Record Company/Music Biz Special
Ahh the Music Biz. Traditionally a shark infested sea of opportunity, and it still is - ah well ;-). But realistically speaking the record companies are out to make a profit and they tend to play it safe. A bit too safe say some but there are ways to get that elusive contract.
Whatever route you decide on, it will involve a business like and hard-working attitude to achieve your goal, but it is achievable! Only a very few original bands record an demo, do a gig or two and get signed up. Normally it take hard graft but more importantly SMART hard graft.
Before we go any further you basically need something to offer the punters and a record company. An excellent set of original songs will, to understate the matter, be helpful here. The old saying "You can't make a silk purse out of a Sow's ear" is very relevant in this case (generally speaking).
Act, look and sound the part, and your halfway there already. TV throwing out the hotel window is optional but not recommended ... ;-).
Record Company/Record Company Label Options
There are three basic options open to you and your band, regarding the thorny subject of obtaining a record deal:
Each one has distinct pro's and con's, we'll look at some of them in a minute.
Whichever type of label you have in mind, the first step you should take in every case, is to get the band together and decide what you all really really want! This means that EVERYBODY should be pulling in the same and right direction, this is crucial.
Make sure that everyone is on the same wavelength and you will avoid mega-problems later.
If a record company sees that your all pulling together, they'll take you more seriously.
Record Company/Music Biz Special/Wavelength
You MUST be all on the same wavelength. When you are sure that you are, start hatching your plan. You've already started by reading this info, perhaps you should all go through it.
If one or more of your bandmates opts out fair enough. It's shouldn't be a case of damaging friendship, but just looked at as purely a band business-decision.
To give you a more concrete example, let's say one of the band members just wants to play a few gigs here and there, and get squiffy on the weekend, that's ok. But if the rest of the band are serious and want to hit the big time, this will cause mega problems in the future.
You'll need to do a lot more than a few weekend sessions, and there's really a helluva lot you can do to rocket your ideas, band and songs forward up the ladder.
Climbing to the top is a serious undertaking, so get this issue clear before you take it any further. And in fairness to the "weekender" member and the rest of the group, it's the best decision all round to make.
The most demonstrative and successful band I know, who knew what they wanted and where they wanted to go, are Irish giants U2.
From almost the beginning, they had a plan, and they stuck to their guns and task, cut no corners and look at them now! U2 : THE EARLY DAYS - (hard to get at the moment, but well worth chasing down) ... reads like a precise mission to the top and explains clearly how they went about it. It was written by none other than the late, great Bill Graham who championed them right from the start.
He wrote for, amongst others, the famous Irish music mag "Hot Press". The whole paper was behind the boys. It's a blow by blow account of how they did it, fascinating, inspiring and informative reading.
Anyway, I think their plan was a complete winner and they proved it. And when it came to dealing with the Record Companies, they played it very smart thank you Mr. McGuinness, and fair play to yez all lads.
You need a similar attitude to get up there where you wannabe. The good news is, that there's a lot more help available nowadays, and loads of promoting you can do yourself.
In the "old days" it was mostly down to hard-slog gigging. Nowadays the boy and girl bands do the young teenie-bopper school circuit - ahh Rock 'n Roll eh? But that's where THEIR market is, god bless 'em.
Record Company/Music Biz Special/Originals
The next step you should undertake after finalizing the line-up, is to get a seriously strong set of originals together. You'll need about a CD's worth at least and take it from there.
When you have your set together (sounds easy in one sentence doesn't it hee-hee), it's time to really get it tight and work on a stage show.
Invest in a good set of stage clothes and lights. Add a professional impact to the visual end of things. This will set you apart from all the other "Riff-Raff" as Basil Fawlty might say! ;-). When the record company A+R men come to see you, be sure to give them something interesting to look at.
A+R = Artist and Repertoire - Looks around and scouts for the next best thing since the last best thing.
A good backdrop can work wonders here and it's probably safer and definitely more cost effective to chip in and buy a small PA between you, if it's affordable and not too massive in power.
If your playing really loud stuff it's sometimes necessary to hire gear instead for the really big gigs.
See a multitude of gear hints and tips on our Make Money/Cover Band article. The same basic gigging principles apply in the world of originals too.
Always go for something reliable and a well known brand. There's nothing worse than dodgy gear packin' up when a big label A+R man is checking your band out. Now with a solid line-up, a strong set of killer original songs and a strong stage show you can start to approach those record companies.
Record Company/Music Biz Special/Packaging
But don't forget that you can easily package all of your media yourself if you like, with the help of your trusty home computer. CD's can be burned and packaged on your PC no problem.
Record Company/Music Biz Special Spread the Word Around
Regarding spreading the word, I would suggest that you do tons of band promotion yourselves either way until you're at the top. The obvious gigging, demos and now websites and even ebooks are possible. Anything that gets the band attention is good, even bad publicity as they say. I think positive vibes are much better in the long run tho'. Make full use of Youtube and similar video sharing sites. This has awesome potential!
Record Company/Music Biz Special/Record Labels
The three traditional main routes to follow are the Major labels, Indie labels or maybe somewhere In-between. When you approach any Record Company or Label, it's a great bonus if your already effectively promoting and building a fanbase yourself.
Make up useful demos, posters, build your gigs, record and promote your own tracks and CDs and packages before they hand you a few million quid - mmm. It's great fun and rewarding as it is. The goalposts in the Music Biz have been moved! Here's some Record Company and Label options...
Start your own Record Company Label?
You could set-up and run your own Record-Label and do it ALL yourself more or less. This is an interesting option and worth a look.
Exactly that - it might be just the way to go for your Band? Biggest advantage? You have TOTAL control over your Music! Artistic Integrity as they say. But you and/or the Band have to do all the work to take all the credit too.
You can learn how to do it all yourself as discussed hereabouts, or simply hire a few "experts" when necessary. If it's a Band we're talking about, this gives you more hands on experience and options. One of you is bound to be hot on the PC, involved/experienced in advertising and so on. Share the duties AND the glory I say.
If you do your own promotion AND then decide to hit the Record Company Labels after, your job will be much easier. So which type would suit YOUR band?
Major Record Company Label?
For example, with a Major Record Company you might have to jeopardize some of your musical integrity but they might give you a big advance. (loadsamoney before you sell records, supposedly used to make your album and sometimes promote it aswell).
A major label wants a successful act on the books almost straight away, there's big investment made in the band and they want to quickly regain their investment and much more.
Indie Record Company Label?
An Indie label will tend to let you be who you are, but they don't have huge money to be handing out in advance.
They tend to see bands as more of a longterm proposition.
Inbetweenie Record Company Label?
An inbetweenie is just that and well worth considering too.
Each band has different priorities and needs, and this is one of the vital decisions you will have make sooner or later. Best advise? Immerse yourself in the field and know what your up against and what you want. Read the small print and get all contracts checked out before you sign ANYTHING!
If you get a deal to consider, It's best to get a MUSIC lawyer to look over the contract and explain it to the band in laymans terms. Hire one if necessary and don't make the big mistake of signing, before you thoroughly understand what your agreeing to.
Don't ask your mates "Uncle Jimmy who does the book-keeping at the local butchers" to do this for you, get or hire a bona fide lawyer who specializes in Music Contracts - VITAL!
Basically speaking, a good contract should benefit the band AND the record company.
Today, you could for example, build a Band Website full of info and even allow fans to download demos or buy your CD online.
These days more than ever, it's just as, if not more important to a successful operation, to check out the business end aswell as the music end of things. Read up on the tactics and techniques with Self-Promotion Resources to Boost Your Music Biz Career This was penned by Online Music Guru Bob Baker - a very respected and informative writer and musician and not a baker.
So to sum up out little crash course to the stars:
Get a solid line up together and make sure everyone is heading in the same direction, musically AND business-wise - VITAL!
Get a killer set of original songs together, at least enough for your first CD.
Tighten up the set and stage show 'til it shines and sets you apart from other bands.
Create and Promote your own Band Media/CDs/Merchandise ... USE that PC!
Get a video together and hit Youtube with it - make sure it's a good one. A live one will do the trick IF the sound recording is quality, which is easy enough to arrange. Hire someone for the night if necessary. Tip: don't use the built in mic on the camcorder if you do it yourself, record the sound through the desk and sync it up later with the video on your computer. This makes all the difference. Make sure the lighting is quality - this is the most common failure on these type of promotional videos and is easy enough to avoid with a bit of aforethought.
Learn about the Music Biz, and fine-tune your total plan for world domination or whatever your aiming for and GO for it - now is the time to strike!