The truth about getting signed

,  17 February 2014

Getting signed can feel like you’ve made it in the music industry. Louise Dodgson, editor of The Unsigned Guide, says this isn’t the case, and gives tips on what to think about if you do get signed.

Do a little bit of digging on other artists they are currently working with or have done in the past.
Do a little bit of digging on other artists they are currently working with or have done in the past.

Many bands and artists aspire to sign a deal of some form, whether it be a record deal, publishing contract or management agreement.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that once you’ve signed your name on the dotted line your creative life will become infinitely easier.

There are no guarantees in an industry as fickle as music, and a deal does not necessarily equal a one-way ticket to success.

These four tips should help you keep things in perspective and maintain a realistic, but positive outlook, should a deal come your way.

1. You haven’t made it

Sorry to break the harsh news to you but, if anything, once you sign a deal even harder work is inevitably ahead.

Of course, you will have a team of people on side to help you with some aspects of it, but even more work, demands and challenges are likely to be placed upon you.

A deal does not necessarily equal a one-way ticket to success.

Think of it in football terms – everyone wants to move from the First Division into the Premiership.

You may have been at the top of the emerging/unsigned pile in first division terms, but you will now be at the bottom of the pile at Premiership level so you’ll need to do some graft to work your way up the rankings.

2. Don’t go on a spending spree

A big advance may have you seeing pound signs but it’s important to show some self-restraint and not go too crazy with the spending.

Don’t forget that your advance money will need to be split between all band members and may have to last over several years. It’s best to work on the assumption that this may be the last income you’ll be receiving for a while. 

If more income does come your way then that’s a bonus, but try to budget for around three years ahead, or whatever the length of your contract, allowing a little extra leeway. 

An advance, once divided between everyone and broken down annually, may only amount to the equivalent of a pretty mediocre salary, so planning ahead is essential.

3. Get the legal lowdown

Once a contract is on the table, make sure you get everything checked over from a legal standpoint by a professional.

If you’re a member of the Musicians’ Union, you will be able to ask them for help with this, but otherwise track down an experienced music lawyer – The Unsigned Guide is a good starting point for finding reputable legal contacts.

An advance, once divided up, may only amount to a pretty mediocre salary.

Ask them to give the deal a thorough checking over. There are so many things to consider such as exclusivity of the contract, royalties, advances, rights and of course, what is expected of everyone involved, so an expert eye is crucial.

Most recording contracts will require you to sign over the rights to your creative work, so you really don’t want to end up stuck in an agreement that you’re not happy with.

Don’t jump at the first thing that is offered to you for the sake of it. No deal is better than a bad deal, so be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

4. Take time to do the research

Make sure you’re armed to the max with all the info you can find about the company you’re potentially about to team up with. You want to be sure they have a similar creative outlook to you and will take things in a direction you’re happy with.

Do a little bit of digging on other artists they are currently working with or have done in the past. How have their careers progressed? Have they been treated well?

Don’t jump at the first thing offered to you – no deal is better than a bad deal.

As discussions progress you probably want to get a clear understanding of exactly how the record label or company in question intends to take you to market and what their prior experience is of this to make sure they can fulfil what you require from them.

Again, all very important considerations, which could prove to be deciding factors as to whether they are the right company for you and your music.


Check out the music industry contacts at The Unsigned Guide.

Do you have a story to share about getting signed? Are you trying to get signed? 

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