How to Get Your Band a Record Deal (Without Being on TV)

So you're in a band, you're just starting out, and, yes, you want a record deal so the world can hear your musical genius. We all know the big boys only sign people from reality television competitions now, so what do you do? You do some research about some indies and you harass the bejesus out of them until they realize how brilliant you are. Foolproof, right? Well ... not so much. Casey Shafer owns and runs San Francisco's Burning House Records. Here are his tips on how to get a record deal (without being on television).

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Remember: Unsolicited Demos Suck
"When I was in a band, I sent my demo tape to Fat Wreck Chords a half dozen times. The anticipation drove me nuts, and I went to sleep every night dreaming of the day that I could do blow off the back of a dirty toilet tank with Fat Mike. (Offer still stands, Mike.) I wish someone had told me then what is painfully obvious to me now: Sending a label an unsolicited demo, you basically have the same odds of getting signed as that middle-aged woman from human resources does by doing karaoke every Wednesday. Sure, I listen to every demo that gets sent to Burning House, but most of them just end up signed to Roadhouse Records (that's where it ends up after we've thrown it out the window)."

Stop Making Excuses
"Not to state the obvious, but, for the love of God, people, go on tour. Your first tour will be amazing and terrible all at the same time. Don't act like it's hard. When I was booking my first tour, there was no such thing as social networking -- we relied on the Yellow Pages and the trusty 'Book Your Own Fucking Life' handbook. Young bands these days have no fucking excuse to not be on tour. You have a connection to everyone in the world. Use it."

Prepare For Poverty
"You will not be able to pay your rent or anything else for a very long time while you're on the road. I hear this so much from musicians. They think they're going to be able to get a 'deal' and will suddenly be able to pay their bills back home. You should consider yourself lucky if you are able to eat and get to the next town for the first year or two. Either move out and crash on people's couches between tours, or suck it up and move back home. If you tour enough you'll barely be there, and good parents are supportive of their children's dreams. You'd be surprised -- they're probably just happy that you haven't stabbed a hooker yet."

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Make Labels Give a Shit by Proving You Do
"If you aren't treating your band like a full-time job, then why the hell would you expect a label to? Putting out and promoting an album takes a lot of time, money and effort. Even for a small indie like mine, there are six to ten people at any given time working their asses off to get your music heard. Everyone in the band should be working even harder. If a band can't save up enough money to go on tour, then why the hell should anyone else invest time or money?"

Managers Are for '70s Rock Bands and Offices
"You don't need a manager. That greaseball that also books the grimy club you play at occasionally only wants to say he manages you because he thinks this will help him hook up with the bartender that he constantly sexually harasses. He is not doing any work for you, and he will try to take what little money it is that you earn. Get rid of that clown."

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Accept That No One Cares Yet
"I hate to poop on your dreams, but, right now, no one really gives a shit about your band but you. That girl you're dating (that you know deep down is way too hot for you) is only humping you because there is an off-chance that you're the next Conor Oberst. And you might be, so don't give up (but don't let it go to your head either). Good luck out there."

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