Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How To Get A Record Deal-2: Steps To Attracting Record Label Interest


Today I want to offer you some steps towards gaining the attention of a legitimate  record label. You must know something before you start - success in the commercial music business takes TIME. Every overnight success has taken years of dedication, creating, experiencing and networking to find a 'lucky' window of opportunity. Let us begin:

> Maximize your artistic abilities

  • Your physical, mental, emotional, social and secure well-being comes first. I don't believe in sick, unbalanced, sorrowful, failed human beings becoming artists. What's the use? Your wellness will help you not only survive the music business but also create real and lasting value in your work. When you can make music that counts, the Grammys are gravy.

  • Your voice - Find, heal if necessary, optimize and protect what I would suggest is your primary asset. Train it to be the very best it can. If you can't find a professional coach, try Skype lessons, if you can't afford training, dig into free online information in videos and blogs like this one. There is a way.
  • Your studio skills - Know how to do your absolute best in the vocal booth! Study my recording guide "Singing In The Studio" to be prepared. Get experience in the studio every time you can.
  • Your stage performance - Understand and study everything you can about performing. Consider taking lessons from a stage performance coach. Get experience on every stage you can.
  • Your musicianship - Again, train and practice to raise your abilities on any instrument you'll want to play on stage or use for writing. 
  • Your creativity - study songwriting, either formally or informally by dissecting hit songs in your genre. Why are they hits? What can you learn from them for your own unique writing? Write as much as you can, and try to co-write with people better than you. Consider media training - learn how to do effective interviews and relate to the public onstage.

> Figure out your artistic definition

  • Who are you and what do you know that could be of value to others? Where does your heart, voice type and talent converge? What do you create, love and perform best? Take the time to experiment, discover and push your boundaries. 
  • There is no substitute for actual studio and stage experience. The audience reaction becomes a part of your artistry.
  • Give some thought to a developing a consistent visual representation (style).  

> Create/find your songs

  • If you're a songwriter, create your best body of work. Consider finding co-writers you can write with who can augment your skills and create more GREAT, not just mediocre, songs. 
  • If not, find other great songs that fit your personality, voice and artist definition like a glove. Network to find someone who can recommend you to writers and publishers. If they believe you are about to do a great quality recording on their songs they will have reason to offer you their best works. 

> Record your music

  • Decide to do either a demo to pitch to labels, or a fully mastered, packaged, ready-for-sale project.
  • Figure out how you will fund the project. You'll need the best quality of recording you can afford if you want to be commercially viable and attract a good fan base and label.
    • Seek out an 'angel investor'. Make sure you know what they want from you if they decide to invest. This goes for musician friends doing work on 'spec',  family and friends, too. Upfront negotiation and possible paperwork keeps misunderstanding from destroying relationships.

    • You could launch a crowdfunding project such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Be prepared for the research you must do to create a successful campaign. It's a bit of a catch-22; you need a certain level of fanbase to choose to fund you.
    • Record fewer songs really well rather than more songs with mediocre quality.
    • Quality demos can be done with just guitar or piano and voice. 
    • I suggest hiring the best musicians for your project by using AFofM players at 'limited pressing' rates.  [AFofM 'demo rate' is legal only for pitching the song and/or the artist… not for selling the record. Limited pressing rate is not very much more than demo rate, and a lot cheaper than master rate, but makes it legal to release and sell your project in the marketplace.]
  • Choose your recording producer. A great producer can make all the difference in the budget efficiency, creative uniqueness, sonic quality and commercial viability of your product. He or she can help you choose your team and consult on options such as mastering, packaging and duplication.
  • Choose the songs for your project.  A small team of trusted advisers including your producer can help you decide on the final list.
  •  Get your licenses in place.
    • You don't need them for demos used to just pitch yourself, but If you intend to release and sell your recording to the public, you must get and pay for mechanical licenses on each song! Don't risk recording a song you're not allowed to sell!
    •  It doesn’t cost much, less than 10 cents ($.091) per copy at this writing, but you must do this paperwork. You must collect all your co-writers' publishing info, and for outside or cover songs, research and contact those writers and publishers.
    • For original songs you don't own 100% rights to, do a mechanical with each publisher.  
    • To record cover songs that have been hits, you can usually search out and get licenses at the Harry Fox Agency.
  • Record! 
    • do instrumental tracks first... get rough mixes and sing with them for a period of time (weeks if you can) so you can experiment with your voice on them.
    • do your lead vocals and backgrounds plus any added instrumental overdubs.
    • mix 
    • master (an important step for commercial quality sound). NOTE: your mastering engineer will need the sequence of songs you want on the final CD.
  • Do a photo shoot (again get as good quality (professional photographer if possible) as you can afford).
  • Design your project's package
    • Make sure you have gathered all the correctly spelled names of people you want to credit
    • Make sure you put contact info on the package... preferably as a link to your website (see below), and a link to your booking agent. 

> Consider starting your own indie record label

  • The saying is true… you don’t get a label deal until you don’t need one except to grow your already large fan base and prospering music business. Under your own small label, use can use your recording and your shows to create your base in concentric circles.
Next post: How to develop a record label-worthy fan base

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