Inside a Record Company

The UK plays host to hundreds of record labels including the three major record companies and a thriving community of hundreds of independent labels and music companies (also see the role of a record label in a previous blog).

The three major record companies are Universal MusicSony Music and Warner Music.  And each of these organisations are home to smaller labels. These often group together musicians of a specific genre which can be served by the label’s expertise.

Regardless of the size of the record company, there are various roles that need to be fulfilled in order to discover talent, make a record, market and distribute a single or an album, and finally deliver that content to music fans. Behind the end product is a whole range of people who work with an artist to ensure that their creative vision is brought to life.

How Can a Record Company Help

Whilst a Chief Executive will be the person in charge of the entire company – and a President may be appointed to look after the affairs of a specific label – the success of an artist will need the support of those within the sales, publicity, promotions, marketing, legal, business affairs, and A&R departments. And, of course, every company requires financial and IT experts and secretarial staff.

Record companies provide the money for the recording and manufacturing processes. They also find producers for artists to work with and pay to promote the record once it is finished. Because they pay for everything, artists may find themselves with less control and also receive less royalties as a result. The company needs to recoup their costs first before passing on any additional royalties.

Whether an artist used a record company or remains independent depends on their situation and what they’re hoping to achieve. An artist should weigh up all of their available options before deciding to sign with a record company. It is important to sign with the right label, not the first one that comes along.

Get international exposure for your music at Midem

A message from our sponsors, Horus Music.

Are you looking to get exposure in the worldwide music industry?

Every year we attend Midem festival, which is the largest business-to-business event in the music industry. We’ve been attending Midem for the past 10 years, so we have a significant presence while there.

Would you like to take your career to the next level?

If you’ve been trying to get a deal with record labels, managers, etc. this could be your lucky day. This year, we are looking for artists from all genres to represent at Midem.

This means, we will attend Midem on your behalf and hold meetings with top industry delegates. We will be looking to get you the deal you’ve been looking for. Our reputation means that we can secure meetings that others simply cannot. We will create a tailor-made EPK that will include your music, videos, bio and other relevant content that will be presented the relevant contacts and executives.

Why are you doing this?

We’re dedicated to helping musicians further their careers, this is something we do on a daily basis. We know that there is no better place than Midem for helping musicians get the opportunities and exposure that they’re looking for.

What can I expect from Midem?

Each artist is different and we never guarantee any specific outcomes. However, the more high-quality resources you have then there’s a higher likelihood that you’ll get the results you’re looking for.

In recent years, we’ve had artists that have received licensing deals with Detour Records, French and European promotion through Music Media Consulting, management and recording deals with Animal Farm, synchronisation deal wit O’Neill’s surf brand, publishing opportunities in GAS territories, booking agent deal with Kir Tomkinson as well as opportunities to tour Brazil and China.

What happens after Midem?

When we return, we will follow-up with each of the people we met and provide you with a full report detailing who was contacted, what meetings were organised, what comments were made and the outcomes of those meetings, along with other information that could help you when it comes to finalising deals. A copy of the EPK that we used can also be provided upon request.

How do I get involved, and what do I need?

For a small one-off payment we will attend Midem on your behalf and you will retain full rights to your music in this none exclusive deal and will keep 100% from any deals that are made, we will help you make the contacts you need to finalise your own deals.

All you need to do is get in touch here and send us more information about you, as well as links to your music, and if we like what we hear we can go ahead and start preparing your EPK.

Speak soon!

5 Things to Avoid to Get Signed To A Record Label

Like all indie labels, I receive a high number of emails from musicians requesting that I consider their music for release. Some of these emails do all the right things in terms of how they approach the subject, but many do not. Here are 5 things to avoid to help you get signed to a record label.

If you’d like to get signed to a record label, I hope my advice will be of use to you. Please note: these are my personal opinions and thoughts on this subject will differ, sometimes wildly, from label to label.

1. Don’t Come in Half-Cocked

First impressions count, and chances are, you’re only going to get one chance with each label you approach. Make sure you include all relevant info — things like your name/band name, links to your music, and perhaps a brief biography, reviews of your music and so on.

2. Don’t Send Unfinished Tracks

Demos are fine, of course, but I’ve had people send songs that even they admit aren’t finished yet. “I just need to write a chorus” or “I’ve not worked out the ending yet” aren’t things that you’d expect to hear from an artist who feels they’re ready to take on the world.

3.  “I’ve Just Found your Label!”

Appearing out of nowhere rings alarm bells. For me personally, it strikes me as odd when someone who has not previously engaged with the label makes contact — it suggests that they’ve just Googled “indie labels” or similar and found a handful of labels by pure chance. Much like the above point, it smacks of throwing enough doo-doo at the wall to see what sticks — and no-one wants to be on the receiving end of that doo-doo.

Where possible, approach labels you know and love. If you don’t get the response you’re after, look into similar labels, and do your research on them before contacting.

4. Avoid the Copy-and-Paste Approach

Perhaps even worse than number 3 is the generic or copy-and-pasted email. You know, one that’s been sent to hundreds of labels at once, in the hope of a response from at least one of them.

No-one likes to feel like they’re disposable. Tailor your email to each label you approach — the personal touch goes a long way, as does a little research on the label itself.

5. “Hey Indie-Pop Label in Barcelona, We’re a Sludge-Metal Band from Wisconsin, US…”

This is a two-parter. One: it usually best to approach labels based in the same country as you. They’ll likely be better equipped to handle the music scene and marketplace in your area. Two: if the genre you fit into doesn’t fit with the label you’re contacting, you’ll be wasting your time and theirs. At best, you’ll get no response, and at worst, you’ll get yourself a bad reputation.

I sincerely hope this advice is of use, and helps you get signed to a record label. If all else fails, start your own label…

Written by Lewis from The Adult Teeth Recording Company

Careers – Record Label

A Record Label will scour the world looking for potential in artists and releases to be release to the public (see our previous blog ‘The Role of a Record Label’). They can do this in person through their A&R departments or over the internet. They make records, mostly in the form of CD’s and digital downloads these days. Their other income sources come from merchandise, tours and sync opportunities in TV and Film. A label can have dozens or even hundreds of artists on their books.

What is Involved?

The process involves an artist signing an agreement for a number of albums to be released through the record label. The label will then allocate the artist an amount of time in the recording studio to produce a quality recording. The artists will usually work with a producer and sound engineer during this process.

Once the recording is complete the finished recording will be mastered before it is ready for distribution. Some record labels have their own distribution mechanisms whereas others may outsource the material to independent distribution companies.

A record label typically forms part of a larger record company and there are may different departments involved. Just some of these different departments that form a Record Company include:

  • A&R,
  • Recording,
  • Mastering,
  • Marketing,
  • Distribution,
  • Sales,
  • Admin and Accounts,
  • Licensing and Synchronisation,
  • International Departments,
  • and many more.

How Do They Work Within the Industry?

The industry is built up of hundreds and hundreds of major and independent record labels. The four majors are Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI and the rest making up the community of Independents. Major labels have more money behind them but independents allow the artists to retain more creative control.

If you’re looking for employment or work experience, why not try The Big Music Project to get your foot in the door. For a more complete list of companies out there have a look at The Unsigned Guide.

Interview with Castle Rock Studios

Deep in the countryside of Cheshire lies Castle Rock Studios. Focusing most of its time as a recording studio, Castle Studios is also an established artist management company and label. We caught up with Managing Directors Stret and Alex to ask them how they got where they are today. Here is what they had to say…

How did you both get into working at Castle Rock Studios and the music industry in general?

STRET: In 2005 we purchased the building that is now Castle Rock Studios. I had been working with bands within entertainment as I owned an events company and we booked acts for events.

We’d been contracted to deliver production elements for The Stereophonics, Joss Stone, etc. so I was working with lots of bands. Coincidentally my business partner’s son wanted to be an Audio Engineer.

When we spotted the building we are now based in up for auction, we knew it would be a good place. We created a recording studio with rehearsal facilities and a base for the label, representation and talent procurement.

ALEX: I’ve always been into recording and production. Since I got my first 8 track Tascam minidisk recorder when I was 14 I was hooked. I’ve been playing guitar for most of my life, and have toured in bands since I was 17. Whilst at university studying Philosophy I went to a local unsigned gig night and started chatting to the engineer there. He said that I could come down and shadow him so the next week I did. It was a fairly small scale operation (only about a 200 capacity bar), but a great learning experience.

On the second week of my shadowing, he got stuck in Liverpool so we were without an engineer. The manager of the bar came up to me and said “You’re a sound guy aren’t you? You know what you’re doing?” to which I replied “Yep, no worries” even though I wasn’t totally sure. So I set everything up and it seemed to work and then in walks the band – The Courteeners. Thankfully everything went well and I got offered a job there but it was quite nerve-racking to say the least!

Have you got any advice you could give to aspiring producers and engineers?

STRET: For me this is about standing out from the crowd. Get as much experience as you can and work with as many different people as possible. Somebody needs to give you a chance and my advice would be to research as much as possible. I’ve had people approach me and ask to shadow me, and not known even the basics of what Castle Rock Studios offer.

We recently exhibited at the Manchester Music Show where there was a Q & A session with some music high flyers, and someone asked the question:

“How do I gain experience in the business? I want to be a recording engineer.”

The advice given was to get qualified, which in general is the right advice, but I‘d take that further. Get yourself qualified to a high level of expertise. Alex Miller, our Head Engineer, is a Pro-tools expert level operator. At the time he qualified, he was only one of 10 in the country. So when the latest batch of engineers approached Castle Rock Studios, Alex stood out from the crowd because he’d worked hard to gain an expert level of expertise.

The sheer quantity of people looking to work in this very specialised sector of the industry is phenomenal. I can’t imagine there is sufficient quality paid work to satisfy the demand.

One young guy came up with a great way of standing out from the crowd. Instead of sending the usual email asking for work experience, he researched and discovered I was a Deep Purple Fan. He then recorded himself performing ‘Smoke on the Water’. He then posted it on You Tube saying “this is for Stret at Castle Rock please let me work in your studio”!

I contacted him and asked him to learn ‘Mistreated’ also by Deep Purple… a far more challenging track. He did and made a cracking job of it, even adding his own solo at the end. I then asked him to perform it in our gig room in front of bands that use the studio. I gave him a fortnight’s work experience, and he went on to join a band called The lost37. They then rehearsed and recorded at Castle Rock Studios and supported Ocean Colour Scene.

By the way that trick won’t work again, so don’t go sending me recordings of Deep Purple tracks. The message is be creative, stand out and research your target.

ALEX: You have to be prepared to commit everything to the job. It’s not a 9-5. It’s 10-10 most days, and longer than that on others. I’ve done 23 hour runs in the studio before now. Sure it’s long, but I’m doing a job I love so I don’t mind so much. It’s still fun, even though it’s hard work. It’s just how this industry works.

There are a frightening number of people trying to work in this industry. When you look at the number of people each year going to audio schools it’s crazy. You have to be more dedicated, and more proactive than all of them. As Stret said, don’t just send a CV addressed to “To Whom It May Concern”. At the very least drop it in yourself. We get about ten CV’s a week via email and at that volume they all just blend into one another.

Commitment is a big thing for me, so bringing it in personally shows you have that extra bit of enthusiasm most people don’t. If you email it, find out a little bit about the studio, and address your cover letter to them. “To whom it may concern” and “Dear Sir/Madam” makes it look like you’re sending out a blanket email. Include things about the studio that you like or are interested in and why you want to work there. Tell us why you are better than the others asking for a job.

But while you’re doing that, you also need to be doing the fun stuff. Record yourself, record bands, listen to your favourite albums and listen to the production. Ask yourself, why doesn’t your record sound like that? Then figure out how to make it sound like that. Come down and look round the studio, and find a way to bring a band here to record. I started to get more work at Castle Rock Studios when I started brought many of my projects here.

You also run a label and work in artist management, can you tell us a little more about this? What artists are you currently working with?

STRET: Our Label is very much in its infancy. We launched Sandbox UK Records in January 2014, signing three Artistes – Milla Muse, Alex Buchanan and Rian Peters.

All three artists are either completing recordings, or working on finishing touches for live performances.

Milla has recently completed recordings with Rory Ruadhri (Ed Sheeran, Mumford and Sons). Alex had great success with The Voice and is close to completing commercial recordings of his original music. He is off on tour to Australia for three months. Rian has also just finished recording with Alesha Dixon for a potential release in 2015.

Our representation division was born out of the passion I felt when I heard Milla’s voice for the first time. I had such a strong connection with Milla that I wanted to help her gain a career in the music industry.

The same happened with Purge. They had rehearsed at Castle Rock Studios and then they recorded with us too. I loved the recordings – the tracks reminded me of bands I grew up listening to. The Riffs were very catchy and when I saw them perform live I knew I wanted to be involved. I approached them to offer myself as their Manager and was delighted they agreed. The band have now performed in front of 8000 people at Chester Rocks supporting Razorlight, and were asked to perform at See-Rocks festival in Austria in 2015.

What advice can you give to young bands that are looking for representation and want label and management deals?

STRET: Again, it’s about standing out from the crowd. In this day and age it’s vital bands engage with their fans or those that come across them. Nowadays it’s easier to get your message out there, but because it’s easier means more people can do it.

If you do manage to attract the attention from management or a label, they will be checking your social media platforms. Not just the number of people who “Like” or follow you, but the creative content too.

I’m not saying labels don’t sign emerging talent from home recordings, but it’s rare. The quantity of demo discs they receive is huge. So if your demo looks good, has been duplicated professionally, and the recording is professional, there is more of a chance of that A&R guy giving it a spin.

To break a band from the pub/club scene is a very hard and long road in my opinion. If you get a crowd of 200+ fans, management will be attracted and should take you to a larger audience.

What’s your favourite piece of equipment in the studio and why?

ALEX: It’s always nice to have great gear, but without a good musician and a great sound it doesn’t matter.

The best thing about Castle Rock Studios is that there is no real weak link in the chain. A vocal chain could be: 414 > 1073 > 1969 > SSL > Pro Tools. All quality, great sounding gear. But that’s all no good if you don’t have great rooms.

So really, I think the best things are the rooms and monitoring – without them you can’t hear what you’re doing.

What top tips can you give to bands and artists who are looking to go into the studio for the first time?

STRET: Visit the studio beforehand, meet your engineer, book a listening session or rehearsal the night before. This way you can have your gear set up and ready to rock when the session starts. I see bands come in all excited, as they should be, to realise recording can be a laborious process. Setting drums up and “breaking the ice” can take 2-3 hours. By the time tracking commences, the guitarist and singer realise they won’t be playing today, unless it’s a live recording.

I would also say it’s very important to ensure you and your equipment is fit for purpose. Consider putting new skins on the drums, and re-stringing the guitars. Do it a few days before and bed them in.

And get tight, know your material inside out. If your first take is the one, then it’s the one. It leaves more time to spend on the mix. We’ve even had some bands writing lyrics whilst the engineers are wanting to crack on with recording. All the while the clock is ticking and you are wasting your money.

ALEX: As Ginger Wildheart put it “Before you spend a fortune in studio expense, rehearsing the fuck outta your songs makes a lotta sense.” You should be able to play your songs blindfolded, backwards. Sit down and listen to what you’re all playing in the practice room.

I’ve had occasions with two guitarists; one plays their part for the other to say “what are you playing? That’s not gonna fit with what I’m playing…” We then spend half an hour figuring out whose part to change, and what to change it to.

It’s hard to hear this stuff loud, so unplug and make sure you’re all on the same page. If you can, record your practice, listen to it back. How’s the momentum? Is the tempo shifting? Is the song too long? Are the drums accenting the right parts? Are there too many cymbal hits? Is the kick drum consistent… the list goes on..

After that, make sure all your gear works. Get your guitars set up by a professional, so that the intonation is spot on and there’s no nasty fret buzz. Re-string them before you come in. Re-skin your drums, polish your cymbals, check your amps aren’t making any horrible buzzing noises. Remember, we’re recording tracks that are going to be out there forever.

What do you prefer – analogue or digital – and why?

STRET: Speaking as a non-engineer I like the warmth and fullness of analogue, but it’s not practical.

ALEX: For tracking, I love the sound of analogue tape, but it’s such a pain I don’t use it anymore. I did one album totally to tape a few years ago. It was a good experience but during mixing the machine broke, and we couldn’t get it fixed in time. So we mixed off the Pro-Tools backup files we ran along with the two inch. Steven Slate came to the rescue with his Virtual Tape Machines plug-in. I compared it to the tape after the machine was fixed, and I actually preferred the sound of the plug-in.

We’re seeing so many analogue emulation plugs at the moment that I don’t feel I need analogue multi-tracks. The flexibility of digital wins for me every time. It’s faster, cheaper, and still sounds great. Mixing is a slightly different story. I prefer analogue consoles to mix on because I feel I’m more creative. But I find myself mixing hybrid more and more these days, mainly for speed and ease of recalls. Things like side-chain the bass to the kick would take about five minutes with the physical routing and patching. Whereas in Pro Tools you’re done in 20 seconds.

If you could record with any artist/band in the world who would it be and why?

STRET: Deep Purple. I would ask Alex to record it and then have it mixed by Andy MacPherson (The Who, Saxon, Buzzcocks, Blondie).

Why Deep Purple? I’m a fan… I’ve followed them all around the world. If you do get to visit Castle Rock Studios you will see purple sofa’s, carpet with purple lines in; and my pride and joy vinyl collection of their 19 studio albums.

ALEX: The Offspring. They are without a doubt, to me, the greatest band in the world. Every album is amazing from start to finish, and I listen to at least one of their albums every day. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them. I don’t know exactly what it is about them, but the music just grabs me. Ever since I first heard “Ixnay On The Hombre” when I was about 12 I’ve not stopped listening to them. So being involved in the production of one of their records would be a career highlight for me!

The Role of a Record Label

Whether you are signed to a major label or an independent label these are the jobs that you should expect your record label to be doing for you. Knowing the difference between the two can be very useful when you are approached by them.

Major labels or large independents will have different departments that look after each task. They have more money and resources but may limit your creative freedom.

Smaller labels will give you more creative control but have a lot less money and resources. They will employ just a handful of people that will look after the manufacture, recording and promotion of your record.

What Does a Record Label Do?

  1. Labels provide you with money so that you can make music and manufacture your record. They foot the bill for your recording process including paying for your studio time, the producer, engineer etc.
  2. Record labels will find you a suitable producer to help you create the best album possible. They may also have an art department that will develop your album artwork and website.
  3. The promotions division should create a strategic marketing campaign for your release involving press, radio, and TV appearances etc. A strong marketing campaign will increase the chances of a successful album release.
  4. Record labels are in charge of the distribution of your record. If they are a major or big indie label then they will use their own distribution services. Some smaller and independent labels may use outside distributors such as the brilliant Horus Music.
  5. They will sublicense to other record labels to release the recordings in different territories. This is done by licensing the use of the recorded material to them. This allows a local company to use its expertise in a territory.

If you know what help you would be looking for from a label, you know which would be the best option for you to sign with.

International Music Deals

Maybe you’re looking for international music deals with publishers, labels, or a brand sponsorship.  Maybe you’re looking to expand where you perform and build new audiences. This is about getting deals in different territories, where they can be obtained and what to do once you have the meeting.

What is Midem?

In the middle of January, the world’s music community gather together in the South of France for Midem. Midem (Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale) began in 1967 and is the largest trade fair for the music industry. It’s a real diverse mix of people and companies from all areas of the music industry.

Types of participants who attend include:

  • Artist managers.
  • Labels (of all sizes from small independents to the majors such as Universal) Distributors.
  • Producers.
  • Publishers.
  • Tour managers.
  • Accountants and lawyers.
  • Festival bookers, venue bookers (Live Nation).
  • Promotions / PR people.
  • Journalists.
  • Brands (such as Coca-Cola, Swarovski, Durex, Heineken, HTC, Ford, Nike).
  • Brand Agencies (Grey Group).
  • Games Makers (Activision).
  • Stores (Apple iTunes, Google Music, Amazon, Deezer, etc.).
  • Technology companies (Sound Cloud, Topspin).

The appeal of international music deals are very exciting. It’s not unheard of for an artist to have little success at home but make a wonderful musical living overseas. The music industry is not just about managers, labels and publishers, there are so many more important partners. So if you want international music deals, there really isn’t a better place to be.

The music industry was a different place before  2000 and deals were so much easier to obtain.  Today in 2013, any company looking to make a deal with an artist has to be much more careful.

How Do you Get a Deal?

Being on the pitch is a great start to being a part of the game, but it’s not enough to win. So what do you need to get a label deal or publishing deal?

We’ve been attending Midem for years so we’re familiar with what companies look for before offering a deal. So what important information do you need to tell them?

  1. A small amount of information about your background and how you got to where you are now. It’s important you keep this to the point and not tell long stories about your childhood.
  2. What releases have you done? Do you have sales sheets for these releases?
  3. What gigging and tours do you do? Where do you do it? Do you have any previous, current and future tour schedules to hand?
  4. What press, radio and TV do you achieve or have achieved?
  5. Do you have a music video and a live video they can see?
  6. How pro-active are you with your fans and in gaining new fans? Do you have thousands of fans on social media and do you speak to them daily?
  7. Why do you want a deal in a particular country? Do you have a lot of fans from there and can you back it up with reports from Facebook etc?
  8. What sort of deal are you looking for?
  9. What are you offering (e.g. all recorded music plus future or just one album etc.).

The above applies to all meetings, not just label or publishers meetings, but meetings with gaming companies or brands. Before anybody invests in you they want to know what your fan reach is and how hard you work.

Some Final Advice

A meeting may only last 15 to 30 minutes, so you need to keep your information to the point. It’s best to keep it professional and business-like. You need to be friendly too as business is about building good relationships. However, you don’t have much time for chit-chat so find a balance between being friendly and approachable vs. being professional and giving precise information.

Finally make sure you have done your homework on the companies you’re seeking international music deals with. Does the company deal with the music you have for example?  Do they have history in your field?

The Fall of EMI?

EMI has been the big story in the music industry over the past months with two separate takeover bids for its label and it’s publishing. With other majors looking to grab a larger market share, what does this mean for the industry as whole? And what are the implications for music in Britain? With no major to represent us, will we fall to the Yanks and the French like its 1783? Will the Big Four become the Big Three?

What Does the Fall of EMI Mean for the Music Industry?

Well firstly, this is all going to be a big blow for Warner. They are the only ones not in on the action as it sees the two leading record labels pulling further ahead. Universal Music Group is the market leader for both record sales and publishing. Sony/ATV had a market share of 11.7% in 2011 and has just acquired the second largest publisher in EMI (19.3% share). This reduction in competition and possible market dominance is what has been considered by regulators at the Federal Trade Commission. It is the grounds by which it is vehemently opposed by Warner and a large contingent of independents.

In response to concerns, Sony/ATV agreed to sell off certain catalogues. This included Virgin Music, and has completed the transaction for $2.2 billion. With Sony/ATV being the smallest of the four publishers, this was less of a problem than UMG’s bid for EMI’s label. If UMG were to gain approval they would effectively control 37% of the worldwide record sales market. They would leap even further ahead of its competitors at WMG and Sony Music Entertainment. So will this mean an end to Britain’s place in the music industry? Will we lose the Britishness from British music if it is bought by a French-backed American label?

The short answer is, probably not. For a start, not all British music comes through EMI. Many British acts opt to sign to the other majors or their subsidiaries, and many to British independent labels. Secondly, according to a Vivendi press release in late 2011 upon signing a deal with EMI owners Citibank, Universal CEO Lucian Grainge stated that they are “committed to both preserving EMI’s cultural heritage and artistic diversity and also investing in its artists and people”.

It would seem that as long as Mr Grainge keeps to his word, consumers will not suffer from the acquisition. However, from an industry perspective, UMG has the potential to dominate the industry to the detriment of others. For this reason it has faced firm opposition for WMG and groups representing independent labels, such as IMPALA. The Commission has already concluded that the merged company would be so large it could not be constrained by competitors!


So if the acquisition is allowed, although it will most likely still hurt competitors, it seems that substantial concessions will be needed. Just as they were in the EMI publishing takeover. With the Universal CEO claiming there were several independent music execs who supported the merger, there may be hope for the rest. However, one of those named by Mr Grainge, Essential chief Mike Chadwick, claimed he was quoted out of context.

As a sales and distribution company that doesn’t compete with labels, he suggested a UMG/EMI label would put off many artists. Chadwick suggested they would seek out alternative companies such as his own. He went on to clarify that he feels the merger to be detrimental to the music business as a whole. He added that Universal would retain too much leverage and prevent independents from competing.

At this point, all we can do is see what the regulators decide and await the fate of EMI. If they let UMG buy it, we will have to hope Lucian Grainge keeps his promise and honours the great legacy EMI has left on the face of British Music.

Streets to Studios – Getting Signed

There is no doubt that the music industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. Finding a record deal can take what seems an eternity. For many, getting signed to a label means years of hard work, busking on cobbled streets and wearing rucksacks filled with free EPs that are given to passers by.

With the help of online media platforms, marketing and promoting music has become easier and more cost effective. As the industry adapts to technological advances digital sales have sharply increased; with 6 million albums downloaded in 2011, a 24% rise on the previous year. Sites such as Bandcamp and Soundcloud are two platforms that enable artists to distribute their own material. They can do this free of charge and from the comfort of their own homes.

Getting Signed: What’s Changed?

2011 saw the introduction of the popular and expanding media platform SBTV. Founded by Jamal Edwards back in 2006, SBTV has been tagged as the ‘UK’s leading online youth broadcaster’. SBTV is based on a simple concept of filming upcoming and undiscovered talent and posting the videos online. The concept behind Jamal’s idea seems simple enough, however SBTV has somehow managed to accumulate over 166,000 YouTube subscribers and a staggering 92.5 million+ views. Seeing as there are currently only 1,384 videos on the channel, this is a remarkable set of statistics.

With the industry being as vast as ever, many new and upcoming artists have collaborated and toured with artists from other genres. Halifax-born signer songwriter, Ed Sheeran exploited this with his ability to work with different genres such as Grime and Hip-Hop. He began his career at the age of 14, touring London and playing over 600 gigs in 2 years. It all began after meeting his idol, Damien Rice while backstage at a gig. Sheeran has become an inspiration for many artists who choose to use a DIY route. This enables them to step into the mainstream territory and potentially bag themselves a record deal.

Sheeran used simple methods of marketing and distributing music while handing out free CD’s from rucksacks, on tube stations and in popular shopping destinations in London. In February 2010, SBTV contacted Sheeran and agreed for him to perform the track “You Need Me”, live in a studio.

Here is the original footage of Ed Sheeran’s live performance on SBTV:

How Did Ed Sheeran Do It?

Since then, the performance went viral it has now received over 5 million views, becoming an online hit with fans of both Sheeran and SBTV. The platform has given artists the chance to make the step from independent to mainstream. It has also helped talents such as Ed Sheeran, Rizzle Kicks and Jessie J to secure record deals worldwide. In 2011 Asylum/Atlantic Records snapped up Sheeran, 4 days after releasing No.5 Collaborations Project in January 2011. The project featured a host of Grime artists such as Devlin, Wretch 32 and Dot Rotten. Later that year, Sheeran’s debut album ‘+’ hit the shelves, producing a number of top 10 singles.

Artists such as Sheeran, and acoustic sensation Ryan Keen, have been touring endlessly for years. Touring is vital for those who aim to build hardcore fan bases up and down the country. Contacting media platforms such as R&R Productions and SBTV  are great ways of distributing new material on a global scale. Online media players like Soundcloud enable artists to upload material for fans download and listen to later. For those who are relying on self funded releases, Facebook and Tumblr allow users to create pages dedicated to promoting video and audio content as well as information on upcoming gigs and tours. For those who are regular performers at local venues, Ustream is an online broadcaster that enables users to stream a live video to worldwide audiences. In 2011 Ed Sheeran used Ustream to broadcast a live gig held in a fan’s living room.

Getting Signed to a  Label

With the introduction of these new online experiences, promoting new music couldn’t be easier. For new artists to succeed and develop, new doors must be opened which may lead to unexpected successes. Build up the fan base first; they are the ones who will guarantee sell out tours and sales. Websites, blogs and online profiles related to the artist should be updated on a weekly basis as these will be the first sources A&R will look at. Sheeran has proved to people that you don’t have to attend Brit School to make it in the industry. Constant gigging, saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity given to you and then taking advantage of the new media platforms, have proved to be effective for artists looking to swap busking on the streets to recording in the studios.