You know your band is the best in the world. All your friends tell you so, and your latest demo release is better than anything else you’ve heard for years. You write the best lyrics, come up with the best riffs, and make the most raw, real music you’ve ever heard. So why has nobody come along with a truck full of money and parked at your front door to persuade you to sign for their label?
Getting signed to a major record label in the modern era is probably harder than it’s ever been at any point in the past. The way in which record labels operate has changed, and some of the old methods that may have attracted their attention in the past just don’t work anymore. There are some schools of thought that argue that you might not even need a record label anymore, but the reality is that you still need their support, financial backing, and promotional reach unless you’re capable of replicating those provisions yourself. So how do you do it? How do you attract the attention of a label, and persuade them to offer you a deal? There’s no guaranteed method, but you can consider this a basic list of requirements.
- Have A Following Already
It’s not the 1980s anymore. Back then, a label had no real way of knowing how big or small the band they were listening to was, because there was no publicly-available metric for establishing their following. You could book a gig, invite someone from a label down, pack the venue with your friends and family, and make it look like you were wildly popular. That doesn’t wash in the social media age. If you’re sending material off to labels, but you only have a couple of hundred followers on Twitter or Facebook, then you don’t stand a chance. Who’s going to buy your music if you don’t have enough fans? Keep gigging locally, get your name better known, build up your brand, and then try again.
- Get Playlisted On Spotify
Anyone can get their music uploaded onto Spotify for a small fee, and there’s no excuse not to do so if you intend on making it big; it’s where most people are going to go when they want to listen to you. You might even have sent links to your tracks on Spotify to labels for their consideration, and in doing so, you might have made a mistake. If your best track has less than one thousand total players, that information is publicly visible. That’s telling potential labels that nobody is listening to your best work. Great music goes viral with or without a label, so why hasn’t yours? Promote it better. Make a video to support it. Beg for shares and plays. Have no pride or shame in hawking your music to everyone you meet. Better still, get yourself on a Spotify playlist. They’re far more important than you realize, and they’re a great way of racking up plays and listens from people who’ve never even heard of you or your band, and didn’t go looking for you.
- Play Every Festival You’re Offered
A&R scouts love music festivals. For them, they’re like casinos; they can go in, try everything out, find out what works for them, and choose where to spend your money. Imagine how boring and useless online casino websites or their sister sites would be if they only featured one game, and if you wanted to play a different game, you had to visit a different casino. Nobody would use them. This is how record companies feel about your headline gigs. You can invite them down all you like, but if the only people playing are you and your favorite support band, they’re not likely to show up. If they don’t like either of you, it’s a wasted journey. Worse still, they might turn up and find your gig is poorly attended, killing your one shot at getting their attention stone dead. Festivals – especially all day festivals – tend to have people milling about them all the time. Some of those people will be scouts, floating from artist to artist to see who’s hot and who’s not. Make sure you’re playing at them as frequently as possible.
- Make Your Media Pack Easy To Find
If you don’t have a media pack, make one right now, and then come back to this point. If you’ve attracted the curiosity of someone who works for a label, the first thing they’re going to do is visit your website to find out what else you’ve done already. They’ll want to know where you’ve played, who you played to, and what people thought of you. Your media pack should, therefore, be very easy to find on your website. It’s a lot more important than fifty photos of you and the band looking mean, moody, drunk, or all three. Have a full gig history, photos of you playing in busy venues, copies of reviews of your gigs, and copies of reviews of your demos or EPs. If you don’t have reviews of your gigs or EPs, make sure you start getting them. Invite the local press to performances. Send demos to websites which review them for free. If you get negative feedback, act on it. If you get great feedback, share it online and make sure it’s front and center!
- Know What Your Sound Is And Stick To It
Nobody says you can’t be experimental. If you want to make rock music this year and EDM next year, nobody’s here to stop you, but it will harm your chances of being picked up. We’ve lost count of the number of demo recordings we’ve heard where track one is metal, track two is indie, and track three is grunge. You think you’re showing your range and diversity. You’re actually showing people who don’t know your band that you’re unsure about what your best sound is. A record company scout will need to be able to clearly identify your genre in order to assess where they should pitch you. If they can’t work it out from listening to two or three of your tracks because you keep switching up your sound, they’ll give up. Have a strong musical identity when you’re looking for attention. Save the experimentation for later!