There is often argument about what defines success for emerging artists, whether that’s playing sold out shows, the number of streams or followers you have, or maybe it’s something completely different. For some artists, they believe they’ve achieved success by being signed by a record label.

In this week’s 321 Artists Meets, we’re speaking to Nikki Camilleri, Global Head of Scouting and A&R Manager UK at Believe. Working within A&R, means it is Nikki’s responsibility to discover artists who may be appropriate to release on a variety of deals from distribution through to independent record deals.

Considering there are thousands of emerging artists across the country, it can be very overwhelming for these record labels to ensure they are finding the strongest music. It is very important for emerging artists not to rush into pitching their music to record labels, there are a lot of aspects that need to be considered.

Nikki: There isn’t a box standard ‘right time’ for artists to submit their music to a distributor or artist services company. It’s really about the personal journey you are on which is a totally unique experience to other artists in your field. It’s worth spending your energy on building your repertoire, quality assets and any other element which is crucial to your sound, be it live or otherwise, to a level you are truly happy and confident with. Once you’ve nailed that, in my opinion it’s the right time to be reaching out to companies. We’ve had a myriad of acts reach out sometimes directly themselves or via a manager or lawyer… sometimes even via their PR agency or simply a contact. For newer artists who may worry about whether it would be more professional to reach out via a manager… I wouldn’t worry too much about that! If you’re unmanaged and just starting out your journey you’re likely looking for your first opp in the digital distribution world and the music, content and bigger picture are what is more important, at least by my standards.

Preparing yourself, your music and your assets to be pitched to a label is an ongoing process, and is not something that should be rushed. When you are pitching to labels, you need to ensure that all your assets and social media should be the strongest they can be.

Nikki: When pitching to labels and distributors I think it’s important to keep your emails short and to the point since the person you’re sending them to likely gets so many each and every day. I would say the crucial things to include are: A single private link with your music on it as opposed to several, the highlights of your journey so far (ie any press, radio, important shows, digital campaigns or anything which is exciting), who your team are if you have one and what you are looking for from a digital partner. This last point is often overlooked and bands or acts have no idea whether they need a distributor or are looking for a record deal. It’s really important to do your homework here, understand the different options available and be able to identify what would truly make sense for you at your current stage as well as what aligns with your goals and values. That ensures you’re reaching out to the right people!

The type of agreements you can have with a record label have changed dramatically in the past decades, and the role of the record label is changing. It has been argued that the importance of being signed for an artist is declining, and it’s something that artists are delaying.

Nikki: I would say record deals are definitely something artists are thinking twice about and perhaps even delaying taking on compared to previous generations who more heavily relied on being signed to a label in a time when the DIY mentality and the independent sector were not as thriving. That being said, I think the role of a label will never lose its value but like everything else it’s about finding the right label and a truly good team for you whatever form that may come in. DIY artists today are forming their own ‘virtual labels’ through selecting their team members across companies/ freelance individuals but if you’ve got an ideal team all in one place who get your vision and work well with you etc... why knock it? Due to the changes in deal types and service levels we see, what I like to divide into three levels: distribution, artist services and record deals. Within each of those you find sub sections but what is certain is that it’s made it possible for a lot more artists to ‘sign’ a deal or find a digital partner! Taking a simplified example: a distribution deal nowadays has a much shorter term than a record deal (in line with the other terms of the deal and service level) and this echos artists desire for flexibility. You see a lot more ‘switched on’ artists nowadays who are actively taking an interest in the business side, their deals and being an active force in their growth and journey. I think this is so positive as it means artists are more aware of the deals they are signing and I think as a direct result deals have changed to be more artist friendly and take their wants and needs into consideration!

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