Guide on how to get signed to a Record Label

The music industry is one of the hardest industries to get into. Each year there are thousands of young talented musicians, singers, acts, DJ’s and producers trying to get signed but there are only a handful of record labels taking on new talent. This has meant getting signed is getting even harder to accomplish.

With musical and recording equipment becoming even cheaper and with technology moving at an extremely high pace it has meant that it is now easier and cheaper for young people to get in to music and record themselves with a high quality end product.

It’s not just changes in technology which is getting more people in to music as media and the internet are playing just as big a part. Now nearly every other weekend there is a singing talent show on TV in prime time watched by millions of people up and down the country like ‘X-Factor’, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘The One and Only’. These shows are inspiring young people to get in to music as they are making it seem so accessible and so popular.

The Internet is playing just a big a part as the media as sites like MySpace and YouTube are giving young people a platform to show off their work to millions of people and take their music from their bedroom to the world with little or no cost. The last year has seen the most important development with music downloads now being counted in the weekly sales charts so now artists can get in to the charts without having to have a CD out in the stores.

The biggest problem facing aspiring young people wanting to get signed is that there are now fewer record labels around with smaller record labels now falling under the ownership of a handful of big companies like Sony BMG, EMI and Polydor. With the changing face of the music business these big companies are now even more avert to risk than ever before as they are now only putting their big money behind acts they know will draw them a profit with smaller less established acts having to fight even harder with less investment.

So if we haven’t put you off getting in to the music industry and you want some advice on how to make it in the music business please read on.

The most important thing is your talent and your skill level. Regardless of how good you are at promoting yourself you will only get signed if you have a good sound that the record labels are after. So before you start promoting yourself be sure to be happy with your sound and performance level. Many people will judge you based on one listen to one of your tracks so you have to make sure that the people listening to your music are impressed and that they want to listen to more.

Once you are happy with your sound you need to start writing or finding songs to record and then get them recorded. Writing and composing your own music is always the safest way to go when starting out as there are various laws about covering other peoples work and even if you aren’t covering other peoples work do a check to make sure your work isn’t plagiarising any other artist.

Now finding somewhere to record your music can be hard. Like the quality of your sound you want the recording of your music to be as good as possible as you need to impress your potential listeners. Start researching your nearest recording studios and find out costings. If it is too expensive for you try and get some funding or start entering local competitions which may have studio time as a prize. If you have a college or university near you which runs courses in media or recording see if someone will record you for a project so you can get a free recording out of it. If all of these ideas aren’t an option you need to start finding jobs or start gigging to save up money.

If you are a solo artist you may need to find a band or a composer / producer to provide your backing track. This can be quite tricky so you need to start networking to find the people who want to work with you and can help you out.

Gigging is a very important part of the development of a music act. The one thing which will help you get signed is a loyal fanbase and this is what you can gain through gigging. It is the loyal following that you get who will spread the word for you and get other people interested in your music. Gigging also gives you the chance to earn some money whilst getting instant feedback on your music from the crowd. Many record labels will want to see you perform live before they sign you so it is important that you sound brilliant live as well as on your demo track. So start sending off demos and start ringing local venues to try and get yourself booked. When gigging try to play at as many different venues as possible and try and gig at all locations across the country, the bigger the area that you have gigged in the more well known you will become.

Once you are happy with your music it is then time to start promoting yourself. This is the time to start your own website and your own MySpace Music account. It’s important to have a good looking website as the standard of your website will reflect on how people think of you. It’s ok having a great website but you have to promote it hard as not many people are just going to stumble across it. Use your websites to keep your fans informed of your latest news and happenings.

When promoting yourself try and find out what type of people are listening to your music and then promote yourself on websites and messageboards where these people hang out. If your music is like another established artist go on their website and tell their fans about your music.

The next step of promotion is to get music magazines, websites and publications talking about you so start inviting their writers to your gigs and sending them information about your act. People who work in the music industry read music magazines so getting yourself featured in them can be great promotion.

When sending off a Demo CD to record labels it is also good to have an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) to go with it. So you need to get your bios written up and sounding good, if you are not very good at writing try and enlist some help. You will also need some professional looking photos so try and get the best photographer you can find / afford and get some promo photos done. If you are on a budget try and find a local photography student to help you as they normally have access to great equipment and are looking to build up their portfolio so may do it for free.

Music videos are a great promotional tool to add to your EPK. Again if you can find a local media student they may be able to make you a video for free which you can put on websites like YouTube.

Now you have to find the contact information of record labels, agents and A & R scouts to send your EPK and demo to. You can find this information by scouring the internet searching the websites of the record labels themselves or by searching through one of many online directories. Before sending your demo off be sure to do your research on the person or company you are sending it to, this is to make sure they are above aboard. Before sending you also need to find out the name of the person you need to send it to at a company and you need to find out if that person or company promotes artists in your genre of music. Posting Demo’s of can be an expensive business so you need to make sure that whoever is receiving it is going to listen to it. If you can’t be bothered to scour the internet for details of record labels a book that many music industry professionals swear by is ‘The Unsigned Guide’

As well as sending your Demo to record labels you need to start sending them to Radio Stations in order to get some airplay. Many stations now devote whole shows or sections of shows to Unsigned Acts who send in their music. This can help you grow your fanbase and will impress record labels.

You don’t need to be signed to a record label to start selling your own music. There are many websites and online music stores that will help you store your music online and provide you with an online shop front to sell your music from. It’s up to you if you go down this route or decide to offer your music as free downloads. Offering free downloads will mean more people will hear your music but won’t make you any money. Our advice would be to have one or two tracks available for free and then use them to get people interested in paying to hear some of your other tracks.

Always be on the lookout for new ways to promote yourself and your music. Many websites and media companies now have sections where you can upload your own content for their viewers or competitions you can enter.

Whenever a new act comes in to the charts research them and find out how they got noticed and signed to a record deal. Remember though if you are ever offered a contract or asked to sign anything by a music company always get a professional to look over it before you sign anything.

Always take on board any feedback you get and always keep working on new material as  you never know what sound or track is going to be in demand next or what track a record label may want to hear.