Hints For Getting A Record Deal

Hints from an online music magazine editor on getting arecord deal and making the best possible impression in order to secure a record deal.

As the editor of an online magazine dedicated to promoting unsigned bands, I receive many press kits from bands looking for coverage. Some of these kits are slick and professional, and I know the band must have spent an arm and a leg to produce such a high-quality kit. Some of the kits are nothing more than a handwritten note, a CD burned at home, and an attempt at a bio, which contains horrible misspellings that are an immediate turn off. If I were a record label executive, I would be more interested in listening to the demo from the band that took the time to present professionally. There are many bands out there, including you. How do you get the foot in the door with a record label? Though not an easy mission, there are several hints I can offer to help you on your journey.

The first step is to make sure your product is professional. If you are an audio engineer and know you'll get a great product by recording your band yourself in your garage, by all means, go for it. However, if you are not an audio engineer, find yourself a top-quality studio. Ask around to find the best engineer within your price range. No matter how good your songs may be, a bad recording of them will not get you noticed. You must put your best foot forward, knowing there are millions of musicians out there doing the exact same thing you are.

Once you have a professionally produced CD in hand, the next step is a promotional photo. Again, think quality. Don't use your girlfriend because she takes all the pictures at her family reunions. Do the research. There are many, many excellent photographers out there who will be willing to negotiate an affordable price to do a professional quality photo of your band. It doesn't have to be the most glamorous photo in the world - it just needs to be focused, properly lit, and well developed. A professional is your best bet, though an experienced amateur would work, too. Ask to see a portfolio of other work the photographer has done before making a commitment.

Armed with CD and photo, the next step to putting together a professional-quality press kit is your bio. Typically, a basic press kit is comprised of a one-page biography, your photo, and your CD. The biography must be at the very least grammatically correct. If you are not a good writer or speller, enlist the aid of someone who is. Describe your band, list each member and what they play, etc. This should be no more than one page. The KISS rule of journalism applies - keep it simple, stupid! You only have a short window of opportunity to grab someone's interest. Make sure your bio is well written and you just might be able to do that. I know one of the main reasons I reject a press kit is because the bio is poorly written. Remember the bio represents you - do you want to be known as professional or a joke? Take the time to make sure you are represented in your press kit in the strongest way possible.

If you have already received press coverage, whether in the form of interviews, show reviews, or CD reviews, copy them neatly and include them in your kit as well. MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION! Ideally, you should have contact information on all the components of your kit - that way, if it becomes separated, a label can still get in touch with you.

One very important thing you want to do is generate a buzz in your hometown, and you can do that by getting yourself out on your scene and promoting. Send kits to the local press representatives and radio stations. Hand out flyers for your gigs. Start a mailing list. Build a Web site. Burn copies of your disc and give some away at every show. You never know who will be in your audience . . . for all you know, the sister of the president of a label may be in a club one night and catch your gig. If you've handed her a CD and she really liked you, she could pass you on to someone important in the industry.

Though the Internet now plays an important role in promoting your band outside your hometown, do not rely on it 100% to get you signed. I can virtually guarantee that the major labels are not surfing the web checking out your MP3s. They have much more important things to do. You must still depend on old-fashioned methods of promotion, such as your press kit, to make sure you get the attention you deserve. Your best bet to get in the door with the labels is to hire an entertainment lawyer or manager. Many labels do not accept unsolicited material unless it comes from a lawyer or manager, just like many book editors will not accept manuscripts unless they're from agents. Once you have decided you are serious, start searching for representation. Make sure you read the fine print on any contract you sign. Don't get shackled to someone who may not produce the result you desire.

The music industry is a tough one, and the most important thing you can do is not give up. The industry is always on the lookout for the "next big thing." Today it may not be you, but who knows what could happen tomorrow? Music is changing every minute. Though a label executive may not think he could sell you this month, as the industry shifts, he may have a home for you next month. If you give up, you'll never know. Don't expect it to come knocking at your door, either. You must put yourself on the line, work hard, play well, and most important, promote yourself! With all this in mind, you could be next in line for a record deal.

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