A Demo and Opportunity Isn’t Enough – Don’t Just Wait for It
This afternoon I received a DM on Instagram. Pretty common occurrence as I operate a high traffic music based account. However, while conversing with a young artist hungry for opportunity I was given the chance to share some knowledge. The rapper I was corresponding with asked for some help. He wanted to know if I knew anyone that was looking for some new talent. At first, I gave him a generic piece of advice, simply that if he wants more listeners – post some music and connect with others. He countered with that he was looking for labels interested in signing or booking artists, any opportunity to get his foot in the door. Unfortunately for this young artist, I had to explain how saturated the music industry is with potentially younger and hungrier artists and it wasn’t as simple as a referral.
Having been there myself, I can fully understand and respect this young man’s perspective. This industry surely isn’t what it used to be but perhaps that might be for the better. Every day we are seeing new artists come up and on the surface, they may look like overnight sensations. With that said, in most cases they aren’t. Sure, you may see a few celebrities that have been memed into the spotlight but that’s still a bit of a rarity. However, it’s hard to even throw shade at those who seemed to get a “lucky break” because in this lightning fast industry, as fast as you get it you can lose it.
Now I’m not here to rain on any parades. My hope is to inspire some innovation and share some methods that can give you a leg up on the artist who is hopeful for opportunity.
What Record Labels Want
It may or may not be common knowledge but in case you are unaware – record labels don’t necessarily develop talent anymore. No longer do you have an A&R that is looking for raw, unpolished, and unbranded talent that they can turn into a superstar. Instead, they want you to be polished and branded with a pre-existing catalog and fan-base. So, what does that mean for you?
As an aspiring musician or artist – you should be knowledgeable, branded, and prepared at the very minimum. Perhaps your catalog is good enough to stand in as a demo, so the A&R can find you the right records for your pre-existing sound. Once they have your sound figured out they will most likely test it against your current audience. From that point on it’s likely they will test you in a larger market, so on and so forth.
What You Can Do
Preparing your “demo” or music catalog should be your first priority. Before the labels ever see you, they’re going to be judging you off your sound. Unless of course you have a buzz and are getting in front of enough people for the labels to notice you. However, then you most likely wouldn’t be reading this article.
Identify your audience. Have an idea on who might appreciate your music and cater to them. Find out what works and duplicate the process. Diversify your sound enough though so that not every song sounds the same.
Brand yourself. We all should know how important first impressions are. Coupling your sound with an image that will resonate with your audience. Make sure your presentation is professional and you have all the proper channels for your fans to connect with you.
Lastly, get out there and grind for it. With the right music, effort, and networking, you should be able to earn your opportunities. When encountering somebody that can put you in a position to win – don’t ask them for “a foot in the door”. Ask them the right questions. Stuff like what projects they are currently working on and if you can submit to said projects. There is plenty of opportunity out there and your demo can help. Just do it the right way.