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Saving on A&R · Thursday November 06, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Record labels are finding A&R so expensive these days that they are having to save money by asking the artists to come to them – and encouraging them to do so by portraying it as competition with a worthwhile prize.

An example of such a competition is Orange Unsigned Act.

What’s the prize for the best act?

3.6.3.The prize for the winning Artist shall be an artist recording agreement accompanied by a promotional campaign by Sony Ericsson / Orange.

Wow! Instead of any monetary award, the band gets the option to sign away their future output and artistic freedom to a record label, and that’s not all – if they sign, they get an advance (aka an interest free loan).

If the winning artist is inclined to go for what appears to be a big money prize, they should be aware that if they don’t sustain the popular appeal (who needs talent?) they appeared to have and fail to encourage enough of their fans to buy copies of their works retailed by the label (instead of downloading them from file-sharing sites), they’ll end up having to repay all of that advance and more back to the label.

Meanwhile all those ‘runner up’ unsigned acts, still record label virgins (having obtained all their knowledge of the recording industry from books about how it worked so well for great bands of the sixties and seventies), will try harder next year (apart from those invited to sign anyway – a day after the competition closes).

Things have changed.

Recommended reading list for unsigned acts:

It may be fine to win the prize for the best unsigned act for its promotional benefit, but whatever you do DON’T SIGN! Remain unsigned and sell your music directly to your audience. Ask yourself why you need a very expensive label to pay radio stations to play your music and to produce millions of CDs for sale in shops. Leave promotion and distribution to your audience – even the labels recognise that a musician’s audience is their biggest competitor – that’s why they keep on prosecuting it for infringing upon their monopoly.





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