An artist looking to record with Custom-Tracks.com recently asked us about how to attract a recording deal. One of the most sought after results of making music is attracting a deal. The concept of why a company would offer you a contract isn't difficult, but it's something that gets twisted up a lot. The bottom line is it comes down to if can you make a label believe that you're going to be successful.
A recording contract is just an agreement that says that a company, we'll just call them the record label, will pay the costs associated with recording your song or album in return for owning the rights to those recordings. They risk investing a bunch of money into you because they think your music can generate some multiple of what they've invested.
Contracts can be really complicated, a lot more complicated than we want to go into here. Let's just say the company also needs the artist to be active in promoting the record and playing live shows in support of the record, so the label includes promotion services in the deal. Usually this is an advance or loan which is repaid through the artist's revenue. Moving on.
Remember, record labels are kind of just like investors. They're going to take acts that are marketable and break them into the market so they can get a big piece of the profits. You'd be a candidate for a recording contract if you're able to prove to a label that you could make them a big return on their investment. In order to do this you're going to need to have evidence of your success. In the startup world we call this evidence-based entrepreneurship, meaning is there evidence to support the claim that this idea is going to be successful. Investors for startups and labels for artists work in much the same way. Think of the show 'Shark Tank'.
In order to gather evidence, artists should start building their fan base and promoting themselves so a label can see that their music appeals to a significant audience.
This means distributing your music online, playing live shows, etc. The goal is to build metrics about the passionate fans you have. If a label sees that you started out playing open mics, then moved to having your own night at a coffee shop, then sees that you started packing a local venue once a month, they'll know that you're headed towards the basket and they'll want to jump on board with you. The key is to not wait for a label to make you successful, but to be the musical entrepreneur who figures out how to be successful on your own thereby attracting the help of a label.
In order to get a recording contract, you need to be able to prove in numbers that you should be able to be successful. This means recording the number of independently released records you've sold, the number of website visitors, the number of social media followers, the number of people on your retargeting lists, etc.
If you can prove that one out of every fifty people who sees one of your videos ends up buying your $10 record and then eventually buys a $35 ticket to see you live, then you're on to something. That means twenty views is worth about $45 and a label can take this and know you're a star.
The really productive question may not be "How do I attract a recording contract", but rather "How do I attract fans?"
If you are able to make fans that support your music, record labels will be calling YOU. If you can't make fans, record labels aren't going to be interested anyway, and you'll know it's time to put some more work into improving your brand. This is important because it puts the ball in your court. You can just worry about setting out to make music that connects with people and deeply matters to them because focusing on labels can sort of be a distraction. Remember, you don't need anyone to discover you, you just need to discover how you can help people through your music. Even if it's just one person at first, then five people, then 20 people, etc. Technology today offers so many tools that you don't need a label to get started growing a fan base.
It's my personal believe that this is really the way to go for most artists. Unless you have the plan for achieving success on your own, even if you do get lucky enough to sit down at the table with a label, you aren't going to be able to negotiate good terms with them. Remember, if you aren't already touching people's lives and making music that really matters to a lot of people, the label won't have a reason to invest in you.
Remember, labels are just there to exponentially grow, or scale, the success an artist is already having so they can cash in on that artist's potential. Create meaningful music for listeners, let your passion be contagious, grow a fan base, and let the label take care of the label.