Many artists dream of getting signed – then they’ve officially “made it” and have everything they need for a successful career.
Other artists don’t want to be signed. It all comes down to weighing the pros and cons of a record deal.
But, for those who do want a deal: do you know what to do to get an offer?
Here’s a hint: it’s not just playing shows and getting noticed. Unlike in the movies, the label doesn’t just hear your song through a magical coincidence and say “here’s a million bucks, kid.”
There’s a lot more to it unless you’re one of the lucky few.
Listen now to find out why you should think about signing a record deal, and how you can become appealing to a label!
What you’ll learn:
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Five Lies Too Many Musicians Believe | Overcoming Common Music Myths
Gallows’ Great Rock’n’roll Swindle – Guardian
Welcome to Episode 35 of the Bandhive Podcast.
It is time for another episode of the Bandhive podcast. My name is James Cross. I'm here with Matt Hose of a live in Barcelona. How are you doing today, Matt? You know, it's a pretty good day over here in Colorado.
How you doing over there on the East Side, James. Things were good. I just spent about six hours the Internet. The only time I've ever done that in recent history was on a plane, and now that happened to me at home. And so we're recording this podcast episode about eight hours later than planned. We're still making it happen and time adapt, overcome. So fun story. The cable went out because somebody ran over the cable box across the road. That is hilarious. Yeah, that is why we had no Internet.
It's in the field I don't know how somebody's driving in the middle of the field and hits the cable box, but it happened. So anyway, this is an episode I kind of feel we should have talked about quite some time ago. This is episode 35 I think we should have done this probably in the first five or at least 10, but we didn't do it. Do you want to tell the listeners what we're gonna talk about today? Absolutely. And it's funny that you say that because I think in my mind, and I think it should be about step 35.
But really, every band has this mentality that that is the first thing that they need to dio. And so, for any of you out there who are critical thinkers, maybe you understand that this episode is about getting signed the apex of being a musician. You've made it, Yeah, that the thing that in your mind you're like, Yes, I have done it. I feel successful. I have been validated by my industry. I've been validated by people who have done this for years. I have been validated, hopefully monetarily, but that's actually where it gets tricky with the label.
What most bands really want with a label for me. I remember the first time that I got signed. I remember thinking, Holy cow, This is like the most exhilarating feeling in my life. And it was amazing and it really felt like I could just go. I could breathe out, relax. It could take a step back and say, I have worked the last. I think at that time it was, you know, seven years. That's how long I've been in bands. But I mean, it was, you know, I've been playing music even longer, and getting signed to me and to every other person that I've ever met was a rite of passage.
It was so significant in your career to get signed. It was this identifying moment, what it was like, Yes, I really am supposed to be in this industry. I really am supposed to be playing music, and the things that I have to say are actually things that people want to hear. That's one of the coolest things about getting signed. It's this psychological acceptance, you know. You finally made it in the industry that you've been striving to make it in. You know it, Xalatan Ting. It's people on the inside, opening the door and saying, Come on in, Welcome to the party and you know and there and there is nothing more validating than that.
It's still scary because then you have tow objectively, take a step back and say, Okay, what are the next steps that I have to take? But for myself, you know, I know from my band mates for my my closest friends and and for most people that I've talked Teoh the first time that they got signed it. Waas identifying. Yeah, I think in pop culture, it really has been painted as if you get signed. You are now successful as an artist, and that's why so many people want to get signed.
That is their goal. They think that's the measure of success. Going back to Episode 33 5 lives too many musicians believe, and overcoming common music myths and and and I talked about the definition of success and the definition of fame and how that could be entirely different for everyone else. For some people, fame and success might be getting signed to a label for other people it might be something else. But one of the most common reasons somebody who wants to get signed sites is the success and the fame that they expect from that.
Another thing that a lot of people would typically say is that they wanna have a team. They want to basically just do the music and hand everything else off to someone else and have managers, booking agents, tour or road managers, merch, companies. They want to not deal with business at all, which personally, I think that's a shame. I can see the appeal behind it. But, Matt, I have a feeling that you are also of the opinion that bands should handle their own business, especially from what we've talked about on the podcast in the past and how involved Jesse, your guitarist, is with the band's business for this one.
I'm pretty split evenly, and I think Jesse, if he were here, would actually agree with me. Yes, I think that you need to have your head in your business. I think the most important thing that you can do when running your business is know exactly what you're doing financially. If you don't know the decisions that you're making, then you're not running your business at all. That doesn't mean that I don't think that you shouldn't have a team. You know, when you look at any and all major artists out there, every one of them has, You know, they have record labels.
They have booking agents. They have publicists, you know, marketing teams, they have street teams. Some of the people who are adapting most in the market are actually reaching out to local areas to have people promote their stuff ahead of time. And a lot of these people are like the diehard fans in those areas anyway. And the diehard fans love it because they have an open dialogue with some of their favorite bands. I absolutely, I'm a firm believer of aces in their places, but you oversee your business.
It's not the publicist job to oversee your business. You oversee the publicist, publicist works for you. And so while I absolutely believe in a team because I'm not the best booking agent, I don't have the most contacts in the industry. I believe that I should go to a booking agent that has the best contacts in the industry and If I'm working with an agent who really knows what he's doing, he's gonna know what promoters in local areas a really good with certain genres of music, what local areas are actually having, like a thriving scene, and they're actually really going to be able to systematically route.
You want quality tours, and that's the thing. You know, you get the service that you pay for. And so the people that you have on your team, the more incentive they have the work for you. The further you're gonna get, however, the chariot needs a driver, these individual facets might be the horses that pull you. They are the power and the strength that drive you to the places that you need to go. However, none of that is good without guidance. And so for me, I would say Absolutely, you have to have your head in the game.
You need to be leading your team. But I would also say that personally, from my experience, is that every major artist uses a team to succeed, and I think that's a wonderful formula because it's been proven time and time again that teams of people will always accomplish a goal faster than an individual. Now the individual might have a good site. You might be an idea guy, quote unquote. But like, let's take Steve Jobs, for example. Steve Jobs was an idea guy. He wasn't the guy who was physically programming things.
He wasn't the manufacturer who was physically welding pieces together. He wasn't soldering, you know, motherboards. But he was an idea guy for Apple in order for it to become one of the largest companies in the planet. It needed both of those moving parts, and so they're entirely integral. I'd say it's all important, and I think that's one of the most important pieces about a label is that you really wanna label that is a part of your team? And so I think it's a perfect thing to say, You know, bands do wanna label for a team, but I think the common misconception is, uh, that AH label is actually going to provide all of these things for you.
When you get signed to a label, it's not like they hand you this manager in this booking agent. It's not a package deal exactly. You know, just like with all things, there's common misconceptions that people have. But you still need a team to accomplishing. I mean, even at the core of what you're doing. You know, if you look at any successful person in history, even the self made billionaires will never say that they did it alone. And that's humility speaking. But at the same time, there's a lot of power in Yeah, and I think just to put it in layman's terms in the music world, people seem tohave this idea that the manager runs everything but think of a restaurant or a retail store or anything like that.
Any business? Yeah, the manager of the location or the business is running the day to day operation of the business, But guess who's actually in charge? It's the owner of the business. So the owner of the business has every right to fire the manager or tell the manager what direction to go in. And obviously the manager can say, Well, you know, this is how I think we can best proceed, because I'm in the business every day and this is my opinion. But the final say comes down to the business owner, which, unless you have horribly messed up your business structure is you the artist.
And if you don't own your own business, I don't even know what to say because, yeah, just get out by Yeah, no, that's rabbit Hole. We're not even going to go down right now, because so, yeah, definitely have a team. But a label is not going to give you a team. And I would argue that you wouldn't want a label to give you a team. I would agree. And now let's keep it positive. And let's go on to I think, another really big thing that artists expect from a label, and that's the big one.
That's the one that everybody thinks about. That's the money. That's the Cheddar. That's the cheese. That's really what you think of your like man. I made it. Where's my check? What are some things that a band expects a label to pay for James in advance to record and promote the album? Yeah, that's huge. That's the big one. And honestly, if you're objectively being realistic, you might not get that. You might get a horrible deal, and it's really only the fierce business people who end up getting the awesome deals which is good because in this playing field everybody has the opportunity to become a fierce businessman.
Nobody has ruled out it's quote unquote a dog eat world, and that's absolutely true. But it's also awesome because again its credibility. You know you as an artist, you're like, Okay, I get signed. We're cool now the label's gonna pay for everything. But what you start to realize is that the label is also a business, and it's not just this a t M and they run off of formulas. And so, like if you, for example, you need money for promotional materials and they feel as though the promotional materials that they've spent money on already aren't generating revenue, that might be a battle that you end up having with your record label because you're thinking well, I obviously need promo materials in order to promote, and they're thinking, Well, the last promo materials haven't made any money yet.
So until we can think of a new strategy, it's not worth investing. And I would say both parties air right, So that's why it's really important for you as a business owner. Thio innovate and really find the ways you know Q R codes were really interesting right when they came out, because it was like a new way for, you know, kids to instantly go to a U. R L. They had a new type of programming. A lot of phones had either applications or some of them even had you our readers built into them on.
It was like pretty cool, you know, because back when you could start browsing the Internet, you could immediately linked to a song that was actually what we did one year at Warp Tour. And that was the best year we ever did at Warp. Torre's faras uh, spreading our music. But I'll always remember the difficulty going back and forth with label about budgeting and things like that because it was our first time being signed, and we had a preconceived notion about all the things they were gonna pay for.
And unfortunately, we were wrong. Yep, I think one of the things to watch out for here is the bigger the advanced you can get, the better off you are, because if an advance is structured properly, it's alone that you do not have to pay back the way it's paid back is out of the royalties of your album sale. So let me use Gallows as an example and my mind a little fuzzy on this, because it was 10 years ago, but they got a $1 million advance from Reprise Records to record their second album, Great Britain.
Well, let me tell you, they went all out because their first album was, Ah, hardcore punk album recorded, I Think, in a Garage. And it's a great album, but definitely not winning a Grammy for the engineering. It sounded like, ah, hardcore punk band and don't get me wrong. It sounds way better than 99% of the bands out there right now, and I think that's just because these guys were all in bands previously and have the experience and know how. But to go from that first album, two massive sounding heavy music with like the London String Quartet on it and all kinds of crazy production and basically a full length movie to get what I think is like a 45 minute movie.
They took that million dollars in Ran and less than a year after that album came out, guess what reprieves dropped, um, because it preys, totally miscalculated and gave the band way more money than they should have and realized they were never going to make any money and said, You know what? We're just gonna drop you because we're not gonna work with you on album number three. That's a lot of money for any band to get to put things into perspective. Like, you know, we talked about a million dollars and things have changed since inflation.
But to, like, put it into perspective, The largest record contract that the Red Hot Chili Peppers ever received gave each member a $1 million advance. So there's a $4 million advance that came off of this. Now this is in the height of the music career, and this record deal was given to them after they finished a world tour with Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and, I believe, Pearl Jam. So you're talking about this absolutely stacked world tour. They discovered that a whole bunch of their other singles were massive and then, lo and behold, they come in and they each got a million dollars signing bonus, and in their situation, it was awesome because they got this million dollar signing bonus that each bought houses and then their record sales were actually used to, like you were saying James recoup the costs.
However, the influx of revenue in the music industry has drastically changed in the ways that we make music are now totally different. And so, like James is saying, if somebody comes along saying, Hey, I'm gonna give you this many $1000 or a million dollars that's terrifying. I know two artists personally who I will leave their names out of it for their sake. But to artists who were offered a million dollar deals, one of them was a band that was offered a million dollar deal and they took it, and they will pretty much be forever enslaved into that deal.
And the second was an individual who was a part of a band who took a million dollar deal as well. And that million dollar deal was cool for him because he said, Awesome, I'm a millionaire now. But he slowly but surely spent the majority of his money. And then it got to the point where in his contract had said that any merchandise sold by any band that he was in, went to them. And so anybody that was ever in a band with him ever again until the day that he dies can't make money off of merge because of a contract that he signed years ago that made him a millionaire.
And that's forever. That's not just that is awful, right? And so it's like, Oh, man, how sweet does that sound here? Is this a million dollars on the table? I mean, and honestly, if I put a million bucks on the table in front of you and said, I just need to send you stuff to mix and master and whatever I send you, you just need to do it and send it back to me and and this is what I'll give you. You'd be like, Okay. And then he's gonna send you like the Boston Philharmonic on, and you're like, Oh, no, what was I thinking?
I have thio gotta do 200 you know, on that's a little off topic outsourcing, right, right, right. Yeah, using a team. But that's kind of the you know, the crazy thing about it. If you're not walking into these business contracts with your defenses up especially when big businesses or thrown out terms like million dollars man to all of us, like prairie boys and kids that grew up in small towns. Like somebody tells you they want to sign you and they're gonna be like, Here's $50,000. You're gonna be like Holy Carol.
If they offer you a million dollars, it's going to take some very critical thinking, a good circle of mentors and some time and a very good lawyer. E Yeah, absolutely. The and some money because you'll need money for that lawyer too. Yeah, but at the same time, you should also remember if people are coming and trying to, you know, throw a million dollars that you you must be doing something right. So stick to it. Yeah, absolutely. And with gallows, it seemed like re preys. Expected them to be the next green day and change their sound and Galaxies like Nope, we're not doing that.
This is the album we're putting out heavy. Here you go. And that was the album that got put out. And I mean, it's amazing album and you can tell that the band just said, Hey, we have all this money that we don't have to pay back. Let's make an epic album and they did it. So props to them. But, yeah, that I agree with what you're saying is bands really do have to be careful. It's not Colin for a band to be is lucky, his gallows, where they were able to get out of their deal because the label dropped them after they spend all the money, didn't have to pay it back and went on to release two more albums with a different singer, which were more raw sounding but still killer.
So, yeah, budgets, air something that's really important. And I would almost say that if a label is not offering you a considerable amount of money, it might not be a good deal. Just because that is what a label is for is they're there to invest in you. That's really the main thing. They dio. One other thing, though, that many bands looked labels for, and something that labels can actually help with is connecting you with other people in the music industry. In my opinion, if a label isn't offering you a good size advance that will actually cover the cost of recording and releasing your album.
They better have good connections that will make things happen for you. I think that's the exception to the rule. If they can't offer you money, they better be able to offer you connections. I couldn't agree more. The thing of with record labels is that there's two things that therefore there really a bank loan. And if I mean a lot of, ah, a lot of record contracts, you actually sell your publication rights. And that's for them to turn around, to be able to market to other businesses. Like, you know, if you're ever wondering how to get a video, you know, ah song in a video game, your label is the one that's gonna do that for you, and that should be through the connections that they have.
And honestly, when it comes to that, there's a couple really good business decisions that you could make because there are ways that you could become your own publishing company. But there's times when you don't want to do that just simply because you don't have the connections. So, like, you know, when we did our our tour with red jumpsuit apparatus on stage, Ronnie would say that you know, can in particular what song it was. But every time he play one particular song, that song is actually featured on Saints Row, the video game, and so they actually receive a royalty for every copy sold of that video game.
And so, like, those were like the types of connections that your record label might actually be able to squeeze out for you and some of the things that are really important to look for when you're actually going to sign on the dotted line. If they're coming to the table and they're saying, Here's this really low amount of money don't think that that's a bad thing Because maybe they're just saying, Well, before we wanna bet the farm, we want to know that you can deliver and really good labels.
You know, their A and R Reps will literally work with you back and forth. We're on an amazing label. Smart punk is incredible and our labels willing to work with us on anything. They've been incredible every every step of the way, which was the main reason that we signed with them, and that was our biggest pro. So when you sign with a label, you really have to determine your pros and cons and figure out what the most important thing is. Some people are gonna have incredible contacts.
Ah, lot of artists really loved getting signed to rise or victory, and the biggest reason getting signed to rise our victory sucked was because 100% of the contracts that they wrote were garbage. They were absolute garbage. Most of them were a deal called a 3 60 deal, which is actually where you relinquish the rights to 100% of your band. You literally are an employee of your band. At that point, they own the likeness of all of your stuff. They own the name, and if you quit your own band, then they could get a new person to fill in your slot.
They own you. That's what a 3 60 deal is, and a lot of rises and a lot of victories, which is where you hear a lot of the horror stories come here. The at least used to come from or 3 60 deals and a lot of it sucked. But there were still some artists who ended up coming out like bandits because they were able to utilize the record labels contacts. And on top of that, they had a huge roster as well. So a lot of these guys, when they were able to go on tour, they were able to generate massive tour revenue just simply because they had a stacked lineup, because victory would put out of, you know, they'd send a bunch of victory bands on tour, and it'd be really easy for a booking agent to get all the work done because he has three A list acts and then all he has to do is reach out to promoters In local cities.
They find one opener and boom, You have a tour booked. And so, like you got away every pro and con, and you have to sit there and say, like, you know, am I going into this label like what's most important? Don't need money. Do I need distribution? Do I need a songwriter like do I only have six songs and and these guys were interested in me, you know, I'm sure everybody knows who little Dickie is now. Now that he has his TV show, Dave Online, little Dickie had a viral video before he had a full album, and so immediately he had promoters all over the country hitting him up about playing shows for massive amounts of money.
He didn't have a long enough set list, and so he started actually doing skits in between his songs, where he would play, You know, Dave's game show and he bring girls up on stage and he would have them sketch him with a crayon, you know, and whichever one of the three girls did the best sketch, they won the opportunity to go on a date with him, and little things like this were literally 50% of his show. He probably only played like six or seven songs, but he was supposed to play an hour and a half to two hours set, and so he filled it with other skip material.
He had more connections than he knew what to do with, and what he really needed was more content. And so, like in that particular case, it may have been really awesome for him to have been able to work for the ghost writer for a label. And even if you watch his TV show, which is a pseudo documentary, you know, he talks about sticking to his guns, a whole bunch. And then in the end, he quote unquote, you know, sacrifice him sticking to his guns for the people around him, which and I'd be curious to dive into the credibility of that action.
But what I will say is that the guys live show was great, and he has since then used his label to distribute himself to the entire world. I mean, I believe his new show, Dave, was actually one of, like the number one TV shows during quarantine, which is kind of funny, But that just goes to show you the power of connections. And so that's why I think it's another very important point to touch on. You know why most bands really want a label? Is that if you could put me on tour with my favorite band, well, then why wouldn't I want to sign with you?
Yeah, absolutely. And I think one thing that's important as we wrap up this section to mention is that you can get a publishing company without a label. You can get a ghost writer without a label or even a co writer who's not a ghost writer. But this is part of the thing When it comes down to connections, the caliber of the people who work with a label might be slightly higher than what you confined when you're not signed to a label. And so this kind of goes back to our point about a team where we were saying that the team doesn't come from the label, but certain portions of your team can actually come from the label.
And I think, really the strongest point, though for connections is getting shows getting onto certain TV shows getting into certain publications because labels typically have a really good in house PR department, a really good in house radio department. And if they don't they contract everything to a third party company. So, like you mentioned Victory, I used to deal with them Ah lot when I was first getting started in radio and they had an in house radio guy as well as a third party radio promotion company, and I dealt with that radio promotion company and they didn't just do victory, but every single victory release, they would send me a copy and if I wanted a shirt or ah, Hoody or something, they would hook it up.
So actually, this is a great example, though. Off somebody having a business and overseeing somebody they hired Victories. Radio Guy, Super Nice guy. He works for epitaph Now. He did not do the day to day outreach to every single radio station. That's what the marketing company was for. But he was in charge of overseeing the marketing company and making sure that they were doing what they had to dio so anyway, to end my side track. Their victory does that they have radio people handling every single release that goes out.
Many labels do that. One of my professors, when I was in school, he runs a radio marketing company. They are contract ID with lots of different artists, but also they have some labels who are clients that every single release that label puts out. My professor promotes to wrap this up, though we got to say one thing. Truth. Bomb time. Yes, indeed. Truth bomb. If I can find the sound effect, will have the little cartoon way. Hate to break it to you guys, but this is unrealistic. Unfortunately, getting signed to a label.
While it is a rite of passage and it is cool, it's unrealistic to expect them. Thio bring every dollar to the table. It's unrealistic for them to provide you every connection that you need. It's unrealistic for them to bring a table and honestly, for you as a business owner, you should be doing everything you can to stay away from that because you run your business. The label doesn't run your business. In my opinion, it's a huge conflict of interest. If your label has a manager that's working for you because then your manager, essentially they have a side gig and they have incentive to make the label more money than they have, you know, for you.
And so not only are these things unrealistic in some ways, they're just bad business practice. I think our goal is to wrap up this episode here and to leave you all feeling so upset about your shattered hopes and dreams and the unrealistic reality that is getting signed to a label. However, you only have to wait seven days for us. Thio reinvigorate your spirits and to give you a bit of news that will help you go forward after learning all this information exactly. And before you start screaming at your speakers or your radio or whatever you're listening on, the next episode, which will be Tuesday at 6 a.m.
Eastern time, has always any time after that, you can listen in your favorite podcasting app, we will be talking about how you can actually get signed to a record label if you still want to get signed. But before you tune out, those same things that we will be talking about next week are the things that will make your band a successful business. Even without a label to not spoil the next episode, all I'm gonna say is labels. Look for artists who have a successful business already, and we're gonna leave it at that.
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