ADVICE ON HOW TO GET SIGNED TO A LABEL
By: Noah “Shark” Robertson of Motograter
Make Good Music. Write Good Songs. Record them well.
So often do bands wonder, “How come nobody will sign us?”. There are so many different answers to this question. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s who you know. But the easiest and best way to get signed to a record label is to write good music. Simple as that. That’s not saying that there aren’t bands that write horrible music that are signed. But obviously, somebody out there liked them enough for them to be signed to a label. Focus on perfecting your craft and writing great material and the rest will fall into place. There are several definitions of what “good” is though. Good can range from simple arrangements with memorable melodies and hooks. Good can be extremely talented musicians with complex song structures and interesting song arrangements. Good can also mean being completely original and inventive. It all depends on who’s listening and interpreting the sounds they are hearing. After you write some good songs, make sure that you make a good recording as well. You could be the most talented musicians in the world and have the most amazing songs ever written, but if the quality of your recordings is poor nobody will want to listen to them. It is possible to get signed to a label with low-quality recordings, but it is rare. Recording technology has come a long way and has become more readily available than ever, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a way to produce decent sounding recordings on a low-budget. A lot of bands nowadays are self-producing major label quality recordings on their own that end up getting released as-is with little to no additional mixing or mastering after they get signed. Having great sounding demos will ensure that your music gets heard by fans and labels alike.
There are several ways to make your band marketable. For some bands, they rely heavily on their image or physical appearance for marketability. This means going to the gym and/or coordinating a wardrobe or overall style for the entire band. Some bands have a shtick or a gimmick they rely on for mass appeal, such as wearing masks or costumes on stage or having a big stage production or theatrical aspect to their live show. Other ways you can be marketable include focusing on filling a specific niche in the music market. Sometimes a specific style of music or type of band will become wildly popular and labels will begin scooping up anything that remotely resembles it. Another way to be marketable is to set yourself apart from everything else and be completely different. There are many ways to judge what is marketable and what is not, however it usually boils down to looking professional, interesting, or appealing.
Practice. Rehearse. Repeat.
It’s one thing to be able to “write” good music and look good – It’s a whole other story pulling it off live and actually sounding like the recording. Nobody likes paying money to see their favorite band and being completely disappointed by how horrible they performed or how awful they sounded. You must be able to play your instruments well and do the recorded songs justice. The musicians in the band should be talented enough to perform their parts correctly, as they appear on the recording, and put on a good show while doing so. This is the easiest and fastest way to gain fans and get exposure. People will talk about a great show they went to if the band sounded great and performed their parts well, and the next time you play that venue they will bring their friends and so on and so forth. Another reason to rehearse and practice as much as possible is, if and when a label decides they want to sign your band, they are more than likely going to want to see you perform live. If you can’t pull off a good show, then you won’t get signed.
Get your name out. Gain exposure. Work Hard.
A label wants to see that you are willing to do whatever it takes to become a successful band. They aren’t going to do all the work for you. Many bands and artists are under the impression that the instant you get signed, you start making lots of money, get really famous, and go on huge tours with huge bands. The truth is, a lot of bands end up doing the same exact thing they were doing before they got signed after they get signed to a label. The only difference is after you get signed, you will be more accessible and your music will be more readily available to the public. If you’re lucky, your label will be marketing your music and the band. Play as many shows as possible and build a local fan base. Play shows regionally and book your own tours even. Advertise on social networking sites. Design and print merchandise and sell it at shows. Press your own albums and CDs and sell them online and at your concerts. Pass out flyers and free samples of your music. Get a manager or agent to help represent your band and get you more gigs. Get professional photos taken. Make your own music videos or pay somebody to do it for you. Open up for touring bands and national acts. Do anything and everything you can to get your band noticed. Make your presence known!
Save your money. Spend it wisely.
Being in a band can be very expensive. You need gas money to get to shows. Money to print flyers and CDs. You’ll need to purchase good equipment and reliable transportation. A number of things you’ll need to spend money on, to make your band successful, can really add up; with little or no return in the beginning. So many bands waste their money on things they don’t need when they could be investing in their music and their future. Get a job or find a way to make some money and spend it on necessities for the band, instead of wasting it on things like alcohol and drugs. There are so many bands that party like rock stars, way before any actual success has been achieved; and a lot of bands have horrible equipment and instruments because they would rather waste their money on other, less important things. Get your priorities straight, and get serious about your goals as a musician and a band. You can celebrate all you want AFTER you get a record deal and achieve some sort of commercial success.
Be a good person. Be Professional.
It’s amazing but so many musicians and bands overlook this one. The golden rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. So many people in the music industry are mean, selfish, shady, rude, and dismissive – in the long run, it comes back to haunt them. Don’t be one of those people. Having a professional demeanor, a positive outlook, showing up on time, making friends with other bands, being good to your fans; it will all pay off in the end. A club owner or show promoter will be more likely to remember you. Fans will be more likely to like your band and spread the word about your project. There are too many bands that try and act above all this and react to fans and other bands with arrogance and indifference. This will get you nowhere FAST in the music business. It’s all about networking and building relationships that will last your entire career. People want to work with and be around people they like. It’s a universal truth that can’t be ignored.
Don’t give up. Do it because you love it.
This is the most important piece of advice for any musician, band, or artist out there trying to “make it”. So many bands never end up getting anywhere because they were too easily discouraged, were too impatient, or simply couldn’t handle the pressure and the competitiveness of the music industry. Often success will not be achieved overnight. Most of the time it takes years and years of hard work and dedication to make it anywhere in this business. Do not be easily discouraged by bad comments or negative feedback, because there will always be haters and critics out there just waiting for an opportunity to voice their opinion or bring you down. Instead, focus on the positive reactions you get and the constructive criticism you receive. For every person out there that hates you or your music, there will be five more that will be fans of what you do or what you create. Do it because you love it. You should be creating art and making music because you love to do it and because it is fulfilling to you; because in all actuality there are thousands and thousands of people trying to reach the same places as you and achieve the same goals as you. Unfortunately, most of them will never see their dreams come to fruition because they weren’t sincere in their efforts or were doing it for the wrong reasons or they just simply didn’t want it enough. ”It’s a long road to the top if you wanna rock and roll.” Have fun and good luck!
Noah “Shark” Robertson is a music industry professional and touring musician with over 20 years experience. Noah has toured the world playing the drums, performing international tours and festivals with many of the biggest names in Rock and Metal music. While studying Music Education in College, Noah produced and hosted a live, 2-hour radio show on KTRL-The Planet, called Swimming With Sharks. In 2004, Noah began marketing, booking, and promoting bands under the moniker, Swimming With Sharks Entertainment. In 2010, Noah founded Swimming With Sharks Records and began signing bands from all over the world. In 2016, Noah founded Zombie Shark Records and was appointed as Marketing Director of EMP Label Group, headed up by Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and Thom Hazaert. When it comes to the music business, Noah has done it all. From helping to build brand new School of Rock locations from the ground-up to selling musical instruments for Guitar Center in high-end markets like Dallas, Texas, and Hollywood, California, to writing for various heavy metal publications and music media sites, to teaching music lessons to students of all ages, and everything in-between.
Noah is most notable for being one of the founding members of The Browning (Earache/Century Media/Spinefarm). He is the current drummer of Motograter (EMP Label Group/Elektra/No Name), formerly fronted by Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch. Notable past acts include Pinhed and Srlsm.
Swimming With Sharks Entertainment