Not Over Just Because You Sign A Deal
By Chris Standring
There is a myth that has hung
around unsigned artists that goes something like this:
"If only I could get a record deal, everything will be
fine", or "We won't have to slog it out as hard
when we sign our deal, our label will have all the connections
This may or may not ring true to many of you. Chances are ALL
of you have something similar in the back of your minds. And why
not I guess. It's a really good inspirational tool to help you
plough forward. However, I would like to discuss briefly what
WILL change and what most certainly will NOT when you eventually
sign a record deal.
Much of what may change will be determined by whether you sign
to a major label or an independent. At present there are two types
of products that are getting signed, and this of course could
change at any given point.
- Young teen artists (solo female
vocalists ALA Britney, Christina, Destiny's Child or young
boy bands ALA Backstreet Boys, Nsync etc.) usually signed
to a producer or production company where the producer has
strong relationships with labels.
- Adult oriented groups (ALA
Dave Mathews band, Matchbox 20, Hootie) starting out as independent
artists and selling in excess of 10,000 - 20,000 units on
This is a vast generalization!
Other artists of course are cutting through aside from the trends
from time to time. (Eminem springs to mind). However, this current
trend has been with us for sometime now and I predict will be
with us for some time to come as (product a): Record labels like
to trust that their producers will continue to bring them strong
highly marketable product (and these young teen idols are certainly
racking up millions of dollars for the labels) and (product b):
there is less development needed from the label's point of view
as tenacious indie artists are doing all the work!
So, needless to say record companies are not doing quite so much
work these days whipping an artist in shape. They want everything
on a plate with little development! (With this in mind, it will
be important to determine where you fit into the business
today to forge ahead.)
So what will change when you get signed?
Well firstly, as a young teen inexperienced artist, absolutely
everything! A major label will set its machine in motion. It will
issue a radio edit to its format, have you on a radio promo tour
where you travel to each state and have dinner with record reps
and do "liners" for radio stations and do in studio
interviews and you will be so sick of smiling for these people
you will be running for your hotel room at the first given opportunity!
It will all seem new and exciting however and if you are successful
you will be one in a million.
For the indie artist, very little may change. If you are out there
selling your own CD's, widening your fanbase, you are essentially
doing what a label would have you do anyway. When you get signed
the company will insist that none of this stops anytime soon.
They will no doubt hook you up with a national booking agent and
of course start putting the radio and pr wheels in motion. The
size of the label will determine what kind of tour support they
can give you. (A very small label will give you none at all!)
Now, if you are selling a good amount of units, you have incredible
bargaining power to get a very nice deal and if I was selling
in excess of 15 to 20,000 units on my own without a label, I would
be extremely careful about the deal I signed as I had essentially
done ALL the leg work.
What will not change?
Your income! A horrible reality but one to be very conscious of
at this stage. Sure you may get a little advance, some publishing
money perhaps. It'll last a while. I would be very careful with
it as it may have to last a while! Think of it like this:
When you sign a deal you are signing a partnership with a company.
They are essentially giving you a little money because they want
a piece of what they see as potential income. The financial reward
happens when records are sold, and even then the way recoupment
is set up it is not always favorable to the artist. The money
as a new (successful) artist is, without a doubt, made from "mechanical"
royalties. You will most likely never see "artist" royalties
unless your first album is hugely successful (as your recoupable
debt from unsuccessful albums increases as you continue to make
albums with a label). Write as much of each album as you can and
take care of administration. (For more info on taking care of
your copyrights and publishing read Donald Passman's "All
you need to know about the music business").
Certainly when a deal is signed, I think it is safe to assume
that as an artist, it is still in your interest to stay well on
top of opportunities (and keep the label on top of them too!).
Record labels have large rosters and just because you are signed,
does not mean that they will have every promotional angle greased
on your behalf. The things that will change are the things that
are out of your control. A lot of this will be media hype and
radio/TV promo. As a new artist you will still want to play out
and increase your fanbase, and sell CD's at shows (although now
of course you will be purchasing these from your label for around
7 or 8 bucks a unit! Ahh the grim reality...)
I think it is good to assume that the work really begins
when a deal goes through. This is not the time to exclusively
rest on your laurels and wait for "ad day" to see where
you are on the chart (although this is certainly a fun aspect!).
The more sensible artists reading this will have long since given
up waiting to be "discovered", and quite rightly. It
just 'aint gonna happen! It's much more about positioning now.
More importantly it is about building a career and this can take
3, 4 or 5 albums before sales really start to kick in even if
a label is on board. Be strategic, get a good sense of how you
intend to build your career and when a label kicks in there will
be very good reason. Most importantly, a career as an artist is
very possible. However, It takes a lot of common sense and knowledge.
The more you know the better off you will be.
| 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
to article directory index
Learn how to put your music career on the map with A&R Online's
free 7 day intensive Wake Up E-Course
. Sign up below:
A&R Registry Includes
regional A&R contacts not listed in any other directory. Lists
entire A&R staff, direct dial numbers & assistants names!