Get a record deal

Martini Henry Rifles signing a record deal

Last updated: 05 February 2009

Many groups dream of the post-gig scenario where an industry mogul approaches the young sweaty band and thrusts a six-figure contract onto their hands, writes James W Roberts.

A record deal can allow for greater exposure, regular gigs, releases and, hopefully, some much-needed money for struggling musicians. So, what are the basic credentials that help endear bands to labels? Roger Hopkins of Swansea label Mighty Atom, home of Three Colours Red and Hondo Maclean, believes you can't beat sheer talent and persistence.

"It's the moment when you hear a piece of music, a band, artist or whatever that you have never heard before, and for some reason the music grabs your attention, makes the hair on the back of your head stand up and makes you want to either go buy it or check them out further because it was so good," he says.

"Basically it's something that stands out from the crowd. When I get this type of feeling, just the same as everyone does when they hear something new that's good for the first time, I want to get involved."

Be self-sufficient first. Get businesslike about your band. When you have created your hype you won't need to chase the labels, as they will know about you.

Roger Hopkins, Mighty Atom

Roger also highlights good hard graft as essential in getting noticed: "Go out there and play to people as much as you can. Work hard, build a good database, get yourself some merchandise and a good demo to sell on the road. Build the hype, manage your web site and be nice to people.

"Be self-sufficient first. Get businesslike about your band. When you have created your hype you won't need to chase the labels, as they will know about you."

James Roberts, A&R editor for music industry magazine Music Week, highlights media interest as important to generating that all important label interest:

"What many bands forget is that the A&R game is all about perception. Probably the best way for a band to get noticed is actually not to send out demos to labels, but to try and directly secure themselves some media interest, whether it be in the local area or through an association with a band that are already on the way up."

This example can be found on Lostprophets' sold out 2004 UK tour, where up-and-comers Hondo Maclean provided support and exposed their music to a larger audience.

Roberts underlines to need for persistence: "Labels can pick up lots of bands these days that have already built themselves strong plots at press and specialist radio. So why would they sign a band that is completely cold and have to start from scratch?"

Of course, you could always release your own records. In terms of getting some recorded material out there to kick start the important media interest, Roger Hopkins sees this as a good way to generate label interest.

"I think there's never been a better time for self promotion with the internet and general reductions in recording and production costs. You can record an album these days within two weeks for about £2,000, burn a thousand CDs, sell them for £8-10 a piece at shows and make a damn fine profit. It all comes down to the same things: hard work and a need to succeed."

The self-sufficient agenda can help artists further down their career path: "The best way for any band to start out is by doing things for themselves, not relying on other people because the lessons you will learn will be invaluable," says Hopkins.

"And when that record deal does come and you have shown that you can sell records on your own steam, you'll be in a far better bargaining position when the head of Sony reaches for the cheque book."

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