How to get signed to a major label / pros and cons

In my last post I talked about ways that you can become signed to an independent record label. Getting a deal with a major label is just about the same but somewhat harder. The core things that can get you signed to a independent can get you signed to a major label.

So here is a handy summery of all the things you may want to keep in mind when making your EPK

  1. You will need to prove that you are a worthy investment for the record label
  2. You will need to prove that you have a large fan base
  3. You will need to appear professional
  4. You will need to show the label that you have sold a lot CDs / downloads
  5. Be honest with the label
  6. You will need to show that you have a good social media presents
  7. You can show what labels you have been signed to in the past


Is it worth signing to a major label?

Signing to a major label can be a massive gamble because you can be signed a shelved very easily and at that point your career is basically over. Won’t be able to release music until the label say you can so essentially you’re stuck in limbo for a while.


What happens if a major label wants to sign your band but you are already signed to an indie?

If this happens to you what happens to your contract with the independent label depends on how many albums you have been contracted to do for them. For example if you have a one album deal it’s very easy for you to move labels. But if you have a three album deal and you have only released one album through the independent they will “need to be compensated, of course, for the remaining albums left on their contract, but he’ll work it out with the label himself. Sub Pop made millions from selling off Nirvana, and Twin Tone hasn’t done bad either: 50 grand for the Babes and 60 grand for the Poster Children, without having to sell a single additional record. It’ll be something modest. The new label doesn’t mind, so long as it’s recoupable out of royalties”.


What will being signed to a major label be like?

Well an interesting example is Terra Naomi, she says that signing to a major record label was the worst decisions she ever made. Naomi started uploading music videos to youtube and in 2006 she had became the first musician to build a worldwide following on YouTube. Naomi recorded an acoustic EP called Virtually. She sold 5,000 CDs in one month with no management, no label, no marketing, or no touring.

After this amazing success the record labels quickly jumped in with various offers, each one better than the last. So in January 2007 Naomi signed with universal music where she was given one of the last old school deals in a rapidly changing landscape of 360 deals. The label wanted to use Naomi as a bridge between the flailing old-school music industry and the new world of digital sales. Also she represented a new business model where the artist do all of the development themselves and then approach a record label when they have become profitable.

In an article for (whomever) Naomi stated that her first meeting with the marketing manager was somewhat troubling she said “He was a somewhat gruff but stylish English guy in his late 30s. He emphatically slammed his hands onto his desk, nearly shouting with excitement, “So! Tell us about this YouTube!” “It was 2007, I knew about YouTube, all my friends knew about YouTube, I’d launched my career on YouTube, and the people now in charge of my career knew nothing about YouTube?!” Naomi was also told that she needed to be less accessible and more untouchable. The record label didn’t want to her fans so that way they wouldn’t see her as an equal / one of them.

So she ended up handing over mailing list and social media logins to the record label thinking that they would grow it into something much bigger than I could ever hope to create on my own. Naomi felt that if she played by the labels rules for a little while, build and built her career into something even bigger, she could then reunite with her YouTube community once the label was satisfied with her rock star status.

But as we all know the online world moves much faster than you would think and due to this Naomi soon started to be forgotten by her YouTube fan base. When Naomi was asked to record an album for the label the producer we worked with told her that they only had one shot and told her the only way to be successful would to create the album that he wanted to make, and once she had a few hits under her belt she would be allowed to make the album that she wanted so she made the album that he and the label wanted but the album was massive commercial flop. After this Naomi was dropped by the record label after the president who signed her left the label.

I know that all this happened a while ago but it shows how out of touch a major labels can be sometimes. It also shows how a major label could make you change your sound to appeal to a larger market.



Deep Pockets

A major label has a huge financial advantage over Indie Labels. This means that they will have a lot of money to spend on promoting your record. This also means that they will be able to invest money in getting you to work in big recording studios, with big producers, getting you on big tours, and creating big music videos.


Also major labels have a lot of connections to media outlets so during a promo campaign you could find yourself performing and being interviewed on TV shows like Graham Norton & Jools Holland. This can give you maximum exposure overnight.


You are a small fish in a very big pond

Major labels tend to sign a massive amount of musicians but the reason for this is throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. If you are signed to a major you are very likely to find yourself fighting to be noticed by the label. A lot of artist can find themselves being signed and shelved.

It’s a slippery slope

When and artist is signed to a major label it is usually because one person that works at the label is a big fan of the band. Usually this is the person who signed you, But being signed to a major label can be a slippery slope and they often have a very frequent turnover of staff. So because of this you can run the risk of finding out one day that your biggest fan within the label no longer works for them. This could present and large problem for you if the new person who takes over looking after you is not a fan of your band and you can find yourself having to fight with the label to get them interested in making your career a priority.

Bad deals

Not all major labels treat their artists badly but many of them treat their artists as more of a cash cow than anything else. In many cases a major label will want the sign an artist to a multi album deal that gives the artist almost no flexibility and end up handing over much of the creative control to the label.

Not everyone within the label will be music fans

You would expect that many dedicated music fans with within the music industry and major record labels. However not everyone whom works in a major label is a music fan It sounds crazy I know but you will find a great many people who work in the music industry do it strictly for the money.



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