May 022011

Despite all the talk of how getting signed is not going to do you many favors, most artists are still hoping to get signed. And why not, it can help you in many ways, if you are smart about it. However the effort they put into getting signed is often simply a waste of time. I still see this happening a lot. Here’s the typical blueprint:

  • Make a high quality demo of their 3 best songs
  • Google the address of major labels and a handful of big indie labels
  • Make a funky package in a jiffy
  • Send and wait for a response

If you’re lucky you’ll get a decline letter, but most of the time the result is a complete radio silence. All record companies receive dozens of unsolicited demos every day. The majors receive hundreds. Your hard work on that demo is going straight to the big brown box by the receptionist, who picks up the mail every day. (I’ve seen the box, it’s big!)

Instead, your time and money is much better spent on figuring out who you are, creating interesting stuff and making connections.

Figure Out Who You Are

All musicians probably have their “personal Beatles”. You know that band that first hit you in the head like a ten ton hammer, and made you want to become someone like them. Having someone that can inspire you endlessly is a great start but you need to quickly move on if you want to have that same effect on others.

Most bands say they “don’t want to be pigeon holed”. No. You absolutely want to belong somewhere. It’s important that you can describe yourself beyond the fuzzy and the bleeding obvious (like we’re a blues band with a female singer). Think about values, message, a lifestyle that you present. Name three bands that you could tour with. Name three venues that would be ideal. There’s your pigeon hole. If you can’t tell yourself where you belong and what you present, no one can understand what you’re about.

Creating interesting stuff

This should go without saying, that’s what your hear to do. But creating interesting stuff extends far beyond writing a good tune. Don’t get me wrong, your music is your foundation, and putting time and attention to it is essential. However, there’s more to your band than good music. Band photos of four guys posing in front of the brick wall is not going to do many favours to your great tunes. Shaky live gigs with poor sound quality are not going to make people want more. Having nothing to say is not going to inspire anyone. Think about the big picture.

Make Connections

Once you have your shit together, go out and meet people who you enjoy being with. Crowds, other bands, promoters. That’s how every business works. No one’s going to pick you up and fly you to the moon. You’ll get there by being amazing in your work and towards other people. Be active and become part of your scene. Help others instead of expecting them to do things for you because “you’re with the band”. That way you’ll start to make a name for yourself and meet people who want to collaborate with you. Wether it was promoters, bloggers or record companies.

What The Record Company Wants

Being active and DIYing is exactly what the record companies want, too. There’s a great bit of advice on Universal Music’s blog on how to get signed. The first point being “don’t worry about getting signed”. They are looking for bands who do their thing, are brilliant at what they do and who know where their audience is.

Image by Steve Snograss

  3 Responses to “How Not To Get Signed”

  1. I have to say that the link your posted to the Universal music blog is a total must read.

    Once in every while something comes along and makes everything else click.

    I’m going to tell people to print it out and read it twice a day.

    Thanks for your great info on here.

    – chris

  2. Thanks, Chris.
    “I’m going to tell people to print it out and read it twice a day” That’s a great piece of advice! 😀

  3. Screw record companies. Find your fan base, and connect with them. Ever heard of Twitter? Bandcamp? Fanbridge? Get on it. Record companies offer nothing for musicians.

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