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Things to do before approaching a label with your song/album

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After months and months, may be, years of song writing and working hard on the tunes, you finally gather that you are there. The struggle is real, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. If you believe in your work, there is nothing that can stop you from releasing your music and making it big. But, before diving into the water, you would want to know the kind of water it is. In other words, before you release your first song or album, only to later find it wasn’t successful – it is better to have things in place to ensure that you are going on the right path.

Having worked with major music labels of the country Atul Churamani, Founder and M.D, Turnkey Music & Publishing, said, “When we were doing AnR, back in the 90s and 00s, we are quite happy to listen to scratches which was demo recordings, not finished recordings. Then the music company used to actually spend money, get a producer if the artist was not a producer, and finish the song. Today, music labels are not spending money on production so they would be prefer you go in with a finished track. We used to get involved in the creative process, today no one is working on products with the artist. Hence, you need to go with the finished product. As an artist, you need to be credible about your music because the audience can see through a fraud so be true to your music.”

The music is not being packaged like it used to back in the 90s, Atul enlightened, “Therefore, when the artist walks into a record label’s office they should be clear in what you are doing. Just not that, the artist needs to find a direction, understand the music they intend to do and, importantly, know your audience. There is no right or wrong, just be sure of the kind of music you want to do. You need a song or few songs that showcase why you are unique. But, as a label, why would I sign you if you are just another wannabe popular singer. Also, if are intending to tour and perform, then have a band in place.”

Even in this age and time, content happens to be the king. For Mandar Thakur, COO, Times Music, first is creativity that eventually comes down to if he likes the song and then see if it is well produced. “The only thing one has to keep in mind is to write a good song. This is the fundamental because it starts there. If it isn’t really a great song, you shouldn’t be going to a label. The job of a label is to broadly create stars, they are not there to release good music. Music doesn’t generally resonate with everyone, so by that logic if the music is very niche it is not a label’s job then the musician should do it on his own.”

He added, “It ought to be a well recorded track. You can’t take a demo tape and say release it. Ideally it should start with a great song, but it should also be well arranged and produced. This is the basic, you should do it out of respect for yourself and your art is to make sure that you have professional arrangers.”

  • Trademark your artist or brand name – Just like those hundreds of documents you have signed all your life to make sure that nobody can claim your name and call anything you possess his own, trademarking your name for your music is equally essential. There are platforms where you can make and trademark your brand name. That will work for you as your UID as well as your PR.
  • Copyright your songs – Not just your name but your songs too need to have their unique identity. Copyright anything you make so that in future if anybody claims your song, you don’t go about fighting court cases. Don’t ever release it until you copyright it.
  • Register the copyrights – Making a copyright has no significance until you register it from a valid source. Before registering, always check the validity of the source you’re registering from. If you have your copyright unregistered, claimers are always waiting for the opportunity.

Before you approach a label or distributor, it is essential to have your paper work cleared. If not, there is a possibility you could be shown the door. “Your song shouldn’t be a rip off of someone’s track. Ideally, you should own all those copyrights. Also, the other musician’s paper work must be in order. So if you are contacting a record label then you should be the holder of those copyrights. This is the prerequisite,” Mandar explained.

Once you touch base with the label and if the label is interested in your work, they will need to know if you have the copyrights and are the sole owner. He added, “A musician should spend a little money, whether it is Rs 500/- or Rs 5000/- and get a good lawyer because contracts are complex. And if you are going to work with someone who isn’t or kill your time talking of things you don’t understand because everyday business changes and the contract will change.”

The fact is, artists are emotional people who tend to have high expectations from the management and the label. Atul said, “When you go to a record label, you need to have an open mind in terms of the promotion because you should be ready to do as much on social media as you expect the label to do. There is a lot of credibility in what an artist says and does vis-a-vis what a label does.”

Today, it is all about the artist because of the connection between the artist and the fans. “The artist has to make the effort so, as an artist, be prepared to make that effort to support whatever the music label does. The expectations have to be realistic, if you are going for the money then you are going for the reasons. You need to listen to people in the business as constructive criticism, so listen to what the label is saying because they will tell you the potential of the song or the album. Lastly, be prepared to work hard in the attempt to get your work out, the money will follow. Don’t walk in saying you want to make money, then choose another career. Bank robbery is brilliant idea,” added Atul.

These days, aspiring artists don’t feel the need to have a manager to handle their business. The ecosystem of management and lawyers is missing. “By management I don’t mean who gets you shows, because most management is misconstrued. I would to deal with a manager because I think he would understand the language while the artist would understand the creative side of it. Management is bigger than that, a good manager will be able to secure a better deal for his artist than just the artist himself. The artist can protect his interest by hiring a good lawyer so that the lawyer will be qualified to understand the contract.”

The idea is to hire a manager who can be an auxiliary member, a supporter, a business partner, and sometimes a therapist, but most importantly it is the manager has to be the rock. Great management, great lawyers play a great role in establishing an artist overall. “It is really important that artist realize to build their ecosystem – to be able to work with larger concert promoters or big labels and be ready for nationwide or global distribution and marketing,” Mandar added.

Above it all, stay true to your music and enjoy the moment of finishing up the project.

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Kashmira Pattni

Author: Kashmira Pattni

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