You know you're on the right track and making distinctive music, but how do you make sure you're heard? Record labels exist to provide financial support to their bands and artists, as well as to make a profit. Record labels are looking for bands or solo artists who have already reached a certain level, who have already proven that they are able to build a certain fan base, and who can hold the attention of their audience. It's not always easy to get the attention of record labels, but if you make sure that you continue to develop your music and that you know how to capture your music well in recordings, you have already taken the first step to become a professional musician. Read here how to do that.
Method 1 of 4: Developing your music
Step 1. Look closely at your competitors
Improve your act by studying other bands or artists you like. What do they do that you don't? Think about their image, their music and the way they interact with their fans. It can sometimes help to study and cover songs from bands you like. How are the songs put together? What could work for your music? How would you do better?
Step 2. Be professional
Make music your life. Record companies are not looking for 'promises' to spend a lot of money on and then wait for it to work out. They will only want to invest in well-developed, professional groups or artists. After all, a record company is a company with a profit motive. The degree of dedication to your music can be decisive for a label in whether or not to sign an act. So work with complete dedication to your music and your image.
Step 3. Practice constantly
You should always be ready to play your music. Practice until you've mastered all your songs, make sure every detail of the performance has been discussed in the band, don't leave anything to chance. It might be really cool to sit back in the cafe with a beer after an hour in the rehearsal room, but it won't get you anywhere. Don't kid yourself, being a successful musician means hard work.
- Plan your time well so that you can practice and write new material every day. Just working on your image by buying expensive sunglasses and cool leather jackets is not enough, you need interesting songs above all else. Without good music, no label will be interested, no matter how good the band looks. Get the most out of creativity.
- Record the practice sessions with a recording device to hear back if it really was as good as you thought. Work on the details of your live show in the rehearsal room. In the case of a band, it can help not to stand in a circle, but to pretend that the rehearsal room is the stage. Take risks while exercising. That way you ensure that your performances show how professional the band is. This shows that you are committed and serious and that it is not a hobby.
Step 4. Think about the commercial potential of your music
That experimental jazzcore opera with an eight-minute oboe solo may be very interesting from an artistic point of view, but a record company should always think about how they're going to 'market' your music. It may sound terrible, but at the end of the day, a record company is all about profit. If you only want to be drawn based on your music, make sure you create something that will have an audience. And that really doesn't mean you have to make mainstream music if you don't want to. But think about whether there could be an audience for your music.
Always make the music you want to make, but be realistic about your goals. If your style is very different, don't expect to be signed by a major, or a major record label, any time soon. Experiment as much as you want, but build a fan base and find an indie label that's right for you
Method 2 of 4: Building a fan base
Step 1. Start with small gigs nearby
When you've got a set together with good material, it's time to perform. Look for nice cafes and small venues in the area where you know people come looking for good music. Visit some venues first, go to some performances, then you'll know if the place is for you. If you're going to play somewhere where the regular audience isn't interested in your music, it doesn't make much sense. Playing cute two-part acoustic folk won't do too well at the Hell's Angels' clubhouse, just to name a few. Instead, start playing on a Sunday afternoon at that cafe around the corner that you know often has good bands playing.
Do 1 or 2 gigs a month in the beginning, until you see that you have built up a certain fan base. Once you've done that, you can start playing weekly and maybe even outside your own city. Slow down your set and show and watch your audience closely to see what works and what doesn't
Step 2. Play with like-minded bands or musicians
A good way to expand your fan base is to play with other bands who are in the same scene as you. Go to shows of bands you like, talk to them and ask if you can be the support act. Ask them to come to the rehearsal room if you don't have good recordings yet.
- You can also organize your own performances and ask other bands to join in. You may not be able to fill that room, but with three bands it becomes much easier. Other bands will then also ask you faster. Know where you stand; never ask for a band that is already quite popular to support you when you have very few fans. Let them choose when they want to play or suggest they play last. They will interpret this as a sign of respect.
- Placing yourself in a scene has many advantages. Other bands are more likely to share things with you, both information and stuff. If you ever need a bass amp and you don't know anyone, that can be a difficult task; on the other hand, if you're well versed in the local scene, it's very easy to arrange anything and everything. And when it's time to hit the studio for some serious recording, you can turn to bands that have a lot of recording experience. Learn from others about good studios near you and, more importantly, good recording engineers and producers.
Step 3. Market your band through social media
Announce your gigs and let them know you're in the studio or your demo is almost done. Show that your life revolves around music. Remember: record labels are more likely to sign serious bands that already have a fan base.
Also do your best for other bands, for example let us know on social media when you appreciate a record from another band from your scene. Encourage people to visit that other band's page, it will only benefit you. You develop your scene and make sure that people will find your band faster
Step 4. Design awesome T-shirts
You can never be too early to create your merchandise. People are always looking for cool T-shirts or canvas bags. It's not expensive to make, even if you don't make a profit on it, it's free advertising. Make sure you find the right balance in your designs; it has to look nice and distinctive, but you have to be able to see which tire it is.
If you play with other bands, swap T-shirts with that other band. Cross-marketing is good for everyone. And if that singer suddenly has your shirt on at the next performance, it's all good advertising
Step 5. Perform outside your own scene
Once you are known within a scene you have to be careful not to stare blindly on it. Try to break through it and play in places where you wouldn't expect it so soon. That's a good way to increase your fan base. Don't worry about the crooked faces in your scene, always increase your own chances of getting drawn. And that means you have to be seen by more people.
- Organize a short tour with some other bands around the country or even Europe. Keep costs low by sleeping with like-minded bands or bring tents. Bringing a good sound engineer is more important than an expensive hotel.
- Call festivals and keep a close eye on upcoming performances by bands you might be opening for. Participating in band competitions can be a great way to show yourself to an audience outside of your own scene, as well as places where there are always some people from record companies around.
Step 6. Save your earned money
If you have managed to earn 100 euros for the first time with a performance, it is very easy to sink all together after that, so that you have to put in money too. Do not do this. Open a bond account and put all the money earned there. Do not start paying band members until your band has become a thriving business, until then it is better to invest in a good sound engineer and save for new equipment, recordings, a band bus and other expenses.
Only use the band account for band-related expenses. It's up to you what that means exactly, but think about new strings and the cost of the rehearsal room. New leather jackets and gold teeth? That's probably not a good idea. Remember: to get signed you need a great demo, and it costs money anyway
Method 3 of 4: Recording a demo
Step 1. Find a studio and book some recording days
If you have a great sounding demo you are much more likely to get noticed by a record label. In addition, you can give your fans something to take home, so they can also play their favorite live songs at home. Think of a demo as an investment in a potential record deal.
Studio costs vary enormously, some studios only charge 100 euros per day, but for other studios you have to pay at least 1000 euros per day. Costs usually depend on the experience of the technicians, the mixing desk they have, the microphones and the peripherals. Think carefully in advance about which songs you are going to record and how you can do this as efficiently as possible. Make sure you have rehearsed very well
Step 2. Plan the studio time well
You're often somewhat dependent on the method (and whims) of the producer, so be prepared that you can't do everything the way you want. But what you can at least do is make sure you can dream the song. You need to know your stuff inside out so you don't need too many takes. If you know exactly what you want and how you can convey it, you've come a long way. Let the engineer worry about getting your great performance on tape. Focus on your music and try not to get distracted.
- Sometimes it happens that you have rehearsed really well as a band and that the producer suddenly says that each instrument will be recorded separately. Then maybe the drummer won't be able to play well without the rest. So talk everything through with the producer in advance so that you are faced with as few surprises as possible, discuss the method of recording and the equipment you should bring with you. At the same time, you should not be too rigid; in the studio, things never go quite as you expected; beautiful things can come from that.
- Use your own equipment as much as possible. Many studios have a nice collection of amps and other stuff, it can be tempting to use them right away. But if your specific sound is that guitar from 1964 with an amplifier of only 10 watts, you might want to resist the temptation.
Step 3. Record your best songs
Do not record covers, only your own material. Think of the recording as your band's resume. Which songs best reflect what is good about your band? Which songs do your fans like best? Record songs that you know work, otherwise it will cost you too much time and therefore too much money.
Step 4. Try recording yourself
With a laptop, some microphones and a good sound card you can come a long way these days. This way you can record new songs quickly, easily and relatively cheaply and immediately place them on Soundcloud. More and more bands are making their own recordings to save studio money, so that there is more left over for equipment, for example. Or record your demo partly at home and partly in the studio to save money. Many bands take their recordings to a studio to, for example, only record the drums with good microphones, because that is always difficult with cheap stuff. And remember: to really mix and master you need good speakers and good peripherals, so that's hard to do at home.
Look around for cheap shooting options within your scene. Some bands have good recording equipment themselves, if you are friends with these people you might be able to use their stuff for free. Get advice from other bands with record deals. Musicians like to share their information, take advantage of it
Step 5. Share your music with others
If you have some CD-Rs with your music on them, you can give them away at gigs. Put your recordings on YouTube or Soundcloud, finally make your music known to the world!
For now, don't worry about making a profit. The most important thing is that as many people as possible come into contact with your music. In addition, record companies are increasingly looking at popularity on the Internet, selling physical CDs is becoming less and less important. If the video you put on YouTube is viewed by a million people within a week, you will soon be contacted by a record company
Method 4 of 4: Taking the next step
Step 1. Create a promo pack for the press
Think of it like a cover letter with attachments. A promo package consists in any case of a press photo, a demo, and biography, reviews of performances and interviews.
- At this point it is important to have thought about your image. When the music is running smoothly, think about your clothing style, your accessories and other things that can help you as a band stand out from the crowd. Does the band already have a logo? Think about visualizing your music.
- Consider making a movie for certain songs or edit videos from live recordings to make it look good. Then upload it to YouTube. This way of listening to music is becoming more and more popular and it doesn't take much effort to make a movie. Make sure you only upload quality videos, otherwise it will only have the opposite effect.
Step 2. Contact record companies
Research the record companies, what would you like to be a part of? How do you make sure they listen to your demos? Find the addresses of suitable record companies and send them your promo package. Then call if they have received it and ask what they think. Be assertive.
Step 3. Consider hiring a manager and a booker
An experienced manager who knows how it works and how best to reach record labels can be very helpful. It also allows you to focus on your music. That also applies to a booker. If you as a musician are busy calling halls all day, you will no longer have time for your music. It can also appear very amateurish to a hall if the musician himself calls. But before signing a contract with a manager or booker, it is good to seek advice from other bands. Think carefully before signing anything. Be careful when a manager promises you mountains of gold. On the other hand, draw up a realistic plan with your booker and manager for the coming period, only in this way can you build a successful career in the long term.
- Being in a band means being an entrepreneur. Sometimes you have to change something in the business operations or the workforce to be able to take the next step.
- Try not to look like you climbed onto the stage right out of the crowd. The eye wants something too. Spend some money on your stage presentation, see it as an investment. You will see that you enjoy it, it also feels much better to be on stage in a nice suit than in a random T-shirt from H&M.
- If you can't get signed, don't be disappointed. Just keep trying, the most important thing is that you believe in yourself.
- Not everyone is equally photogenic. Accept it if you are such a person. There is no need for the man, experiment with your look and take advantage of it.