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  • Writer's picturesP Polanco

Is a Record Deal Right for You? What Every Emerging Artist Should Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line.

In the ever-spinning world of the music industry, where I've been fortunate to play dual roles as both a creator and an executive, the balance between art and commerce is intricate and often intense. It's easy to think these worlds clash, but there's a sweet spot where they align, and when they do, it can make all the difference in your music career. Most emerging artists I've come across have one goal in mind" to sign a record deal. But is a record deal really what you need? The truth is that a record deal should not be "the goal"; it's the starting line to a relationship that, if not handled correctly, can actually set you back in your career. My aim isn't to scare you out of a recording contract but to clarify what to expect and the questions you should ask yourself before signing on the dotted line.

Entering into a record deal is much like a marriage; it thrives on the foundation of clear and open communication. I've witnessed many artists dive into these partnerships with a hazy understanding of what they hope to achieve, often looking beyond the immediate allure of an advance or promise of a marketing fund. On the other hand, labels sometimes fail to grasp what some artists seek to accomplish. For the most part, emerging or developing artists are simply looking for a platform to amplify their voice, while labels aim to magnify that voice while making a profit.

Person signing a contract
There are some key questions you should ask yourself before signing a recording contract.

Why sign a deal?

You must think deeply about why a record deal makes sense for you. What can a label offer that you can't secure on your own? Are you seeking broader exposure, or do you need resources beyond what your current setup can provide? Having a clear "why" not only helps you set expectations but also helps you negotiate contracts from a vantage point.

Understanding the role of a record label

Do you fully grasp what a record label does? The artists who truly prosper while signing to a label enter the partnership with clear expectations. They understand the services a label provides and aren't afraid to ask questions to fill any gaps in their knowledge. Recognizing a record company's complete capabilities and value proposition can dramatically increase your chances of success.

Is your artistic vision crystal clear?

Having a well-defined artistic vision is crucial at any point in your career. Many artists fail to evolve because they lack this clarity. Remember that your creative vision will develop and grow as times change, so aim to establish a clear short-term, mid-term, and long-term artistic plan. It's important to remember that the role of a label is to amplify your vision, not to create it. An unclear vision only leads to confusion when magnified.

Building your team

As your musical journey evolves, so too should your team. A support system that shares your vision is essential as you progress. Delegate tasks that take away time from your creative process, particularly those involving paperwork, marketing, and promotion. This delegation becomes critical as you prepare for a partnership with a record label, which can be considered a strategic ally in scaling your vision. Showing you're talented but also well-prepared and proactive can significantly boost your attractiveness to potential labels.

Success in the music industry requires more than just talent; it demands a deep understanding of both the creative and business sides. Artists can truly thrive by entering into a record deal with an established "why," a clear vision, a solid understanding of what a label can offer, and the right team in place. Embrace the process, ask the hard questions, and build a partnership based on clarity and mutual respect. Remember, the right record deal doesn't just amplify your music; it amplifies your entire artistic journey, helping you navigate a music career's complex but rewarding path.

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