The greatest goal of the average musician is to one day become rich and famous, and why not? It allows you to focus more on the thing you love to do, right? Well I have some friends who used to own a record label, and I got to learn first-hand how to get a record deal. While it may seem difficult or even impossible, there are a few tips you should consider which will greatly improve your chances, because let’s face it: the music industry is rough, and getting to the top is even harder, but it’s definitely possible.
1. Play Original Songs From Day One
This is a big one. Don’t play anything other than something you wrote or purchased (so long as it’s never been used before). Here’s the deal: you may play the absolute best version of an already popular song ever, but no one ever got a record deal from making a cover of someone else’s work. Now you might be thinking, “But there are covers of old music on the radio all the time!” and that’s true, but you’ll notice those are made by already established artists. The reason why is because of costs. It’s that simple.
A record label is in the business to make money, and when they have to pay for the rights and split the royalties on a song for a new artist, one who’s nobody’s ever heard of, then the risk losing money on their investment goes through the roof. On the other hand, an established artist can make an old song turn a good profit again, and they already know that it was a hit, so chances are they are going to get a good return.
On the plus side, that’s less music that you have to practice, and speaking of practice…
2. Practice Your Songs to Death and Then Keep Practicing Them More
Yeah you’ve heard that before, I know, but you haven’t really considered what a record label is looking for. They don’t just want you to be able to play a song well, they want you to be able to play all of your songs perfectly every single time. A lot of money (especially for the artist) is made through concerts, and other than lip-syncing (which everyone hates), there aren’t a lot of tricks to make mediocre musician sound good on stage. Think you can do that? Good!
So what’s the next step? Practice even more! Yeah, it doesn’t stop there. Once you can play your work on demand flawlessly then you are only getting started, because now that you can do that, you have to be able to keep doing it for as long as you want your career to last.
Last note on this subject: Most musicians hate their own music due to the fact that they have to play it so many times. And once it becomes a hit, it gets even worse. Remember I Ran by A Flock Of Seagulls, they have had to play that song at practically every single performance since it came out. Their front man hates it so much. So be prepared to play your own music until you absolutely can’t stand it, and then be ready to play it again, because that’s just how it works.
The list of artists who hate their music is a lot bigger than just these 10.
3. Make Sure Your Music is Great
Of course you think your music is great, if you didn’t would you probably wouldn’t have even looked up how to get a record deal. But there is a vast difference between what you think is great and what a record label thinks is great. First you need your demo to be professionally recorded. A lot of people have gotten by without this, but those who take this extra step usually have a much easier time.
The second thing you want to consider here is this, if someone hears your song just one time, is it going to get stuck in their head? Can they remember the chorus? Could they sing the song back to you? Those are the qualities of a hit song. If you can get people to know a song after only hearing it once then chances are much higher that they are going to buy it. Want a few examples? Rock and Roll All Nite by Kiss, or Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. Both of those were instantly memorable, and incredibly successful songs regardless of whether or not you like them. But that’s what a label is looking for, a song that is going to get sales quickly.
4. Know Music Inside and Out
It’s not enough for you to be able to play your work, but if you want to stay successful then you need to be able to keep producing new music, and chances are you need to work with other people, and you can’t do that if you don’t know much about music. So learn your chords, keys, music theory, scales, timing, chord progression, how to read sheet music, modes, etc… Trust me this may seem less important than other aspects, but if you want long term success in this industry then you better know your stuff. Plus the more you know the more unique sounds you add to your music.
5. Perform Perform Perform!
If you want to start getting a label’s attention then you are going to need to get out there and perform. Playing live is still the best way to get people’s attention, which includes agents, so book everything you can, and be ready to give it your all. Remember there are people out there whose job is to find new talent and bring them in, and they look in the bars, the clubs, battle of the bands, rock contests, all of those places. If you just keep getting yourself out there, you will eventually get their attention.
It also helps to use this time to work on your stage personality. Your goal is to get people to want to see you again, so standing there not moving isn’t going to cut it. Be exciting, grab everyone’s attention, try and get all eyes on your band and keep them there for your entire performance. If you can do that regularly, then you know people aren’t going to get bored at your concerts later.
6. Build a Social Media Platform and Website
If you want a record deal then social media and a website are a big deal nowadays, and it’s not hard to see why. For one, it helps record labels to get a hold of you and see what you’re about. If you have a good website, then they can see just how active you been without having do much more research.
And having a good social media following is a great sign for these companies. The more people that you have following you, the less marketing they have to do in order to get your work profitable. To them having a fan base before you even get started shows that you are worth putting money into. So get on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, anything you can, you need the followers.
7. Be Friendly to Everyone
This is actually one of the biggest tips on this list, and it’s the simplest of them all. Just be a nice person, that’s it. If you can do that you will have a much easier time with every single aspect in the business.
Here’s the deal, even famous rock stars will have a deal go south because they were acting like a jerk, and it makes total sense. If you owned a business would you want to work with someone who was so full of themselves that they disrespected you at every turn? I sure wouldn’t.
This goes a lot further than that though, the better you treat your fans the easier it is to gain a serious following, and labels know this. If they can see that not only are you easy to work with, but you are going to make fans that you will keep for a lifetime, then they may sign you even if they don’t think you’re going to top the charts. Though they will have to expect to make some money from working with you.
It may not seem like it but that actually answers the question “how to get a record deal?” There is no clear path to doing it, you just have to keep getting yourself out there and building your band with your own sound. If you can do that, and keep people coming back for more, the whole while being easy to deal with, then you’ll have record companies knocking on your door instead of the other way around.
© 2017 Robert P Sullivan
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on August 02, 2017:
If I could sing I would certainly think about trying to get a record deal. Unfortunately, I'm as flat as a door post. I still sing along to songs I like though. =)