Record labels don’t want to sign your band because the odds are your band is fucking stupid. I know that’s really mean and some of you might feel ‘triggered’ but that’s the cold hard truth. Every day I hear about how a different has screwed over a PR friend, or how a manager has to deal with a different clusterfuck from someone in a group who doesn’t know the industry as well as they do. That’s just a fact of life in this world unfortunately. The thing is – those are people who the bands pay – so it makes sense in a way that they do things this way. Managers and PR people and the like are there to help artists out and in many cases teach them how to be better at their jobs that’s why they are paid. Record labels are investing money into an artist who they have no guarantee are not crazy. Even people who seem totally reasonable on the hone or in contract negotiations can see things go south really quickly – and so labels become hesitant.
Record labels don’t want to sign your band because they, like me, have seen bands time and time again go from being ‘so stoked about the label and the bands’ to not wanting to wok with any of the labels bands or engage in any of the cross promotional activites that a label might expect of its bands. They see bands acting entitled and not doing what they need to do to sell a maximum number of copies – be it with not promoting their bandcamp properly or failing to pay their PR guy. Labels, at least serious ones, don’t really care about your weird ideas of what makes a ‘true artist’ if it’s preventing you from selling copies. Labels need to make money so they can keep supporting the community, and if you are acting too entitled to give back to the label after they make an investment in you then people are going to be frustrated and wonder why they even wanted to work with you in the first place. That’s not a good thing.
Now – this might not be your band. Your band might be perfectly lovely and dedicated people. They might be the kind of people who have dedicated their lives to the music and understand the complicated process of putting out a record. More power to you. Hopefully a label will notice then. The issue is that far too often labels have been burned. A band who promised heavy touring and lots of PR will suddenly back out because of a conversation with their wives about time spent at home and money. A band who you thought would sell a lot of copies because of a celebrity member ends up kicking that member out of the band. Hell – maybe the band pays for PR but they are dicks in interviews and don’t give the PR person the materials they need in order to run an effective campaign. These are all things that slow and frustrate the process of labels trying to put out music and it’s what makes it so hard for these things to truly work out in the end.
This is part of why it’s important to have a manager with a good reputation and experience in the industry. It gives record labels a certain measure of trust in you since they know there is a more experienced and probably more reasonable figure sitting down to help things run a bit more smoothly. It holds someone who is responsible for a lot more than just your own career accountable and means that you are going to have a bit more luck. Even if the label doesn’t know your manager if they see that you’re working with someone serious they are going to be more likely to trust you. Hell – even if you have a really solid booking agent you will be able to get moving in a positive direction. You just need someone to make the connection who is already in with the labels because frankly, it’s not worth it to them to take that risk time and time again. Maybe they’ll do it if your music is that good – but they need an outside perspective backing that.
So think about this for a second from the record labels perspective, because I assure you this is how it works. Imagine getting several hundred emails a day from bands who you can be fairly confident will dick you over, not necessarily because they are shitty people but almost certainly because they are ignorant. You have to sift through these hundreds of emails in order to find the two or three bands who might actually be easy to work with and make you a reasonable amount of money to justify the massive investment that you dump into them. That’s insane right? So doesn’t it make more sense to just go with the bands that your buddies who you know to be reliable and smart recommend you to check out? As a label their goal is to put out good music and make money – those goals can be in line with each other but you need to be clear about it. You need to realize that in the end labels have no reason to trust you, no matter how much you speak with them.
So yeah – labels probably never will sign you. I know that sucks but that’s just the way of the world. It’s hard to con people into trusting you enough to want to invest record label money into you. It’s hard to fight the fight you believe to be right when you also want to keep being able to give money to other cool bands. Remember, no good label is all about one band, they are trying to cultivate a roster that works for them – you can’t just assume you will be their key focus, and so many of these labels fall apart and find themselves lost and frustrated – wondering what they need to do to reach the next step of a nightmarish process.