Making music should primarily be about fun. Whether you’re part of a band or whether you perform as a solo artist, you should do it because you enjoy it. The expectation of getting signed and making a career out of it shouldn’t be a huge factor in what you do. The sad reality is that the majority of musicians – regardless of their level of talent – are destined to make music as a hobby forever. There is a litany of reasons why a musical act won’t make it, and many of them are down to nothing more than blind luck.
If you truly believe you’re good enough to it the big time, you’re probably wondering how to persuade a record label to buy into you, and pay you for your skills. Thousands of other people are wondering the same thing. There’s no precise formula to success. Being good obviously helps, but even the most passing of glances at what currently makes up the Billboard charts will tell you that isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Because we’re living in the digital age, many musicians eventually conclude that they don’t need a label at all – if you have a flair for getting yourself noticed online, you can get yourself booked for gigs and tours, and release music directly onto Spotify and iTunes without losing a percentage of your earnings to a label. If your talents are more rooted in music than marketing, though, you’ll probably still need a label’s assistance to reach the next level.
Nobody can offer you a guaranteed route to the top of the music industry, but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances; here’s our take on how to get ahead of the queue when it comes to being noticed.
Play Festivals And All-Day Events
Record label scouts almost certainly don’t have time to come to a specific gig for a specific act. They might make an exception if we’re talking about someone who has thousands of followers on social media, but if you’re a smaller unsigned act, it’s unlikely to be worth their time to come and find you. You’re more likely to see scouts milling around towards the back of the crowd at an all-day event, or a small music festival.
There’s an obvious reason for that; an event where dozens of musicians are playing gives the scouts the chance to check out multiple acts at the same time, and also compare how those acts go down with the crowd who are there to watch the event. Never miss the chance to get on a big bill. Summertime is especially good for this, because it’s festival season, and acts are always required. It doesn’t matter where you are on the bill, so don’t be precious about that headline slot!
Have A Brand
We’re sorry to break it to you if you haven’t already got the memo, but grunge is well and truly dead. The days where performers can get up on stage looking like they got their outfit from mismatching clothes at a thrift store are over. Rightly or wrongly (it’s probably wrongly), music these days is about the aesthetic as much as it is the sound. Labels are looking for someone or something that’s marketable. Being marketable means you have a look as well as a sound.
This doesn’t just apply to music – it’s the way of the modern age in every field of entertainment. Think about mobile slots as an example. There are hundreds of different Vegas Slots websites, and thousands of different mobile slots games. The ones which attract the most players are the ones that stand out – and as a result, they make the most money. Labels are basically looking for a musical mobile slots game; something they can put a little bit of money in, and get a whole lot more out of. What’s your theme? What’s the hook that will ensure a label gets a jackpot out of you?
Spend Big On Recording
A few decades ago, you could get away with recording a rough demo on an 8-track recorder in your garage, and mailing that off to a label. If the label heard a rough diamond on a bad recording, they might take a chance on paying to refine that diamond into something they can sell to the public. That’s not the case anymore.
Thousands of people now have degrees in sound engineering, and the quality of the average demo recording has shot up in recent years. You’ll be expected to sound polished and professional. If you were considering spending $1000 on six or seven songs, it will probably do more good for you to spend that amount on a single song, and come away with a perfect recording of you sounding your absolute best.
Be Incredibly Social
A label can get a good idea of whether or not it’s worth their time to look into you by checking out your social media profiles. Do you have a lot of followers? Is there a lot of interaction on your posts? If not, then you’re obviously not resonating with your target audience. If you can’t even get a following in your local area, they’re likely to conclude you have no chance of making it nationally or globally.
Building a social media brand takes time. Latch onto every trending hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. Post every day. Always reply when people interact with you – even the negative posts – and bring people into the conversation. Make sure you’re always telling people where you are, and what you’re doing. Even if there’s nothing going on right now, re-promote an old song or an old video. If someone from a label happens to pass by your social media accounts, you want to them to see that something is happening for you right here and right now.
Get Friendly With Their Artists
If you don’t know which label you’d like to be signed by, you’re doing it wrong. If your target is a major label, you’re also doing it wrong. You should start with a smaller label – one which can give your profile a boost – and then use that boost to attract the interest of a larger label.
Smaller labels are easy to interact with. You don’t even have to go straight to them. Instead, get friendly with a band or artist who plays the same genre as you. Follow their social media accounts, and offer yourself as a support act for their gigs when you’re in their area. Offer to play for free, and bring your crowd with you. Emerging artists often rely on that kind of support when they’re playing outside their hometown, and so you’ll be viewed as an asset. That significantly increases your chances of receiving an offer from them.
The most important thing to remember is to keep playing, keep recording, and have no expectations of anything happening. If you get obsessed with the idea of getting signed, every gig you play or track you release without it happening will feel like a failure. You’ll fall out of love with music – and that would be worse than never making it. Do it because you love it – and if it brings good things your way, consider it a blessing!