The glory of getting signed to a major label is the ultimate music career status symbol for every aspiring singer, rapper, songwriter, producer, musician and band — and yet, it remains the biggest unsolved mystery of the music industry.
This guide will serve as a roadmap for how to get signed to a record label, as well as a staunch reality check for those who’ve underestimated what it actually takes to get signed.
Record labels are like venture capitalists, and indie musicians are a startup company. The investor will provide financial resources and exclusive connections to artists with high growth potential in exchange for an equity stake.
Depending on the type of record deal you sign, that “equity stake” can total 50-90% of a signed artist’s earnings — but perhaps it still beats the $25,000 median annual salary of an indie musician.
The Bottom Line: Record companies will only sign you if they believe they can profit from you.
Even if you are worthy of a record deal, there’s a lot more competition today — with 4,000 monthly Google searches for terms like “how to get a record deal” and “how to get signed to a record label.”
So, you have to ask yourself – “how would I stack up against 4,000 other artists?”
There are literally thousands of indie artists trying to get the attention of a major label. This is not going to happen magically. You need to be generating serious buzz on social media and in the streets, otherwise you’ll need a bonafide connection to an executive decision maker.
As the saying goes, “Don’t try to get signed. Try to get popular first.”
The funny thing about getting a record deal, is that you ALREADY need to be doing the things a major label would help you accomplish.
Artists who get record deals usually don’t need a label — that’s the irony of getting signed.
If you’ve already got a catalog of great music supported by a strong online fanbase, you’re going to eventually be noticed.
Record companies want to sign indie artists who are already doing live shows, earning royalties and making money.
Keep in mind that major record labels like Sony, Universal, and Warner aren’t taking risks on new artists like they used to. Investing in unsigned artists is a lot like gambling on horse racing — and no one wants to bet on a losing horse.
Russ has proven that going “all-in” is necessary in order to become a songwriter, whether indie or signed to a major label.
Russ dropped a new song per week on SoundCloud, every week for two years straight before his music started to catch on.
Russ is considered a pioneer of profitability for independent artists. He is one of the most successful indie artists of all-time, pushing the limits of what can be accomplished in the music business without the help of a record deal from a major label.
Should You Quit Your Day Job to Pursue Music? Not necessarily.
You shouldn’t go broke to pursue your dream as a rapper, but let’s face it — you need stability.
If you don’t have money, you won’t be able to invest in advancing your music career. How will you pay for the following expenses?
Not to mention rent, food, gas, and everyday costs of living.
You should only quit your day job once you are making enough money with your music career to adequately sustain yourself.
Why do you want to be signed? Is it even realistic?
Be honest with yourself by asking these questions:
This is the music business. And it’s all about hit songs.
Although it’s impossible to know exactly what makes a song a hit record, there is a formula that songwriters can follow.
Consider your approach to music releases:
Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily have to be signed to a label in order to become a successful songwriter.
The more you learn about the music creation process, the more signable you’ll become.
Why? Because the more skills you can bring to the table, the more appealing you’ll become to a record label.
You might not get signed as an artist, but you could earn a production deal if you have serious skills.
The following music production skills will not only make you more marketable, but it will broaden your creativity.
After all, this is the business of music. And the money has to come from somewhere.
Even major artists like Future have recognized that no one is going to teach you all of these confusing concepts. That means you need to take massive initiative and learn the business of music yourself.
Before getting signed, you must acknowledge that record labels will give you upfront money or an “advance”, along with a team of resources — but not unless they believe you can become a money making machine.
And by the way, that upfront money advance is recoupable, meaning it must be paid back in FULL, which means you actually have to make money and be profitable at some point.
You must learn the role of all people (and things) that will be involved in your music career.
There are many types of record deals out there. And unfortunately not all of them are good ones.
Here’s a list of the record deals you should know about (before signing one):
Watch this video from Financial Times to understand the inner workings of how record deals work.
Let’s start out by acknowledging that streaming payouts are worth peanuts, so let’s look at better ways to monetize your music career.
This is perhaps the most important skill you can learn as an upcoming artist or musician, because it’s a transferable skill that can apply to any business.
If you are just getting started, your initial goal should be to earn 1,000 true fans, which is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce.
So, how do you do that?
Networking in the music business is less about getting what you want, and a lot more about the value you can bring to someone else.
You need to imagine that when you approach someone, they are a bank account.
If you never made a deposit into that account, how can you expect to make a withdrawal?
This is why you should always prioritize adding value before shooting your shot.
Here are some quick tips for networking in the music business:
The primary purpose of performing live is NOT to get signed, however it can increase your odds of being noticed by label A&Rs.
The primary purpose of performing live is to connect with your audience and fans in a way that’s more meaningful than doing it online.
Now let’s be real, the days of being “discovered” at open mics are long gone. Don’t expect a label A&R to walk into your set and offer you a contract. However, an impressive live show could help you land a major label meeting.
This article is scattershot. It says it will tell you how to get a record deal, but a lot of the advice is geared to beginners. I will simplify the process for you. This is how you get a record deal, the actual criteria that matters:
1. Write, record, and produce hits.
2. Be polite, but persistent with contacts.
Wrong! Unless you have a song banging on Tik Tok or some other social media platform you have zero chance getting signed by a major label! Just ask Jack Harlow!
And how would the author of this article know anything about getting signed by a major label? He’s a amateur musician! There are tons of fake teachers in the music business!
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