In a word, yes. As a consultant to major labels and their sub labels, I
will let you in on the hidden secrets of how major labels evaluate the
artists they are considering signing to their rosters.
First, let's dispel the myths about A&R people in general. Even though a
major label may have anywhere between 10-30 A&R reps running around the
country checking out independent artists, there is a limited number of
people who can actually sign an artist to their company. In most labels,
it's only 2 or 3. These are the people who are responsible for signing
the new artists who will (hopefully) make the company profitable. It is
their job and their neck on the line to make sure the artists they
sign, have the greatest potential of success. With that thought in mind,
here is how they typically pick a new artist.
When a junior A&R staff person is interested in you, they will conduct
what is called a market by market analysis. This involves:
Then if a major label or A&R person is truly interested, they will ask
you for 3 things.
Let's take half a step backward to answer your questions about these 3
Once all the market research is done and your sales history has been
verified and your potential success has been measured, the record
company will decide what kind of offer they will make to you.
So is this the magic formula to getting a record deal?
No. There really isn't a magic formula. But I will tell you from my 20
years of being a consultant to these companies, an artist with a sales
history of at least 10,000 CDs sold in their home market is considered
far more interesting and valuable than an artist without a CD, or with no
Does this mean you canít get a record deal without releasing your own CD
and selling 10,000 copies?
No, but the odds are severally stacked against you. Let's say several
million to one, unless, the person who brings your music to the company
has a successful past history with them or in the industry. There is
still the possibility that they may think, you are the greatest artist
of all time, but that's pretty rare. Considering that successful A&R
people pass on groups that go on to sell over a million copies every
year, the odds aren't good they will just hear it in the music.
Artists with a sales history of at least 10,000 copies will get a much
better deal than someone without a sales history. Artist with a sales
history also have something very important. Keeping in mind that the
average major label artist won't even sell 1,000 copies nationwide, an
artist with a sales history has a position of strength to negotiate
They will most likely be listed as a Priority artist when
signed to the company.
Obviously, once you are signed to a major label, it's all about how
many copies you sold. You can make a great record but if it doesn't
sell, the record company and the shareholders who invest in the
company, don't care how great the songs are or how it sounds. It didn't
sell enough copies.
Here is an interesting thought to leave you with. If you can sell 10,000
copies of your CD in your home market and then duplicate that in the
surrounding markets, do you even need a record deal? You will be making
a lot more money than if you are signed.
Food for thought.
Author Tim Sweeney is head of Tim Sweeney & Associates, who are entering their 18th year of being, "the only true artist development company in the world."
Tim is one of the music industry's most sought after experts and consultants, and has written several influential books including "Tim Sweeney's Guide To Releasing Independent Records".
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