for YOU?
These days there are many more options than in the past. The Internet can't be ignored, any act without a website would be looked on as very strange and backward. Beyond that are all the issues about how much of your music you should give away for free, on what sites and in which format.
If you can afford to record your music to master quality you have the option to manufacture and market your own records through gigs, websites, indie distribution and mail order. It's a lot of work to do properly but some acts make enough money from it to question whether they need the music business at all.
Another option if you can produce your own masters is licensing. This involves allowing a record label to manufacture and promote your recordings in a certain country or countries in return for a slice of the sales revenue. Many labels only release licensed music and find it's simpler than 'signing' acts. Licensing is a worldwide business and its possible to have a different local company promoting your recordings in various countries around the world. In some genres there are countless compilation albums being put together, all through licensing deals with artists and other labels. To help you to make these deals there are specialist, licensing brokers, who market tracks internationally, though you've probably never heard of them!
If you decide you want to sign with a record label, manager or publisher they will be basically acting as a loan company to finance your career and to use their skills and contacts to bring other people on board to make things happen.
Once you get to the stage where you are generating regular revenue getting a manager could be a good move. A good manager can provide finance for recording and promotion and give guidance to lick you into commercial shape, this is called artist development and the manager will be investing in your talent hoping to recoup it when he gets you your record deal through his industry contacts.
Most acts will write their own songs so a publishing deal may again provide some financial facilities to develop your music. On a smaller scale you may be able to do a deal for just one or two songs, which the publisher can try to get other more established acts to record and release. This can raise your profile and bring a deal of your own closer.
Record labels come in two levels Major and Indie. Basically the difference is that a Major will be a giant corporation, usually international, where an Indie can be anything from a large company to a single guy with a dream! Unknown acts pitch to Majors but the chances of getting a deal are almost nil and if it does happen the deal will be pretty bad, as they will have to spend vast amounts of money on promotion.
An Indie label will probably be your best route for your first deal as many are willing to structure things so that you can progress to a bigger outfit later when you have more of a track record to give you some bargaining power. The problem with finding an Indie label is that there are so many of them. If you operate in a specialist genre there will be fewer targets but still very many if you consider a world view.
The secret of success is to keep informed as to which labels, managers, publishers or license brokers are in a position to take on new project and exactly what type of material or act they want. In that way you can approach the right person at the right company with just what they are looking for, at the time they can use it.
This is exactly the type of information researched and published by The Bandit A&R Newsletter. Bandit has been providing hard, detailed, up to date opportunities for over seventeen years, starting in the UK but now featuring companies worldwide with a particular focus on UK and USA companies. You can choose either the US Edition, which carries features on at least ten American companies each month or the UK/Worldwide edition which carries four US features from the US edition, usually a couple in Europe, Australia and anywhere else, and the rest in the UK making up a total of twenty four
You can check out a free back issue, read some subscriber success stories, leave a note on the A&R message board or order a single issue or subscription securely on-line at www.banditnewsletter.com It's provided the first step into the music business for many acts and songwriters throughout the world, maybe
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