If your goal is to make it as an artist in the music industry, understanding how to obtain a record deal is critical. Even with the many advances in technology today, signing a record deal with some type of record company is essential if you hope to establish a successful career as an artist in the music industry.
There are millions of aspiring artists out there all competing for a limited number of legitimate record contracts. Due to this fact, there are requirements that must be met before you will ever draw interest from a record label. If you can meet all of these requirements, than you will greatly improve your chances of landing a record deal.
Ideally, you want to have:
1. Quality Songs
2. Marketable Image
3. Fan Base
Now these three requirements are EXTREMELY simplified. We must break each one down into further detail before we can determine which areas need improvement. Keep in mind that the record industry is in the business of Marketing. Therefore, the more marketable you appear, the more likely a record label will take a chance on you. This is why all three of the above requirements are so important.
If you have an existing Fan Base that is buying albums, merchandise, and concert tickets, the record labels will have undeniable proof that you are marketable. This undeniable proof is a huge advantage over the millions of aspiring artists across the world and an absolute requirement if you hope to edge them out for your record deal.
However, before you can hope to build a Fan Base, you must first have Quality Songs and a somewhat Marketable Image. So, we will start by breaking down what makes a Quality Song that demands a record label’s attention.
A Quality Song in the eyes of any record executive is one that has the potential to be a hit. As any artist will tell you, creating a hit song is not an easy thing to do. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go about creating a hit song. I will explain to you these two methods and why one method is MUCH easier than the other.
The first method is to create a new trend in the music industry. The most influential songs of the last century were undoubtedly the ones in which an artist took a new direction and created a new popular trend in music. However, even successful new trends are faced with much resistance in the beginning. Even worse, the majority of artists who try to take music in a new direction are unsuccessful in developing a popular trend.
Now as a music enthusiast I realize that what I am about to tell you is very contrary to my beliefs about music and its evolution as an art form, BUT this article is solely about how to make music that will eventually lead you to signing a Record Deal. This leads us to our second method.
The second method to creating a hit song is to follow a popular trend which already exists in the music industry. Now the word “popular” is a very subjective term. So, the best way to determine what is “popular” is to look at what is actually selling records. Check out the Billboard charts and see which songs are actually selling in today’s market. Then, focus on creating a song that sounds like what is actually selling in today’s market.
Again, I would like to mention that the focus of this article is not how to be a creative artist and express yourself through your music, but solely about how to make music that will eventually lead you to SIGNING A RECORD DEAL.
One thing you have to remember when following this method is that “popular” trends change quite often in the music industry. What is popular today might not be popular tomorrow. So, you have to be able to determine when a trend is growing and when a trend is on the verge of extinction, because you don’t want to spend 6-12 months creating an album worth of material only to find out that no-one is listening to that sound anymore. For example, if you are creating music in the Rap genre, you don’t want to use rap music beats from the 90’s, but you want to be sure you are using rap music beats that sound like they were produced in the year 2009!
While there are no hard and fast rules to determine how long a trend will exist, use your better judgment. For example, I will use the Hip-Hop industry and one of its most popular trends of the 2000’s. Approximately five years after T-pain exploded onto the scene with his unique use of Auto-tune and the Vocoder, nearly every popular song in the Hip-Hop Genre today in 2009 is incorporating those elements. It has gotten to the point where popular rapper Jay-Z recently released a song titled “Death to Auto-tune.” Now this should be a clear indicator to anyone in the Hip-Hop genre that this trend is on the verge of extinction, but soon a new trend will grow in popularity to replace the old and YOU WILL BE READY!
When you think you have determined a growing trend, you need to make sure that your image coincides with the trend you are attempting to follow. This takes us to our next requirement…
There are many factors that come into play when building a marketable image. In order to be truly marketable, your image has to coincide with the type of music you are attempting to create. What this means is that you should try, to an extent, to model your image after the popular artists creating the same style of music as you.
Now be very careful with that piece of advice, because certain fashion trends can be directly related to individual artists and that artist ALONE. So I do NOT recommend you go out and copy the exact styles of the popular artists in your genres. However, you should have a general knowledge of the popular fashion trends in your genre and do your best to shape your image around those trends.
Your clothes, shoes, hair, sunglasses, accessories… can all be used to build an image. After signing a record deal, most record companies will insist that you replicate a certain image to some extent. So, what better way to attract their attention and give yourself an advantage over the competition than to align your image with the popular artists creating the same style of music as you?
If you want to be the biggest rock band in the world, you better look like a Rock star. Whether it is Rap, Rock, Country, R&B… popular artists in any genre stand out because they have a strong image. So, build your image to identify with the genre of music you are attempting to create.
Once you have created a Marketable Image, and you have written Quality Songs, your next step is to begin building a Fan Base…
Building a Fan Base can be a daunting task, but it is an absolute necessity if you hope for any record label to take you seriously. One piece of advice I will give you is to seek out any help you can find in completing this requirement, because building a Fan Base will likely take some assistance.
One key person to enlist is a Manager. Managers often have many connections in the industry including club owners, promoters, other artists, and even record label executives. Of course, you will have to do a lot of marketing on your own, but the help of a qualified Manager can be the difference between your success and failure.
In the early stages of your career you may not be able to find a qualified manager to take you on as their client. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to allow a close friend or family member, who is HIGHLY motivated, assist you for the time being. If someone close to you sees your potential and is willing to help you get started, they can be even more helpful than a Manager who puts you on the back burner for his more established clients.
At this point you should be marketing yourself through every avenue possible. This means getting your music in the hands… and ears… of as many people as possible. Artists have taken many different approaches to this over the years as technology continues to evolve.
The internet has become a key marketing tool for any new artist today. Some effective older methods are to hand out CDs. They are very cheap to make these days, and your goal is to get people listening to your music. And of course, the most important thing you should be doing is playing every gig you can book… Yes, even if it isn’t a paying gig. At this point, people may not be willing to pay for your concerts or your CDs, but if you ever hope to get to that point, you need them to hear your music first.
So get out there and start building your Fan Base by any means possible. If you can create a local buzz, that can turn into a regional buzz, and sooner or later a national buzz, and than its just a matter of negotiating your record contract.
Now you know the steps you must take… if they don’t sound very appealing, than maybe a career as a music artist isn’t for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep making music… after all, your love for music wasn’t born out of your desire for fortune and fame… was it?