As an executive who has worked in finance and accounting in the music industry at all levels, from the biggest distributor in the world to upstarts created in the kitchen, and after always being asked that age old question since the dawn of time. No, not “what is the meaning of life”, but “how can I get a record deal?” While obtaining a major label recording contract is next to impossible, which is another article altogether, maintaining a career in music is much more attainable. How are these mutually exclusive you ask? Well, obtaining a recording contract is no guarantee of success and I’ve seen termination agreements come months after a recording agreement has been executed. Maintaining a career is what you do FOR your career before and after getting that coveted contract, if you even need it or want it.
Do I Have To Get A Record Contract To Be Successful?
It’s not a necessity. There have been more than enough bands and artists that have “made” it by grinding the old-fashion way and that’s ‘hustle’, pure and simple. Don’t overcomplicate this exercise. You don’t need a business plan or a LLC. You don’t even need financing. If you live in a large town play the local clubs for a fee, donations, or a part of the door receipts or whatever you can bargain for. If you live in a small town hold shows in the local bar, park or even in your garage and charge a fee to attend. Once you make enough money, produce your own record and then start selling these at your shows. Do this until you can make enough money to tour to the next town. Do a ten-city tour in your region and keep expanding on this until you can afford to tour to the next state or do it full time. You don’t need a business plan so much as you just need a plan. I can assure you that the Rolling Stones, Cash Money Records and Lady Gaga didn’t have a business plan, but they had hustle.
What Do I Do After I’m Ready To Commit Full Time?
When you do get a record deal or get that tour going that’s when you need to call someone to set up the business side of your operations and that shouldn’t be a task taken on by your manager. Your manager should be more concerned with travel plans, merchandising, working with promoters, cd sells, managing the personalities of your band, working with your team members (attorney, business manager, finance manager, stylist, etc) and hundreds of other tasks. As you raise your funding and your awareness, utilize all of the tools that are available in social media, internet advertising, paid TV advertisements, cheap local channels, painted van wraps, and all other tools to further increase your popularity. If you do well then you’ll have something to take to the labels and convince them that your success can be multiplied if you have them aboard to distribute your music, and here is where you have to be extra careful and get yourself a really good finance guy who understands recording contracts. I can’t tell you how many bad contracts I’ve seen attorneys approve. Again, another article for another time.
CS Williams is the founder of Williams Advisory Services and oversees the accounting, financial planning and analysis, operations finance and auditing functions of various independent record labels. He has also worked closely with clients in catalog valuations and monetization strategies. He has previously served with a major record label as the Director of Centralized Accounting with responsibilities for third party reporting, corporate reporting, p&l analysis and projections and revenue forecasting. Prior to that, Williams was Controller, Corporate Finance and Accounting at a premier gospel record label, where he was responsible for introducing financial management tools and cash management devices which allowed the company to make more informed managerial decisions about how it utilizes its investment dollars. He’s also held positions at two other record labels, has passed the California CPA exam, and began his career in audit with the State of Illinois’ Auditor General’s Office. He holds a BS degree in Accounting and an MBA.
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