A record label can start off small, selling really niche music (metal, indie hip-hop, etc.), and then land an artist who changes everything. The history of most record labels is fascinating.
- Be careful when you offer to double an artist home on your bicycle in lieu of a cab or limo; make sure they have a sense of humour first.
- Being hard-working isn’t what is necessarily going to get you hired. Being hard-working and ‘cool’ likely will. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve felt relatively cool; sadly, they weren’t when I was interning.
- Interns get the shit jobs everywhere, and they work for free. They are a huge asset, so treat them that way. Yes, I know that some industries are super-cool and hip, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t respect people who care so much about the work you do that they will work for free. You don’t have to hire them, but you do have to treat them with respect. I was lucky that I was treated pretty well.
- Let’s say you finish your internship, and you feel like you worked really hard, and then you don’t get hired. Say thanks for the experience and move on. Don’t blog about how shitty it was, and how you deserved the job. Trust me. I learned this from experience. And if you DO blog about it, have the stones to apologize, and really mean it. I did that too, and it earned back a lot of respect that I had lost.
- Your unsolicited demo will definitely end up in a box under the stairs, or in the garbage. Unless you have a good manager, don’t even bother sending demos to labels unsolicited. Build a local buzz, and be really, really good. Make sure you have a clear niche without being derivative. There is only one Sarah McLachlan/Nickleback/Incubus/B.B. King/Eminem/Mariah Carey/Coldplay/Adele/Iron and Wine, and they are better at what they do than you. Quit copying and do you.
- Don’t put garbage frills in your demo. Nobody wants your t-shirt or glitter or whatever. Just make a good record.
- Merchandise, when managed well, can make a record label tons of money; more than the actual records in many cases. Honestly, tour management, merch, and publishing basically subsidize the cost of putting out most of a label’s records. So if you get signed to a label, they are almost doing charity work until you have something they can really monetize.
- Nobody is as successful as you think they are, with the exception of the top 0.00001%. I know Multi-platinum selling artists who live hand-to-mouth in tiny bachelor apartments.
- A record label can start off small, selling really niche music (metal, indie hip-hop, etc.), and then land an artist who changes everything. The history of most record labels is fascinating. You can trace Arista Records back from Colpix, Colgem, and Bell Records (from “Blue Moon” and “The Letter” to “I Will Always Love You” and “Sk8tr Boi“), or Nettwerk Records back to its Skinny Puppy Days (before Sarah McLachlan).
- The music business has very little to do with music these days. It is formula, marketing, merchandise, advertising, live sales, fashion, and a thousand other elements. That’s why we are all so pleasantly surprised when a ‘real artist’ breaks through. It seems almost contrary to the way the business works.