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Are You Ready For a Record Deal?
By Dan Palladino

If you asked a room full of musicians to describe their long-term goals, many of them would respond that they would want to have a record deal. It's an understandable response. We'd all enjoy the luxurious lifestyle of recording in class A studios and touring the world in private jets, all while someone else paid for it. I could get used to that! Unfortunately, the world of making and selling music is full of risks and it is both the label and the artist that puts everything on the line when a CD is released.

Perhaps the best way to approach this subject is to identify what it is that labels want. An artist who is a great songwriter? That might be part of it. An artist who can act, dance and look like a model? Maybe. An artist with a gimmick? Could be. In fact, all of these characteristics might pique a label executive's interest, but we still haven't hit on what labels are really looking for. Give up?

Labels are looking for a return on their investment. Period. They're in business to make money, just like any other business. Once we understand this fact, we can begin formulating an effective career plan.

The goal of any artist or band should be to build an audience. From the first gig at your neighborhood bar to selling out Madison Square Garden, that goal is always there. Nothing happens without an audience–no CD sales, no T-shirt sales, no sold-out shows.

Why is the American Idol franchise such a monster? Because over the course of a season, we become hooked on the singers in the contest. We root for our favorites and we vote to eliminate the ones we don't like. By the end of the season we just have to watch to see who wins. It's the most amazing example of building an audience you'll ever see. Once that audience is there, what happens next? The winner releases a CD and it's guaranteed to sell! Do you think it's a coincidence that a music production company owns the TV show? It's the perfect marketing plan.

OK, I can hear you saying, "But those American Idol singers are just karaoke singers who got lucky". And you may be right, but the record label that released those CDs needs to recoup the millions of dollars it took to make and promote that product–they could care less who's singing.

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© 2006 Dan Palladino
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