At this point everyone knows music alone doesn’t get you signed. Music is indeed the lowest topic on the totem poll. Labels are looking for a unique hook, a hook which enhances the groups musical element. More so, labels are looking for something which they currently don’t have. Bands need to show they’ve penetrated a niche in the market which labels don’t have access to. Show you’ve got a niche, and labels will recognize you’re the vehicle to take them there. Don’t show a niche and you’ve placed yourself in the same category as the other thousand bands standing outside the label’s office looking to take your head off.
Never under estimate the power of a good attitude. Labels are essentially entering into a business relationship with artists and the last thing they want to do is enter into a relationship with a group who feels entitled to being signed or someone who’s arrogant. You won’t find a person in any industry who wants to do business with an asshole. More often than not, bands enter negotiations with this attitude of “what could you possible do for me.” Wrong. In their defense they think this is the way business is done. Hard noise negotiations tactics are for the insecure and entertainment wannabes. Rather, have your entertainment attorney negotiate. They negotiate for a living, understand subtle negotiation tactics and know which buttons to hit.
Contrary to any preconceived notion, labels don’t have money. There is a small percentage of labels who are in the financial position to take on new acts. On top of this daunting nibble of information, there is even a fewer number of legitimate labels. Record labels are everywhere but the numbers means nothing. Musicians should only sign with labels who (a) are legitimate, (b) have money for development, and (c) have distribution in place. Today this is the equivalent to finding a unicorn wearing a diamond saddle who’s sitting in a pot of gold while smoking fountain of youth cigarettes with a leprechaun.
Simply put, some bands don’t get signed based on timing. You may have the right package, the right deliver system, unique music, and a solid niche market but the label says “no”. If the label tells you the timing isn’t right, they are telling you the truth. Cycles in the music business make and break sales. If you aren’t falling in the right cycle in terms of market demand and genre success, hold tight, the cycle will more than likely rotate back in your favor. At this point, stay ahead of the curve and approach the label when the timing is rights.
Bands rarely get themselves signed and A&R is dead and has no pull. Unless a label approaches you, which is a rarity, labels hear about musicians from entertainment attorneys. Entertainment attorneys know how to structure label proposals and better yet, work with label executives on a personal and daily basis. They know which labels have money, which labels are signing, and which ones will bite on particular clients. Like it or not, attorneys can navigate past the gatekeepers and get straight to the decision makers. Rejections are common when bands pitch their products inappropriately. You get one shot. Pitch incorrectly, the door closes. Attorneys know how to pitch, when to pitch it, and where to pitch it. Use them and maximize your chances of getting signed. Not to mention your attorney should be the consistent figurehead who helps you navigate all levels, indie or major. Use them on the front end and allow them to grow with you throughout your career.