In PART 1 of this series, I spoke about the trade offs involved in signing with a label. In Part 2, we will discuss three suggestions that can actually get you noticed by an A&R person at a label.
For an unknown act in today’s music environment, some things have changed, but some things are exactly as they were even 50 years ago. Here are my 3 most important suggestions for new acts to work on to get noticed by the labels.
SUGGESTION 1: Have An Amazing, Undeniable, I-Can’t-Get-It-Out-Of-My-Head Smash Hit Song
As obvious as it sounds, so many talented and amazing artists are held back from ever reaching a broader audience because they simply don’t have a hit song. You could be the most amazing singer, the most amazing instrumentalist, the best looking, the best dancing, the best styled, the best equipped, the best funded, the best sounding act ever, and if you don’t have a hit song, you have… nothing.
Today’s record label business is a song business. An act with one smash hit song can have a career that lasts a decade or more. But an act without a hit might have to grind it out year after year, album after album, at great effort and great expense, and never make anywhere close to what the act with one smash hit will. It might not be fair, but that is just reality.
For the act with a smash hit (even a one-hit wonder), everything will come easier. More money, more touring opportunities, more sponsorship opportunities, more appearances, more fame, more influence, and did I say? More money.
So an artist should never settle for mediocre material. And an artist should pay honest attention to the signs telling you whether a song is really something special or whether it’s just something you like but no one else cares about. Spend your time writing and revising and writing and rewriting and rewriting your songs until they are undeniable hits. And how do you know your song is an “undeniable hit”? Not by the reaction of people who are friends and family members (they don’t count because they love you no matter what). The true test of a hit is if people you don’t know are having an undeniable emotional reaction to it in large numbers.
When you do live performances of your songs, do people crowd your table afterward trying to get any of them? Do they tell you stories about what a particular song has meant to them personally and how it has become their personal anthem? Does anybody really care about any of your songs at all? Really care? This is what you need.
And just how are people you don’t know supposed to hear your songs? How will you know if they have any emotional reactions to them? This leads to suggestions 2 and 3…
SUGGESTION 2: Have An Amazing Live Show
After all, this is show business. People want to be wow’d. They want to be amazed. If you want to be an artist for a living… if you expect a label to invest thousands and thousands of dollars in you… then you should be performing your music in front of people as much as possible and creating an amazing, entertaining, impactful experience for them. Don’t be satisfied with mediocre. Don’t make excuses for why your show isn’t all it can be. Work hard and make it amazing. Nothing less will do.
The power of being amazing live is that people who see you want to talk about it. And when people talk about your live show, they are doing your work for you. They are spreading the word. And you never know who might be in the audience watching. As an A&R executive, most of my most qualified leads in finding new artists have come because someone I knew and trusted saw the act live, was wow’d by them, then got word to me. Having a live show and performing a potential hit song is a one-two punch that almost certainly will get you noticed.
SUGGESTION 3: Build Your Social Media Following
Again, this might seem like a duh! But in this day and age, nothing gets labels more excited than seeing a relatively unknown artist causing real engagement on social media. I’m not talking about simply having a large number of followers on Facebook or Instagram (although that is always helpful). I’m talking about fans engaging with you on the social media platforms, sharing your material, and reposting links and hashtags that refer to what you’re doing.
Gathering a true following on social media takes much time and effort. It cannot be passively pursued. It must be planned and organized well. But the good news is, these platforms are available to any artist at relatively little expense. If your material is amazing enough, often it can take off virally, causing a reaction. And you can bet, in this case, labels will notice.
If you know a Christian artist who has followed these suggestions (and I do mean, all three suggestions), I’d love to hear about them. You can let me know HERE.