For the past few years, whenever someone asks me what my short term goals for my career are, I tell them that I'd like to sign to an indie label, build up more buzz for myself, and then maybe partner with a major. And after a year of walking away from some of the shittiest deals any artist has ever been offered, I am happy to say that I just might have found the situation I've been looking for...maybe.
A lot of my friends are either signed to major labels or have been in the recent past, so I ask them for advice all the time. I am going to share some of their advice with you, unfiltered, in a 2 part blog. (After reading this, check out Part 2 here.) This is real insight from signed artists, I can't say their names because it might cause an issue with some people they work with currently. When I hear stuff like this, I realize I still have a lot to learn about the music industry.
I asked friends from several different genres of music (hip hop, soul, rock, and dance) to tell me how they feel about being signed to a major label. Here is what they had to say:
"It's weird...you work so hard and you go after getting this deal. Then you get in it and end up wanting to get out of it. In my situation I realize it is kind of my fault because as hard as I worked to get signed, that is how hard I should have worked to get my project put out. I put too much faith in other people to do the hard work. Most people don't realize that once you get signed, now you have to work HARDER because now you are competing with artists who were also good enough to get record deals. You are competing to get your album put out, to be made a priority. If I could get out of my deal I would, I'm just being honest. So that I could start fresh. But I am not trying to scare you. Make sure you get some details about the release time for your album in your contract. Lots of people have complaints about their job but that doesn't mean they hate their job. You just have to stay focused."
I don't know if it is typical for people to include in their contract a time line in which the album will be released... is it? I agree with his statement about the hard work beginning once you get signed, him and I actually have had that conversation before. I'm a hard worker so that doesn't scare me. I'm sad that he feels so bummed out about his deal, but I think 2011 is gonna be a good year for him, he has a lot in store.
"I've been signed to a major for so long that I don't know any other way. The game is so different now. People used to
be able to go platinum in a week without the label having to buy enough
of an artist's records to make it platinum. Most people don't know that a
lot of the people these days who go platinum are doing it because the label shipped out enough records for the album to count as platinum even if their
album hasn't reached a million sales yet
(that gets you RIAA certification, that means the label bought their platinum plaque.) The public is stupid, they don't know the real story and it is right there for people to see. The label survives off how stupid consumers are and how much they believe the hype. The hype sells records. So for you, you don't talk about sex in your music and you aren't saying nothing stupid and you don't use your body like you should. That is why you aren't signed yet. What you have to your advantage is that you are fucking nuts so you will be able to cause some controversy when it's time. You just have to learn the business of being an artist, its more than just knowing the industry. You have to know the consumer. The label will follow your lead."
I don't agree that I don't know my consumers, I talk to them everyday online. I also don't think consumers are stupid across the board, I just think most people are not interested in the inner workings on the music business. If I didn't do music then I wouldn't be interested in the music business either. AND I think that I DO show off my body adequately! What am I supposed to do, tap dance in a bathing suit onstage with a sign over my cooter that says "Insert weiner here"????????????
"The front man of our band is the one who writes all of our songs. When we signed the record deal he knew that he was going to have to have songs for the radio, of course, but he thought he had them already. Every song he gives the label to potentially be a single gets rejected by them. That's just how it is, labels need a single. So our front man is pissed. If he knew a way to get dropped from the label right now, he would do it. He wants out. He'd be happier working the indie circuit than going back and forth with our label about this. So I guess for you, maybe save your best songs to be something that you can present a label as a single later down the line. Just to save yourself a headache."
I never really considered this issue. What do you do when the label rejects every song that you offer as a single? I know that in these situations, the label will typically sit the writer down with another writer who has created hit records before. Still, it has to be nerve wracking to have your attempts at giving them what they want shot down over and over again.
I am trying to be objective and not form an opinion about what they are
telling me, I just want to learn as much as I can. Even if you have a
manager, a consultant, a lawyer, and a few know-it-all music industry
friends, it is still important for you to be educated about the line of
work that you are going into, even if it your end goal is still far