How to think like a Record Label

We come across artists all the time that are struggling to understand why they are not getting the attention of the record labels. They pour their heart and soul into their music, pump out song after song, post them online, and wait for lightning to strike. It’s a story I have seen over and over again. It’s unfortunate, but the sad truth is that a lot of amazing musicians never make it commercially. Here at FoxyMelody, we have many artists who have released incredible albums, albums that I still listen to again and again, but that have never realized any meaningful commercial success. Is it that their music is not as good the artists who are signed by the major labels? Hell no. In many cases, it’s better. The problem is that they were unable to get the attention of the labels. “But how could this be?” you’re asking. “If I put out amazing music, the labels will surely seek me out and sign me.”



There is a disconnect between what artists think the labels are looking for versus what the labels set out to find. This disconnect comes from the fact that most artists view the process as “If I build it, they will come.” In other words, if my music is good enough, the labels will come knocking. Unfortunately, they won’t, as the labels don’t approach signing new acts like that. There is far more to it. They are not only looking for great music, it’s not that simple.

The labels are a business. Businesses want assets. An asset is something that makes money.

Every business has assets. In a record company, their assets are the deals they have with artists. In order for any business to be interested in a new asset, they have to be reasonably sure that it will make them money. That’s it! There is no great secret beyond that. They are a business. Like any business, the goal is to make money. When it comes to signing new bands, they need to think that the band that they are about to sign has a chance to make that money. Genre, style, quality, personality…it’s only relevant in the context of whether or not they think they can sell it.
I understand that this can be a hard idea for artists to deal with. Most out there don’t want to feel as though they are some cog in a money making machine, but that their music means something beyond that. It’s an understandable feeling, and an idea I will get into deeper in a later post.
But from the label perspective, they are about to invest many thousands of dollars into something unproven. That money gets spent on advertising, A&R, producers, ad agencies, CD manufacturing, distribution, printing, shipping, lawyers, and more. There is a lot that goes into signing a new band, and it’s incredibly risky for a label. They need to make reasonably sure they are not only going to get that money back, but also make profit on top.

So…what does this mean to you? Should you stop producing great music? Absolutely Not. The point of this article is to get you thinking like a label. In other words, how can you prove to them that you will make them money?

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  • So you wrote this on May 1st 2010, is this it?  Are there other posts, or did you just run out of steam after the one.  I write a blog as well (, if I thought there were more of these, which is pretty good, I’d put a link up to you so my readers could follow you as well.

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