How to get a record deal today?

What is left of the music business? I hear so many varied reports on it’s demise, the bottoming out and the new era of the business. So, what’s the real story and how do you get a record deal today and what is a record deal, is it worth chasing?

The industry in 2011 looks like it is in “bottomed out” mode, it has finally stopped declining, but is this because the wealth of catalog music sales can fall no further or is the industry selling more new music? The best sign for the business would be the growth of new talent, catalog sales ultimately tail off, so unless you are bringing new talent to the fore then the business will fade away. We have more new artists than ever right now, the problem is that very few, actually fewer than ever are rising out of obscurity and into the type of acts where their catalog will have any value in the future. Without strong catalog sales it makes the growth of a record label very hard to make work in the accounting department.

So do you have what it takes to get a record deal today? What does getting a record deal mean – to you?

What has changed in the music industry? In the past, record labels had a hold on the artist because of “barriers to entry”: recording, distribution, radio play, retail access, promotion and marketing plus real world experience. Record labels would assist artists in overcoming these barriers and in return have the artist’s copyrights assigned to them, taking the lions share of income, paying the artist a small % of “Net” sales only after they recouped. The only initial upside for the artist was the potential advance against sales but more often than not any artist who had minimal success regretted taking money up front and paying it back at a large comparative interest rate. Many artists ended up taking their labels to court trying to get the rights to their music returned to them. With 360 deals, you give up even more… unless you can negotiate with some juice!

Remember that you can have a great career in the music business even if you do not sell many records or songs as long as you are generating other streams of income with your music. When an artist creates a musical copyright, the potential is unknown and infinite at that point in time, it is what happens to it after that which ends up defining it. 

Getting a record deal has been the way artists define their success, even if the record got shelved. They had someone who thought enough of them to enter into a contract with them and advance money to make a recording. So you got validation, now what?

So ask yourself do I want a career in music or a validation of my music? If you want a career in music and are talented, unique, and can build a story, the Record Deal with Sony, Universal, EMI or a large indie will find you. If you want validation, find it first in the hands of those clapping as you entertain them, making music should be something you give out to the world, so when you get offered the elusive record deal, maybe it won’t feel like you have reached your final destination.