1. Professional Production & Writing
First things first. You need a quality end product. Many labels these days will be looking for artists who can write and produce their own music to a decent standard. If the music behind your vocals is not actually yours, this can be a big red flag. Complications over the copyright of the music can put labels off. If you can submit your music where you’re the sole owner of the product, this puts you at a big advantage. 99.9% of badly recorded demos are going to be rejected.
If you’re submitting remixes, please obtain the proof that you have been commissioned to remix the track by the original copywriters, and they have also given explicit permission for you to submit this remix for label representation. If you do not have clear licenses and permission, then do not submit the remix for representation as you’ll only be wasting your time.
“One day, my mum bought me this music production software for my computer, and I started making beats… I realised it was more like production than a video game, but it was a video game when I was playing it. That’s how I got into music production.” – Jidenna
2. Encouraging Social Numbers / Fan Engagement
Encouraging numbers on social media is a major indicator that the artist is creating a strong band appeal. If you’re following more people than you have followers, this is a major red flag. Established artists will almost always be following a small number, with a huge number of followers. DO NOT purchase followers, plays or fake comments as these can be spotted almost instantly. This attempt to deceive will instantly result in a rejection, and possibly becoming black listed in the industry.
Labels will have tips and ideas on how social numbers can be increased, but they will be looking at how your numbers are performing prior to signing. If you don’t have your own website and mailing list, do this now. Not having a website in this day and age only suggests that you cannot be bothered to create one, or don’t have the know-how to create one, which is super easy these days via Wix or Squarespace. There’s no excuse!
“Music is thousands and thousands of years old and I don’t think that basic, primitive connection to the language of music ever changes.” – Spike Jonze
3. A Strong Backstory
Labels will be looking at ways to promote your story to new fans. What journey has this artist been on? How can fans relate to this artist? Is there a particular demographic the label can pursue?
All die hard fans will want to dig deeper into the music, and where it comes from. They’ll want to get to know the artist, read interviews, biographies, live shows. Connection to your fan base is huge, because music affects listeners on a deep and personal level. If you’ve created someones favorite track, then they will hold a special place in their heart for you. If your story is “I was given guitar lessons and wrote this new track because I was bored.” then that’s not going to interest anyone and will only devalue your music to listeners.
Music is a visual and personal experience. Music is experienced through life’s moments, from both the artist and the listener. The deeper the meaning and memories, the deeper the love for your music.
“Your personal history is a part of what happens with your hands and your head as you play music.” Dave Grohl
4. Artistic Direction/Vision
Possibly the most important is artistic vision. If you’re in the music business for the sole purpose of money, then I’m afraid this is not for you. Music cannot and should never be faked for financial gain. It is an art-form, and if you’re a true artist then it becomes a lifestyle. Sometimes an artistic direction may take a little time to figure out, but if you have the motivation and inspiration to fail and keep going then you’ll be edging closer to your full potential. Many artists/bands may go through multiple artist names, a few under-produced albums, many embarrassing gigs before they reached their full potential.
One thing you must remind yourself is the established artists have failed more times than you can ever imagine to get where they are today. If you truly believe in your vision then everything else will fall into place.
“If you take the creation of music and the creation of your own life values as your overall goal, then living becomes a musical process.” – Cecil Taylor
5. Communication Skills
Lets get this straight. You could be the next big thing, but if you’re going to take 3 weeks to respond to an email then you’re never going to get anywhere. Communication is crucial in the music industry. Networking via social media, emails, phone calls and texting is a great way to build up your musical database. Credibility counts for everything. If you’re difficult to deal with, labels will simply move on. They have no time for time wasters.
If you work hard enough, you’ll likely get to the point where you can hire a manager to handle communication and networking tasks. This can be a great relief, allowing the artist more time to focus on their music. However, starting out most artists will not have this luxury, so you must work extra hard to handle the business side. If you’re looking for a long term career in music, then you must remember the music industry is a business. Juggling the artist side with the business side can be tricky, but with a strong focus and vision, it can be achieved.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer
6. A Unique Identity
What makes you different to the other artists currently out there? How do you add something fresh to the current industry? Does your music combine multiple genres? Or reinvent an old genre in a modern way? There’s plenty of factors to make your music and brand appeal unique. We all know characters and music go hand in hand. Michael Jackson wouldn’t have become the icon he is today without his strong back story and unique character combined with his writing.
Go through history and you’ll find the most flawed and unique characters in music were often the most successful.
“You know, when Michael Jackson does the moonwalk, he’s showing off! When Prince or Hendrix do a guitar solo, it’s confidence! I would hate to be at a show and some nervous wreck is sweating up there and doesn’t feel like he deserves to be there.” – Bruno Mars