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Are You Ready For a Record Deal?
By Dan Palladino

Now that we're clear on how things work, how can we get a label interested in us? After all, we're not on a hit TV series. Do we just give up? Of course not, but we need to build an audience and work toward our goal step by step. The best way to accomplish this is to get out there and play shows. Lots of 'em.

Play everywhere you can. At first, you may do some gigs for little, or even no money. If you do your best to promote every single performance, you'll start to draw a crowd and that will translate into better money. What happens if you start to saturate your local area? It's hard to get the same fans to come out week after week. You get in your van and slowly move out into surrounding regions. Once you establish yourself in a few out-of-town markets, you can link them together for short tours. You're willing to live in your van and eat McDonald's for a couple of weeks, right?

Now, while you're doing all of this playing, it would be nice if you had a way for fans to remember you after you leave. How about a self-released CD? It can be a three song demo that you record and burn on your own to start. Sell them at all of your shows. Save your pennies and have T-shirts available for sale too. Many touring bands live on T-shirt sales alone.

Save your money. Next time out, release a five song EP. Maybe this time you have enough bread to have them professionally manufactured. You have 500 printed and within a year, you sell all 500 at your shows and from your website. You create a press kit and send CDs out to college, internet and podcast shows and start to get some airplay. You send CDs out to print and online media and start to get some reviews and feature stories. Now your tours are a month long. You can sleep on your fan's floors for a month, right?

Continue building and touring to support the EP. With the proceeds from the EP, plan and record a full-length CD. You print 2,000 and sell them all in 18 months. You print 1,000 more and sell those too. Continue touring to support the CD. Maybe you get a song onto an MTV reality show. Keep doing shows.

Release another full-length CD. This time you print 5,000 and sell them all in less than a year. A manager approaches you. He has contacts at several small indie labels. He gets you a small deal and the label has national distribution. You record and release a CD and sell 7,000 copies in a year. You're touring constantly and have hired one of your buddies to be your road manager. He is the beginning of your touring team.

You record and release a second CD for the same label. This time, you sell 12,000 copies. You land the opening act slot on a package tour. More CD and T-shirt sales. A bigger indie with ties to a major buys out your contract. You begin pre-production and are ready to record your fourth CD.

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2006 Dan Palladino
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