Getting a Record Contract – Tips and Facts
Who doesn’t want to be a music star? They get fame, money, live in really big houses near the beach, have collections of cars, and get to perform in front of thousands of fans. But they didn’t start out that way. Musicians and entertainers all had to work to get where they are. Granted, some might have found it easier than others. You never know when that music scout is going to walk in through the door and like what they hear. But just in case they do, you have to perform your best each and every time.
Every musician wants to get signed to a record label. Even then it may not be instant success but it is the best way to get yourself heard by the largest possible audience. So how do you get signed by a record label? There are many ways to do it and not all of them work for everyone.
Play Good Music
Without a doubt the single most important thing you can do to get signed to a record label is to play good, original music. You have to have talent and a good sense of music. You also have to practice and hone your craft. Sitting down for ten minutes of practice a week won’t cut it. It takes a lot of hard work. If you are not sure you are ready to perform, get other people to listen to you and have them be honest with you. Just because you might not sound good now does not mean that after some practice you might not sound good later.
Also, don’t try to be trendy or rely on gimmicks to get the job done. Just because someone else is painting their faces white and spitting fire does not mean you should do it. It won’t make up for bland or amateurish music. If you are a band or solo performer, take the time to write some solid music. If you don’t know how, check out some references. There are dozens of books available on songwriting. Tailor the songs to your own style. If you are not very good at song writing, hire a songwriter.
Know Your Audience
When you are ready to start performing, it is important to know your audience. A hard metal rocker would do well to steer clear of bluegrass festivals. They are not likely to find many fans there. Think about what type of music you like to play and figure out what your market audience would be. Is it going to be rock, country, R&B, jazz, or something else? Stick to what you like and know best because that will be your audience type. Once you find your audience, you can start performing in front of them and gauge how they react to your music. You may have to go back and re-tailor some songs depending on that reaction. If the audience loves it, don’t change it. If they hate it, you need to rework it.
There are tons of bands, musicians, and performers who all look and sound the same. The market is already crowded with boy bands, blonde pop singers, and R&B singers wearing sunglasses. Blending into the crowd is not a good way to get yourself noticed by a record label. You need to be different to catch their attention. This does not mean that you should wear crazy costumes or eat live bats. That would fall into the gimmick category from above. Being different means you have a different sound, a different take on music. You need to push the edge a little without going too far that you lose your audience. Being different in the music industry is one of the hardest things to do but if you can manage it, it will help to set you apart from the mass of clones.
Prepare a Demo
This is your portfolio that represents you as a musician and entertainer. A demo includes a cd with your music, a cover letter stating who you are, a resume of places that you have played, and a photo of yourself and/or the other members. A demo is very important because it can be sent to clubs to try to pick up gigs, music festivals to become part of the lineup, potential agents, and music representatives. Basically, a demo can be sent to anyone who might be able to help your career and get you signed.
When it comes to production of the demo, make sure that it is quality. Don’t try to record it in your garage with the doors open and the kids playing basketball outside. You want your demo to be as professional as possible. Check out some production studios. They can be pricey but hey, this is your career we are talking about.
Advertise and Market the Product
So now you have found your audience, you’ve got a demo, and hopefully have passed it around some. Now what? Advertise yourself or your band. Think of yourself as a product. You need to increase public awareness and the only way to do that is to market yourself and advertise. There are many ways to do this. Print up fliers to hand out at gigs. Set up a website with information such as a schedule of where you will be playing next. Social networking sites such as MySpace are great places to get the word out (plus its free). You also need to start seriously performing at showcases and festivals. These are great places to not only show off your music but to meet other people in the industry. Networking is very important in the music industry and a lot of people know the same people.
Find an A&R Rep
A&R reps are the scouts of the music industry and the key to getting signed. They work for record label companies to look for and hire new talent. You need to get an A&R rep to listen to your music. Send him a demo with a press kit. To find the right A&R rep, you can search the web for labels that carry your style of music. You can search the CMJ Directory, The Musician’s Atlas, or the Musician’s Guide to Touring and Promoting for a list. If you are unsure whether record companies accept unsolicited material, call up the company and ask them. If they say yes, send them a press kit. If they say no, try to meet a rep at one of the festivals.