Approaches to that major and independent label deal

Guide to the art of getting a record deal (Standard Record Deal, 360 Deal, etc) 

By Austen W.

I’m going to share with you an intuitive guide on how to attract both major labels and indie labels. It varies slightly, but there are similarities. It truly is an art on top of your own art. 

This is to the point, but I’m very serious. Majors are VERY cutthroat. 

How to attract a major label: 

  1. MINDSET 

Understand that major labels have more of a cutthroat business mindset. Though they may say that they are there for you and advancing your career, understand that majors are only in the game for “what’s good for the label”, not “what’s good for the artist”. If you have a following, quality music (semi-professional mixed/mastered tracks), stay up with social media, and play shows here and there, chances are that a major label will most definitely be interested. Between the three majors (Sony, Warner and Universal), there are an average of twenty new artists signed monthly. This includes all sub labels, as being signed to a most sub labels will give you the same benefits of being directly signed to a major. Keep in mind that as twenty come in, twenty-plus artists are kicked out of their contracts. Major labels and sub labels survive on ten percent of their artist roster. My man, I will tell you that your music is phenomenal. You have a shot at a major label. It’s all about staying on that roster. I’ve hung out with many artists, bands and producers. They come and go like crazy. The ONE THING that I’ve seen that seems to be consistent with major label artists ACTUALLY STAYING on a major label for more than a year, is that you let the label control almost every aspect of your life. If you’re not Beyonce, Big Sean or Drake, but you’re signed to a major label, don’t try to have your own say. YET. Go with the flow. It will be an amazing ride, dude. The music industry is very flashy. Your life will be an amazing one full of adventure. 

But you’re not there YET. So we’ll focus on how to get there. So yeah, mindset. Look at yourself from a major label’s perspective. What will they get from you? Will you be able to attract people to shows? Will you get major plays on Youtube/streaming services? Look at it this way. A major’s reach is amazing. Marketing is insane here. A marketing intern told me when they look at unsigned artists and bands, they determine that if that artist or band was signed to a major label, you can times out their plays, streams and social media by 20. So if you have a song on Youtube with 10,000 views, a major will get you to 1,000,000+ 

But that’s just average for new artists. Amazing. 

2. 

Be unique, but not too unique.

I am most confident to say that major labels are always looking for the next big new thing. But what you want to focus on here is staying up to date with the genre. Majors know that most experimental genre artists flop. Stick to what’s hot right now. Right now, electronic dance music is influencing EVERYTHING. Pop, rap, hip hop, rock. EVERYTHING. Know your genre, and what’s hot in your genre. For instance, Don’t try to be the next Big Sean. Be yourself with a Big Sean influence. Pick any major artist and imitate, but don’t ever lose who you are. Because majors will want you to have your own influence on the music world, as well. 

3. 

Stay up to date on social media.

This means stay in touch with fans on whatever social media sites. By now you should have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Engage with people online. Be friendly, never off-putting. Labels want to see if you’re hard working, and one of the many ways of showing them is by being active on social media. 
4. 

Play at least one show a month

This could be at a friend’s party, opening up for someone with more creds, or an open mic night. Anywhere. It can be the smallest of the smallest venue. Make sure to post photos, have friends take photos, etc. Majors NEED to see that you are active and are willing to tour, much less play shows. 

Getting a major label interested summed up…

Mindset. Looking at yourself as an artist from a cutthroat major label’s point of view. What can you do for them? 

Be unique. Be yourself. Be influential. But also understand, adapt and implement what’s currently hot on the radio. 

Stay up to date on social media. Engage engage engage!!! 

Play at least one show a month. Post photos. Have your friends post photos. Self-create a buzz. 

Extra tips: stay away from excessive drugs and alcohol. At least while you’re chasing a label deal. I cannot stress this enough. I’ve seen WAY TOO MANY artists strung out on addictives and fallout and get passed up by labels. Also, try to stay out of trouble. I mean, it’s not like you’re applying for a police job or signing up for the military, but know that labels have the mindset that YOU’RE representing them, and they need you to stay clean. 

Getting signed to an indie is easier, yet more complex because there are thousands out there that can and will advance your career as an artist. Here are just a few, yet solid tips on how to get signed to an indie label: 

Note before I get started: The social media bit is the same for indies, as well. They NEED to see you engaging with your following that you have. Same with playing at least one show per month, staying away from excessive drugs and alcohol and staying out of trouble. 

  1. BE UNIQUE

There are a handful of indies that operate like a major label, but most indies are for the good of the artist, not for the good of the label. They need to make money to run, yes, but the good indies have the idea that an artist will make more money for them if he is PURELY himself. It’s a genuine attitude that I love. Korda and Rhymesayers are this way. 

So BE YOURSELF FULLY. Go your own direction. Be influential. Say what you want, be who you are. YOU WILL attract a great indie by doing this.  

2. 

Promote yourself

Know that if you’re going to sign to an indie, odds are that their marketing and promotions reach won’t be as far as a major label. They need to see that you are able to promote yourself, or that you have a dedicated team to help promote you. This could be constantly posting music and show dates on social media, having a street team (or just you) handing out flyers, or having an email list (trust me, email lists are still huge in the music industry). Understand that signing an indie record deal is like entering a partnership. Everybody has to do their jobs for it to work and make dreams happen.  You have to have that mindset when going after an indie label. 

3. 

Have extra cash.

Many indies simply cannot distribute cash advance that a major can. In some cases, indies look at artists with quality music already out and recorded (Like you, in this instance). 

But have a little extra cash for promotion, recording and mixing/mastering, just in case an indie cannot front the bill. 

Spend money on quality beats, or purchase great quality home studio equipment and music software to record your own music. Some labels have phenomenal marketing, booking and promotion teams, but simply won’t front you cash to record. 

Getting an indie label interested summed up: 

As you can see, going indie is great for many artists, as far as creative control, money control and mindset goes. 

Social media. They NEED to see you engaging with your following that you have on social media. Play at least one show per month, staying away from excessive drugs and alcohol and staying out of trouble. 

Be unique. BE YOURSELF FULLY. Go your own direction. Be influential. Say what you want, be who you are. Indies especially look for this. 

Promote yourself. Indies need to see that you are able to promote yourself, or that you have a dedicated team to help promote you. 

Have extra cash to record just in case.. It doesn’t need to be millions, but definitely work a day job. Part-time, full-time. Whatever gets you by.  

Both majors and indies can give you an amazing music career. It’s all about choosing one and going full stride. It is very possible to go for either one at the same time, as there are a handful of indies operating like majors, but in your case, I would choose a route and put the pedal to the medal. You’ve got one life and life is beautiful. Go get what you’re worth. 

Austen Wageman