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Is your first contract all you have been waiting for?

So many musicians dream about getting a recording contract, also known as a record deal. It seems like the ultimate target; the goal that when you reach it, life will forevermore be the ultimate musical heaven...

So many musicians dream about getting a recording contract, also known as a record deal. It seems like the ultimate target; the goal that when you reach it, life will forevermore be the ultimate musical heaven.

Reality check...

If you could look back at the sales charts, or even radio play charts, from five years ago, you would see many names of artists and bands that you recognize, and you might wonder where they are now. What happened to them?

The answer is that they once were in the position of signing their first recording contract. They made a couple of records, they even charted. But now the industry doesn't want them any more. These people are now back doing ordinary jobs. They had their chance in the music business, and they didn't make it.

So, signing a contract isn't success, even getting a record in the charts isn't a success. There are in fact three ways you can succeed...

  • Get a deal, have a runaway chart success, bank all the money then quit.
  • Have a string of chart hits - enough to establish you in the 'Rolling Stones' category of success.
  • Work at a lower level of the industry, for smaller labels. Use the money you make to support you so you can continue making music as long as you want.

As musicians, we understand well the purpose of the demo tape or CD. We know it is like a lottery ticket. When your number comes up, you get your record deal. But that in itself is like another game of chance. The record label will sign a number of artists and bands. Probably out of every ten signings, seven will not earn enough money to pay back their costs, two will just about break even, and the one success will pay for all the rest.

And so that one successful artist or band gets to continue a while longer, while the other nine get kicked back out on the street.

Of course it's tough. But that will make success all the sweeter when you can truly say you've made it.

By David Mellor Monday March 20, 2006