How to get signed!
|-What is the best approach for a metal band to get signed?
||-Given an optimal situation, what would a recording contract contain?
||-For what are A&R (Artist and Repertoire) representatives of record companies looking?
||-Will 2004 see more or less metal bands get signed?
|-Phil Hinkle - A&R for Century Media Records
||-Network with touring bands that come through your area and get on shows with them. Build a street team and maintain an attractive and up-to-date website. Create a demand for your band. Build a story in your hometown and region. Give people a reason to listen to your demo and to see your band live. Word of mouth and recommendations go a long way toward getting a demo heard quickly.
||-'Optimal' depends on which side of the bargaining table you're sitting on (laughs). Record companies look for security, so they want to ink long-term deals which is more than three records. Usually a brand-new band doesn't start to make a name for itself until record number three, so a record company wants to insure there's a future with the band beyond that. Bands tend to want shorter deals so that if they do become hot, they can shop around.
||-That's a hard question to answer, because it's super hard to define a sound or style that you're looking for. It's the kind of situation where you know it when you hear it. When you're listening to a demo, you need to have an 'ah-ha!' I wouldn't say we are looking for any particular sound (metalcore, black metal, death metal, etc.). We're just looking for strong bands no matter what style they play (as long as it's still metal, of course). More tangible aspects are things like: hard work, dedication, being self-sufficient, having connections and a sense of direction.
||-More. The underground labels will never stop seeking out talented metal bands, and, right now, majors seem to be getting on the bandwagon (again).
|-Tim Henderson - Editor for Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles heavy metal magazine
||-Package yourselves professionally and attractively (no, I'm not talking about looking like Poison!). You need to figure out a constructive way to stick out in the A&R pile. It doesn't hurt to use a gimmick in the packaging, etc. Keep things short and to the point. People don't have s time to read your life story. People also don't have time to listen to more than two or three tracks of a demo. The first impression is key and this is your only chance to impress. Give labels all the gusto from the top (i.e. first track). You've come this far, don't cheapen yourselves. Of course, this is metal so cool artwork helps. Furthermore, follow-up. Not the point of annoyance, but persistence in this crazy biz is the key.
||-You should be watching out for the following: Territorial restrictions - some bands opt for different deals for different territories. Some labels are stronger in different markets. A band should list its needs and sign with a label that takes care of most of its needs. Terms - how many albums does the label want from you? If they are truly interested in building your career, they may ink you for more than one album. The problem is, if you're not happy with the distribution, promotion, marketing, etc. after the first record, you need an out. Royalty rate (usually a percentage, sometimes a flat rate) - can be anywhere from 10% to 15%. Mechanical rate or publishing royalty - usually a 3/4 rate. The standard rate is set every couple of years by the RIAA for the USA. Right now it's about .082 cents per song. Some contracts can have marketing commitments etc. Once again, what are your needs?
||-Female-fronted bands (Nightwish, Lacuna Coil) or thrashcore (Lamb Of God, Hatebreed, Black Dahlia Murder). With the mega-success of Evanescence, female-fronted artistry is taking off around the world. Sad that bands like The Gathering, Nightwish, etc. haven't been able to take advantage of Evanesence's success in the US (as they started this major buzz first), but 2004 will see a marked improvement in sales and acceptance. As for thrashcore, MTV's recent Headbanger's Ball tour did brisk business around the USA. Kids are eating this thrash-inspired hardcore metal up!
||-Good question and hard to answer. There are so many labels around the world and every one is looking for their hit and/or fast buck. I don't foresee a huge increase in signings. Many labels (read: independents) are keen on nurturing their roster, rather than diluting it. Given such turmoil within the majors these days, they are dropping bands left and right.
|-Ronnie Keel - Metal musician who was signed to Shrapnel and Vertigo labels with his band Keel. He is currently in Iron Horse
||-We're using some rather ambiguous terms here, most notably 'Metal' and 'Signed'. 'Metal' has grown into a term that many different acts can be tagged with; from 'death metal' to 'pop-metal' to all the other sub-genres that have arisen since Black Sabbath first gave birth to heavy metal back in the day. Also, the term 'Signed'... there are many 'labels' out there that will 'sign' a band, and any schmuck with a business card and a CD-burner can draw up a contract and offer a 'record deal'. Let's assume that we're talking about a 'mainstream metal' band getting signed to at least a major independent label (some great labels that fall into this category are Metal Blade and Spitfire). The best approach to getting signed has always been the same. Convince someone in a position of power that your band can make them money. Sell the guy with deep pockets, usually the head of the company, who will put his money where his mouth is. The procedure to win these people over really hasn't changed either: 1- with a great recording, whether it's a demo or a completed master that captures what the band is all about and has a viable place in the market, 2- by having a large following of fans that will buy the CDs, concert tickets, and merchandise. You've got to get your presentation, promo kit, press, whatever, into the right hands. It's still very much a 'who you know' business and the time honoured practice is to just shove your stuff down as many throats as possible and see who swallows.
||-A $75,000 recording budget, $50,000 video budget, $50,000 tour support budget, $25,000 promotion and publicity budget. That's a total of about $200,000 investment on the label's part; in order to recoup that, the label has to sell approximately 66,666 (how's that for a heavy metal number!) units at around $3.00 each net profit, which is about what the label will make off of each CD after manufacturing costs, royalties and such. So an artist that can sell 100,000 units is certainly viable on an independent label and can make money for all concerned. An artist that sells 100,000 units for a major label is going to get dropped like a hot rock. The majors routinely drop artists who don't go platinum. These days even a gold record usually isn't enough for you to keep your deal.
||-Usually they are looking for their next blowjob or line of cocaine, free booze and free food. In terms of bands, they are most often looking for the band that looks and sounds the most like the last band that had a hit. Those that really are into the music and want to be successful in this business are looking for that special act that stands apart from the rest of the crap they hear on a daily basis.
||-Once again, the term 'signed' is tough, because there are so many small labels out there that will 'sign' these bands, but in reality they don't have the money, power, or connections to make the act successful. As I said previously, to have a real shot at doing anything substantial, the label has to be able to put up almost a quarter of a million dollars and the band has to be able to move almost 70,000 units, or everybody is pissing in the wind. I keep hearing from people that metal is going to make a comeback, and I'm sure they are right in some ways. Music has always gone in cycles and powerful energetic music, combined with an energetic show, songs that speak to people in ways they can relate to can find a foothold in modern society. Unfortunately, so much of it is corporate. If the radio would play it, if you get it on TV, if people can see it, hear it, and read about it on the internet, it could become exposed to enough people to make it a viable commercial commodity.
|-Karin Evin - Manager at Love Music Centre. She recently obtained a contract for Sigma with Shark Records
||-The band has to record a demo with a good production and send it with a biography and photo to the support media (radios, magazines, webzines, fanzines) in different countries in order to get the band known. After that, the band has to collect all the play lists, reviews, interviews for a press book. The band has to send the press book and the demo to all the labels. This first promotional part with the demo is really important and has to be done well and in a serious way in order to show the labels that the band is well-known and appreciated. Therefore, there could be something in it for the label when signing a deal with the band. It's important also to know that some labels read the demo reviews and could contact the band as a result.
||-There are different kinds of contracts. Let's tackle the more usual, "the license agreement". It will contain the subject of this contract, all the different rights/all the different assignments of rights, group provisions, the exclusivity of titles as provided for this contract, terms of production, terms of contract and number of titles, band clause, advances and royalties, name of the artist, publication, advertising, settlement and payment for videos, etc.
||-It's impossible to give a short answer to this question because a major and a small company won't look for the same kind of band. Each manager at each record company has his own way of doing business. Certain labels prefer to sign bands which follow the musical fashion of the moment. We can, consequently, hear many 'clone' bands. Others prefer to take more risks and sign bands that are more original and who have something to say. In all the cases, the records companies are looking for bands which are professional. So it's important for the bands to have a good and serious structure around themselves and to portray this image of professionalism.
||-I unfortunately think that 2004 will see less bands signed because the market is going badly. The number of sales fall everywhere in the world (even in Japan). For this reason, more and more record companies aren't signing newcomers and prefer the security of signing a band which has already released one, two or more albums before. Each record company has a certain number of releases planned annually and can't release more for financial reasons. If you consider that all the old bands are still in existence, then the spots available for the new-comers is really limited. Regarding this reality I will conclude that a band who wants to have a chance to be signed, needs to be really professional in its music (compositions, sound) and needs a good promotion in order to attract attention amidst all the other bands out there.