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How t0 get Signed to a Record Label ?

Looking for the Secret.

'How do you get a record deal', more like how do you write a guide to getting a record deal?

I had started writing this many times over the years having ran a recording studio, worked as a sound engineer, musician and for a successful indie label. In that time I had seen a number of artists, some who were friends, get that elusive deal. I'd also seen at first hand three of these go from nothing to having top ten hits. I'd also had a few close shaves myself. I first started writing a guide to the music business  because at that point I'd found myself teaching part time on  music course. The kids I was standing in front of didn't want to know what mic to use on a bass drum or what a sample rate of 44.1 was all about. The question that most of the students wanted answering was;

 "How do you get a record deal"

I think I did manage to pass on some words of encouragement and info that I believed was helpful but I honestly really didn't know the answer to that question.

You sort of do this and do that and somehow, someone gets to hear about you and you get signed.

What I did know was that most of them had very little chance whilst one or two that you met had something about them that you could believe in. After a number of years teaching I was unfortunately made redundant, or fortunately as it turned out and went back to writing music. The truth was that this is the thing that I do best and in the back of my mind I still had that lingering idea that I could still get a record deal despite what friends and family might have advised me.

Before I go any further, you cannot buy a record deal, or secret contacts or what ever the other things are that you see all over the internet. Money spent should be on a great studio demo, or some vocal lessons, some good clothes, a new guitar etc etc.

 Sorry just had to clear that one up. Anyway back to the story.

 So with time on my hands and no money, I started writing and playing music again. It took an few years but I eventually got signed to major label. No,I didn't become famous but it opened many doors in music and anyway, this article is about getting a record deal. After that it's all in the hand of the gods.

Did I discover a secret ? Yes.

You sort of do this and do that and somehow, someone gets to hear about you and you get signed.

When I was writing my initial guide for my students I really was looking for that elusive piece of information. So one day I decided to take a different approach. I made a list of all the people I had known over the years who had got a deal. These came under the heading Success. I then made a second list of the artists who I thought would get  a deal because of their talent and hadn't. These were under the heading Failure.

Success Failure
Some lucky basta... people me and most other great musicians

So then I figured that maybe I would be able to find a common ground between the people in each list and hopefully the difference between the two.  So I sat there with my list of Success  and started off with a few of the more obvious ideas. Were they the most talented?  No . Were they the best musicians - of course not, this is pop music - Best singers no . Best looking - No. All the 'best' ones were in the second list.

So that didn't go well. I tried the same thing with my Failure list and still couldn't see a link. And then something  slowly dawns on me  and I nearly gave up writing this.  The first link was that;

I didn't predict that any of these inn the success list would get a deal!

How can that be. Am I so out of touch. How can they get a deal when there are other better song writers' singers, musicians, better looking people out there?

Ok, it's pop music so the obvious thing is best looking. Again no. So is it random? The lucky few. That would be be unfair because the ones that I knew  well were hard working. Hard working ?  Maybe that's it. No again, some of these were as well. So looking at my list again and thinking about the ones who had failed. Best song writer, best singer, best looking, best guitarist. It's almost the other way round.This is really depressing.

One of these was a good friend and a very talented keyboard player, producer and song writer. This guy was now a solicitor with his own business. And another one. Great singer, original voice, great song writer and now a teacher. It just didn't make sense.

So I left it but it was in the back of my mind for a number of weeks and then one day I had a breakthrough. 

My partner turns up at the house with this book that a friend has bought her.

It's called the 'The Secret'.

It's one of these typical 'get everything you've ever desired' books that women seem to love.

Am I being sexist there? The bottom line of this book, or as she tells me, is that you ask The Universe for something, believe it's going to happen and The Universe delivers. I know what you're thinking, probably the same as I thought. Ok let's ask the universe to win the lottery next week and see if it actually works. And what about some poor kid living in Africa with no food or water?  No matter how sceptical you are you've got to have a read. So I did and it led me back to my list. However unlikely this concept might seem, were the successful ones asking the universe for a record deal? 

Maybe in some way they were.

Here was my starting point and my link.

All the ones who had been successful looked the part but more to the point, acted the part They were living their lives as a dress rehearsal for the big day. They were like an understudy at a play. Lines learned, costume on, standing in the wings waiting for the call. The clothes and presentation were just a part of the mind set that would lead to their goal. If the opportunities weren't presenting themselves at this particular theatre, they would move on to the next till their name was called.

One girl singer that I knew ended up having a top ten record. I saw her coming down the road one day with earphones in, sunglasses on and looking like she was just about to go on stage at the arena but it was nine o'clock in the morning so I thought that was unlikely.

Maybe she was going into the studio or off on tour?

As she got closer she could see me looking at her but didn't glance long enough to recognise me. She obviously thought it was a fan going to ask for her autograph and would oblige but was in too much of a hurry, too many important things to do to stand around chatting to the general public.

She then sees and recognises me. I asked her where she's going,"off to the studio?" . "No, just going to sign on". This was six months before her record came out.

To be more precise, they looked, dressed and acted the part for a very specific genre within pop music. For each one you could name two or three artists that they related to and it was always current artists. Not exactly copying but wearing a 'uniform' that would identify them within that genre.

My solicitor friend always looked like a solicitor. He was a clever guy, people took him seriously when he voiced his opinion on world politics. Maybe they didn't take him seriously when he said he wanted to play in a famous rock band. Maybe life would lead him to what was the predominant thing is his mind. It was what he was asking for despite the fact that he would have loved to be a successful musician.

Maybe the secret is that belief.

 When I was teaching I started to take on the persona of a teacher and as I got better at teaching I got further away from writing music  or getting a record deal. Once I had left I became a musician again, looked the part, thought the part, the music started flowing, and the opportunities came along. 

This also helped explain why I would often look at the kids in the class and see the ones who had a chance to be successful. You could imagine them being on stage in a professional band. They weren't the best but they knew where they where going. You knew that they were living their life to be successful in music. You just simply took them more seriously.

I don't think that there is anything mystical here (but there might be !) I think it's the way our brains function, honed to deliver what we really desire. Taking us to places where we need to be, meeting the people we need to meet.

And here's the next important part. The ones on my success list had become sort of friends for a while but had drifted off. At the time I was running a small demo studios and these people would book the studio and hang out there. But as they developed more with their music they would move on a find another place and people to 'hang out' with and it was always further up the ladder of the music business.

I found a name for these people. They are the Seekers. Looking to be in the place and with the people that best suited to achieve their goals. Dressed the part, looking the part, thinking the part and believing. I've had a couple of times in my life when I was a seeker, the first when I was a kid and we nearly signed to A&M records ( sound like that guy from the League of Gentlemen) and the second when I had been made redundant, was signing on and simply had to do something in music. I walked around looking like a musician, thought like one, acted like one and worked like a man possessed. And it happened.

I can remember being in the house one day, finishing off a new track and going to put the kettle on. Went to the fridge, no milk and realised that I only had 30p to my entire name. The blues then sets in and I remember thinking that no one would ever hear my new track. A year and a half later I was sitting in the cinema and watching the new Wes Craven movie, listened to the same track blasting out as Christina Ricca appears for the first time on screen. At the end of the day millions heard my track.

So I think you've got to ask for it, and live the part. Let it take over your life, let it be your job and your hobby, put the work in and maybe then something magical does happen?

Why is 'looking the part' so important?




How Do You get a Record Deal?

Part 2 : How do you need to 'Look' to get a Deal?

Part 3 : Four Facets of Success

Part 4 : What are Record Companies looking for?

Part 5 : Are you the one to get the deal?

Part 6 : How good a musician do you have to be to get signed?

Part 7 :The Art of being a Great Singer

Part 8 : Writing a Great Pop Song.

Part  9 : Self Promotion.

Part 10 : Record a Great Demo.

Part 11 : Do You Need a Manager?