By Martin Frascogna
For 99.9% of the bands out there their goal is to sign with a record label. Call it an acknowledgement of the hard work, a badge of pride for the years of sacrifice, gutting it out on the road, a platform for personal expression, delusions of money, whatever – the goal is to get signed.
The truth is, getting signed is pretty damn hard on one hand and incredible easy on the other. Easy because in today’s industry there are hundreds of thousands of bush league labels and so called “label executives” looking to nickel and dime you. Assuming you have good judgment, stay away from these clowns.
As for the beneficial situations, getting signed to a record label is pretty damn hard. There are layers upon layers of gatekeepers to push past in order to eventually, hopefully, sit down with the right person, the decision maker, in order to make your 10 minute pitch. If you can make it this far God bless you; but remember you need to deliver something different to standout because there are thousands of potential replacements waiting outside the door. If you can get in the door I’ll reveal the tricks to stay.
Unfortunately in today’s industry, and you can argue with me until you’re blue in the face, but your actual music isn’t the dealmaker. Here are the 4 things executives will be secretly evaluating besides your music. Arm yourself with these tricks and impress the decision makers while increasing the chances you’ll get signed:
1. Be Marketable
Immediately walk in the door and tell the executive why you’re marketable. Not your demographic, not your market appeal, and not where your music sells, but WHY you’re marketable. You need to ooze cross over appeal, cross promotions, and non-traditional retail potential. Most bands make the mistake by wasting their 10 minute pitch telling the stories behind lyrics (boring) and/or their particular market demographics who attend the shows. These are all good things to discuss, but discuss them if you get a second meeting. An executive is looking past your music in to other avenues that can make money and help push your music. Being “marketable” or better yet how to “appear marketable” is a difficult thing to do and will be covered in depth in a later post; however be fully aware this is an essential element once you’re in the door.
2. Have a Gimmick
I’m not suggesting to do something stupid like have a pacifier in your mouth for all shows, but you do need a gimmick. A gimmick doesn’t have to be something cheesy, rather something consistent, a common factor between personal style, performance, and shows. I’m not here to tell you what that gimmick is because that should be left up to the artist’s creative mind. I will tell you what a gimmick translates into in the mind of an executive: product. You got a gimmick and a marketing department will have a field day creating product to couple your music. So if you’re meeting with an executive and you’ve got a gimmick, make it immediately known and point out the potential for spill over products.
3. Have Some Business Arrogance
Be very careful in how you interpret this, as arrogance may cut your own throat. Musicians who walk in the door armed with a business plan, musicians who carry a “we don’t need the label because we have a secondary plan” attitude will hit a homerun with executives. Why? A smart businessman will be attracted to this professionalism and see you’re ready to play ball. More importantly they’ll be intrigued that you may know something they don’t. Surprised by the fact you may be able to advance your career better than they can. This works. More importantly this separates you from the thousands of bands willing to lay on their backs for the labels.
4. Remain Flexible
Bands get discouraged and offended when someone makes suggestions to elevate their career. Rightfully so, I would get offended to if some jackass floated out advice that has no merit; but be professional and choose your battles. If you’re sitting in an office of a record executive, in reality you’re lucky to have the opportunity, so be a sponge and soak up the knowledge. Executives, in most cases, have seen it all, done it all, and analyzed ever way to increase record sales through a variety of markets and avenues. Pay attention, as you can only learn.