Submissions to Record Labels:
It's Music to Every Garage Band's Ears
© 2001 Bruce Shutan. All rights reserved
submissions of demos to record companies represent a powerful new
model for empowering aspiring musicians at a time when the music industry
is discovering that it no longer can thrive - much less survive -
by conducting business as usual. Especially in an increasingly uncertain
some of the most recent developments to rock the industry:
a Web site created in late 1999 and subsidiary of Universal Music
Group, has discovered and signed half a dozen artists to its record
label with the help of rabid music fans. The site includes comprehensive
information about unsigned artists who found their way onto the
Digital, the DreamWorks SKG record label, has been accepting
digital submissions since last July - albeit from U.S. musicians
only. While the label still hasn't signed anyone, enthusiasm is
running high among record company representatives about the promise
of this new technology.
co-founded in September 1999 by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs
along with Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads, offers $250,000
recording contracts based on the public's response to original material
that's posted on the company's Web site in the MP3 format. Rivals
include MP3.com, RollingStone.com and Riffage.com.
a related move, the Hard Rock
Café last year announced plans to use the Internet to
promote unknown artists that perform at the restaurant chain. The
effort involves a partnership with Microsoft Corp. and talks with
five major record labels.
of this discovery process no doubt holds great promise for musicians
everywhere, as the Internet fuels the music industry's democratization.
Music execs finally appear to be waking up and smelling the coffee.
Luke Wood of DreamWorks recently was quoted as saying "we should
be communicating with musicians the way they're communicating with
each other." DreamWorks Digital A&R even indicated that it
"plans to showcase selected submissions and may stream some of
them in a radio-style Web cast."
you were to ask virtually any musician about his real goal,"
according to the Garageband.com Web site, "it would have little
to do with a computer in the garage or distributed MP3 files. No,
the badge of achievement, the objective that drives almost every musician,
is to be signed to a recording contract. This is the first and essential
step on the boulevard of dreams."
the path to cyber success involves three simple steps. Musicians are
asked to fill out an artist profile, accept the terms of the label's
submission agreement and upload a track in the MP3 format. One song
submission per artist is permitted within a three-month period, after
which time an e-mail confirmation notice is sent out upon registration
also are familiar pleas from the offline world to remind aspiring
musicians not to get their hopes up. In the most benign reminder,
DreamWorks Records asks that musicians not inquire about the status
of their submissions. Other statements aren't quite so subtle: "Don't
just submit a song to DreamWorks and wait for the limo driver to ring
your bell with a recording contract," Web site visitors are told.
"We are excited about this opportunity to get more music from
developing talent, but we can't encourage you enough to pursue every
avenue of promotion for your music."
town, Farmclub.com - founded by Jimmy Iovine, co-chairman of Interscope
Geffen A&M, and Doug Morris, chairman and CEO of Universal Music
Group - has been lauded for serving as "the first true interface
of a record label with TV and the Internet." Matt Pinfield and
Ali Landry host the site's weekly music television series, shown Fridays
at 11 p.m., Saturdays at Midnight and Monday at 3 a.m. on the USA
site offers both unsigned and well-known artists the chance to reach
a worldwide audience by uploading their music and videos. The company's
online record label signs, develops and promotes artists whose music
is distributed via Universal Music Group. Label signings include Sonique,
Fisher, Dynamite Hack, SEV, Bionic Jive and Alley Life.
Garageband.com, Farmclub.com artists are discovered by ordinary music
fans who review thousands of acts that have uploaded their music and
vote for their favorite bands. The ultimate reward: Top vote getters
appear on the TV show.
started by Tom Zito and Amanda Lathroum, features legendary Beatles'
producer Sir George Martin as chairman of its distinguished advisory
board, which includes other record producers and engineers from Brian
Eno to Steve Earle.
a band based in Little Rock, Ark., were the first to earn a recording
contract from Garageband.com - winning the big prize for their song,
"Carbon or Gold." The group last year began recording with
producer Jim Dickinson, who played keyboards for the Rolling Stones
and Aretha Franklin and sits on the company's advisory board.
than a million song reviews have been processed on the site through
the power of online audience aggregation. Every two months, the site's
top-ranked bands compete for the coveted prize. Unsigned bands from
anywhere in the world are invited to upload a track of original material
at no cost. Expert advice also is offered for those who click onto
a getsigned.com link.
the Brave New World of digital submissions certainly changes the rules
of the fame game, progress may not be nearly as lightening fast as
to a DreamWorks Digital surfer's bulletin board question about whether
or not anyone had been signed to the label, a record label A&R
rep posted the following reply last September: "We have contacted
several artists and are really excited about the submissions. Nobody
discovered solely though DW Digital A&R has been signed yet but
we are moving toward that place. Remember that the site has only been
up for two months and an artist getting to know a label and a label
getting to know an artist is an arduous process. We hope to highlight
several of the submissions soon so you can hear what is connecting
with DreamWorks A&R."
then, there have been no further bulletin board postings about actual
artist signings. But stay tuned. You'll probably be hearing much more
about this development in the future.
the Author: Bruce Shutan, an L.A.-based freelance writer, has been
playing drums since 1970. firstname.lastname@example.org