If you feel like a 360 deal is the logical next step for your career, you probably aren’t alone in thinking that. It turned out to be a great career move for some bands like Paramore.
So, if you know it’s something you want to do, how do you go about getting offered a 360 deal?
Well, the process for getting a record contract is mostly the same, regardless of what type of contract you ultimately want. The offer will largely depend on where you are in your career.
Artists eager to hand over the business side of their career to professionals may find a 360 deal to be particularly appealing, since the label will be quite hands-on in a situation like this.
So, here are steps you can take to set yourself up to be contract-ready.
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Work On Your Music
Though your work ethic will factor heavily into a label’s decision to sign you, it isn’t much good without great music.
This doesn’t mean you need to “sell out” and play top 40 music to try to appeal to the masses. Nor does it mean you can’t pursue a career as a pop star if that’s what you want to do.
No matter what genre or style of music you play, you need to build your portfolio of great sounding music. Everything matters – the quality of the production, the musicians playing on the tracks, the studio you record at, the mix… everything!
Additionally, it can be beneficial to think about creating music that’s radio friendly (i.e. songs that are three to three-and-a-half-minutes long). I know this can seem restrictive creatively, but keep in mind there’s always the opportunity to arrange your songs differently for your live performances, where you’ll get to express yourself more freely.
If you’re just getting started, you need to understand that making great music is a process. First, you need to practice and work on your craft. Then, you need to gain experience. And, through that process, which can take many years, you’ll eventually find your flow as a songwriter/arranger/instrumentalist, etc.
If you want to be signed to a label, an aggressive touring schedule is typically par for the course. It shows that you’re dedicated and willing to put in the hard work necessary to win fans, sell music, and gain exposure.
Once you’ve signed a 360 deal, the label will take care of a lot of the logistics and details for you. But until then, you need to do all the work yourself.
Start small. Perform locally, and do it for free if you must. Gain experience as a live band, and then begin looking at better opportunities. Build a local following. Once you’re able, start performing out of town, and take it a step further by booking tours.
Once you’re a little more established, you’ll want to start touring more strategically, paying in towns where you’re getting radio airplay.
Build Your Website
Yes, you need a website, and not just a social media presence. It might seem counter-intuitive, but there are many benefits to building your site. Here are but a few:
- You own it. Therefore, you have complete control over what goes there.
- It will help you book more shows. Put your EPK (electronic press kit) on your website to make it easy for people to find out what you look and sound like.
- It will help you establish your brand. I’ll talk more about branding in a moment, but this is critically important when it comes to getting signed.
- It will help you build your email list. Drive traffic to your website, and you will see your email list grow a little bit at a time. And frankly, there are few things more important than building your email list.
- It makes you look professional. You don’t look like a pro when people Google your name and the first thing they see is your Facebook page. Personally, I would think you weren’t interested in investing in your career.
Remember to get a redesign for your website every time you put out a new release.
Build Your Email List
Email is not outdated or dead. It’s still one of the best ways to communicate with your fans and make sales. And, like your website, your list is your own – you have complete control over it!
When trying to determine the size of your fan base, it’s quite likely that a record label would look at the size of your email list. They may also consider your social media following and website traffic too, but they will certainly be interested in the size of your list.
Collect emails everywhere you go. Put together a signup form and bring it to all your shows. Put a signup box on your website too.
Grow Your Social Media Following
Build your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube following. This is where I would allocate most of my time and effort if I was looking to get signed. It’s not that sites like Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest aren’t valuable, because they can be, but it’s safe to assume many labels would not consider your following on these sites very relevant.
The hardest part about building your social following is maintaining your presence. You need to post regular updates. With Twitter and Facebook, this is easy enough, and won’t require a lot of time, but building your YouTube presence will require ongoing video content creation, which can be more of an intensive endeavor.
When you have a bit of a budget, start boosting your posts on Facebook. Target people who like your page and their friends, or create a lookalike audience to get more people to like your page. Don’t buy likes from third-party services, as this will not benefit you long-term. Focus on building your following more than on selling with your boosted posts.
Establish Your Brand
Branding is an area many musicians struggle with. You may need to enlist the help of a professional graphic designer, or even a branding expert to help you sort this out.
At the core, you need to think about what your vision or mission is. Why do you exist? Why do you do what you do? What influences you? What style of music do you play?
It could be that you want to share a positive message with the world and impact people with your music. You could also make music that brings awareness to corruption in politics. Whatever it is, you should be able to define it and even recite it at a moment’s notice.
Once you’ve figured out your central purpose, you can begin crafting your image around it. You’ll need to choose a font, a color, and craft a logo that’s a reflection of who you are. You’ll also want to coordinate your attire and photography around your overall image, which will make your act more marketable.
You’re working hard and making the best music you possibly can. But how do you know it’s any good?
Music is such a personal and subjective thing, and while your fans may love you, how can you know if a label would consider it marketable to the masses?
The good news is that there are many online communities and services that allow you to get your music reviewed by other musicians, DJs, and various industry professionals. Some will obviously be better than others in helping you get the feedback you need to improve your music in the right way, but you must start somewhere, and some services are more expensive than others.
If you don’t have much of a budget, you could start with online forums or message boards. From forums aimed at the electronic niche to communities where fellow musicians exchange ideas, these tend to be low cost or free, but still valuable.
You can also ask musicians you respect, or bloggers and influencers for their opinion. Whenever you release something new, you should send it to reviewers. This does not guarantee a review, but if you can get a few, it should help with gathering feedback.
There are many other services, clubs, organizations, and online communities you can tap into for feedback. The main thing to look for is people who can give you solid advice based on the type of music you create and your overall goals.
Network & Build Connections
If you’re just getting started, no one knows who you are.
This isn’t to suggest you should go up to an A&R rep today and introduce yourself. It’s better to start small and target local influencers.
You can go out and meet: Bloggers, podcasters, open mic hosts, other solo artists and bands, engineers, producers, and so on. From there, you can continue to expand your network of connections.
Networking is often best done in stages. That way, you can get introductions from people who know the person you want to connect with, instead of trying to make a cold contact.
Industry conferences and events are good places to target too. But again, start simply. You don’t need to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars just to meet people.
Manage Your Finances
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever say to yourself “I have more than enough money to cover all future expenses.”
Sure, when you get your record contract and hit it big, you might reach that point. But until then, no one will manage your finances for you. You’ll need to be the point person on this and be proactive about saving and investing in your career.
You’ll need money to: Release your music, print up posters, travel from town to town, build your website, invest in merch, and so on. This is a virtually unending list of expense categories. How will you pay for any of it unless you take the money you earn and learn to use it wisely?
Here are a few tips to help you get a handle on your money:
- Don’t go into debt. This rarely if ever works out. Only spend money you have.
- Pay yourself a percentage of your earnings. The rest should go into your band fund to cover relevant expenses.
- Reinvest in your career. Just got a high-paying gig at a festival? Awesome! But resist the temptation to take your windfall to buy a new guitar. Save some of that money like you would from any other income source, and reinvest in your career. Use it for marketing, to improve your website, to get feedback, to mail out your music to radio stations, and so forth.
Research & Reach Out
If you’ve branded yourself correctly, you should have a better idea of what label you would work best with. If no one’s contacted you about a deal yet, you may not be ready. But it could also be that they just don’t know about you.
So, do your research. Find out what labels represent the type of music you create. It doesn’t make any sense to go after labels that don’t work with artists like you.
Once you’ve created your list of prospects, reach out to them. Send them your press kit and tell them where they can find you online. Don’t forget to follow up!
If things start getting serious, and you’re not sure what to do, you may want to hire a manager. And, before signing a contract, you’ll want to talk to an entertainment lawyer as well. You’ll need to get a better idea of what exactly you’re agreeing to, and if there’s any room for negotiation. With a few tweaks, 360 record contracts can be a great career move.
As you may have figured out already, what I’ve laid out here is essentially a plan for success in music in any capacity.
Whether you want to achieve independent success or be signed to a label, following the above steps should help you get to where you want to go.
Remember that the journey is never linear. You will experience hiccups along the way. You will run into obstacles and challenges, both personal and professional. It’s what you do with those challenges that will separate you from the pack.