It can still happen, you can still get a deal, but....
A: Do you want one?
B: Are you ready to grind?
Things have changed in the music industry. Sales have gone down dramatically, major record labels have changed marketing and business strategies. Today independent artists are more internet & promotion savvy than ever. Gone are the days of every label having a bunch of high-paid A&R departments to go out on foot and find undiscovered talent. Artists are still discovered but not the way it used to be. I'm going to break down some misconceptions on what it takes to get a deal from what I have seen happen for other artists.
IT'S NOT SIMPLY WHO YOU KNOW, YOU MUST PUT IN WORK:
Name any hip-hop mogul, mega-star rapper, singer or performer and you can rest assured that they have friends and close relatives (possibly children) who are extremely talented and wants to be a star. If it's just who you know then why aren't these people signed? They should be famous automatically right? Not exactly, here's why.
What are labels looking for?
Labels are now looking for "bankable" artists: Social media impact, iTunes sales, forum chatter, successful mix-tapes (20k plus downloads), a consistent performance schedule in various circuits, etc (I think you get the point). All the factors I just mentioned, (among others) can be measured. No record business in a climate of slumping sales can afford to "take a chance" on dozens of unproven artists.
Without absolute luck of a hit record, any record business would go bankrupt randomly "signing" multiple unproven acts. There are avenues to ensure signing the most potentially successful artists while seeing a litmus test of their marketability beforehand. Back in the 80's and 90's getting a deal on a chance meeting or being signed off the street was more common than it is today.
Did you catch that?
Now you see why there are over 15 different talent discovery television shows now huh? Now you understand why artists release minimal investment, yet hugely successful mix-tapes while signed to a provisional demo deal, THEN get offered a huge contract. I'm not spinning your wheels here, you CAN get a record deal, it's not impossible! But you cannot simply wait to be signed, they ain't gonna come knocking on your door because you got a nice flow. You need to be a brand and be a force in your market regardless. They will come for you when your train is running full-steam, I promise you.
What do you need to get started?
Don't be naive, You WILL need some start-up money in some capacity! How much is based on your plan. Capital: You're going to need money to invest in yourself for promotions, recording, marketing etc. You may need as little as a few hundred bucks to get started or $10,000. Your capital needed to get started largely depends on the size of your team, what impact you want to make, your short-term and long-term goals and a well-thought out, written business plan.
Write a business plan or give up now
Treat your potential career like a business You need a business plan, no exceptions. If you don't have a business plan, even if it's just for your own personal understanding of your goals, you aren't serious about doing this. If you can't complete even a simple 1 page written business plan for what you want to do as a life-long CAREER, give up now. Find another career and do music as a hobby. I'm being 100% real with you.
After your plan is complete:
Once you have a solid understanding of your plan and the industry you plan to enter, accessed your connections and strengths and weaknesses, You need great music. After great music you need to begin flooding any outlet with your music and make your presence known. Find a manager, it can be a industry manager or simply a dedicated member of your team willing to try. The plan must be in place and everyone must know the goals. It's not just about your dreams, you gotta plan to make it! Plan on being successful. Once you put it on paper and do your research, your mental focus will be sharper than ever and you will make moves. In part 2 I'm going to give solid details on where to place your music and how to promote it in my next post...
To be Continued
About Joey Cutless
Joey Cutless is a Music Producer, Composer & Engineer that has been a pioneer in online beat sales, TV licensing, and marketing of all things production related for over 15 years.