The days we’re living man… There are so many upcoming artists and the competition is so tight that some of the sharks are smelling the blood in the water and have resorted to doing vile things. We’ve seen it all: radio stations that promise heavy rotation and when investigated you find out they don’t even exist, DJs that promise to play your songs then they forget even your name, singers that agree to collabs then they disappear off the face of the earth, and our favorite one… Record labels that sign you and ask YOU for money to promote you. The idiocy and desperation in those actually going through with such a concept, is beyond normal or even acceptable limits. This is heresy! A damn right abomination. If you EVER entertained such ideas, maybe you’re beyond the point of salvation. However, for those that don’t want to waste a single penny, this article will save your face and your bank account.
7. What are your social media handles?
Though apparently an innocent question, when you look at a social media profile (or page) from a DESKTOP, and you see they have 20.000 followers but only 70 likes, those are BOUGHT numbers and very likely, bought comments and engagement as well. Click on the people commenting and see if they’re real, if they have real photos, for how long they’ve been active, if they follow other people as well, if there are other legit ARTISTS interacting with the page, etc. Do your investigative work!
6. Name me 3 of your biggest artists!
More like a demand and not a question but… when you google each one of those 3 artists and you see they got nothing better going on for them than what you got going on for yourself, don’t buy into the bullsh*t!!! Paying Distrokid $20 a year and having a decent cover artwork is NOTHING special and NOTHING you can’t do on your own. A legit record label will offer you opportunities and advantages that you CAN’T provide for yourself. Conclusion: if you can do it yourself, kindly let them know you’re not f*cking interested.
5. What genre do you specialize in and why?
If you hear stuff like “Oh we love ALL genres and ALL our artists are great!”, block them. This is Bullsh*t 101. If you’re a good record label you do NOT specialize in all genres because you can’t possibly have the exact same level of opportunities for artists doing Pop music as for those that do Acid Jazz for example. It also indicates that they don’t care about the talent, the personalities, or even the music. They just saw nice views on your videos and want a slice of that! Actually… They want the whole damn pie by taking away your distribution and mechanical rights and earning YOUR money for themselves!!! Do you know how many sh*tty labels are making a killing off signing desperate singers with decent followers and then blame the artist for not pushing his music hard enough while they’re collecting all of his royalties? Even if they collect only $50 a month in royalties, if they have 100 naive artists, that’s 5000 FREE DOLLARS with no effort for them!!!
4. What cities do you have most of your connections in?
Here’s the deal: a legit record label has key locations where they can break an artist. That is why you hear of X moving to UK after signing to Y label. The people running a decent record label 10 times out of 10 have an office and verifiable access to blogs, magazines, radio and TV channels, influencers, movie studios, recording studios, etc. If they can’t pinpoint where and who they got access to, run for the hills!
3. Who’s your highest-earning artist and for how long he’s been signed with you? And equally your lowest or zero-income act?
This one is huge. If their top-earning act has only been with them for less than a year, that means that the artist was already hot BEFORE they signed him. That means that the artist was already on the rise on his own. They didn’t do anything except offer him a name behind his act. If that. You want to hear something like “Z is our top earner. He’s been with us for the longest and we’re really proud of his success”. The money maker has to be amongst the oldest signed artists. Why? Because the longer you stick with a label, the more they know you, and the more they can forge a stable path for you. If an artist keeps bouncing from label to label, or if a label equally signs and releases too many acts, that means someone is trying to cut corners and everyone is replaceable. You want your project and music to be treated like diamonds, not like zirconium.
2. What award shows do you have access to?
They are NOT expecting this one. If they can’t name a single verifiable award show they’re consistently invited to, they haven’t even made it yet so they can’t help you make it either. Even the smallest of record labels that are not famous but that do know important faces and names in the business will send one artist or two to these shows. No red carpet, no signature on the contract!
1. How many chances do you give an artist for them to break out?
You would only know of this one if you had an actual record deal on the table. Fortunately for you, we did. Dan Popi, the CEO of Cat Music Records, for example, does not go further than 2 songs for a new act. If you can’t break the radio with your first release, he’ll give you another shot and still put money in your project. If, however, you fail on your second one as well, he’s freeing you from your contract. And that is a good deal. Because most labels will usually tie you in for many albums and basically leave you hanging, but with enough of a legal grip on you to take your profits when and if you start making money. Therefore, what you’re after is a couple of singles at most. If the label tells you they give the artist a chance of 3 albums to make it, you go incognito mode and never deal with them again. That means they’ll comfortably sit back, with no plan for you or your music, and wait on you to produce material whether you make it or not. If the label on the other hand only gives you money for one EP or 2 singles as a shot to success for the artist, that means they will be hands-on on your project and want you to succeed immediately. Stay away from individuals that try to lock you down for years. No one is guaranteed tomorrow.