by Cari Cole
Those of you who know a bit about me, know that before I became a celebrity vocal coach and the CEO of a 7 figure music company, I was an artist. I started playing classical guitar and flute at 6, wrote my first song at 7, played the folk circuit, joined a rock band, studied jazz and composition in music school, got courted by industry, but didn’t really find myself or get signed until I was 40. Yep. That’s how the cookie crumbled. And I know that the reason I have a successful business in music serving artists is because of that history, and because I know what artists want and what they need (that no one else is helping them with – and it’s not marketing (eye roll… ;))
I wanted to share that history with you so that you know where I’m coming from and that I made a ton of mistakes along the way that I learned from, and ultimately, can save you from. I think that’s why I’m so passionate about helping artists, because it took me forever to get there and by that time I was kinda past the wanting to jump on a bus and tour phase even though we still sold a ton of records (over 40,000 to be exact) and I made the record of my dreams ;).
But I did a lot to get there. And I want to share it with you.
Here’s the 6 Things I Did To Get A Record Deal – and I hope it helps you either get a deal or grow your own music and be hugely successful with it.
1. I Didn’t Try to Get a Deal
Trying to get a record deal — that’s the kiss of death for any artist. Don’t ever try to get a record deal, try to make the best music you possibly can under the sun. Risk everything for that one goal. The number 1 reason you get a deal (which the industry, or music marketers won’t tell you) is because of the music. It’s absolutely not because of how many followers you have, or how smart you are at marketing – no matter what anyone says. It really is a result of how good the music is. So straight away, know that to be true. But making the best music I could, was not a simple task. I pulled out all of the possible stops and took some big risks. I closed down my business in the height of making a quarter of a million a year and basically shut down a very successful vocal studio practice (in 2000) just to find my art? At 40 years old? That took a lot of courage. I got there with a lot of urging and support from those around me who believed in me, or I don’t think I would have done it. It takes a village.
Action step: Commit to becoming the best artist you can be. If you really want to be the best artist you can be then do it every day. We are a sum total of what we do every day. If you’re looking for some high level professional accountability – see the invitation at the bottom of this article…
2. I Put Blinders On
I shut everything else out but the quest of my music – period. It was like I had actual blinders on. My friends and family basically never heard from me. I lived in a cave inside my head and inside my studio. Initially, I took the summer off to find myself first. I read, went to movies, thought a lot, reflected on where I was in my life, what I wanted to say. I went in search of that – what I wanted to say. I look for it in everything I read, felt and discussed with myself and friends. And then boom. I read The Four Agreements and I heard the music.
Action step: What are the ways you can cut back on extra distractions to commit to your music? Do friends, family or hobbies pull you away from your music? What can you cut back on to devote more time to finding your music?
3. I Was Certifiably Possessed for Eighteen Months
I basically locked myself in my studio from sun up to sundown 5-6 days a week for 10-14 hours for a little over a year. More like 18 months to be exact. I became obsessed with creating an album of material that expressed the epiphanies I was feeling. I labored tirelessly over every single word, over every note, every turn of every phrase, every chord, and ultimately every song… until they reflected what heard them in my head. It took a lot of focus, dedication, but I was actually possessed by it. It was the single most important thing in the world to me. My then husband would say goodbye on his way out the door in the morning to work and come home with me still in my p.j.’s writing and singing away. It was like someone turned on a faucet that I couldn’t turn off (and didn’t want to.)
Action step: Don’t freak out. Just because you don’t have a whole year to dedicate to your music right now and you have to work, just think about this for a little bit. Start small. As I said in my last blog, this was a seed that was planted that actually took 6 months to really take root. Start with thinking about where can you carve time that you might not be thinking of right now? Maybe you need some reflection time first? To think about the project – find what you want to say? (Hint: that seeds the whole thing right there….)
4. I Made Demos That Were Like Records
To this day, the single most important thing I did that got me that deal was to make demos that were like records. When I started demoing, I had a basic understanding of Pro Tools (I’d been recording my students and myself for quite some time) but I wasn’t amazing at it. I got so much better as I did it day in day out. I became really good at it actually. It’s all about using your ears to create something that sounds really freaking good with no distortion (unless that’s your thing.) Anyhoo, I made demos that made the hair on my arms literally stand up. I wanted them to energetically blow people away. I made sure the vocal was incredible (not just good.) I poured my heart and soul into them like I was making a record. It was really a selfish thing — I wanted to sound that good. So I wasn’t afraid to spend loads of time on them – and it paid off bigtime. Cause it was those demos that blew away the publisher of The Four Agreements so much that she offered me a record deal.
Action step: Spend time on your demos. Become good at recording at home. Make your demos really stand out. Don’t send scratch vocals to anyone no matter how much they tell you they are used to listening to “rough stuff.” Be ahead of them. It will pay off bigtime. It did for me and it can for you ;).
5. I Made the Music I Wanted to Hear (And Said No to Trends, But Wasn’t Indulgent —- There’s a Difference…)
By the time I made my first record (at 40 years old) I had a lot of experience in the industry. I had produced 5 records and a gazillion demos. I had listened to virtually a plethora of musical styles and studied everything from folk to jazz to rock to gospel and blues. So I wasn’t a novice. But I knew in my heart that I had to let all of my training go, as well as all of my preconceived notions of what I thought I should sound like to find my own sound. Let’s just say, it was quite a process. Not without difficulties. I finally caved to the subject matter and the kind of record I knew the audience of The Four Agreements would like and it gave me strength. Cause actually, it was me. I couldn’t just do it for me, I had to do it for them if that makes sense? It was easier that way. And I was being totally true to myself, actually truer than I had ever been. So during the making of the record, I didn’t listen to any other music. I tuned out so I could tune in. It helped me say “no” to trends and find the music was waiting inside to be born.
Action step: Have the courage to be yourself. Know music, know the trends, but don’t follow them – instead go where there is no path and leave a trail.” It’s the only chance you have at really standing out ;).
6. I Gave The Demo’s to Everyone I Could Find, for Free
When I made my record in the year 2000, that was before music was basically “free.” But since I had I had labored and toiled for 18 months straight over a record that I was so freaking proud of — my motivation was purely aesthetic. I wanted everyone to have it.
I didn’t care that I had spent $20,000 and 2 years of my life making it – I made if for a purpose. To prove to myself I could do it and do it on a high level, and for people. To help them, to heal them, to heal me, to help us grow. And as a result of that generosity, it grew the community of people who loved it so much that on 9/11 one of the supporters literally called the publisher of The Four Agreements telling her that my music needed to get out to the world. And as a result of that phone call, on that day, I got a record deal.
But, the message stands today. There was a hip hop group years ago that made the cover of Billboard Magazine that gave away their music for free for 2 years (at a time when people were still buying music.) They grew such loyal fans that they became superstars as a result of it. They grew together – fans and artists.
Action step: Don’t try to sell your music. In the words of Sting “if you love someone, set them free.” Give away your music so people can get to know you. Be generous. Do it for the love of it – and maybe it will come back to you. And if it doesn’t, you’ll know you gave everything you had and can live with that artistic satisfaction – which is more than someone who is doing it for commerce can ever say ;). But I bet —- if you really make a record that has your hard won sweat and blood in it — and you did it the way we show you how (if you need help come see us, we have free consults) — it will pay off in spades (and hearts and diamonds.)
For those of you that are seriously ready to do this – for real – and become the artist of your life — click here for Step 1 on our 3 Step Up process. By joining our community and getting that kind of pro level unlimited support in making your career happen, you get VIP Lifetime Access every year for free, with all of the perks, just like you bought it new – forever ;). Yep, that’s our global commitment to artists everywhere. And the technology you’ll find in our programs? You won’t find anywhere else, because no one seems to think it’s that important (but we know better!) And it’s not just our opinion, but the opinions of thousands of Alumni. Click here to read what they say.