Getting signed is a modern myth. It’s become the Holy Grail in popular music folklore, and horror stories about getting signed feature in every artist biography. So why do they do it? Is it really necessary? What does it mean?
First, what is a record company (label)?
So, what do you have to put on the table for that rather wobbly proposition? The record company will merely want:
Here’s some advice if you want to influence any of those decisions, be U2, a lawyer and very rich. If you’ve got a good idea of what you want to do and be, the last thing you need is a record company. They are very unlikely to invest in what you want.
The big problem is this:
To be fair, they could never make commitments that match yours. They can’t promise to keep you in the charts and they can’t promise they’ll still love you next year. They can’t guarantee you will ever make any money (nobody can) but they will take control of everything regardless and add massively to your overheads whatever happens.
That said, you do need a record contract if:
You specifically don’t need a record contract if you simply want to perform, record, publish and sell your work. An exception to this might be blues, jazz, bluegrass, roots folk, etc., where genre labels still specialise in music and do a good job.
Pete Waterman reckons it costs £2 million to break a new artist or re-launch a stagnating celeb. This money isn’t a gift from the pop star fairy, it’s money the artist or the industry needs to recoup (and then some) to break even. If the public doesn’t buy the £2 million turkey, the accountants pass round the hat and all the other artists have to cough up.
That’s where all the money goes. The force field that holds undeserving work in the public eye is enormously expensive. It’s a double tragedy that the good stuff pays for all this effort and the force field doesn’t really work anyway.
On top of all that the Majors are doggedly inefficient. A big record label is a monopoly supplier that sets its own prices and won’t allow competition on your goods and services. It’s no good finding something cheaper or better, even if you are paying the bills. You can’t audit the CD packaging charges. The label decides, the label spends, you pay.
Now, if you still want to get signed and be a global megastar you’re obviously as unstable as a cake-stand, but can I have your autograph?