By Chris Standring
I have just signed my 4th record deal in
10 years. An independent company called Trippin' In Rhythm Records
who run their label through V2 records in order to get major (Virgin
Records) distribution and marketing clout. In an age where I'm
literally watching record labels go under by the week, I am actually
quite surprised I landed a new deal at all to be honest. I am
watching contemporaries of mine set up their own record labels,
some successfully, others not, and I was all set to do the same
and set up shop as plan B if I couldn't get this new album signed.
Running a label is a huge commitment and frankly I don't know
how I could do it the way I would want to without seeking funding
and going into partnership with three other experts. Selling a
few copies of my latest album on the internet is not my style....
So why did I manage to get signed again? Well I have thought about
this and I've come up with a few answers, not to toot my own horn
but to try to explain to you what might be necessary in order
for YOU to get to where you are trying to get to.
For years I have heard from successful people that "the
planets must be aligned!". Well, this might be another
way of saying "Good luck!" In order for the planets
to be aligned, our lives must therefore be completely out of our
control, yes? Our success must be in the lap of the Gods. Well,
I have never been one to sit and wait for the grass to grow around
my feet, there is simply too much to do. And I never wanted to
believe that success would happen arbitrarily. I've never ever
just waited for the phone to ring. So I have always believed that
if I am to be successful dammit, it is up to me to align
the planets! And I have never adopted this principle more so than
leading up to my latest project.
I decided in January 2005 that I would spend the whole year recording
a new album and doing everything I had to, in order to get my
ducks in a row so the new album could be released. I planned on
a 1st quarter 2006 release. I spoke to labels throughout the year
and explained to them that, were they to take on this new record,
it was of paramount importance to me that the record be released
1st quarter 2006. Why? because if you release a record at any
other time of the year as far as I am concerned, it can be disasterous.
Firstly, if a record goes to radio Jan/Feb let's say, you have
the whole year to promote it, and the industry is excited to get
going again after the holiday. What is more, whatever radio action
you get, you can parlay into concert performances. In my genre,
all of the big music festivals happen in the summer, so a 1st
quarter release can gear you up perfectly to jump on these shows.
Furthermore, radio takes a painfully long time to react now where
a new single can take 6 months to get any chart action, so releasing
a record later in the year doesn't make sense for promotional
purposes. And releasing records later in the year will put you
in massive competition with major label artists, and fighting
for shelf space at record stores is not pretty! There is simply
less competition at the beginning of the year. It makes sense.
So after shopping around, I finally ended up with two labels fairly
keen and agreeing to my release schedule. Trippin' In Thythm came
through where the other label ended up being just a lot of hot
air. So why did the one label come through? I mean after all,
I was being somewhat demanding! A number of reasons...
At the beginning of last year I spent several months experimenting
with new music. Kind of dissapeared up my own ass if you will.
Very proud of my self indulgence, I whisked this music off to
labels. "All very well Chris but give us something we
can market!" was the grim reply. Disheartened, I spent
some time thinking about what I should do. After some thought
I decided to personally hire Paul Brown, the most successful jazz
record producer currently working, who I happen to know quite
well. I said "Paul, I need a hit song!" So he
dug deep into his treasure chest and after a couple of weeks we
came up with something really strong for radio. That and his name
on the production was enough to get one or two heads turning and
I was back on the radar again. This was an extremely expensive
investment on my part but clearly it was the right move. I had
aligned a planet...
Package tours are all the rage now in the music biz, certainly
in the urban/soul jazz format. Rather than wait for a management
company to call me up and offer me a slot on a package tour I
decided to put one together. So I contacted a few folks and pitched
a tour together featuring a very well known R&B diva (can't
mention her name just yet - negotiations still underway) and more
heads turned. When I put this idea to the record labels, they
thought it was an amazing idea. I had aligned another planet...
Now I'm thinking, "It's about time I had a new manager!"
I called up a friend who I have known for a while and put the
idea to him, telling him about the potential tour, record label
and radio single. "Great let's do it!" he said.
Why this particular manager? Because not only is he completely
connected but he is also a concert promoter and even though he
can go to an established agent and pitch this tour, out of the
box he can set up 10 shows on his own. One more planet aligned....
And once everyone involved got wind of what was going on, they
all cemented themselves inthe machine further. They are all now
on board because the planets are aligned. Because I aligned them.
Now, this scenario may be much larger (or smaller) than the game
you are presently in, but it doesn't matter. You do what you can
with what you've got. In simple terms. Put a plan together. Positive
things will result out of positive action and before you know
it you are one step of the ladder further up than you were before.
I didn't always have the connections I now have but I always managed
to make things happen out of thin air because I set little goals
and would not stop until they all came to fruition.
Now, I should also mention on a realistic note, that even though
I have put my plan into action, have my machine around me, everything
could go horribly wrong. Radio could be unresponsive, promoters
could balk at my package tour idea, my record could stiff at retail.
Yes it could all go horribly wrong. But I have lessened the odds
of disaster by aligning my little planets. Should I have chosen
not to plan, not to organize ahead of time, I probably wouldn't
have a deal, a single, a finished record or any buzz about my
project right now. It's pretty much a given that the project would
I'm not in the business of failing...are you?
|| Chris Standring
is the CEO and founder of A&R Online (www.aandronline.com).
He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed to
Ultimate Vibe Recordings. For more info on Chris' recording
career go to his personal website at www.chrisstandring.com
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