Making it in Music as an Unsigned Artist

Up until recently it has been systematically and virtually impossible to “break through” in the music business/industry as an unsigned artist, due to the simple fact that the competition owned the airwaves. If an artist did not have significant resources to,

  1. Tour,
  2. Solicit radio stations and DJ pools to play, or at least listen to the artist(s) best single,
  3. Send media packets to 2,000 different executives,
  4. Print, Press and Release at least 20,000 units,
  5. Hire a team of Promoters, Managers and Lawyers,

well, then the artist(s) would starve. In my eyes it is a starvation tactic used by those who have no real talent(s), except owning money, and perhaps knowing how to keep it, to ensure that new artists, or new competition could not succeed against their current investment(s). Unless of course, an artist signed with their label, then you were worthy of roughly 20% of your earnings due to the above mentioned “necessary costs.”


Antone’s in Austin Texas

Perhaps my opinion is too dark or jaded, and there is no sinister plan to keep anyone poor. However, in my experience on this earth, there have been, but a rare few, talented musicians who have read contracts and said, “No Thanks – Your offer is for X number of songs and albums, and if that is not met the Contract is void, thus making your offer a loan on performance.”

Any request to sign an Intent to Sign Contract document, which is usually laid out on a bar room table after a performance by a peppy A&R from a large label, will be the first step in the wrong direction when first introduced to a “major” as they call themselves. This is a document that will not allow you to sign with another label, yet you are not officially signed with the initiating label, until further discussion(s) and terms are agreed. Therefore, locking the artist(s) in with the initiating label under the label’s terms or no legal ability to sign with another label at all.


And welcome to the beautiful age of the internet where just about anything can earn money. Here are a few simple steps that might help the unsigned artist remain Independent, create content that is pleasing and personifies the art of Music, but for everyone else there is YouTube. With all kidding aside, now that Google is reporting their YouTube video plays to Billboard, the unsigned or unsponsored artist with a video can finally get their claim to fame.

Here is How:

  1. Register with ASCAP, SESAC, OR BMI, whom are copyright agencies which protect the artist(s) media, likeness and image.
  2. If you have existing video(s) on YouTube, ensure that your licensing agency has the proper record of them. (Search for song title, artist name and use quotation marks around exact words or lyrics to find works using Google.)
  3. Contact a local Public Relations firm for a Media Consultation to help guide the artist(s) image into the next big thing, OR
  4. Get creative and put good music to graphically stimulating material… Film real life.
  5. Invest in radio quality Mixing and Mastering (This is not a requirement, but will help in getting more listeners/viewers and retain them to your song/video)
  6. As always in marketing, find a catchy slogan or jingle and repeat. If you can picture a 13 year old child singing your lyrics you might likely have a hit.

The dance craze of YouTube is revolutionizing the Music Industry and it is important to stay current on recent changes that might affect the wallet of today’s artist(s).



Taken in full from Lee West’s article from Focusing In on Making it in Music as an Unsigned Artist