How To Get Signed – The Best Way To Get A Record Deal

How To Get A Record DealIf you’ve ever wondered how to get signed or how to get a record deal, then this is the guide for you. There is a lot of very valuable information in this article, so if you find it useful, please share it on your favourite social networking website (E.G Facebook, Twitter , Google + etc) or your own site.

The reason this guide came about is because the old method of getting signed to a record label has died out. It used to be enough to simply have a talent and bump into the right person, but not any more. No more will sending your demo to a record label give you the chance of being signed, you now have to do a lot more to get on the radar of a record label a&r.

Despite the old methods not working anymore, when you do a search for how to get signed to a record label, you still see articles giving outdated advice. This article aims to change that.

So if you’ve ever asked yourself “How do I get a record deal”, read on and find out the best way to go about doing so.

Why Would You Want A Record Deal?

Before I go any further, I want to look at why you might want to get a record deal. This is after all a site for independent musicians, teaching them how to handle all business aspects of the music industry by themselves.

Being an independent musician can be very rewarding. You are 100% in control of what path you take, and you can push your music as much or as little as you require. You can work with who you want, and you have full creative control.

It is perfectly possible to make a decent income from your music without the help of a record label, but in all honesty, there is only so far you can go. If you ever wanted a shot at doing well in the mainstream charts, there’s a good chance you’ll need a record label to help you do so.

The thing is, promoting your music to a mainstream audience can cost a LOT of money. The type of money is can cost to run a successful campaign will cost thousands and thousands, and is more then most independent musicians can afford.

If you had a record label however, they could help fund this money for you. They will also have links to the bigger companies you need to make everything work (E.G. pressing plants and distributors) and get everything out on time.

While you can make a good living not signing to a record label, if you want to pass a certain level of success they may come in handy.

The Best Way To Get Signed To A Record Label

As I mentioned before, you won’t get signed by simply sending your demo to a record label and them liking your music. This may have worked before, but with the changing shape of the music industry, record label ‘artists and repertoire’ people (A&R) are a lot more hesitant to sign unknown acts. They don’t know if you’ll make back the money they invest in you, and they’ve got a lot less cash to chuck around then ever before. So unless you can prove to them there’s a good chance they’ll recoup the money they invest in you, most likely you won’t get signed for a record deal.

If you want to prove to a record label you are worth getting signed, you first need to show them you can make it without them. In other words, you have to do all the promotional work, getting shows, and more all by yourself. If you then reach a level where you have a good amount of fans behind you and you can prove that these fans make you money, you have a much better chance of getting offered a record deal. In fact, record labels will start approaching you as they will want a piece of the action.

But what if you don’t know how to do everything yourself? Simply put, you need to learn. You can join a course like the IMA Music Business Academy, saving you time learning everything yourself through trial and error. By building up your music business knowledge, you will be able to start making money from your music and drawing in crowds. Once you have a good amount of numbers behind you, record labels will start to take notice. From here, you can get your first recording deal.

What Are Record Labels Looking For With Independent Musicians?

So, what are record labels looking for when they’re ready to potentially sign someone? Here are a few things you need to prove to them…

1: Show You Can Draw In Crowds – Getting Signed

Performing Gigs To CrowdsIf you want to sign to a record label, you need to prove that you can draw in crowds. Crowds are the people who fund your music career, and can mean the difference between a rich musician and a poor one.

These crowds pay for tickets and show up at your live gigs. They buy your merchandise, sing along to your lyrics, and go home and tell everyone how great you are. If you have these type of fans, getting signed shouldn’t be much of a problem. If a label rep comes to one of your gigs and they sees this type of thing happening, they’ll instantly see dollar signs. This will get you closer to getting signed and getting the record deal you want.

2: Show You Can Sell Units – How To Get A Record Deal

As well as selling out live shows and making good money on merchandise, another thing record labels want to see is you selling units. While the amount of units you’re expected to sell has gone down over the years, you’re still expected to sell a decent amount of songs. This shows that people are willing to buy into you, and you fan base is still willing to spend money on your brand.

You won’t be expected to sell anywhere near the amount that big artists do. Record labels realise that there’s only so much promotion you can do as an independent artist, and the less promotion you can do, the less units you will sell. Despite this, they do want to see some numbers. If you can prove you can sell a good amount of songs, the label bosses will be more interested in having you on board. With their budget for a bigger promotional campaign, you will be able to sell a lot more units in total.

3: Demonstrate You Have A Big And Sticky Fan Base – How To Get Signed

One of the other major things record labels will want to see before they sign you, is how big you fan base is. They can get a good idea about this in a number of ways:

  • You social networking accounts (E.G. Facebook and Twitter follower numbers).
  • The size of your mailing list.
  • How many people turn up to your gigs.
  • Your Youtube views and ratings.
  • How much buzz there is around you when you do something new and newsworthy.

Having large numbers on all of these things is a good thing, but not enough by themselves. As well as a large number of Twitter followers for example, they also want to see how ‘sticky’ these people are. By this, I mean do they interact with your Tweets at all? Or are they on your account but have no real interest in you? How responsive is your mailing list? If you have 10,000 people on it but no one reads any of your emails for example, your list is pretty much useless.

Read on for ways to improve your chances of getting signed if you really want a deal:

Because of this, it’s important you don’t artificially increase your numbers just for show. The quality of people you have in your ‘fan base’ will be very poor, and be clear for A&Rs to see.

Aim to build a genuinely loyal and responsive fan base. Even if your numbers are smaller then some other artists, you will still be an attractive prospect to sign. Remember, getting signed to a record label will mean you’ll have a much wider reach. What you need to prove is people really take to you, and that you’re someone they’ll buy into.

Should You Definitely Aim For A Record Deal?

Even if it is your aim to sign to a major record label (Or even a indie record label), please remember that this isn’t the only way to do things. There are many people that are making a good living by making their own music and not relying on any type of label along the way. In fact, you might start working towards getting a record deal, then when an offer comes along realise that you’d rather carrying on doing it all yourself.

The DIY methods has become increasingly popular these days, and can be greatly satisfying if you only have to rely on yourself to have a successful music career. Either way, you will need to start out learning the music business by yourself. When you get to the stage where record labels are sniffing around, you can decide if you want to sign or remain independent.

If you have decided you definitely want to sign for a record label however, here are a couple of things you’ll need to bare in mind:

1: You’ll Only Get A Record Deal If You’re Easy To Work With

How To Get Signed - Image By Dplanet:: On FlickrHave you ever worked with a really annoying college? Maybe they didn’t pull their weight enough while everyone else put in 100% effort. Maybe they were just rude, and not nice to be around. Either way, you wish they wasn’t there right? You didn’t want to work with them at all.

The music industry has their fair amount of these people. Getting a bit of fame can tend to bring out the arrogant side of people, and sometimes people get too big for their boots. Guess what? Record labels can choose who they want to work with, and don’t have to put up with this kind of behaviour! If you’re gaining interest and have the chance of signing a deal, please don’t start acting like a diva and like you’re above everyone else. Throwing around demands and being stubborn won’t get you more from your record label, you will get dropped if you already have your deal, or not signed at all if your deal hasn’t been finalised yet.

You obviously want to have a say on how your music career goes, but don’t be rude or arrogant with it. Being humble but well spoken can get you far, and won’t mess up any chances you have.

2: Being Likeable Can Help You Get Signed

Similarly to the point above, if you are a nice and likeable person, you will find it easier to seal in a deal. When labels start to become interested in you, they will look deeper into who you are as a person. They will have meetings with you, and come and see you perform. If during these times you are friendly and very welcoming, they will more likely warm to you and see you in a good light. If they can get charmed by you, then why wouldn’t other people?

Greet them with a smile. Be open with them about what you want to achieve, and share personal information that will help them see you in a different light. Ask them about themselves and make general conversation. The aim is to have them see you as a friend. People are more likely to help their friends out, and want to work with them. You’re building emotional connections between you and them, one that will make it harder for them to let go.

Small things like this can make a big difference when it comes to signing a deal, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

You Need To Make Yourself Easily Contactable

If you want to sign to a record deal, you’ll need to be easily contactable by record labels. If you only have a Twitter account and you never check your messages, how do you expect a record label to get in contact with you? Are they supposed to magic your number out of thin air?

Having you own website with a contact form is probably the best way to go about this. Make sure you check all your mail yourself, even if you do have someone else running your website for you. Having said that, you should ideally run your own website yourself as it’s not very hard these days…

How To Get Signed To A Record Label – Get A Record Deal Conclusion

Whether you want to know how to get signed to a label or you want to stay independent, you will need to do everything yourself initially. You will need to build your own fan base, sell your own songs, and draw people into your gigs. Once you know how to do this and are drawing in decent numbers, record labels will start to approach you.

If you’re not sure how to do any of these things, I suggest you sign up to the IMA Music Business Academy. During this weekly course, we show you how to handle the business side of the music industry. This will allow you to get your self out there in the best way possible, and save you years of trial and error along the way.

So how do you get a record deal? You build up your brand as much as possible, and have the record labels come to you. If you know anyone else that wants to know how to get signed, please refer them to this article.

P.S. Want to learn how to take your music career to the next level using music marketing? Then click here!

Comments

  1. Jessy says:

    Nice guide. I had planned to stay as an independent musician but do you think I should try and sign to a record label now?

  2. Hi Jessy. I’d suggest you just focus on making yourself the best musician you can be. Hone your craft, and learn how to promote yourself properly. If you do this right, with a little bit of luck (And a lot of talent / hard work) you will get to the stage where you’re making money from your music. As your name gets bigger and your fan base increases, record labels will come to you. From here you can start thinking about record deals, and decide whether or not you want one. Before that though, simply focus on bettering yourself as an artist.

  3. Steve says:

    Nice article, but in the second paragraph I think you mean “radar” instead of “raider”.

  4. Thanks for pointing that out Steve, changed 🙂

  5. chinwe says:

    good article and advice so, basically promoting yourself is key, that includes shows and shows and growing fan base lol before worrying about record labels, it makes perfect sense. i’ll take the record labels off my mind and just have fun with this (a lot of indie artist dwelling on that record deal= stress) its a distraction too from real talent.

  6. That’s exactly it Chinwe, you’ve got it in one 😀
    It’s all about having fun with it, but at the same time realising you will need to put the work in to do well. Focus on making yourself a better musician and business person, and the rest will fall into place.

  7. This is an excellent and thorough article. It was very informative. I run a small record label and being an A&R and music professional, I’m glad you are sharing information like this.

    It is also my aim, to help artists get signed, if that is what they want to do.

    It is very important to be personable and easy to work with. Labels want to deal with mature and levelheaded people. I think that is the most important thing I look for in artists. I like persistent musicians as well. I just an NYC band keep in touch with me and constantly kept up with my where abouts as I traveled. The day I came into town, they invited me to a show to meet them.

    I admired them for wanting to meet me and I took the time out of my busy schedule to respect them, because they were so persistent.

    A band should have a good manager to protect them and advise them when it comes to serious business deals like record deals. I don’t think bands should sign without a manager or lawyer.

    I also think it is smart to sign with an indie label before working with a major label so they can get their feet wet.

    Great post.
    Very informative!

    Jordannah
    Think Like a Label.com

  8. Hi Jordannah, glad you appreciate the advice. I actually stumbled across your site when doing a bit of my own reading, you’ve got some good advice up there. 🙂

    Agreed about your point on bands or artists not signing without their lawyer present, it’s important you fully understand all the details of the contract inside out. While some of the wording may seem like gibberish to the untrained eye, it could be the difference between the dream contract you’ve been waiting for, and a lifetime of slavery to the label. So it’s always best to have a professional look over it before you sign anything.

    Thanks for the great post, and keep it up with the site. 🙂

    Shaun.

  9. Chance says:

    I mean it’s good advice but HOW do you draw crowds? HOW do you sell more units? HOW do you grow your mailing list, twitter, youtube etc?

  10. Hi Chance. We’ve a lot of marketing advice on this website, it’s all about looking around really. I’d advise you check the ‘Categories’ section in the sidebar, and look into what area you want to know more about. Alternatively, joining the IMA Music Business Academy spells things out in a more step by step manner.

  11. Maxx lol says:

    Hey, im in a small local band, we play gigs around once a month, every time we play we check our social media (facebook) and we usually have 20-50 new fans, except when we post information on new things the band is doing which should interest our fans, we get little to no feedback, so in short, we have no real interested fans. Can this be a problem with labels?

  12. Hi Maxx. You need to remember, just because people don’t interact with your wall, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t read and taken interest in what you have mentioned.

    The only problem however, is if you don’t get a lot of people interacting with your wall, FB may stop showing your posts as much. It’s because of this that it’s important to get people involved in a two way conversation.

    Instead of just updating people about what you’re doing, why don’t you ask them questions and make them feel like they’ve got a voice? Questions can be a great way of getting Facebook fans involved, so ask them what they’d want to see. Ask them if they want to get involved in some way. As a few people start interacting on your wall, this will provide good social proof, and make others want to get involved in the conversation too. From here you will get a snowball type effect happening. give it a try.

  13. thelma williams says:

    iIam so ready for my big moment. Im just getting started at 24 years of age, and I do have I love to sing and also love the studio. I just want to say Im willing and ready for my big brake. I have only a few fans of my music and thats just off of them hearing the chorus to my, I wonder what its gonna be like when I finally get where I want to be?
    hg

  14. Shervin says:

    Hi, It’s a few months that I’ve started my music business and I’ve gathered some fans, not too much, but i’m feeling growth in my fan base and in my work. you said that we should only focus on being a good musician and promote our work. But regarding record deals, should we wait until they find us? I mean, isn’t it better to send some unreleased tracks to record labels as demoes(before releasing them independently), while working independently? And what if we mention our fanpages to labels so they would become aware of us?

  15. Hi Shervin, well done on your progression. You could do those things you mentioned, but often you won’t leave yourself in a good bargaining position in the very unlikely event the record label does give you a chance. You’re also using your time when it could be used better for other things. At the end of the day though, it’s up to you.

  16. Marco says:

    What if music artist are not from U.S. Canada,Uk,Australia.
    What is chance to be signed with record label and be promoted
    on worldwide international level?
    What to do – advice?

  17. Hi Marco. It will depend on how appealing your music is on a wider scale, and if there are any record label in your country with that budget. You have two main options: To deal with bigger label in other countries if they come looking for you (Or if you’re in another country it may be a good idea to go to them once you’re big in your country first), or you could focus on making a name in your country. This can still be profitable. Good luck.

  18. LeryBus says:

    Thumps up 4 dis wonderful article. But can u be own ur independent label while doing all dat ? Or is it good to own a label be doin dat ?

  19. Hi LeryBus. You can operate under your own DIY label if you want while being largely independent, that is not a problem. Bigger labels will still approach you if they feel you are right for them.

  20. chris geez says:

    This was a great article but I was wonder considering your telling me how to get signed by a record label can u help me by emailing me some recording studio numbers, record company numbers just so I can get off my feet an get started you know schedule meetings an such

  21. Chris, like I mentioned in the guide, don’t focus on contacting a record label directly for now. Do what you can to get your music out there and start making money from it, and if you’re what they’re looking for, they will come to you.

  22. Yanni says:

    Seems like great advice…
    I was wondering, what tips you have for getting a first gig?

  23. Thanks Yanni. 🙂

    Check out this guide for tips and advice on getting your first gig.

  24. Madison says:

    Nice info I really didn’t know what to do. I have lots of talent but I’m to shy to show it so what should I do?

  25. You’ll have to work on getting rid of that shyness if you want to get yourself out there as a musician. I suggest you start out reading my guide on getting rid of gig nerves and seeing if that helps. Good luck.

  26. Brian Payne says:

    GREAT ADVICE, but I dance, make music, and design. I make videos and get atleast 10,000 views on some. I feel I just need someone to sponsor me but I don’t know how to get one. What should I do?

  27. Your best bet would be with your fans. Get them to fund you to make projects and the like. If you’ve got a mailing list, let them know you’re looking for sponsors. You never know what could happen. 🙂

    P.S If you haven’t already got a mailing list, learn how to set one up here.

  28. Dana says:

    hi, i am a female rapper, and I’m really curious about the media and music industry…i want to know how would i make a free mixtape or something but using my own lyrics but someone else’s beats…as i recall i remember drake the rapper got discovered from a mixtape from the young money etc… and i wanna know how he did all that work and how can i make a youtube vid..you know with another artist’s instrumental beat for my background…some of my fav. artists have videos on youtube with them rapping and having another beat in the background…HOW? Help me!..also because im trying to enter a contest for the 2012 big jam thing to be an opening act!..HELP!

  29. Hi Dana. Our How To Make A Mixtape series should be able to help you out. Good luck. 🙂

  30. Hey i am the drummer for the pop punk band called palmtreesandpowerlines, and i was wondering if you have the time if you could check us out…. haha man that would just be a dream come true! were all talented people and we love what we do! and all of our dreams are to tour and share our music with the world, we dont care for the money really, i mean yeah it would be nice to make alot of money but just playing shows and seeing how people react:) theres nothing better than that! we would be much apprecaited, were on facebook,twiiter,instagram, and were even on itunes:D and if you need to get a hold of us our number is ***-***-**** and i also think we could help you see were in florida in a small part of town called callahan, and so many people love us around the world:) and that makes me so happy to see ans hear that:D but thanks for everything even if you just read this… thanks!

  31. Saul says:

    This Did Help me In Many Ways, I’m An Upcoming 14 Year old Artist, I Am Actually getting Pretty Popular For My Work, I’m From Denver Colorado So Its Not Too Easy getting Signed Here But I Think With your Advice I Can Go even farther I’ve Had A Little Bit Of Lables Contact me But I Just need To Find The Right Deal You Know? Thanks A Lot! (My Name is Saul Aguirre if You Would like To know And Check me Out I Am On Youtube ‘SaulAguirre98’)

  32. Josh.s says:

    Hello I recently was approached with a indie label in my town who wants to work with me. I have had 2 meetings with them and in the last meeting we spoke about releasing a single that they requested that I pay 200 dollars for the production of it…they told me they will take care of setting me up for shows and putting the record out there. No contract has been presented yet and they didnt tell me they wanted the 200 upfront just throughout the process of recording the single they want it. Even told me that I can do it in a weekly payment schedule. Does this seem like a scam? Or do many indie labels do this? I feel like they are jus trying to get me to do a single first so they know if they want to go on with fully signing me but should i have to pay for that? They are a smaller indie label but they do have quite a few artist signed to them. I’m really stuck and I need to make a decision as soon as possible. If anyone can help with some advice I would really appreciate it.

  33. Hi Josh, I replied to your email but I’ll reply here too so others can benefit from it. NO, you absolutely should NOT pay someone to release your music! The whole point of a record label is for them to supply the financial backing, as well as providing you with the means and tools to get your music out there more. They should be paying you to release your material, not the other way around.

    If anyone ever asks for you to pay to release something through them, it’s probably a scam. Stay well clear, no matter how clued up and convincing they seem. If they can’t fund and pay you, they aren’t a record label and most likely couldn’t do anything for your music. They will waste your time and money.

  34. Abhijeet says:

    nice article. for last few days i had been searching for such an advice.thanks a lot.

  35. Sian says:

    Hey, I’ve read your article and I find it quite usefull. The only problem is, is that I’m more of a song writer/singer and to be honest, I’m not very good at playing instruments. I can play the Cello and some of the guitar but I really don’t think the Cello will come in handy with the type of songs I write. You see, it has been my dream, ever since I was six, to become a famous singer. It’s not about the money for me (although my family are in a tough situation at the moment.. So money would be good), I want to feel like someone important, I don’t want to be bullied anymore, I just want to be accepted for once in my life. Thank you for taking the time to read this

  36. Glad you finally found it Abhijeet 😉

  37. Hi Sian. If you’re being bullied, you should tell someone about it (Teachers if you’re in school, parents etc) and get them to help. Playing music won’t help with that, although it can be a good way of relaxing.

    You don’t need to play an instrument to get signed, singing and songwriting is absolutely fine in it’s self.

    Good luck with your situation, please get help with the bulling issue. And all the best with becoming a famous singer. 🙂

  38. Chris says:

    This still does not tell me how I could possibly be signed

  39. It does Chris. In short: Make good music, build up a buzz / fan base and sales figures, make yourself easy to work with, make yourself easily contactable. When you’re contacted about a deal which is good, sign.

  40. Hevenly says:

    Hello. My name is Hevenly. I am 11 years old and love singing. A talent company, One Source Talent, called me in for an evaluation. Unfortunately, I could not make it. However, they said that I was very talented, and had plenty potential. I would love to get signed onto a record label, but my parents aren’t too supportive of my dream. How do I convince them to let me go to the eveluation? Thank you!

  41. Hi Hevenly. It’s hard when you don’t have people supporting your dream, but I’m sure your parents have your best interests at heart. There may be another reason they won’t let you go, not just because you want to be a singer.

    My advice is to keep practicing your singing, and as you improve see if they’ll take you to a studio to record a song. As they can see you’re doing more, hopefully they’ll start to help you out more. Good luck.

  42. Jesus Rodriguez says:

    I’m only 12 I’m looking Forward to get a record Deal Soon I Live In Diboll TX My First Song That’s Coming Out Is (When I Was Young).
    I’m just trying to follow my dream and find out were it takes me.

  43. lil Charles says:

    This was a great article on how to get that record deal IM a hustler and a real hustler know how to be independent and grind for the top

  44. Sometimes you just got to hustle Lil Charles!

  45. Tsai Swope says:

    I have the voice and talent but how do I promote my self in the right way?

  46. Tsai, check out Music Marketing World. It has daily guides on how to market your music.

  47. Javin says:

    Hello,
    I write all my songs, my brother in law makes all the music. I think the music is great and I think it should be copy written. Should that be the most important thing we do? How can I get it copy written the right way?

  48. I’ve written a post about copyrighting music here. While not THE most important thing you can do (Making good music and marketing it effectively both have bigger positive effects on your music career) it is an important piece of the puzzle and should be done.

  49. Asta says:

    Hello, I’m a girl from Norway. To be honest, it’s harder to break through in Norway and at all getting a great amount of fans .. what do you think I should do? I really want to live of music! Sing to the people .. But I’m too young to get contacts in Norway. The one should make contact with is much older than me .. I have read many pages and I know it will be hard and a lot of work. But this is what I want! I’d worked so hard if I just knew what I should do ..

  50. Hi Asta. If you’re too young to make contacts and push yourself in that sense without your parents help, either get your parents on board to help you, or use this time to perfect your talent and get some songs recorded. If you’re still young there’s no major rush, use this time to improve your art. Then as you get older you’ll have a much better product that will be harder for people to ignore. Good luck.

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