Bent Out of Shape: How to Know If Your Band is Ready for a Record Deal

After last weeks blog post on the art of self-promotion, I received an email from a band from Toronto called Reverse Grip, who asked me for advice on how to promote themselves overseas.

They gave me some info about their band, and I was impressed to see that they had recently toured Australia, Japan and have a European tour coming up later in the year. The solution to their question was simple; they need a record label.

A record deal is the holy grail for any up-and-coming band. The truth is, the industry has changed so much in the last five years; very few bands are actually ready or suitable for a record deal. I have come up with three questions bands need to answer to see if they're ready to start approaching record labels.

1. Do you have a professionally recorded album that sounds as good, production-wise, as albums by signed bands?

Reverse Grip has a good-sounding album that earns then a yes.

2. Do you have professional logos and artwork that tie your merch, websites, album covers and everything else together into an effective brand? Do your band members have an effective look that fits into the brand? (I know, that's two questions.)

Reverse Grip have all their website and social media looking good. Their album cover fits the sound of their music.

3. This is the one that will trip up most bands: Are you touring regularly? This is the most important thing record labels look for when analyzing bands. Touring is what will make them money, and they need you to have your touring already setup.

Reverse Grip have already toured the world! They pass this test with flying colors.

If you've answered yes to these questions, you should start researching labels that fit your style of music. Don't waste your time contacting every label. Identify a select few you think are a perfect fit and send them all your info and touring history. Tell them why you'd fit into their roster of current artists and how you can work together to build your brand. Get to know the people that work at the labels and build relationships.

One reason you want a label, other than financial support, is they will help you get better tours with higher-profile artists. They will coordinate all your promotion in different territories and offer their years of experience on how to maximize exposure and time everything perfectly to build a buzz for your release. If they are a successful label, they should have a proven method and strategy.

A final point to remember is that record labels aren't lying when they say they receive tons of demos every day. You may not receive a response initially, but don't give up. Keep emailing each label every four to six months with updates of your touring schedules and any significant press or other accomplishments worth mentioning.

To end, I would just like to say I came to these conclusions about record labels rough my own experience working with various bands in Los Angeles. There may be exceptions, but I've found this to be the case for the majority of my peers. I signed my first record deal with a Polish record label called Metalmind Productions, and they have helped me tremulously with press and promotion.

My blog post next week will shift its focus to music and guitar playing. I will give you a lesson in the art of improvisation.

Will Wallner is a guitarist from England now living in Los Angeles. He is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and in 2012 toured Japan, America and Canada. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features some of the most influential musicians from hard rock/heavy metal. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.

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