Rule No. 1 for the unsigned artist: Get on your grind (aka check yourself before you wreck yourself)


Everyday I'm Hustling DigitallyRecently, I’ve been approached by a number of artists and producers looking to get signed to a record deal.

I always entertain anyone who seeks out my advice, because it shows initiative.

But I’m always concerned when the objective, notwithstanding my advice, remains fixed on securing a deal.

It’s not that it’s an unobtainable goal.

But it’s unrealistic.

As one record executive told me, getting signed to a record deal is more difficult than shooting a hole in one – by hitting a golf ball through a hole in a brick wall first.

For some reason, these cats act like the labels are just handing record deals out.

“All you’ve got to do is be discovered.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told about artists that are discovered.

That’s all it takes.

Record a song.

Post a YouTube video.

Get discovered.

And go from obscurity to fame, overnight.

“Madonna was discovered.”

“Lady Gaga was discovered.”

“Katy Perry was discovered.”

Yada yada yada.

My response is uniformly: “No. They weren’t.”

To be fair, there is that rare exception of a truly discovered talent, plucked from obscurity.

Like Rihanna.

But that’s a different story for another time.

The reality is that virtually every artist you’ve ever heard of, especially the superstars, busted their asses to get where they got.

Invariably, they were passed over, several times, by several A&Rs, at several different labels, before they finally got on.

Do you know how many people dissed Kanye before he was finally signed to the Roc?

It was a running joke in the industry how often Kanye asked folks to listen to his demo.

Katy Perry was dropped by Columbia before being signed to Capitol Records.

Lady Gaga was performing at open mikes since she was 14 (and she attended The Tisch School) before she was signed by Akon.

Justin Beiber is probably one of the few artists truly ‘discovered’ in recent memory, when Scooter Braun happened upon his video before taking him to Usher.

But their deals didn’t just happen.

It was the result of relationships, work and in some instances, dumb luck.

Many of the people who have approached me don’t have even the most fundamental basis for talking record deal.

There’s no website.

No Facebook page.

No Twitter account.

No YouTube channel.

Not digital presence whatsoever.

If they have any of the above, then there are few (if any) likes, followers or views.

If they’ve got a MySpace page, SoundCloud or ReverbNation account, there are virtually no fans and abysmally low play counts of their songs.

The content on their pages are old and haven’t been updated.

At the end of the day, I’m left scratching my head, trying to understand why these cats seem so…entitled?

If you haven’t done the work, how can you expect to win?

It’s like saying you’re going to win a gold medal at the Olympics, but you’ve never trained a day in your life.

Sure, it’s possible that you could get off your couch, hit the starting blocks and blow Usain Bolt away.

But it’s not probable.

Sure, it’s possible that you could record a song tomorrow, post it online, and some A&R somewhere will be at your doorstep offering you a deal.

But it’s not probable.

And with the ten hundreds of thousands of aspiring artists out there on their grizzy, going HAAM, what makes you think that you’re going to grab the brass ring first?

The game has changed.

If you’re trying to be a successful artist, know that your success is being gauged by empirical measures:

Facebook likes.

Twitter followers.

YouTube views.

SoundCloud plays.

A Google results page.

This is how A&Rs today are gauging an artist’s viability.

Can you draw a crowd – online?

Sure, you can sing.

But so can literally tens hundreds of thousands of others.

What makes you stand out from the crowd?

It’s your hustle and your (digital) ground game.

So artists, if you’re reading this blog, and you want to know what it takes to get a record deal, it’s one of two ways:

1. Know somebody;

2. Get on your grind (and build a digital presence).

Any questions?

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