The day has arrived. You feel excited and nervous and can’t wait to sign the biggest deal the world has ever seen. It could be a small indie, or the world’s biggest record label, Universal Music, which Spinnup is a part of. Just check out some of the artists we’ve helped join Universal Music labels.
Regardless of the label or its size this is a big step. But what actually happens in a label meeting? And what should you do?
Label meetings can seem elusive and mysterious and once you have one, you realise it’s a group of humans sitting in a room chatting about your music and your brand to decide if it’s right for them to market and sell. I hope your bubble was not burst from reading that. Yes, it is exciting, and it is also a business meeting. The music business. Can you and a label bring in good business? That’s the big question.
What is expected of me in a meeting?
For you to be exactly who you are. Wear attire that is on brand. Turning up in sweatpants is not the best move unless your band is called ‘The Sweatpants’. Be who you are personality wise, and dress in a way that matches your brand’s look. Respect the others in the room and answer the questions thrown at you. If you are in a label meeting you will probably have an agent or manager with you, they will help you out and guide some of the meeting. Sure there are many a story of rappers and rockers making a ruckus in meetings and then being signed. Please don’t do this if this is not absolutely truly your personality AND if you don’t already have millions of followers, as it could backfire spectacularly. Plus, these ‘crazy’ personality artists put it on for the world and behind closed doors, they are often well mannered. Besides Lil Pump…possibly.
Come prepared with a booklet filled with high res photos and some published articles (yes they will flick through this at speed but they will be impressed and it shows you have made an effort). Take your music on USB and also have it ready to go on your laptop in case they ask to hear it. Bear in mind they will have heard your music if they granted you a meeting but it’s always best to be prepared. Think about having a wireless speaker on hand as laptop speakers are less than wonderful for showcasing music. Did we mention to have it ready to go? Faffing around with a speaker or searching for tracks on a laptop is poor form – A&R’s are busy so when you show them you are well prepared, they take notice.
If you have merch you can take a couple of pieces – this is not imperative though.
• Be who you are
• Dress on brand
• Respect everyone in the room
• Be prepared
You may be asked to sing and play – do it. Be confident, it’s not as strange request as it sounds. Label meetings have been known to take place outside of an office setting and yes there will be strangers there listening. Sing anyway! They’re not putting you on the spot to make you feel awkward, they genuinely want to hear you live and up close. Forget anyone else around. This is your moment!
The person or people you will meet with will be A&R’s, which stands for Artists and Repertoire. They are in charge of finding and guiding artists, developing acts, and are the link between an artist and the label.
The days of being handed a contract immediately are all but over. But that also works in your favour! If for some awesome reason you are offered a contract on the day of the meeting, don’t sign it there and then. No matter how big or small the label, always take it to a music lawyer and make sure the terms are agreeable.
What do labels do these days?
Everyone can agree the music industry is always changing and has done so drastically in the last decade. This is partly due to the sheer volume of music being released nowadays, and largely due to the development of streaming services. But don’t get it twisted, labels still have budgets to develop and push artists, this hasn’t changed. How an artist is developed may have evolved from a few years ago, but labels are still invested in the success of those they sign. The label will develop you from where you’re at – and often they need you to be further down the road than artists that came before.
What does this mean?
You need fans. You need gigs and followers and sales. The labels need a reason to spend their time and money on you. When you have fans and sales and social media influence, you show them what you’re made of, and show them that you are dedicated enough to your music and your career to put in the effort to build it up as much as you can.
What if I get lots of fans and sales and can do this on my own?
That’s fantastic. No artist is the same, and a label won’t be right for every artist, we’ll be the first to admit that. Now more than ever before independent artists are thriving without a label. But it takes a tonne of hard work, and the time and money to develop a whole team that will provide the same label-esque services artists require to sustain a career.
Let’s say your dream is to go stratospheric. A huge push into the stratosphere is required. That push will most probably be from a finely tuned machine at a label, like Universal Music Group, with financial backing. Not to say you can’t rocket into space on your own – you can! But you just look at the charts to see which labels those ‘stratospheric’ artists are coming from.
The A&R’s are looking for a sellable product and they are hoping you are what they need. Please remember that if they say no, that is only their opinion. You can meet with more labels and more A&R’s. There are plenty of big name artists who were turned down more than a few times.
Ask for feedback. What could you do to improve your music and increase your chances of being signed, if that’s the path you want. They will give you advice, and some have been known to set up meetings with other A&R’s that might be a better fit for your music.
Get to know our newest artist discovery, urban artist Asakura, who signed both a record deal AND a publishing deal with Universal Music in France.