Over at Music Think Tank, Apryl Peredo wrote up a tasty little article on the hows and why’s people do/don’t get signed to labels these days. For many people it will be a round of “obviously” but there are still some folks who believe/dream of getting signed after putting out one music video. Stranger things have happened, but for the most part, labels work with people with a track record and who’ve proven they work hard.
Over the past few months, I have met with representatives from major labels (Sony, Avex, EMI), mid-size sub- labels, and also mid-size independent labels…So, what do label reps have to say when it comes to considering a band/musician? Here are some of their informational nuggets:
1. We don’t sign “newly formed” bands.
Labels do not want to sign a band that just formed last week, last month, or even six months ago. Labels want to know that the band has been together long enough to have developed a good working relationship. The members can handle internal problems on their own. They have learned each others’ quirks and know how to write music together. Time together gives the label some intangible evidence that the band isn’t going to break up right after signing and receiving a possible advance.
Check a band’s bio: you will usually see that the band was together for 5-7 years prior to being signed…most times the members were “together” longer than that as they were school or university class mates.
2. We don’t sign undeveloped bands.
…If you do not already have great (“greatness” evaluation is subjective, of course) music written, you won’t get signed. Labels no longer have a huge development budget, and cannot afford to sign the garage band they heard practicing last Saturday, with the idea that they can be developed after signing. To get signed, you need to have at least 10 well-written original songs, already in your band’s catalog. You need to have gotten your “live performance chops” from performing at every bar, festival, event, and house party that will let you play. The label hasn’t the time, desire, or money to sign you and then wait for you to learn.
3. We don’t sign unknown bands.
What counts as “known” depends a bit on size of the label. A major label may want to see that your band can draw at least 200 people to your shows, on a regular basis. They may want to see that you have self-sold 10,000 units in the past 18 months. Perhaps they want to see that you were able to get enough fan votes to get yourself on a major “indie artist” stage at SXSW. Possibly they want to see that your streaming music sites are getting 500 plays a week.
A sub-label or independent label may feel that you are “known” if you can regularly draw 40 people to your shows, self-sell 500 units in a year, you got good write-ups the past 3 years running for your excellent performances at the state fair, and you average 15 new fans each week on your reverbnation profile.
Again, this is also where length of time together is crucial. Drawing 40 people to your first two shows as a new band may be simple. Drawing in those 40-200 ticket buyers to your shows when you play once a month, over 2 years, is more difficult. Can you do it? If not, you aren’t going to get signed.
4. We don’t sign people/bands we meet at parties.
One executive stated, “When I’m at a social function, I’m at a social function. Don’t come up to me and tell me you’re in a band and try to give me your demo. I might take it to be polite, but your band’s name will be noted, and the demo will go in the trash can. Submit your demo the right way.”
Readers, please assure me that you know the “right way!” If not, it can be addressed in another article. After all, there is some flexibility and a few ways to do it the “right way.”
5. We don’t sign based on oral “favors.”
Ah, it must have been great to live in the 1960s-1985! Pretty girl with a certain skill – recording contract!! Sorry, no more – there is no unlimited budget for signing and maintaining artists. Labels have to sign based on music quality or the perceived saleability of that music, not on “favors.”
… 85% of the “executives” who accept such a favor are not even in a position to make a signing choice… Also, in general, reps from one company are likely friends with reps of another. So, the EMI guy you met, will tell a Beggars Banquet guy, who will tell a Universal rep, who will tell…You get the idea. (More here)