As a musician, bands have it easier than a solo artist in terms of cost to make a CD. Other than that, there are little or no differences. For bands/artists who wish to start the process of making, distributing, and getting radio airplay by themselves, believe it or not, you are starting your own record label. Even if your goal is to land a major recording contract, you will still need to gather more attention for your music by cutting, distributing and promoting your own music. You’ll have a much better chance at getting a great record deal with a major label if you are successful on your own first. You may even find out that initially you can even be more financially successful on your own than if you had a record deal.
In my book, The Indie Guide to Music, Marketing and Money, I discuss how MC Hammer started out by himself. He knew the bottom line and how much he made working his record in dance clubs. When a record company approached and wanted to sign him, he initially said no. Face it, if we were offered a deal like that or any deal, most of us would be rendered speechless and simply nod our heads to say yes.” After all, that’s the musician’s dream, right? Why did he say no? Because he knew and understood his business model. MC knew how much he made on his own, and he knew he could make a lot more money on his own than they initially offered. Eventually the record label had to meet him on his terms. They offered him a much better deal in the end.
So, how do you do what MC Hammer did? Marketing, Marketing, Marketing and it’s not all dependent on having your own label or producing your own music. In my book, The Ultimate Guide to Music Success” there’s a chapter of do’s and don’ts for those of you who aren’t interested in creating your own record label and promoting a CD yourself. It will show you the correct ways to send a demo and get heard by the A&R staff of major-labels. It also includes a truck load of fresh contacts, email addresses, phone numbers and web sites to help you on this journey.
If you are one of the lucky few and have a lot of contacts and a lot of extra money, your path will be much easier, but still not guaranteed. If you are like the rest of us, you have a limited budget, fewer contacts, and even less time to spare. What do you do?
First you need to spend some money no matter how limited your funds are. There’s no way around that. You must also spend some time to start your business up and make your CD (a budget guide is also available in my book).
It’s the same with contacts. You have to put yourself out there and network. You need to spend a lot of very early mornings and very late nights initially surfing the internet for information on how to find and meet the people you need to help you on your path. You will also need to attend various functions and music gatherings where the music makers meet. Remember it’s a see and be seen world. Join your local version of the BAMM or WAMI association. These are local clubs where musicians meet on a regular basis. Many important local musicians will be members and might be there to network with. Most every major city will have some sort of club like this.
The next step is marketing. Collect all of the write-ups on yourself and your band and put them into a folder. Then based on those, you’ll need to write a one-sheet up and pass it out to the people you meet at the parties. (A one-sheet is a one page marketing tool that emphasis the important aspects of your band/act.) If writing is not your gig, find someone who writes professional one-sheets or bios on a regular basis.
Once you have those marketing tools in hand, start making appointments to audition for local clubs. Take every gig that is offered to you initially, whether you are paid for it or not, and make sure to get the most press out of that gig. If you do get paying gigs when you first start out, great! Make sure you have a contract in your hands that is signed by the person who will be paying you. In case there is a dispute, and they do arise, you have a contract spelling out whether or not you were going to be paid and how much. Although it would be nice if everyone could work on faith and trust, make sure you get your contracts written, signed and in place.
Before you sign any contracts, make sure you get a reputable entertainment attorney to look it over. NEVER sign a contract before you have followed that step. You could lose the shirt off your back and much more!
What’s next? Work it baby! Work it! This is not the time to be shy and bashful about your career. You have to grab onto every single opportunity and use it to your advantage. Unabashed marketing is what you need to do…so go for it! Just do it! No is just a word in the dictionary. It may hurt for a minute, but it’s the people that can take the no” 50 thousand times that will get the prize in the end.
Something I recommend is to take a few courses at your local community college on Business Management and Accounting. This will help you immensely when it comes to watching your money and the bottom line. Whether you’re producing your own label and watching every penny or whether you’ve signed with a major label, you still need good accounting skills or a good accountant you can trust. With or without an accountant, it’s just good business to look at your books daily. Oprah is notorious for this and look where she is! No-one will care about your money or your success like you do.