Talking with a fellow music producer about two weeks ago, we compared notes on how to get a record deal in Nashville. A few days later there was an article published in one of the local magazines regarding You Tube. Part of it discussed the relevance of You Tube hits in this town.
While all that is still fresh in my mind, here are the most important points:
1. By far the most predictable, reliable way to get a record deal in Nashville is to come here with a proven product. Make a name for your act regionally, prove you can put people in the seats, prove you can sell T-shirts, sell downloads, etc. and the labels will be interested. It helps to have a management team in place, an entertainment lawyer, experience opening for big name artists, and experience giving radio/television interviews. The closer you can get to making the deal turnkey for the label, the more likely it happens.
2. Be the national winner or place high in an American Idol style, national competition. Obviously it’s worked for some artists. But others have won shows nationally, yet ultimately went nowhere.
3. Come to town with wheelbarrow loads of cash. Yes, the word is it’s possible to buy your way in to a record deal. I’ve discussed the figures batted about at downtown meetings with singers who worked for me, singers who were just in these types of meetings. How much cash? Lots. Figures I’ve heard firsthand from singers involved in negotiations usually are at least $500.000 to over $1,000,000.
The story goes that Taylor Swift’s Dad paid upfront fpr her deal then bought enough copies of her first release to ensure it hit the #1 Billboard spot. I have no idea if it really happened but many in this town tell that story over and over, typically relayed as if it’s practically evil. If I had that much money to toss around and my daughter gave me the puppy dog eyes I mean, come on, done deal! I call it a father’s unconditional love and belief in his little girl, a beautiful thing. And hey, once there, Taylor had the songwriting, vocal skills, looks and personality to not just sustain it but take it to heights few have ever achieved.
4. Move here with talent. So much of the advice on this subject begins and ends with this point. Move here, network and “get discovered”. But both my producer friend and I agree: the labels aren’t particularly interested in slightly above average singers with good looks and some personality. That describes half the people in Nashville.
I’ve seen plenty of those, probably the very best in their local area, come to Music City, try with all they had to get signed, then move back home a few years later, their dream severely altered. Some aspect of your talent likely needs to be exceptional, even for here, to hang your hopes on that card.
You Tube? Enormous numbers of views racked up on You Tube that might get you a deal elsewhere, or at least get you an appointment to talk to A&R people, elsewhere, are currently not being taken seriously here by most A & R people, at least according to the article.
So Nashville A & R has been lagging a bit in grasping the significance of the Internet and how it’s changing the way acts are discovered but perhaps the article itself has already started to wake up the powers that be to the fact tons of You Tube hits can equal pre-packaged fame as well as fortune and both can be capitalized on.
Include your anywhere-else-they’d-be-so-impressed-by-this You Tube view numbers, download sales numbers and such in your promo package. They can’t hurt and may help- b.e.