Should I be signed to be label?

October 5, 2018

  A question that keeps coming up in my artist consulting is — “is being signed to a label even worth it anymore in this day and age?” For me...


A question that keeps coming up in my artist consulting is — “is being signed to a label even worth it anymore in this day and age?” For me after a short period of being a signed artist, I realized that I could do a lot more as an independent artist. Granted at the core I am an entrepreneur so I will always want to be independent – hence why I started my own label “Maria’s Records”

But not every artist is an entrepreneur so what is their best way to approach their career? So I decided to reach out to an expert …. Everyone meet SCOOP, he is based out of the United Kingdom. He has a strong game in the music industry with over 20 years experience. SCOOP and his music partner Alter Ego are well known producers and they just started producing with Max Di Carlo who recently did a project for Marvel’s Kids Universe.  He has arranged private auditions for Sony Music for shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent for the past 5 years with their head of talent Barney Addison and Thames TV as well as sending music to the Joint co-president of Capitol Records UK Nick Raphael, his A&R Charlie Knox. SCOOP often consults with the current CEO of USA Warner Music Steve Cooper along with the A&R team. Lastly included in this impressive consulting is Madonna’s producer Peter Rafelson and Alex Vitoulis from Billboard Magazine. As well, Scoop also works with a concert and management firm called Exclusive Entertainment whose CEO is Sha, he was also the former manager of rapper DMX, some of you may remember.

SCOOP’S résumé is extremely impressive as I’m just touching the surface of who he has worked with. Scoop has worked extremely hard and it has paid off. As you know, I’m all about the hustle, so much respect!

I originally met him on Linkedin when I submitted for his “The Existing And Occurring Talent Playlist” on Spotify with Cup of Tea. I was honoured to be part of this project and have noticed a great benefit from it.

Sooo what did we discussed?

1. You work with a lot of different artists helping them get signed to labels. The main question would be — why in a indi-driven industry should artists still want to be signed? What can labels offer?

I do not get people signed to label as such, you need a lot these days to get signed, so what I do is let the labels know if anyone is worth keeping an ear on, that day has yet to come where the right person has come along to me yet for a deal. The labels need to know they are a sure investment before they move on anything. I do pitch music for major labels rosters and work in association with Syco finding potential acts for Simon Cowells TV talent shows.

You need to look at a label as a bank loan, because really that is what it is, you are borrowing money to pay back. If you are doing well as an Indie artists you do not need a major label, but you also need to remember that a major label has all the connections and the resources and money, and of course their legacy speaks for itself.

So labels can offer the best promotion as well as a full team of people working on one single artist, they can also offer the best producers and songwriters and the most connected publishing companies. I would say know what you are getting into before signing any contracts.

2. Should artists hold off for a big label or should they sign with an indi label?

Any label who is willing to put the work in is a good sign small or big, but the dream for most people is to be where their favourite artists are. I would never say do not sign to a smaller label you feel comfortable with. Remember the more money an artist brings in the more attention the labels will put on them, this is just the nature of the business. You do not want to be lost on a label where you are not getting the right attention, and working really hard.

People need to understand a major label knows when someone is doing good things and they will find the people when the time is right it comes down to how much buzz you create on and off line. The internet talks.

I always tell people try to do this on your own as when you walk into a meeting you then have the ability to call some shots; otherwise you are someone’s puppet on a string. The only people who can create the buzz are you and your personal relationship with the fans, the labels can just push it some more.

Such great advice SCOOP!!!!

3. When should an artist start shopping for a label?

The industry has changed now due to the streaming world as you all know, so the best possible advise is work on your monthly listeners and streams across Spotify, Shazam, Apple, and now YouTube have gone into the streaming sales world to. The major labels normally take an interest at about 100,000 monthly listeners, but this needs to be frequent every month. I would talk to the labels if an artist had this.

I was giving some great advice once by a senior executive at UMG / Caroline Distribution UK called Keith Sweeny. He said live gigs are one of the best ways to go.

You can sell a download for 99p 99c or a stream for whatever you get, or you can sell out 100 people at £12 (approx. $20 Canadian) or £14 (approx. $23 Canadian) a head. It makes perfect sense. The money is still and will be in live shows, so If you have all this then you’re definitely on the right track for the majors to take an interest.

(I would add after going to see Beyoncé and Jay-z’s On the Run Tour — make sure you have cool merchandise — people were lining up for stuff)

4. How should an artist’s shop for a label?

The first thing is make sure the people who say they can send you to the right people are the real deal, as there is a lot of scammers online. I always say that a video call is the best way to know who you are talking to; if they are legit they will get on Skype or Hangouts with you. Ask them for clear evidence to on who they are. If someone is anybody in music they normally have things online, some people thou are more closed doors so they are a bit harder to find things on. Research is 100 percent the best way to go before handing over money.

I would avoid these video sites that are asking for money to get a label person to talk about your music. People like Reverb Nation and some others who have major labels networks may be a better option. No one person can make the decision about someone being signed; it is a team of people.

The best way to send music is to email the 2 best mp3s and 2 images and a PDF bio about 2 pages tops with images, one being you and one looking like a great artist, band and brand

Add a title to your name and include your bio and links. A&R and various other people are normally too busy to check URL links, and you need to remember they get paid a 9 to 5 to work with the current roster not someone sending music they do not really know. The other really important thing I need to stress is be patient.

A&R won’t respond if they do not like something.. The reason is reasonable and people should understand why. If someone does not like the music that is sent, then what is the point in saying ‘Hi i was not feeling it’ this just opens up a dialog that does not need to happen. If A&R love something they will reply.

Some A&R do not want to hurt people feelings, so it is best to say nothing at all. It is nothing personal.

Great advice — never take anything personally in the music industry.

5. As many of our readers are young artists just starting out — what kind of advice can you give them?

Yes the best advice is a few things that matter. Here is a list.

1: Your Team (This is the people around you that you trust who all want the same thing).

2: Network (but don’t be annoying).

3: Create a sound that is you, and not someone who you look up to.

4: Producers create your own sounds, so learn your synths, mixing and mastering and vocal processing.

5: Patience, (there are another 4 billion people looking to be the next big star just like you, so stay humble).

6: Listen to people who have been there, and never think you’re better than anyone.

7: Media, (get to know people in the media).

8: Don’t knock doing a TV Talent Show; this puts you in front of millions very quickly backed by all the papers and press.

9: Work on your social media and put out good content, don’t pay for fake fans. I would say doing it all yourselves is best.

10: Knock backs, (you will get a lot of knock backs but just because one person liked what you did, does not mean the next 10 will).

11: Don’t make a career of covers on YouTube, they are good to build fans, but you are copying a lot of other peoples work. BE ORIGINAL.

12: Help others and make time for them, they will support you back.

13: Remember this is called the music business, so you need to be a money business to be taken serious by the bigger labels.

14: If you write lyrics which are a bit profound say as a rapper or mc, then also try to concentrate on that big radio song, then after you can start saying the other stuff when you have the attention.

What great advice! So to conclude with my favourite line from SCOOP:

“I am person who understand all aspects of the industry because I have done it all and I am just like the people who want to live the dream. I just chose not to be famous.”

I love that because it isn’t about the fame – as it is about being successful and success means different things for different people. So what would I add to all of this – just figure out what success means to you and the words of Nike (infamous as it is right now): “JUST DO IT!


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