The Pursuit Of A Record Deal
by Tom Hess
Industry Looks For In You?
Record companies have access to connections and capital you cannot match as an independent musician.
But the million dollar question is:
How do you GET a record deal?
There are 2 parts to the answer:
Part 1: Knowing exactly what record labels, music producers, and artist management companies are looking for in new artists.
Industry Looks For In You?
When you do these 2 things, record companies seek you out and offer a deal to you.
When you don't do these things, becoming successful is harder than threading a needle blindfolded.
Here is the reality:
Record labels, music producers, entertainment lawyers, and managers seek artists who have a lot more to offer than talent alone.
That's right... What they want from you is a total package. “A total package” includes many things.
The two main factors are:
- adding more value (in terms of money and / or opportunity),
- and reducing potential downside risks to the music company. (More on this below.)
Most musicians never get a record deal because they don’t think at all about what record companies want from them.
Sounds crazy, right? I used to think so too.
Imagine you are in a band, trying to get a record deal. Obviously you know what you want from this record deal.
You want access to the record label’s resources. These resources are used to propel your music career forward, attract new fans, sell more records, make more money and go on bigger tours.
...have you thought about what the record label wants? (Hint: think beyond your music.)
Answer: record companies want to make money.
There - I said it.
A record company is no different from a venture capitalist who provides funds to startup businesses.
An investor invests money into a business only if he believe the business has the potential to become profitable and pay back the investment (with interest).
Record labels, managers, and successful bands are looking for artists who think in terms of mutual benefit.
It's important to think in this way before any company in the music industry will want to work with you and invest their money and resources into your music career.
To become a successful business partner of any record company, first grab their attention. This quick test tells you what things you need to acquire to get record companies interested in you.
Question: “But Tom Hess, don’t record companies make their money by taking advantage of musicians?”
Answer: Most of the time, it’s musicians who try to screw companies and take advantage of them…not the other way round. Yes, you read correctly. Most musicians simply refuse to honor contracts they signed, sign contracts without understanding their obligations or feel entitled to something they are NOT entitled to.
Cases of record companies truly “screwing” musicians are very rare. You protect yourself from getting “screwed” by learning how the music business works before you approach any record company (more on this below).
Imagine that you are the president of a record label. Would you take $500,000 of your money and invest it into an upcoming band that is good and has marketable songs?
Answer: No record company president would make such an investment… UNTIL AND UNLESS it is clear that the band will help the company earn more than $500,000.
Many musicians and bands can write great songs. Few bands can show record companies proof of their ability to help them make money. This is why few musicians and bands ever get record deals.
This video shows some of the proof record companies want to see from you:
Key Mindsets You Need To Acquire:
- Don’t think like an employee. Think in terms of a win/win, value-added partnership.
You and the record company add value to each other to reach your respective goals.
It works like this:
You get access to record company’s resources that grow your music career, fan base and income. Record company gets a portion of your growing music career income in exchange for taking the risk of investing in you.
- Do not feel like you are entitled to receive money or opportunities simply because you are talented.
It is not the record label's job to reward you for your music. It’s their job to reward you for the value you bring to them (beyond the music).
Note that I am not talking about selling out.
I am describing one of the most basic and universal practices of business (and human interaction). Give the other side what they want to receive what you want from them.
Following this principle makes success in the music business (and life) much easier to achieve.
This video shows how adding value ensures success in your music career:
- Make it easy for the record company to work with you. You do this by learning as much as possible about how the music industry works before you seek a record deal.
How These Mindsets Help You:
Record company executives expect you to know how the music industry functions BEFORE they work with you.
They don’t want to answer basic questions about the music industry, general business, mental attitudes, image, stage presence, logistics, etc.
They also don’t want to waste time and money teaching you things you can and should learn on your own.
What that means for you is:
When you get training on how the music business works, you show initiative, commitment and a strong mindset.
These attitudes set you apart from thousands of other musicians who compete with you for a record deal. You also help reduce the risk record companies have to take by agreeing to work with you.
Question: “But Tom Hess, isn’t it the record company’s job to teach me how the music industry works?”
Answer: No. It is in your interest to see the company’s resources spent on promoting your music career, helping you sell records, tour the world, attract more fans and make more money.
Any money and time spent teaching you what you should already know is a waste.
Here is why:
- You want the record company’s resources to help you achieve things you can never achieve on your own. Learning the fundamentals of the music business is not one of those things.
- Record labels expect every dollar they invest in your career to come back to them…with interest. It’s to your advantage to minimize any waste in their investment.
Imagine that your band was put on tour by a record label.
However, the management believes that your band does not know how to conduct yourselves on and off stage.
...they will require you to be coached in these areas. (This is very common for new and inexperienced bands.)
Rehearsals take an additional week (at the rate of thousands of dollars per day).
Money spent on extra rehearsals is subtracted from the rest of the budget allocated for your tour, record promotion and music career.
But it gets worse:
This extra money must be paid back to the record label first before your band sees any profits from the tour OR your record.
Your lack of preparation has created a higher investment risk for your record label, has hurt your business relationship and made it harder to grow your music career.
You can easily get music business, career and mindset coaching before you work with a record company. Then make this fact known to the record company when you contact them. This positions you as a win-win partner with much lower risk and avoids unnecessary waste of the company’s money and resources. You become a much more likely candidate for a record deal.
Adopting the success-focused mindsets helps you build the thriving music career you want much faster and easier.
You just learned more about getting a record deal than most musicians will ever know. The next step to building your music career is to see how close you are to huge success in the music industry.
Take this 2-minute quiz to learn what's standing between you and the success & happiness you want from your music career.
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains musicians how to leave their day jobs and build successful fulltime careers in the music industry.