So you think you’re a musician? Here’s how to get that record deal

Trenton Birch (L), from NGO Bridges for Music, speaks to Sony Music label managers Nqobile Mnisi and Pheko Kgengoe (R) about how new artists can get the attention of record companies, at Soweto Kliptown Youth community centre on 8 February 2015. Photo: eNCA
The only female DJ in the room, Lebo, asks the guys from Sony Music how to break through the male-dominated industry, at the Bridges for Music workshop at the Soweto Kliptown Youth community centre on 8 February 2015. Photo: eNCA

JOHANNESBURG - Sony Music label managers Nqobile Mnisi and Pheko Kgengoe broke down how you can get your music and your brand more exposure at a workshop in Soweto on Sunday.

Leading the couch session was Africa Director for non-profit organisation Bridges For Music, Trenton Birch.

The free workshop held at Soweto Kliptown Youth Community Centre was part of a charity tour to raise money for a media school in Langa, Cape Town.

The guys from Sony deal mainly with house and urban sounds. They explained that in the South African industry getting your music on television is the best way to increase your exposure.

“You’ll reach those who aren’t listening to the radio,” explained Kgengoe.

eNCA.com presents you, the aspiring future Grammy winner and festival headliner, the simple steps to getting your music in the hands of the labels – and, perhaps more importantly, listened to.

Use what is at your disposal

“In this (music industry) game it’s all about numbers,” explained Mnisi.

“Just make sure you get them legitimately," because buying fans or likes is widely frowned upon and won't do you any favours if you get found out.

While it is difficult to show popularity when you’re starting out, there are free tools and platforms with which you can create awareness about your product.
Social media is a powerful tool and it is very useful for promoting yourself as an artist.

When the time comes to approach a label, you should have something to show for yourself.

How many plays and downloads have your tracks had on Soundcloud (a popular music hosting platform) or YouTube? Are you building a following on Facebook? This creates the impression that you work hard and aren’t waiting for someone else to build your brand.

“Get your sh*t together”

Packaging matters, and there’s no two ways about that.

Don’t think for a second that your unlabelled CD-R is going to make it past reception.

“Your demo must look good enough to listen to,” said the guys from Sony Music. 

Make sure your contact information is clear, and the links to your profiles, fan pages, and music are included.

The International Standard Recording Code is most important

The ISRC is the international standard for identifying songs and music videos. 
According to isrc.ifpi.org the code is permanent and, it “remains a fixed point of reference when the recording is used across different services, across borders, or under different licensing deals.”

Keep your music video simple, but in the right format

Remember the music video is a tool to sell your music. Don’t pour funds into producing the next Hollywood blockbuster if your track isn’t that good. Be realistic.

Television stations have preferences with regard to what format you submit your video. Most require High Definition quality, with varying dimensions.
Kgengoe says many have moved away from wanting videos delivered on beta tape (an old analogue format). Which is a break for upstarts, as getting your digital file onto tape used to be a cumbersome task for amateur filmmakers.

Do your research

The Sony Music label managers suggest you do your research. There is usually one person who receives demos, be sure to call the offices and ask for the details of that person.

If you get a positive response from the listening team, you can begin to think about which deal you may be offered.

Sony gives new artists a variety of deals. You could set your sights on a single, record, joint-venture or licensing deal.

Don't let the boys' club get you down

The only female DJ in the room asked how to break through the male-dominated industry. Mnisi urged her to realise everyone can bring something unique to the table.

“Don't underestimate your value,” he said.

Make yourself stand out from the rest, whether it be in your look, your sound or even develop a signature performance style.

eNCA

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