How to get signed

Signing Contract: pic all rights reserved by markweisman.com
There are so many ways I want to start this that I am struggling of where to begin other than shouting five things at the same time whilst administering the type of slap that Obelix or Asterix might give a Roman. All labels vary but in my humble opinion… (it would be great to hear what others think on this too)

First up, why do you want to be signed?

Now think about this you new artists out there. Why on earth would a label want to sign you?

Answer?

Because either you are an astonishing genius, a more talented songwriter than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, a multi talented instrumentalist with chops to die for or, more realistically, you represent a business opportunity. Money. Nothing wrong with that. We’ve all got to eat. So with that in mind if you can already make money from your career think long and hard about whether you actually want a deal and if you do what sort of deal. You might just want to license a record that you have recorded for a limited period of time or you might want a full 360 joint venture deal where you go into a partnership with your label and split everything 50/50. I work both very happily.

Consider what a label can offer these days and also what they expect of you. All this artist criticism by labels for being lazy and label bashing by artists for being too controlling is over. It’s tedious and unnecessary. Get over it. If we work together, we WORK together and when I say work I mean it. It’s bloody hard work to break an act. I personally love working with artists who have a bit of industry ken, know their PRS from their PPL and understand that the artists that make it are the ones that don’t mind rolling their sleeves up. That working hard thing again. If you want to sit there and winge, go back to mummy and buy some more rubber sheets for the bed. You’re on your own.

Cooking Vinyl, Domino & Beggars labels

If you really do want to be signed put yourself in the shoes of the label you are asking to sign you. Here are some hot damn golden rules about approaching a label that won’t get your email deleted tout de suite.

  1. Write to a person. I run a label. I am a human. My name is Al not ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ or even dude. It even says so on our website and if you have taken the time to research the label you are writing to you will most probably know the name of the person to write to. No name? Dear ‘Name of Record Label’ or find out. It’s not hard.
  2. Do not send the same email to tons of ‘undisclosed recipients’ BCCd or even worse CCd. Doesn’t make us feel special. The amount of tracks I get sent from Soundcloud that say Artist X has sent you and 999 others their track ‘I am a lazy bastard’ is really not cool. Make the email specific to the person to whom you are writing and SHORT! We get a lot of emails. Oh yeah and staggering that I need to say this but you need to say why you are writing. If you just send someone some tracks, well that’s very nice but they won’t know if you’re looking for a deal, asking to collaborate with their current artists, play or show or just sending out emails for shits and giggles.
  3. In your email do not send mp3s or any other massive attachments. Personally I like Soundcloud. You can do private tracks from there and please do send the whole track not a 30 second clip. And please not the whole of your writing output for the last ten years. Two songs that I like would leave me happy to go a find out more of my own volition.
  4. Listen to the artists on the roster of the label you’re writing to. Actually this should probably be number 1. There is absolutely no point in sending Brostep to a folk label. And for that matter, an open request to the hordes of house DJs who send me their tracks… Please stop it.

An example might read:

Hi Al,

I have really enjoyed listening to the artists on your roster and think we may fit in.

I am a solo, multi-instrumentalist. I write and record at home, program and play all the instruments and put out an EP last year that was really well received. (“Simply amazing – the most staggering new music I’ve heard all year” –  Drowned In Sound). The launch in Leicester was sold out too.

It would be great if you might consider me as artist for your roster. You can hear my music at soundcloud.com/myname My website is at myname.co.uk and my Facebook page is facebook.com/myname

Thanks for your time
A N Artistidliketoworkwith

In light of my comments above about representing a business opportunity, demonstrate that you have a fanbase ready and waiting for you and your new label to work together making music for and growing. Facebook Page, website, Twitter, YouTube channel, Soundcloud – they’re all markers of how much your music is being listened to.

SoundCloud, YouTube and BandCamp logos

Oh one more thing, if you’re out there playing gigs to packed clubs and your Facebook page is fizzing you won’t need to write because you’ll have labels banging down your door. So why not concentrate on making your band the hottest property this side of the Sahara and let the labels come to you.

Al

If you want to read more of this sort of thing check out my other articles here

And my apologies for the cheap SEO shot in the title of this article.

Al

I am a player, producer, label boss and staunch supporter of the independent community. In the interests of transparency, should I post any of my own material, my labels are Ambiguous Records and CRC Music. I am also on the board of AIM which is the trade body that looks after all the UK Independent labels. Read More…

7 Comments

  1. Jak

    Brilliant reading!

  2. Tom

    A lot that rings true in there… I especially liked:

    * Write to a person: “Hi there” is a huge turn-off. Even worse: “Hi there Tim” – at least get the name right

    * Make it SHORT: Oh God yes please. We don’t need to know your life history. Mind you, my own biog on here is fucking awful from that point of view.

    * Be specific about why you are writing: what exactly would you like to happen in response to your email or tweet.

    * Check out what people actually do before you start hassling them. No point begging Bob Harris to play your new single on Radio 2 if you’re a death metal band.

    * And hard work. That’s the reason most successful musicians break through in their teens or twenties.

    It’s not that older songwriters are any less talented, or even lazier than hungry youngsters. It’s just that only a driven individual with nothing to lose can afford to eat/sleep/breathe/think/dream/make music 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as many years as it takes.

    Fair play to those talented young artists who are willing to do it. However most of us, as we get older, have lives.

  3. This is great Al. A really well written piece , with sound advice Al. Congrats on both the article , and indeed the nomination.

    B :)

  4. Al

    haha thanks Ben. More to come. I’ll be publishing something each week. Next one is on planning! Hope all well :)

  5. That’s great advice thanks Al

  6. jim

    If the track is really good it will speak for itself…simple as that….if a label gets over a hundred tracks a day they dont want to read a story with each one….they dont have time…Al obviously has a small label so he has time for your story…..bigger labels simply dont..

  7. Al

    It’s a good point Jim and one that should help an artist decide what sort of label they’d like to work with if any at all. We are a small label and work very closely with our artists so it is important to me that I know who I’m working with. Perhaps not so important to a larger company.

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