What Do Record Companies Look For When Signing New Artists?

So you're an unsigned artist, looking for your big break – with dreams of making a real living from your music, instead of scraping by?

The next 5 tips can save you years, a fortune and major disappointment – Apply EACH STEP, precisely, in sequence, and you'll know you've done EVERYTHING you possibly could, to get discovered and signed, living your dream.

There are mainly 5 areas, or some variation of them, that most major record companies look at and consider, in finding their new rising stars.

1. Talent

Top record companies have spent fortunes building big studios, licensing, publishing, marketing and management teams, replication & distribution supply chains – they want ONE thing in exchange: BIG, FAST, SAFE RETURNS on their investment. This is both BAD AND GOOD news for you.

BAD if you're not really good YET, but GOOD if you understand their process, what they're looking for, and how to give it to them – starting from where you are right now.

So please, don't take this personal OR for granted. It will only save you the inevitable:

Regardless of your current talent and skill level – no matter how good YOU, OR YOUR FANS think you are – get yourself a professional STUDIO coach and trainer. One who understands how to transform excellent performance, into excellent-sounding demo recordings.

A great producer, just simply is not enough (even though that's hard for me to admit).

Most record execs – IF they get to hear your demo – will skip through your songs, listening to about 10-seconds total (if you're lucky), before deciding it worth a second listen – or not.

All your heard-earned money, and countless hours spent mixing and getting your demo sounding as perfect as possible, is often spent in under 10-seconds of an A&R manager's listening time. This is the person employed by the label to get them the best talent & return.

These execs are so overwhelmed and inundated with masses of demos on a daily basis. So make sure even ONE second of play-time on your song, is worth impressing them. Contrary to belief – go back to working on your TALENT instead of your RECORDINGS. ALWAYS be working on, and developing your talent first, no matter what level you are at.

Record execs have listened to THOUSANDS of demo's, and most of them listen PAST the production value – they're not going to be any more impressed with how much you spent recording your demo, than a print company might be with the design of your business card.

It's your vocal qualities, projection, diction, over-toning which will sell you or not – and only once you step into the studio can you start to appreciate that this is a specialist skill, quite different from live performance. Little things, can make or break you.

There are vocal trainers who specialize in recording artist development – helping you get each take perfect in studio sessions, to get you singing, and sounding like a star often in as little as 6-12 months, depending on their process, and your current level or grade.

How do you choose the right trainer? Ask for "before" and "after" recordings of some of his / her clients – and verify with them how long this took, and what results they got for it.

ALWAYS start with continually refining and perfecting your TALENT – even though it seems elementary. Without that, no other tricks or tips will get you any LASTING results. If you are in the right hands, whatever talent you have can be shaped and maximised to get you any of a variety of opportunities – if not a major deal, at least the chance to make a decent living off music in other areas like TV, Radio, Film or Advertising.

2. Product

Once your studio skills are up to broadcast standard – find a demo studio where you can record with the assistance of your coach. Don't spend thousands on trying to produce a hit record – but get value for money instead.

Cheaper and better recording technologies, allow unsigned artists to make killer recordings in their bedrooms these days. All you might need is a decent microphone, pre-amp, compressor, some software and a PC / MAC. If you do not have the time, skills or patience to do or learn this yourself – find a studio that will produce your demo's at a fixed cost – with money-back guarantee on quality. Listen to their portfolio of recordings and shop around.

Be careful of studios that charge per hour, unless you can really afford it. Always be sure how many hours might be required BEFORE you start. Don't go for the studio with the most impressive look or equipment at this stage, but LISTEN to the product instead. All those expensive-looking toys usually add a premium to the cost.

Start with one song only – and if the product sounds good – only then commit to more.

3. Placement

The next step is to find an online home for your recording – Why?

Most record execs periodically scan for talent online – and unless you are there, you're not in the game. The days of manually submitting physical CD's and trying to impress with album art and design, are numbered. Rather spend that money, on building or enhancing your ONLINE presence. A website or blog at the very least – with professional photos, bio and information on gigs etc.

It's not just about your music – top record labels look for an ACT to sign and sell, at a profit. It's about your marketability, presentation. Make sure all your social media profiles are complete, up to date, and showing your best possible side as an artist.

If YOU were the owner of a successful record company – what would impress YOU about a newly discovered, unsigned artist? What would make YOU spend a million dollars on someone? Most music service websites are social media enabled, and synchronize with each other, some examples include:

• SoundCloud
• Reverbnation
• OurStage
• BandCamp

… and many more.

The added advantage, is that most of these make it easy for you to build a following, fan club, and even earn some money while you're at it – which could contribute to your next recordings, in pursuit of your major singing.

An unsigned artist, with an EXISTING fan club – whatever size – is worth twice to four times as much to a record label. It means they don't always have to commit all their resources, to making you successful – which can sometimes aid their decision to swing in your favor.

4. Promotion

Before submitting your demo – do some promotion yourself to build a fan club and some statistics you could compile in an Electronic Press Kit, eg how many "Likes" or plays you have accumulated through your own efforts. Even if only a couple of hundred – any record exec would be more comfortable in seeing that you already have an audience, before seriously considering your submission.

Start with your friends on Facebook – give one or two singles away for free and ask fans to RATE them – that way you'll know which one to submit when you DO get an opportunity.

Measure what you do – create an artist page on Facebook, and unlock the metrics by getting 30 likes or more – to see which campaigns or songs get you the best response.

Connect with smaller, local radio stations who might consider you for roster rotation. A bit of airplay – even from local stations looking to promote local talent, can do unexpected things for your profile, and might just create enough attention to get you that one contact to move on to bigger things.

Look out for compilation deals, instead of waiting to complete a full album, before you star submitting demos.

When submitting to major or even independent record labels – use a service like SoundCloud to upload and link your demo's – most A&R managers simply don't have the time to go through the entire stack of CD's on their desks – but all of them have to work on e-mail or social media at some stage during the day.

5. Transition

The 5th and final step is a NATURAL culmination of doing the first four REALLY WELL – repeatedly, UNTIL you succeed.

When you focus on each individual step, one to four as best you can, the fifth is a full-drawn conclusion, and only a matter of time. So many artists mistakenly wait on their "big break", imagining it as ONE major event that will turn their world upside down, when in reality, it is a series of small efforts, a progression of tiny steps, leading you to a tipping point and critical mass that APPEARS to the OUTSIDE world as one single "big break".

The first four steps outline in DETAIL exactly WHAT those tiny steps are, when, where and HOW to take them – without wasting your time, money and effort, or getting your hopes up only to be disappointed. When you do them repeatedly, on rotation, you are bound to succeed – but if you don't, you'll know you've done everything possible.


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