Wednesday, March 4, 2020

How to get signed to a label

I don’t know how many times I will write about this. I feel like a parrot, but since I still encounter the problem so frequently, I can write about it again.
No, your goal should not be to be signed by record label. Unfortunately, I meet so many bands that their sole goal is that they want to get signed by record label. The problem today is that record labels really don’t invest in new artists. They don’t have to. With the new tools, they can follow you and when it hit off, they just go for it. The major complaint I get from record labels is that it’s more expensive to sign artists today since they are further in their careers.
Another thing that has become a reality is that labels more just want to build a catalogue. If you have a large catalog even if a song just draws one dollar a year if you have a million songs with one dollar it is still making a million dollars. This is the reason why the headline last week was that they majors actually get a one million dollar each hour out of streaming. My guess is that 95% of that is back catalog that they have bought in. Not many of the new things they they had developed are part of that number. And you have to think that Taylor Swift is actually a DIY artist and not counting.

The backside of that, of course, is that they don’t want to invest. And they don’t need to. Either they own a studio and make you record there. Really not much cost for them. Or they just put that cost over on your side and force you to come with a ready product. And the cost of recording nowadays can be very low.  And since the song really doesn’t matter if they go that high with the song, they really don’t spend money on marketing either until the song starts to move. More or less they threw it against the wall and see if it sticks. Many of the new contracts I have seen is the artist is signed for giving out 10 to 20 singles in one year. It’s impossible to do proper marketing on a project like that. The singles will interrupt each other. This is a good sign that the label just hunts catalog and will try the stick to the wall tactic. Most of the time if it sticks it’s actually work done by the artist or their management. That is free labor for them.

Yes, management is the new risktaker. Here you find people believe in the artist and their music. Their job is to build it up. The problem right now is when you build it so far that the labels come around, you already have built up a venture that is generating money so split that income with a label that mainly wants to build catalog is not that lucrative. Lately, we have seen many of the bigger new stars just saying no to the label at this point. Also, the managers have become more aware that if they put these things over to the label the whole enterprise might just fade away because it’s built upon the management contacts, not the labels contacts.

The problem is that just this week I had over five conversations with mangers that getting crazy about artist nagging that they should be signed. It’s like the artist thinks that the signing makes things magically happening. I usually just say, they get signed with my label if it’s just the name and paper. Then it crawls out that they want to be signed to a major label that invests in them. That is just like believing in Santa Claus. Since all your numbers are out there, there is a good reason why the major hasn’t knocked on your door. The hard-cold fact is that you are not ready yet and haven’t done the homework. Now it’s more the label finds you; you don’t find the label. Especially not a deal where it says they going to spend money on you, then you really must have a good steady cash flow. In fact, if a label really wanted to invest it’s much safer to build a boyband that they control everything. But in the same way why should they? It’s a lot of work and risk and with the tools of today, they don’t need it.

Right now, many labels go for older artists that had hits twenty years ago. Why? Because it’s safe. Their songs will be streamed somewhat because they are a name. And it builds the catalog. An upcoming artist with mediocre numbers, they can easily see is just a cost.

My guess the main reason why the artist is nagging around it is that they are tried to take the cost for their own career. Yes, today it takes a longer time and you must have the stamina. Don’t waste your budget on one nice video. It’s better to do ten low budget ones. Yes, it’s not that flashy but you know what if you just in for the flashy and be famous you have an easier job to be a Youtuber. The ones that will make it are the ones that keep pushing their thing and just finds the money. The 80:s will not be back when the labels signed mediocre artists for tax cuts. You need to be in this business because you want to work with music and entertain people.

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