Landing a record deal isn’t what it used to be, and many artists can have some success on their own without the help of a label. However, if your goal is real mainstream success, that may be difficult to achieve without the financial help of a record label contract. While it’s still possible to get a record deal with a major label or a well-funded independent label, the way you need to go about it has changed. For better or worse, the days of making a great demo and getting signed on your talent are pretty much over.
1. Play Shows
A&R representatives need to see that you’re out there trying to build a career on your own and that people – the general music buying public – have an interest in you. For that reason, you need to play shows regularly and learn to draw a crowd.
2. Draw a Crowd
This can be really hard when your first start out and don’t have fans. If at all possible, try to piggyback on the success of friends in other bands. Do you know a friend’s band that draws 150 people to a show on a Tuesday night? If so, ask them to try to get you on the bill at a venue they’ve played at before. If you never get out in front of any real group of people you’ll never attract your own fans. Performing with more established artists is one of the best ways to do that.
3. Record Music
Back in the good old days bands might have gone into a studio to record one or two songs to help promote their music with local magazines, newspapers and to get some attention from recording labels. Today, you’re going to need to do more than make a passable demo CD to get a record deal.
Why? Because A&R representatives want to see that you have the initiative to do everything on your own before they fork over the money to help you out. That might sound counterintuitive to some musicians, but A&R reps are pretty cash poor these days, and one bad investment in a band or artist could cost them their job.
Your best bet is to record a few songs on your own — whether you do it in a studio or on your own is up to you, and as long as the quality isn’t awful, the recording will serve its purpose.
4. Press CDs
Next you need to press some CDs. Short run duplication and custom CDs are pretty inexpensive these days, and if you don’t start selling some on your own, that record contract may not be coming your way any time soon.
5. Sell Your CDs
Sell your CDs at shows whenever possible. You should also set up a website. Don’t be afraid to give them away to local radio and magazine people, either. Sell your CDs cheap and don’t worry about making a ton of cash. If they cost you a dollar a piece, selling them for three is fine. You need all the attention you can get if you want to land that record deal, and selling a lot of CDs is helpful.
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