How to get noticed by a record company (Part 1)

*NOTE* This is not a definitive article by any means. The tips here are the things I look for in a new band.

1 : Get your demo together

This is probably the most important step to getting yourself noticed. Fortunately, the demo doesn’t have to be a slick production put together in a top-flight studio. However, if you’re going to send a tape of you singing and playing a guitar into your binatone tape recorder, your material must be good enough to render the medium irrelevant.

When you have got your music sorted out, and a good (and I mean good) demo together, you will probably be thinking in terms of getting a record deal of some kind. There are two ways of going about this. The right way, and the wrong way.

2 : Pick your target

The thing that a lot of artists get wrong is targetting the right kind of label. In general, the average label will handle one, or maybe a couple of genres. There is no point whatsoever in sending your blues/roots demo to a techno label, your metal demo to a folk label and so on. If you want to minimise the effort you expend on getting the deal you need, do some research.

3 : The Pitch

What do the people at the record company want to see from a new band? Well from a purely business point of view, they are looking for a way to make money. The only way that you can judge this on a first listen is to ask “Do *I* like it?

It really doesn’t matter that you have spent the last five years of your life pouring your soul into your demo – if it isn’t something that grabs the attention of the poor bloke sitting next to a pile of CDs then it is going to flounder right there.

Of course, it may be that you didn’t send a CD with your band biog. While I wouldn’t recommend it, it is possible to be noticed using this method. It relies on a lot of external factor being in your favour, though. The A&R guy has to be in a good mood, next to a PC, not too busy to look at your website, and interested enough in what you write to want to check you out (this is where the email that just says “We are <insert name here>, Check us out at www.freeweb.com/~j_piggot/myband d00d” just isn’t going to cut it.

Finding all these factors in the same place at the same time can be
tough, but if you do manage toresence felt is by having a website. Generally speaking, a website will fall into one of three categories :

  1. The “Bored kid with Frontpage” site
  2. The well designed but poorly presented site
  3. The Full Monty

The first kind of site will probably stand out for having a url that is provided free of charge by their ISP. It is usually along the lines of http://www.ISP.com/~login.name/theband.htm, and will look as if it has been designed by someone with a clip-art fetish. Even if the content is all there, and every bit of information that you could possible want is available, the design has a tendancy to make your eyes bleed. This is the most common form of website that I see when looking at unsigned bands pages.

The second type will still have the tell-tale url of free webspace, but displays a little more attention to detail in the layout. Easy on the eye, and easy to navigate, this is the kind of site that would be the pride of many a band, and with the minimal extra expense of good quality web hosting and a memorable domain name could easily fall into the third category…

The full monty site is the one that has been well thought through, well designed, and had effort expended on it. This says to a reader “I care about what I am doing enough to build this nice site. You should care too.” Whenever I am directed to a band site that looks good, has an easy-to-remember url, and contains everything I could need, I am impressed.

Summary of Part 1

I guess that the essense of this post is this: Don’t expect that anyone is going to want to do you a favour, unless you’re prepared to help yourself. If you are happy to help yourself, also expect to help the company you are approaching. While a record company might be in it to help people out (I know that Headroom are not entirely motivated by the financial side of the business), there has to be a reward in it for them as well.

Remember that and you will not go too far wrong. If you don’t like it, good luck getting a deal. You’ll need it.