Reasons Why Local Artists Don’t Get Signed


 By David Lowry

Dealing with the local music scene these days is very challenging for management, booking, promotion companies and record labels. To be able to get any artist to the next level requires being able to take the package and sell it to the public or other entertainment professionals or companies. Unfortunately, too often the product is rarely worth buying or even helping to promote further. Bands and artists tend to have this notion that, “Without the music you have nothing,” when dealing with industry professionals. While this is true to an extent, it’s not the whole story. In the industry, we can hire songwriters that have a proven track record, hire musicians to record it and make our own successful bands that we own completely and can control. We don’t need local artists with attitudes, little work ethic or strive not be productive in furthering their own careers. We all do what we love for a reason. It’s not always about being successful but for the satisfaction for seeing someone achieve their dreams so we keep diving into the murky waters of local musicians to find those that are worth partnering with.

The package, as we refer to the artist’s business plan or presentation, has to be ready to go and that is the artist’s responsibility to get there. It doesn’t fall on anyone’s shoulders to make this happen except for you. There is no excuse, what with all the free info out on the internet in books and magazines, that an artist can’t figure out the basics of the business, create a presentation and become attractive to the people that can help them get to the next level. Until that happens, it’s hard to get a manager, booking agent or anyone else to be excited about making 0% of 0% because the artist has created absolutely no demand for themselves. The money isn’t available in the industry for developmental deals as it was say 15-years ago. Thus the artist’s chances of getting signed on with professional representations are slimmer if they don’t present an attractive market value. Here are a few of the reasons that artists intentionally shoot themselves in the proverbial foot. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some very obvious points.

  • Not Booking Enough Shows: Most bands/artists want others to do this for them but in truth and reality, the artist should be booking their own shows until they are gigging at least 80-dates a year regionally and making money doing it. Why would anyone in the industry want to waste time booking a band that isn’t willing to do it themselves, does not understand the basics of promotion and end up making a small percentage of absolutely nothing for their work? There are no short cuts here. Pick up the phone and dial for dollars.


  • Poor Promotion: Most artists spend very little time and effort promoting and usually post a gig once or twice on some form of social media expecting people to see it and show up on such short notice. This is absolutely pathetic. Especially in a band with several members, usually only one person promotes it. In no way shape or form is this acceptable, nor will anyone in the industry look kindly on an artist that does this. You don’t deserve to get paid at all if this is how you sell your band. Believe it or not, we all look at this and notice how well people promote themselves. Also, social media sites are not the only form or promotion needed. You still need flyers, advertisements and many other forms of creative promotion. It is not everyone else’s job to do all your promotion. When you are looking for opportunities with your gigs and no one shows up for your shows, you lose on many levels and miss out on opportunities.


  • Misuse Of Social Media: If all you do is complain about the venues, management or any other form of the music business, you are signing your death warrant. Again, people in the industry and your peers see this and who would want to book you back at a venue or assist your band if this is your level of professionalism. You are a business, act like it. Grow up and quit using your bands page to complain. If you want to do that, do it in private where we can’t see it. This is common sense that seems to have escaped many artists.


  • Wasting Time Goofing Off On Facebook: If you have time to post a million personal things on Facebook but don’t promote your show then you aren’t serious about this business. Stop spending time goofing off and start making things happen for your music. Facebook is a great networking tool when used right. The excuse, “I am so busy,” is quite weak when we can see your profile. This goes for both sides of the business, not just artists.


  • Not Getting Back To People: When you approach someone and ask for their advice, services or whatever else and say, “I’ll get back to you,” then do it.  The usual excuse again is, “Sorry, I was so sick” or “I have been so busy” but again we can see your social media so if you are well enough or have time to do that, you are well enough to practice a common courtesy and get back in touch with people, regardless of the outcome you decide on. This applies to getting back to people on booking a show, a meeting, or any other situation involving your band, music or related promotions. It is also basic good business manners.


  • Not Doing Your Research: Approaching people about services they don’t even offer. This happens all of the time. You see a business name and just assume at what they do but don’t even research the company. You are wasting everyone’s time and showing how lazy and unprofessional you are.


  • Not Accepting Gigs Because You Don’t Have The Money: “Sorry we don’t have the money to drive that far,” is a ridiculous excuse for a local or regional booking. You don’t have the money to drive to open a new market but you do have money to buy beer, party with your friends, buy drugs, go camping or visit someone three states away. Again, your Facebook page gives this all away. If you do not want to play a show for specific reasons, then politely decline, thus hopefully leaving the door open for future shows. If you aren’t able to be dedicated to your vision and dream by planning in advance and having a band fund for specific use: gear, travel, other expenses then don’t even bother approaching anyone. You can’t build a solid fan base if you aren’t playing out.
  • Not Having An Appropriate Press Kit: Everyone has been doing this long enough to know you need one. No matter if you are a band, solo artist or musician looking for extra work. Everyone should have an electronic press kit (EPK) and/or hard copy press kit. Sending someone to Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation, YouTube or other social music site, while a plus, is not a replacement for a professional media kit. If you don’t have one, you do not show serious business regard for your own career so why should anyone in the industry.


  • Sending One Line Emails Saying You Need Representation: Again if you don’t have a press kit and you can’t take the time to compose proper business letter and introduction about yourself or your band, don’t even bother. All you are doing is showing how lazy you really are. Be professional, always.


  • Only Being Able To Play Weekends: We are all looking for bands than can tour, not just play every now and then. It’s hard to break a new market and build a fan base when you can only play one quarter of the year. Not only that, but you are competing with so many other bands for these bookings when weeknights are so much easier to get. This is why people with families often get passed by. It’s too hard to coordinate everything. We all make choices in life and once you decide to get married and have kids more often than not you aren’t able to be on the road enough. This does not apply to everyone, as many do have support systems in place to allow for travel. If you are serious about your career, have this support system in place. No one makes any money if you can’t play so they won’t sign you. It may not be fair but everyone involved has to pay their bills so why would anyone sign a band that can’t make them money? It’s not about the music when it comes to getting signed, it’s about people earning a living.


  • Expecting To Work Without A Contract: First of all, one of the main rules of the music business is…always get a contract, so why you would you even consider asking someone to work with you without one? Why would a smart business owner work relentlessly to help you further your career just so you can walk away with the success they brought you? If another agency comes along and offers you a deal and you choose to go with them, with out a contract featuring a ‘buy-out clause’ your former manager or agent is screwed and may be liable for future booking, promotions or business deals being worked for your project. The standard industry rap goes that the “industry and music business” people are the ones that screw over the artists but I know from experience that artists are fabulous about breaching contracts because they do not want to pay someone. Our courts are full of artists being sued by companies for breach of contract so it goes both ways. No one should EVER work without a contract, period. No one should risk his or her business on a promise or handshake agreement. You will get the short end of the stick every time.

After years of doing this and dealing with all types and genres of artists, the most common reason for artists not getting signed is that they are not focused on their end goal. They spend money on things they don’t need such as alcohol, drugs or video games instead of putting it into their careers and business package where it needs to go. To be successful means spending money on your career, missing friends because you are busting your butt working hard, and taking your act on the road into new markets. Don’t expect your team to do it for you, to be focused on you and your career when you can’t even do it for yourselves. This makes no sense what so ever. Again, no one in the industry will get involved with an artist that can’t and won’t work as hard as everyone else.

These are also many of the reasons most artists will be let go by a professional company. More often then not, these reasons make it very, very difficult to promote you and sell your package and product or in general, make anything happen for you. This is a business and the artist needs to treat it like one. Be professional at all times, work hard always and get focused. Quit blaming everyone else for what you are not doing for yourself.

Without having a great package to work with and sell, people just aren’t interested in not being able to make any money. It is the artist’s responsibility to build their business to an appropriate level before expecting or seeking help. Remember this is business and everyone needs to make money, not just the artist.

Good Luck!

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114 responses to “Reasons Why Local Artists Don’t Get Signed

  • Larry "Fallout" Morris

    Dear Mr. Lowry,

    My name is Larry “Fallout” Morris from the Saint Louis Hip Hop Fusion Band “iLLPHONiCS”. I stumbled upon this post via STLHipHop on my twitter feed. I must say that your post is simply put amazing. Everything you speak of we as a band have encountered or currently are encountering. Even though there aren’t any labels developing artist post like this help young and up coming artist such as myself do a more effective job of developing ourselves. I plan on printing out this post and doing everything I can to fine tune our band on all the points you have made. Again, wonderful post and hopefully one day I will be able to look back and say it was info like yours that helped get iLLPHONiCS to the next level!

    Thanks,
    Fall

  • ThomasA

    Nice blog. So who are your clients that are signed? You know, those who you are making a living off of?

  • Tracy D. Ready

    Great article David, I am amazed at how little so many do for themselves while griping about how they “can’t get a break” — Thanks as always for setting it straight… T

  • Barry

    Great article – best one yet. Nobody is willing to tell it like it is any more. \m/\m/

  • Vince

    This was a good read, very nice to see others trying to put advice out there for the newer musicians. I would add another thought in there though. Supporting fellow musicians of all walks of life. You don’t have to like the music a person or band plays, however showing respect for the work they’ve done will at the very least keep your from being labeled a prima donna, rockstar. or what have you. Noone wants to deal with a musician who thinks they are better than everyone else, even if they are that good.

  • Dawn Craig Arrowhead

    David,

    It appears to me that you hit the nail right on the head, with not only one , but all points! Thank you for taking your time to help others understand some of the main points of the business. I enjoyed reading!

  • donnam13

    I work with bands to teach them how to use social media to maximum effect (and minimum distraction) and many points you posted are consistent in what i see unsuccessful bands doing or not doing. A basic press kit so industry people can see, hear and watch a band is just a given but many don’t have one. I really think many bands are not lazy but just really dont know how to go that next step and are perhaps embarrassed to ask. Your blog hits all the spots with no bs. Loved reading it.

  • Chris

    Great article Dave,it seems like common sense but it’s surprising how many bands just don’t understand the principles of building a small business.

  • Jon

    Thank You, I have been looking for a way to let the users of my facebook and website know what they need to do, to get farther in their careers. This is very well put !. The website is for local live bands across the United States.

  • sean glombowski

    This is the best thing I have read in a long time!

  • Sean Mooer

    I like your article here and agree with most of it. I have 2 things to comment on. #1. You state that bands need to play as often as possible in the region but I have found that the opposite is true. As soon as we cut our playing by 2/3rds, our attendance rose around 60 to 70% and we started making a lot more money VS expenses which is important in these days and times. In this day of fast paced multimedia, the fans get burned out quick. Either you change your whole stage show every time you play or you reduce the times you play. When you play so much, your giving your fans too many opportunities to see you thus cutting your show attendance down each time you play. We look at it like this… give them a taste. Don’t burn them out. Make it to where they either come to your show now or they won’t get an opportunity to see you for a while. If I was looking to sign a band… I’d be looking for business thoughts and strategies like that.

    Second… no offense but again, in these days in times… is there really that big of an advantage in getting signed? Personally, I have completely stopped listening to the radio because I think the major labels are completely out of touch of what fans want, like or what is even good music. Everything coming out these days sounds like everyone else or something already done. The only originality I hear are from bands that aren’t signed and not tainted by major label producing. Nothing is cutting edge. Everything is limited with no depth and really… I see indie labels and unsigned bands being the ones that are on the cutting edge these days. You don’t need terrestrial radio anymore… there are some great and growing internet radio out there now that are glad to play you without major label influence or payoffs. The labels and radio stations over play all the major acts and cuts the bands life in half… making it seem like none of the major acts have staying power. There are no Metallicas, Madonas or NINs anymore because of this. It seems the major labels squeeze all they can out of bands and then move on to the next… not good in my opinion. No room for the growing the artist into an epic one.

    Don’t take this wrong…. I think what you have written here is good info and important whether you get signed or not.

    Thank You
    Sean Mooer
    CYBERTRYBE

    • David Lowry

      Sean,

      Thanks for reading the article! On your first point, A region is a huge space and their is no way you can over saturated with so many locations to play. Plus as bigger industry people are looking for bands that can make it happen this is the #1 that it can. I have toured this country for years and would completely 100% disagree with your point. This is the #1 rule in making it period. Play as much as possible. You won’t find another professional or musician who has made it disagree. If you only play around your area then yes over saturation can happen.

      On your 2nd point, the article isn’t just about a label and while those deals are few and far between, a label is your best way for most bands for tour support assuming the label has the capital to do that. The article reads getting signed by anyone be it management, labels, booking agents (that are any good) and so on.

      I appreciate your comments but I have 30 years in the business and list of professionals that have done it longer and better that don’t disagree with me at all. I stand by what I say and what I write.

      I am glad you are finding success and wish you much more!

  • David Jeffree

    David I read your article and couldn’t agree more.For thirty years as a working musician I followed these principles to the point where when my new partner and I decided to have children I gave up the business for the first five years of the children’s lives simply because the act of touring and gigging really does take all you have to give if you wish to make money in this business.Now the time has come to go back to the road and again I will be applying all of the principles you espoused and again My working partner and I (Glenn Dunkling) will make a good living doing what we love.For older musicians the thought of getting a “deal” with anyone isn’t that realistic(though still possible) therefor making a solid living from your craft becomes even more important.For us this is achieved simply by putting all our time, energies and resources into being our own booking agents,advertisers,record producers and printers etc and by making sure all of the product we produce is as professional as our budget can handle at the time.You mentioned being professional in all your dealings with anyone in the industry but I would extend that ideal to being professional and courteous to everyone you meet as a working musician.Far too many times I have seen great young acts destroy their own chances at success by being rude/drunk/stoned or just plain arrogant to someone they don’t know who later turns out to have been important who might have helped them along the way to success.Coming back into the business can be as daunting as just starting out yet the same principles apply to both situations.Conduct yourself at all times as though you were an employee representing your company which in essence you are,in fact doing.being a capable,courteous and professional person is the ONLY way to get ahead in this business no matter what level or function you may perform within it.Because as you say ..Business is business no matter what you do and why do it all if you cannot do it well?
    Thank you very much for your concise and accurate assessments and I will be eagerly following your post from here on in.
    David Jeffree

    • David Lowry

      David,

      Thanks for your enthusiasm for this article! I am glad you digging back into the deep waters of the business and wish you the best of luck with that! Please follow the blog on here or on Facebook through networked blogs and thank you for your positive comments!

      David

  • Mangement

    “Not Getting Back To People.” Very Interesting here. I think this goes both way and is terribly abused by those in the “Industry.” There is no excuse for taking more than 48 hours to respond to an artist…..no matter how high or low the profile. As a business owner, I would fire my salesmen if I found out they did not respond to a customer the same day. The response of venues, booking agents and promoters is the most unprofessional I have seen in any profession. There is no coincidence why bars close, agents are fired and music row is crumbling. Return a phone call, be polite and tell the truth. Respect goes both ways and is earned, not given.

    • David Lowry

      I have to disagree a bit here. I won’t reply to bands/artists that don’t take the time to write a proper cover letter/email explaining who they are, what they are looking for and attaching a professional press kit. I don’t have the time to reply everyone who sends an email or tweet.

      If you want to be treated as professional and get response, you need to ACT professional no matter what level you are at. Barring that then yes I would say everyone deserves a response in a timely manner. 48 may not be the amount of time as there is so much work to do but within 2 weeks depending on the request is an adequate amount of time. No self respecting business man is going to put not making money ahead of making money nor is any manager gonna spend time on clients he doesn’t represent to answer emails or phone calls for those that he doesn’t. Clients come first then they can respond to all the other requests. The sheer volume of requests make it impossible for a 48 hour turn around. But point well taken!

      Thanks for reading the blog and all the best to you!

      • Andy

        Sorry David.. but I think this person makes a good point. I can’t tell you how many labels/management companies and such have never replied after basically BEGGING us to sign with them. Many labels have been very interested in us.. and then somehow fail to respond after a while. Industry pros need to learn this too…

        If they lose interest in a band or something, they need to be straightforward. Ignoring is simply immature..

      • David Lowry

        Andy,

        Again it you read it I referred it needs to be both sides of the business. I don’t know your band so I can’t be sure about anything as it pertains to you, but if you can’t get 40 people to a show then the labels or companies asking your probably aren’t worth signing with anyway. They haven’t done their due diligence to make sure you were at the level needed to have professional representation. Maybe they found out later I don’t know. It’s a common thing in every business where no one gets back to you but my blog isn’t for other professionals, it’s for independent musicians.

        Keep plugging away and hopefully one day someone will pull the trigger!

        Good luck!

        David

      • J

        With respect. I understand this is an old post but I thought it important to ppoint out thst you have had the time to reply to almost all of the comments here within 24 hours, in many cases just hours (unknow time differences apply). You have some great advice. It sounds to me you have missed the opportunity to share it with many of the people who could make the most of it directly. After all you have to be hungry, however feckless to attempt to make contact. I appriciate you serve a different client base here, just a thought.

      • David Lowry

        I appreciate your comment but I am not sure what you are getting at. This is my blog, so I make it a priority to respond to those that have taken the time to read and respond to it. It is the polite and professional thing to do. Hope this finds you making it happen!

  • Marshall "fucking" Beck

    I will simply copy and paste this article to many of the local bands I approach for bookings after I receive their bullshit responses. Prepare to get a lot of hits on this page.

  • Bringing Reality to Your Dreams...

    David, I think you put a lot of good strong content in this blog. I enjoyed reading and look forward to looking through the rest of your blog. I can only say keep making things happen, seeing people make their dreams come true and thank you so much for all the guidance you gave to people with this incite.

    Peace in harmony, until again…
    ~ Thomas J Bellezza

  • Mitch Reitman

    I wish it was easier to do all of this. My band “Abide By Me” are all pretty much in high school still never have money for things. Nobody takes us seriously, because we don’t have any merch. Some people need to realize that most of these bands are high school students with unrealistic dreams and insufficient funds. I know I personally am under this category. Once we have something to brag about, I will try my hardest to follow these steps. Hopefully something good will come out of it. I don’t want to put my absolute everything into it, if nothing comes out of it at all. I am honestly risking doing school work at home, because all I want to do is play music. My dream (as a band) is to travel the world and share something new. Start something new.

    • David Lowry

      Mitch,

      Thanks for reading the article and you have so much time ahead of you so don’t worry about it yet. If you are in high school you can’t really go on the road anyway unless your parents support you in it. Work hard, study hard and then when you are out of school you will be ready to take on the world!

      Much luck!

      David

  • Marc

    Enjoyed the read immensely. I fully espouse a lot of what you wrote but I find myself being cautious because I’m scared about what some of my members might say. They might not have the same commitment as I and then from there: where do we take it? The answer becomes obvious. It’s just a shame to put so much time and effort into a project and then it’s a shame when they don’t want to push it further. Still, I understand that if they’re not willing to move the music forward, you should leave. I just have a tough time grappling with this idea since I’m friends with the guys after years of playing and writing.

    Anyway, thanks for the read. Bookmarked and emailed to some of my members.

    • David Lowry

      Marc,

      We always come to this point it seems with a band and really all bands struggle with that. Ultimately you have to do what is best for your dreams and sometimes that may mean finding a new group that has the same drive, desire and intensity to make it happen. Thanks for reading the article!

      Good Luck!

      David

  • Brian K

    Hi David, I really enjoyed the article, very good points. The issue that my band Headboard Jockeys are having is that many venues have a clause stating that the band cannot play in same area (some even quantify it as a 30 or more mile radius) for a certain duration before & after the scheduled show. Thus making the point of constantly playing shows to be impossible. I’m assuming that by region, you mean an area greater than this size. We’re going to expand our region after the holidays for more shows in a larger area.
    I’m having a similar issue to Sean Moer where oversaturation occurs and it’s hard to get our friends to come out to every single show we put on since we have them nearly every weekend. On top of this, most venues have a policy that the band must sell their own tickets, which can be hard asking the same people over & over again to come to shows. I understand that it’s a business and venues need to know that the bands are working as hard as they are to promote shows. Should we avoid places with this policy & instead do only those that have cover charges? I followed your advice to not turn down any shows, but I think an intelligent filter is sometimes necessary if you expect to draw and acquire new fans. Any advice here would be much appreciated, thank you for your time.

    • David Lowry

      Brian,

      A region is usually at least 3 states. With all the bars or other type of venues it would be really hard to over saturate your band with such a radius. If you constantly play in the same area then you do run that risk plus you never grow your fan base. Try to play the same place never more than once every three months.

      Best of luck!

      David

  • David Jahns

    THIS is a freaking article. I wish every band in the country understood this.

  • Andy

    Pretty solid points.. but I gotta take the band’s sides for one of them. If a show is requesting you sell like 40+ tickets and you can’t get that many (if it’s too far, for example) and tickets are 10 bucks each.. some bands simply can’t afford to spend that at times.

    • David Lowry

      Andy,

      If you can’t get 40 people to a show then you don’t need management or any other professional service in first place. You don’t have that many venues that require that so I would avoid the venues that do if you can’t make that happen.

      David

  • Jade Werth

    great read. thank you.

  • Joseph Blocker

    David,

    I appluad your article and regard it heavily. I belive every artist needs to read this, before they even get started. This is very insightful and true to logic. I’ll be taking your advice and thinking about my future promotion, with a optimized outlook. Thanks again.

    Joe

  • Aaron M

    Fantastic Article. I do agree with a majority of it, especially those comments in regards to the reputation a band or individual sets for themselves via social networking versus their professional motives.

    I will say that I have a different level of experience, and have only been involved for 12 years, but also notice a number of changes that come into play. Most of my work has been freelance marketing and design, as well as art direction and label management. My minor discrepancies are as follows:

    1. Press Kits. Every label i’ve worked with has scoffed and laughed at any and every press kit that has come into the office, if they even bothered to open them and read through. I’ve seen several professionally handled ones, and even then, they’re still laughed at for the “wasted effort.” I know you have some experience under your belt, and people still have an interest in these, but I’ve also seen labels fire and hire representatives left and right, and regardless of experience, everyone seems to consider the traditional press kit as a laughable waste of time. They seem to care more about the public impact made in terms of how broad and vocal a musician’s audience seems to be (which you already pointed out as well with touring prospect and efforts for artists to market themselves). Not challenging the idea of press kits here, just saying that they have increasingly become in effective and shallow to the nature of a band’s success since the age of the internet formality has come into fruition.

    2. Bands being expected to play frequently, and not just weekends. In this economy, it is difficult to expect an unsigned band to drop everything and play a show whenever it is convenient for someone else. Most bands that have developed success for themselves without outside support have done so with money they have saved and earned, and often times from jobs that require members in a band to work week days regularly. Some are lucky otherwise to have jobs that allow them to be flexible and bend a bit, but most career fields will often fire someone in a band to have someone work for them that is more dedicated to being a growing / permanent part of that company. The flexible jobs are generally part time and have a low pay-grade, and can only supply a band member with so much money to live his life. If a band has an opportunity to tour full time and make a living doing it, it’s a different story, but until then, I, nor anyone else, can expect them to quit their jobs for a show that may or may not help advance their musical careers.

    Yes, i do acknowledge that many musicians like to waste money on selfish, needless interests (like drugs and alcohol and partying). However, there are many that don’t and still struggle financially. It is unfair to overlook talent that aren’t inherently wealthy and able to do nothing but play music and survive without outside help or parents money. As it stands, most popular bands lately are made up of youthful kids right out of high school, as they are still under their parents’ roof and have very few bills. With that also being said, these kids know very little about business etiquette, and those that do get signed are based of social awareness and internet fame, and not necessarily talent or performance.

    You could say that people who prefer to keep their jobs ought to keep music as a hobby and not look for it to be a career, but then we end up dealing with people who often times lack a level of maturity or understanding as far as their expectations go when it comes to treating their band as a business endeavor when they do want that to be their career success.

    3. The Contract. This one is depressing for me because I wish everything was still done by contract, but a lot of the industry has been moving away from that as competition and over saturation rises. Labels still obviously have signing contracts, but as for external needs, many in regards to marketing assets and materials, contracts have been thrown out the window. Mainly because bands and representation fear a heightened responsibility that comes with a legal bind in this growing, independent market. I know of many managers and booking agents that have dismissed contracts for the opportunity of work with a band, and many bands and labels who have dismissed contracts with designers for album art or merch designs in case of not wanting to pay for work they may not be fully happy with. There have been many instances in my past where I’ve been requested of work, and everything goes smoothly until a contract is presented, and the client (label, band, or manager) backs out. Contracts do still exist between booking agencies and venues as well, but I know of many venue’s who have ignored such contracts of young and upcoming bands because of the questionable turnout for that band or tour package’s event. It’s saddening.

    Nonetheless, all in all, you really nailed a lot of great points, and it’s good to have these sort of articles exist. Thanks for your effort put forth, I was definitely pleased to read it.

    • David Lowry

      Aaron,

      Thanks for your comments however press kits aren’t just for labels first off and second labels don’t scoff at them. They are required. What they scoff at are crappy ones.

      Playing frequently is the only option. It isn’t that hard to due and if you bring enough people to your shows, your door deal will pay the costs at minimum so money isn’t an issue.

      Being talented has very little to do with the industry. Hard work is way more desirable than talent. Talent has a tendency to make people lazy and that just the truth. Just because you are talented doesn’t mean you should have a better shot. You have to work just as hard to make it. Work 3 jobs if you have to get where you need to be financially and then focus on the performing etc…. Also it doesn’t matter the age. When you are in school you are taught to research and learn and with all the available info out there for free there is NO EXCUSE for not having some clue. It’s plain laziness and these are just excuses. The financial situation or age for bands today isn’t any different then 20 or 30 years ago. Hell at least you don’t have to pay to play anymore like I did when I was out doing this and we were all in high school looking to make it.

      Contracts are very necessary and the only way to protect your business. I know very few who have tossed them aside. It’s not worth it to do that.

      Thanks for your input though! Glad you found this at least somewhat accurate.

      David

  • eddie tyre

    Awesome post here David; definitely eye opening and I will repost as well. Thanks for the tips sir!

    Eddie

  • corey

    This is sooo true. Every one thinks some label rep. Is just gonna happen to find them and sign them like that! They dont do more then half of this stuff. My band is about to release an EP and were currently gettin a press kit put together, promoting is so hard. This is great advice and im glad i stubled upon this, thank you! Great blog!

  • SouthernConservativeMusician

    Thanks for the GREAT info! I will put it to good use.

  • Gary Stripling

    David – I develop and manage indie Christian artists and bands. I’ve been in this business for over 20 years. Your post is spot on! Many artists and bands think all they need to provide is “talent” and we (the industry) are supposed to take all the risks and invest in their development. Very few are willing to invest in themselves, but they want all the gain. I spend much of my time educating artists on how the business model has changed (that proverbial “paradigm shift”) and how they better get with the program if they want to be successful. I will be sharing your post with my clients, both current and prospective.

  • Tampa Band Photos

    Excellent article! I’m a band/music photographer specializing in high-end promo images, press kits, and album covers. It amazes me how many bands out there subscribe to the notion that they should dump every penny of their hard-earned cash into recording an album and then completely skimp out on marketing & self-promotion. I mean, who flipping cares if your album sounds amazing if nobody’s even listening to it?

    It’s all about perception, and having professional photos in your press kit, on your website, and on your social media profiles is absolutely essential. You also need to have consistent branding, with unique, instantly recognizable logos and graphics. Your buddy down the street with a $500 Best Buy camera and a pirated copy of Photoshop is probably not going to be able to provide the level of quality you need to stand out in the ever-crowded music industry, so do yourself a favor and hire a professional. It’s like I tell all my prospective clients: Remember– people will hear your music with their EYES first!!

    Anyway, thanks again for your insights….I’ll be sharing this article in all of my social media streams.

    -Russ

    PS- There’s a fantastic (and free) step-by-step guide on finding and choosing the right band photographer here:

    http://tampabandphotos.com/how-to-choose-a-band-photographer

  • eric

    Blown away by the accuracy, to put it simple wow. I myself as a artist in the making didnt look at it like that. I really do appreciate the insight, thank you.

  • David Lowry

    Thanks for reading it Eric! Best of luck in your pursuit of your dream!

  • Mike

    David,

    I hear you and agree on all points. Let me ask you a question about playing as much as possible: how do you recommend breaking into a market you have never played before? We have found it difficult to sell ourselves to venues who want us to play weekday nights out of town somewhere to prove ourselves, and we know we can’t deliver an audience. We’ve tried the gig swapping thing, but a lot of bands don’t want to “waste” a favor on a band they know won’t draw for them even in a gig swap situation.It seems like a big catch 22. I am sure many bands posting here have been in situations where you’ll drive 3 or 4 hours to do a show on a Wednesday, 6 or 8 of your local fans will come, and the club doesn’t have you back since you played to mostly chairs. It seems counterproductive.

    We all hear all kinds of different feedback on points like this. What say you?

    Thanks!

    Mike

  • Felix

    Dear Lowry,

    Ur Blog is amazing,
    I’m an owner of a Label and a Studio.
    U speak out of my soul

    ..and it is also amazing that u take ur time to answer the Blog comments.

    Greez from Austria

    Felix

  • roman marmurowicz

    I love it….but its made me sad…..I know that, but Im not goona give up.
    Roman Marmurowicz from ABANDONED FAITH

  • Gully Jewelz

    true gold, no platinum value words of wisdom in this post.. hamdulah for spreading this needful information…

  • Five Link Friday - FLF #22 - Jazz Journey

    […] From the blog of a Nashville Agency, Reasons Why Local Artists Don’t Get Signed is a honest look at some of the things musicians need to make it in the business. Even if you plan […]

  • coachdebra

    I’d add a few more:
    – Not having enough people on your email list – so even if you’re promoting you’re not going to be able to fill the seats.

    – ONLY promoting to your email list – so that your communication with your fans is limited to “ME ME ME!” – which means that even if you’ve got folks on the list, they’re less likely to open your emails.

    – Inviting all your fellow musicians to your gigs on Facebook. Come on people – promotion is for your fans, not your colleagues and competition!

    – Being unwilling to do media promotion yourself (local papers, radio, etc.) or if you are lucky enough to get an interview on radio – being a jerk during the interview (I had one DJ at a conference just floored by a band’s attitude during their interview – he was not going to be able to play the interview. It was unusable, he said.)

    – Not being prepared for the gigs you do get – meaning, not having an email list for people to sign up on, not delivering a kick-a$$ show, being late, stoned, drunk or stupid at the show, not having merch for people to buy at the show, not coming out from the green room after the show to meet your new fans!

  • David Lowry

    Thanks for the additional point Debra 🙂

  • Nic Nagel

    Thanks for the great advice.

  • Ryan Brooks

    Good article. Can see a lot of parallels between this and other artistic industries. We live a golden age, where art comes from a giant social machine. It pays to know how it works. 🙂

  • Jester

    You wrote a lot, but not about what kind of groups or artists, you talk about, because its correct what you say, if people have some kind of boyband or hip hop band or they may are a rock band and in these cases they really should move their asses to reach the next level, but as a example, me and my friends, we all make experimental IDM, ambient, breakcore and glitch music and there is no way to get a gig done if you make this kind of music, without that you are some famous artist like Aphex Twin, Autechre or Boards Of Canada.

    Because these artists make the music that I and my friends compose, but they get credited, while we get no attention at all and you now just say we need to move our ass to get some things done, but there is a big difference between rap and other popular music artists and artists that are against the concept that the music industry likes so much to get power over the artists, because the money is more important to the industry of music.

    I talk about the big labels, but I will name no names. At the end its just about the money and thats sad. But more sad is the fact that artists like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have absolutly no talent, but they get celebrated like they are some legendary genius of music, while we compose stuff thats a million times better, but 14 views and 0 comments per month is everything we get on YouTube. I do not respect music industry, because music industry does not respect the artist.

    We really all need a change away from the money and control over other people and things. Just pure creativity and liberty should exist for artists and the industry of music, without all the mindcontrol and trouble happening. I think the hole scenario should be stopped and a new paradigma should start.

  • Arturo "Tito" Martinez

    THANK YOU!!! Incredible article!!!

  • rockinroyrayman

    Awesome read.I’ve learned these steps as i started in music last year.Most of all its common cense if your serious about carreer in Music business .

  • Chad Sanborn (@ChadSanborn)

    As a variety artist, and not a musician, I still found this article very insightful. Thank you!

  • Kraig Debose

    This is simply amazing. All of the points you made here are the reason i gave up on my band. They all wanted something but were never willing to put in the work or the time. They all said they had responsibilities and could not put in the effort i could… I have 4 Kids and a full time job and made time put my band on top of the local scene, while push to go regional… I have not been in a band for almost 2 years because i can not find dedicated band members… Simply Awesome.

  • Holly Wood

    How about adding *Poor artist development?

    I know several “local” bands that have the networking skills, but their music is underdeveloped. Artist development seems to be a lost art, but should actually be the main concern while creating a product called a “band”. Without this producing and developing we see a lot of the same copy and paste “riff” music that has a “dated” effect on larger genres of music. All the business sense in the world can not help poor development of a band. Thank you for your article! I hope a lot of artists and “artists” read it 😉

    • David Lowry

      Good points Holly but many bands at this level don’t listen about “artist development.” They want their music, their way and won’t change a thing or think they already know it all.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • The Rhythm and Beards

    Mr. Lowry,

    First off, excellent article. We are a band in the infant stages and we just released our first album. We are looking to make an impact on our local market here in Dallas. We did some research and ran across your piece.

    This may seem ridiculous but would it be possible for you to Google our band, The Rhythm and Beards, as well as our album titled Texas Souls? I am curious to hear what you think about our online package thus far. Some members of our band have families and being that we are on the verge of wanting to hit the road, it would be encouraging to have feedback from someone such as yourself. If you have time it would be greatly appreciated and feel free to contact us with your thoughts and critiques.

    Many thanks,
    The Rhythm and Beards
    Therhythmandbeards@gmail.com

  • Tyler

    This is great, I am a booking agent myself and I have seen all of this.

  • Ken Frazier

    Well I must say I do like the article. Well thought out and precise. Although I dont like how much Facebook and social media gets hammered here. It is a useful tool, not the only one but useful.
    I suppose some other things got left out, but definitely people are not professional enough in this business. No one takes business courses and for some reason people with little education think the Music business is the place for the uneducated. Thats the military not the music Biz.
    However on the other hand there are no classes to take to learn the ropes, as it were and most bands, “in the know”, DO NOT share this information as it eliminates the competition if they dont know. So as far as people being unprofessional goes, very true. As far as no one helping younger talented artists goes, that is true too.

    • David Lowry

      Hey Ken,

      Thanks for reading it! I have to disagree though. There are college courses in most colleges today on the music business. There are seminars all over the country. There is plenty of ways to get education about the music business however, that isn’t fun so they won’t do it. This is all about drive and having such a burning passion for your art, that you will do anything it takes to have as good a chance as possible for success. If you have that, you have a chance. Most people love the idea of being a rock star, but not the drive it takes to actually achieve it.

  • codybreene

    Reblogged this on Giggity Blog and commented:
    Interesting take on local artists and mistakes they can avoid

  • Abie

    Thank you greatly Mr. Lowry! Reading this was a prefect guideline and helped in figuring out what my group wanted to do with our music career. This helped immensely!! Cheers!

  • Paul

    good article alot of truths in how to run your band like business, its seems however, as a direct blowback to the amount of groups expecting someone to come in and make their lives easier, original hard workin,to most over saturated local markets, groups potentially capable of getting something new and unique started in any market, are often overlooked and stuck competing with the approach and attitude in getting representation, that as the article states “In the industry, we can hire songwriters that have a proven track record, hire musicians to record it and make our own successful bands that we own completely and can control.” which brings us to the current state of music, and is why most mainstream music has zero substance,staying power or originality.. its no new reality if some corporate conglomerate pushes crap, the average listener will eat it..simply turn on clearchannel. artists un willing to compromise and take risks, as well as the industry as a whole ruled by profit margins and greed.as a result, theres a whole new generation of listeners suffering, while talented artists are rehashing past decades for ideas… a big vacuum why alot of musicians and working bands cant even get basic costs covered on tours, because there are a zillion bands willing to play for free,or who dont run their work like a business, wont compromise and are content being big fish in small ponds. let them eat cake it should take 20 years to be a overnite success, build credibility and a respected fanbase to where Mr. Lowry should come knocking on your door..then you can decide if you wanna answer it or not..remember history doesnt repeat itself it rhymes..look at the late 70s punk movement or the 90’s grunge, both scenes left the “industry” lost and confused trying to throw whatever at the wall to see what sticks.. nothing new today.. just a industry not willing to take chances. theres a whole roots americana movement thats doing awesome shit independently..heres an example.now i have to stop wasting time on fb and get back to what its meant for…blatent self promotion of my work..thanks and cheers! http://www.threelle.com/

    • David Lowry

      Paul,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I have to disagree though. Hiring musicians to put out a CD is a practice that been in place since the beginning. Most to the hits have been written by professional songwriters and they are hits for a reason. They connect with an audience which means that people felt the power of the lyrics or the music.

      Being an original artist, doesn’t make the artist more “real, authentic or less commercial.” Many times it just means they aren’t any good. Being a professional musician means you have the chops and ability to convey from your fingers or ears to your instruments your feelings, melodies etc…

      To say that music loses originality due to being a bad ass musicians is ridiculous. It is more likely to be original and feeling than not as they have a much bigger palate to create art from. To think otherwise is just another excuse from musicians that don’t practice their ass off to become the best at their craft they can be.

      Can great music come from less talented people? Sure it can. Does being able to be a hit songwriter, professional studio musician mean losing feeling or originality? Hell no. That is a cop out.

      What ever you chose to create, give it everything you have and don’t worry about the others are doing. Your goal is capture an audience with your art. There are many, many ways to do that.

      Good Luck!

      • Paul

        I agree and disagree, personally I dont care what others are doing artistcally, however to say that your only gonna get signed with a well formulated presskit and working 80% of the year independantly is not true.. did the sex pistols or malcolm mclaren follow this formula? no.. how well couldve Nirvana’s press kit looked?not to mention they were never near performing 80% of the year in their early years. the truth of the matter is when bands start to get signed its because of the general scene that has drawn interest from your type of services,and only then does it make successfull long lasting careers.. success in this industry more than ever today,is mostly who you know and being in the right place in the right time. for some that happens in a couple years for others it takes several. there are several artists and groups who do not make good music yet sell millions of units, hits are decided by listener groups and a&r reps and pushed by corporations to target markets and compartmentalized mostly of songs who’s names the common person wouldnt know the first thing beyond whatever its selling. so yes being original today does make the music more real. look at the careers of pink floyd or radiohead, or even the pixies.. today the industry does next to nothing to promote originality outside of “whats safe” to protect their investments hence is why the late 80s, early 90s are seen as the golden age of pop alternative music..after the massive seagram buyout of polygram and MCA resulted in a complete game change in the late 90’s mostly resulting as to why there is very little or next to no career band outside of a 2 yr window at most that doesnt dissipate like a fart in the wind..a great point of reference as to the industries ignorance would be wilcos yankee foxtrot hotel debacle, with warner.. so waiting for an industry rep or a a&r rep to give any artist validation is a complete waste of time if the artist is focused on how their work connects.. no im not saying badass musicianship looses originality.. but there are too many studio guys who know the rules musically and dont break them to make it interesting beyond a auto tune program or a vocoder, outta fear of keepin a regular check..(which today defines the basic difference between a songwriter and a musician). play live play everywhere play from your heart and make honest music, if you lack talent fill the void with tenacity..Damn the torpedo’s!! L.A. and nashville have figured out how to make hits they dont need any help..be very skeptical when they knock..

      • David Lowry

        Paul,

        No one said it was the only way. It is the more likely way and your using bands from God knows how long ago no longer apply. Labels aren’t sending A/R reps out looking for talent like they used to. So yes, what I have written is pretty much what you have to do. Can there be a chance at being discovered? Sure, but since less than 1% of all bands make it, I’d say take every opportunity to showcase yourself. You may not like it, but being professional will always look good.

        Where you agree or not doesn’t matter if you haven’t made it yourself as you have nothing to go by. It’s just another opinion. I write these blogs based on actual experience in dealing with labels, manages, booking agents, etc… I know what we are looking for and I know what they ask me to write about.

        Good luck with your music!

      • Paul

        the point refering to each of those bands was regarding- 2 points. they are 4 of the most original influential game changers across a wide range of genres, and they still have working careers with a backlog their labels can fallback on when they are gone. greatest hit best of records etc. They may seem strange to mention but what “new” groups currently can claim the same due to the current industry practices of churn out and forget? My main point is focus on your work and dont base your musical motivation on “getting signed” or reaching for a 1%’s brass ring. if your in a position to tour do it, one should immerse themselves in every faucet available in the industry, learn to run sound,record engineer your records and learn every current volume of “this business of music” theres alot of similarities in our discussion, however Im coming from the perspective of musician/songwriter who has been in signed bands, toured for decades (and still continues to do so as a livelihood independently) focus on your music not on getting people to watch you play music. the difference with music from say Jimi Hendrix’s era to todays? Hendrix or the doors, or the stones or even Hank Sr. could release anyone of their songs today and it would be probably more relevant and successful compared to the majority of hits being cranked out today. modern commercial music doesnt hold up against the test of time!! so focus focus focus on writing good songs not the flavor of the week to get noticed. the latter will come when you start to play . and be prepared to do it ALL INDEPENDENTLY expect nothing in return, or anyone to do it for you. from independent records to festivals,we are living in a modern era where the DYI movement is more than likely gonna overturn the symbiotic need for the current industry. possibly as a whole. firms like Lowry will always be of a good service depending on their own business models. getting signed wont matter in a decade unless the industry itself restructure internally. in the meantime dont have your rights to your work sold off to some bottom feeding & dying “hit Maker”. your right Mr. Lowry, it must be painfull the level of people submitting their work at the garage band level and this blog is a great start at behaving professionally..i do emphasize (I do take issue with dated EPK advice however, when one should save their money and find themselves a nice entertainment attorney lol) we both know most deals happen only after a conglomerate solicit’s the artist, and you certainly need you ducks in a row beyond a EPK if that happens. (you should write a whole blog on helping getting artists into that position as it may cut back on the amount of junk you guys receive?-just a thought), as opposed to telling them to watch their facebook time? lol none the less adorable. but the part about partying was spot on David! thank you for the thread, and the feedback.. its very rare a respectable firm as yours takes the time. Bonnie Raitt once confided to a group of us, her success was purely based on who she surrounded herself with. good healthy loving supporting people, when she did that, got clean everything changed. heres a great read as well as Mr. Lowrys-

        http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2013/09/25/lies

  • Dan

    Not to sound brash, but aren’t you know doing exactly what you told musicians not to do? Using a public forum, one that represents your business, to call out lazy and unproductive musicians? Seems a bit silly. As a musician, I can say that everything you said is common sense. You’re singling out a group of whining outliers to make yourself look like the good guy. My local promoter knows better than to book those bands, so why would you pay them your piece of mind?

    • David Lowry

      Dan,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! The answer is no. This blog is to point out the common sense things that wanna be musicians need to hear even though it should be obvious. This is how I can help those of you that can’t afford professional help. You can twist it anyway you want to but the reality is this. This blog hits about 95% of the musicians out there. It is not singling out a small segment of whiners. It is the majority of what we see every day in this business.

      If you already know all this, then great! I hope it pays off for you in your search for making it happen!

  • James Barney

    i am so fucking sick of people referring to every single unsigned artist as a “local artist” lmfao, Miley Cyrus is a local singer in hollywood, Bjork is a local artist in iceland, the lumineers are a local band in denver…. come on now, they arent a local artist unless they live NEAR YOU…. IE: LOCALLY

    • David Lowry

      James,

      Obviously you don’t understand why there are referred to as that. Local, regional and national artists are tagged based on their ability/demand to tour and what they are worth. If you are only playing locally because you aren’t in demand anywhere else and make less that say $500 a gig, you will always be termed locally. This is a polite way of saying, no one has ever heard of you.

      You may not like it, but it helps the business people make decisions about whom to bring in and what to pay them.

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