As we all know, the music industry is going through a lot of changes. You’ve seen the articles: “CD sales are down“, “Can the recording industry be saved?”, “What’s the future of the music business?“, “Did the internet kill the music industry?“…so on and so forth. A lot of up and coming musicians are still trying to find a way to get signed to a major record deal. But is this the way to go in this day and age?
Getting signed to a major record company used to be the greatest feeling a struggling artist could ever have. I mean, think about it. You send in your demo. An A&R rep calls you and says, “Hey, we love your stuff….we wanna sign you.” Even better…you’re humming a tune at your local convenience store and a record executive says, “Hey, ummm, I wanna sign you.” The next step would be to go to either New York, Los Angeles or Nashville to meet with the record executives. They lay down a 20 to 50 page contract in front of you. You sign it. They give you an advance (money up front to support your project) and then you’re off to the studio to record your “No. 1 hit album”. Sounds fun, huh? Ahhh, the good old days. That’s how the music industry was and for some people it still is. But what’s crazy is that only a hand full, if that, actually comes out with an album. And it’s still that way today.
To tell you the truth, there are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of artists signed to record deals and still haven’t recorded their first album…let alone a single song. Sucks, huh? It’s true. You want to know why? Well, I’ll tell you. Some artists wait for the record companies to guide their careers. That’s like saying, “Just wait ‘til I hit the lottery”…and you never play. I completely understand why a band, group, solo artist or musician would believe that a record company would take care of them. It’s easy. They give you money in advance to support your project. If a friend of mine gave me hundreds of thousands of dollars to do what I’ve been wanting to do all my life….and I didn’t have to work a regular job anymore…believe me, they would be my friend for life. But the reality is….the upfront money is a loan. Some artists view this money as a sign of “makin’ it”. But this money has to be recouped (paid back to the record company…for those of you who aren’t familiar with the music industry lingo).
This model of the recording industry is still in practice. I’m not branding major record labels as a hopeless case. If you can get funded by a major label, by all means have at it. All I know is, if you don’t have a vision of where you want your career to go or what you want your music to sound like, you’ll either be shelved or recording music that you either hate or can’t relate too. Not a bad thing. It’s worked in the past and is still working for some artists today. But if you want control over your career, getting signed to a major deal may not be for you.
The internet has made it possible for someone to record a song in their room and post it that same night for the entire world to hear. It has also made it easier for an unknown, who would have never been able to step foot in a major record labels office, to find his/her own audience. Isn’t that what the majors are doing? Trying to find who would buy your albums or songs? That’s why they spend millions of dollars promoting an artist’s project. But even if they spend millions on your project, you’re still not guaranteed to come out with a record. I’ve seen it happen. And it happens because the artists rely on the record labels to guide their career. Don’t be one of them.
Like I mentioned earlier, signing to a major is not a bad thing. You just have to remember whose career it is. It’s the record company’s job to bring income into the company to pay for their own expenses. It’s the artist’s job to guide their own career. And one great way to do this is to find your listening audience before you go to the record labels. Yeah, family is great, however; I’m referring to the listening audience that would spread the word and convince others that your music is worth buying. Find out who’s going to buy your music. Sell it to them. Keep track of the sales. Then approach the record companies….if that’s route you want to take. Nine times out of ten, once you start making money from your own product, on your own terms, it’ll be hard to even consider a major recording deal. I say this because….record labels take a hefty percentage from your sales because they’ve invested loads of money in “hopes” your record sells. With websites such as CDbaby.com,Broadjam.com and several other sites, you can receive majority of your money sooner than if you signed with a major record company. So, take control of your career. Don’t wait to be discovered. Once you take control, the majors will take notice.
Tim “The ChirpinByrd”