Actually, anybody that tells you there is an exact formula you can follow to get
signed is lying. The truth is, there is no exact formula that will land you a record
deal, period. This may be disappointing for some to hear: I know I was disappointed
when I first heard the truth.
Although a record deal can sometimes come about just by being in the right place
at the right time, there are several things you can do to maximize the possibility of
attracting a major label or production company to get them interested in signing
First and foremost, be ready! Make sure your skills are developed to the point that
they can compete with the best the industry has to offer. A&R, managers, and the
like are subject to hearing some pretty awful stuff. If you can offer something that
sounds amazing, it should greatly increase your chances of getting signed.
Remember if your stuff is not as good or better than what's already out there, the
only thing your demo will have a good shot at is the office garbage can.
If you have to spend money somewhere, spend it on production and mixing. This
can't be stressed enough. It all boils down to having good product. You can do
everything in your power to attract attention to your music, but If it sucks nobody is
going to care. Although some label A&R claim they can hear talent through low
budget production, in my experience it pays to have the best sounding product you
can. Because it is sometimes extremely difficult to get heard at all, it makes sense
not to blow it when you finally do get a chance by delivering the musical equivalent
of nails on a chalk board.
Now that you've got the skills and a tight product, you should be doing everything
in your power to create a buzz for yourself. In order to do this you're going to need
a plan and a team to help you carry it out. You should be doing shows, selling CD's,
trying to get some radio support (even if it's just college radio), and doing anything
and everything else you can to get some kind of following.
It helps to have an established following, a good street team, and some strong
independent sales when seeking a record deal. The more you do on your own, the
less the label has to do, and ultimately the happier they are. In fact, A&R will often
seek you out (eg. come to your show to hear what all the fuss is about) if you've
done a really good job of promoting yourself.
Next you are going to need a manager. Now you might be thinking you want to
manage yourself. Think again. Your buddy that follows you around to all your
shows, again, bad choice. At this point, you should be seriously considering seeking
out a professional manager. The right manager will make all the difference when it
comes to getting signed. What I mean by the right manager is one who digs your
music and will really hustle to get you put on. This manager should also have some
pretty good industry connections; otherwise the help he can offer you will be
As well as a personal manager, you'll need a good entertainment attorney to
negotiate all your contracts (including the one with your manager) so you don't get
screwed. Also, a good entertainment lawyer (one that actually has industry
connections) will be able to help get your music into the right hands as well. Make
sure the lawyer you retain is working for you, not the label or your manager!
Ok, so let's recap. You've honed your skills, produced a tight product, created a
strong buzz, and got yourself a good personal manager and lawyer. Now what? Well,
from this point on your manager will basically put a plan of action together for you
and together you will carry it out. You should now be well on your way to your first
record deal. This can be a long road, so it's important to keep a positive mental
attitude. Make sure everyone around you (your team) also stays positive. The music
business isn't for the faint of heart! Good Luck!