"How To Land A Record Deal: Plus, An Exclusive Interview With Jimmy
Warford here, Editorial Manager for Guitar Tips.
this: You're backstage preparing for the biggest show of your life. Your guitar
tech passes you your favorite custom guitar and wishes you the best of luck. You
meet up with the rest of your band mates and get into a huddle and share your
your manager comes over and yells, "Show time." You all walk to the back of the
stage and try to remember where all of the pyrotechnics placed the explosives so
you don't end up standing on one. You start to run towards the stage and the
thousands upon thousands of fans that await you.
that's your dream, it all starts with one thing that musicians like to call a
record deal. Getting your band or yourself known isn't particularly easy
sometimes but it does start with getting your music out there. The music
business is one of the hardest yet most rewarding careers you could choose to go
are many steps and procedures to go through and we're here to tell you about it.
We can't cover everything but we can give you the big picture. To illustrate the
life of a professional musician, we had an exclusive interview with one of the
best: Jimmy Bruno. He's known as the Yngwie Malmsteen of the Jazz world
(Guitar World Magazine) and has extensive experience with recording. With
that in mind, let's see what else is in this week's newsletter.
In this edition:
how to ride the rollercoaster life of a musician without having to use a doggy
bag. We'll show you the general outline of record companies and how to get in
contact with the right people.
totally excited to have an exclusive interview with Jimmy Bruno that will bring
you new insight into the world of a professional musician. Jimmy Bruno has
recorded many albums and is known as one of the best jazz musicians around. A
week before I contacted him I just finished reading a Guitar One Magazine where
he was the featured instructor, pretty cool stuff! Hear his insightful thoughts
on recording as well as the jazz world.
you've wanted to dig deeper into the theory behind the music, we have a great
site for you to check out.
have a great feedback booth this week where you can see what your fellow
subscribers are thinking.
right to it!
Living Life On The Edge
Do you have what it takes?
back to our childhoods, we have all dreamt of becoming a world famous guitarist
and selling millions of records at some point in our lives. However, when we
were old enough to understand that it wasn't as simple as we originally thought,
many of us gave up.
true, record companies aren't particularly nice and they do tend to hurt
people's feelings. It's a dog eat dog world out there and sometimes it's not
what you know rather who you know. Don't lose all hope yet, there are plenty of
little tricks that will help you out and get you where you need to be.
time, perseverance, and a lot of talent to get into the music business as a
career but it's been done time and time again. Having the right attitude can be
half the battle sometimes, so we're going to set you straight before we begin...
Hold on tight!
- If making money is
your objective, then you need to reevaluate your motives before you decide to
pursue a record contract because it might be a little while before you see any
of the green stuff (more to come on that later.)
- Are you made of
the right stuff? Not every musician is suited for this industry. There are
plenty of other options such as home recording or renting studio time. You may
want to run your own show and contracts with larger labels restrict what you can
and can't do. The truth is you can be extremely successful on your own but
you're going to have to work a lot harder.
- Don't think you're
the best in the world and that they can't live without you. The truth is, these
labels literally see thousands of bands and people like yourself every year.
Coming across as confident and well put together will be the selling point to
the executives who take a look at you. Arrogance will be a one-way ticket to
playing local battle of the bands for the rest of your life.
- Talent is a key
point that you will want to focus on and I can't emphasize it enough. Take the
time to perfect your songs and make them flawless. Whether you're a soloist or
in a band, you need to know what you are doing. Just because you don't sound
that great now doesn't mean you won't in a few years time but it does mean that
you shouldn't be knocking on the door of EMI records asking them for a deal. You
don't want to make a fool of yourself this early in the game because at some
point when you're truly are ready for the public eye, they'll look at your
previous history and write you off.
Where to get started:
put together a band, or start playing an instrument for that matter, you don't
practice in your garage or living room for two years and then go to a record
label, get signed and head out on tour in five months. What you need to do is
practice in your garage or living room for two years, while getting a reputation
in your community.
smaller stuff is where you lay your foundation and it can determine your future
success. Once you have your act down, head out into your local community. Play
wherever you can get access to. Local charity fundraisers, battle of the bands,
clubs, bars, dances, and coffee houses are all great places to start.
live in a bigger city where there are tonnes of bands around every corner,
collaborate with them and see if some of the more experienced bands would be
interested in letting you open up a show for them.
live in a more rural setting, take the initiative and see if you can get
permission to set up in a public place like a parking lot or local park where
you will be noticed. Play your set a couple of times through and enjoy yourself.
Then start to look for organizations that need musical entertainment and offer
to do it for free. This builds a strong relationship between you, that
organization and the owners of the venue in which you will be playing.
you do a couple of freebies and get noticed, it's time to look at getting some
financial reward. Don't get too excited, you're not living the life of the rich
and famous yet. You're going to need this money to invest in the process.
Packaging you or your band:
really start to get a strong local fan base, they're going to want to hear your
music more and more. This would be a good time to rent a recording studio and
record a demo CD. A demo CD has roughly 3 songs on it and is used for
promotional purposes. It's a great tool to feed your hungry fans with your music
as well as show record executives what you're all about.
will vary depending on the company. If you're into recording, you could probably
do a pretty decent job if you have the proper equipment and the right mics but
unfortunately most of us don't. Budget roughly $600-1000 to do the job right and
get something that you'll be extremely happy with. The budget should also allow
for approximately 30-50 CDs to be duplicated.
found a great service offered through MusiciansFriend that I feel you can't pass
up for the price! Check out this amazing deal here.
of the CDs lowers if you buy in bulk. What tends to be expensive is the
packaging and you may want to do this yourself by buying inexpensive slips or
jewel cases. Remember, you will be selling some of these, which will cover part
of the cost.
next step for your band will be getting a manager. Your purpose is to
entertain and worry about building a repertoire, not having to book gigs. A good
manager will take over the task of finding you great places to play, looking
into getting a hold of the right record labels, as well as building your
everything else in the music business, managers cost money too. Their commission
will vary from person to person. The more successful bands they have under their
belt, the more they tend to charge. In these cases, you're going to want to go
with the manager who has the best track record and the most successful bands.
Reputation and character is everything when it comes to your manager's track
a manager can be tricky. In many cases, they will come to you. If they don't,
you can always ask musical institutions in your area or consult the phone books
for agencies that will hook you up with the right person.
bands decide to go out on their own without a manager because money is too
tight... which is understandable. Some of them have done quite well and made it
big. However, you need to be cautious because record labels are more likely to
respond and at least take a look at you if they see that someone is managing
your band. Basically, it can be seen as a sign of professionalism.
Kit: Hopefully by this point, you have received some cool press
attention from your local paper or news station. You'll want to document
this because you're going to want to add that to your press kit. This is
what you will finally end up sending to record labels (more on that later.)
not only proves what you have been up to but also shows that you can get
attention on your own, without fancy marketing. This is vital for a record
company who really doesn't want to spend more money than necessary convincing
people to check out your music.
we're on the topic of press kits, now would be a good time to tell you what you
should include in this package. This is essentially your chance to shine. Here's
a list of the best things to include:
- A photo of your
band. Take the time to get something decent done. The best bang for your buck is
tapping into your local community college and ask for a student photographer.
You set the price for a certain number of photos. You will normally get near
professional results at a quarter of the price. Basically, it beats the heck out
of Wal*Mart or your Mom's camera. A black and white 8x10 will be sufficient for
- A one page resume
that lists the places you've played, what you are capable of and some cool
details of your band (perhaps you have a python that travels with you or you're
all related.) This page needs to be extremely well laid out. Make it concise and
an easy read. You want to sell yourselves and make the band sound interesting,
don't bore them! This is your resume at it's finest.
- You will want your
lyrics attached as well. If you have original material, this would be the
perfect way to show them what you can do.
- Press clippings
from newspaper. If you have a great news story you taped from a T.V. station,
you can send that along as well. It would be best if you could get it onto DVD
as the reps would be more inclined to take a look at something that isn't bulky.
- All of the
pertinent contact information of the person sending this and your manager's
that you have your package all ready to go, who on earth do you send it to? That
brings us to our next section.
Putting It All
comes the time where you contact a record label. You will want to research which
labels you send your press kit to. If you're a hardcore rock band, you won't
want to be going to a label that is primarily known for producing pop acts. The
people in charge of finding the talent and getting them the record deal are
called A&R reps.
is an acronym for " Artist and Repertoire." They will review your package and
see if there's potential. These reps work hard for their money and end up
receiving thousands of packages each year. What that means is that it doesn't
take much for your package to get rejected so be picky.
general consensus amongst A&R reps is that you won't go to them, they'll go
to you. I still advise that you send the kit along. Even feel free to call their
office and follow up a few months later if you haven't heard anything by that
point in time. If there's new developments in your career, let them know. If
your playing a gig that's close to their location, then send them passes to get
in and see you play.
is to hit labels that are interested in your type of music and try to send off a
kit to a number of different labels.
out who's the local A&R rep in your area, you will want to tap into a
registry. Click here to see one of the best. There is a fee but it's
worth it, trust me. I have had a look at what they offer and it is one of the
best. It gives detailed contact information that is up to date and is exactly
what the hopeful rock star needs.
be lucky enough to have a manager who knows the right people. If that's the case
your best bet is to try that person because there is already a relationship
between the rep and your manager so it will increase your chances of getting
them to take a serious look.
Hopefully after all of this hard work you are offered a contract. This is
where an art turns into a science. I highly advise that you hire an
entertainment attorney to accompany your band to your meetings with the record
executives. The contracts are quite lengthy and complex but the bottom line is
that you don't want to get ripped off. If the deal isn't right for you, then
don't take it.
be thinking "But Jordan, this is my only chance!" Never fear, this is the point
where you go to the competition. Money can be a complicated thing in the record
business so you want to make sure that you get your fair share. If you write
original material you also run the risk of losing the rights to that song as
well. Like mentioned before, it truly does differ from company to company but
the bottom line is to protect yourself.
An Interview With Jimmy
Picture Courtesy of www.jimmybruno.com.
remember how I loved to listen to anyone who played blues or jazz when I was a
kid... especially on sax. Then my tastes started to gravitate towards jazz
guitar and the entire culture behind it. Naturally, when I really started to dig
into jazz one name continued to pop up in my studies: Jimmy Bruno.
Bruno has seen and experienced so many incredible things yet he remains a humble
musician who still believes there are many doors that he has left to open. He
has been recognized by Guitar World as one of the best in his field and it would
be hard for anyone to disagree. He has recorded a mind boggling number of albums
over his career and has worked with some of the world's best
explosive riffs and eruption of theretical knowledge give him a sound that is
unsurpassed in the jazz world. When all of that highly tuned and refined talent
is coupled with the amazing tone produced from his custom Sadowsky archtop,
named after him, he is unstoppable.
started to research his career, I was amazed to see how he finds a balance in
his life. When he's not touring, in the recording studio, teaching from his home
or teaching improvisation at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, you can find
him at home with his family.
doesn't matter what genre of music you play, there is a lesson to be learned
from Jimmy Bruno. For me, that lesson was one of knowing what your fretboard has
to offer you and taking advantage of the space provided.
you enjoy this interview and take something away from it that inspires you to
practice harder and fulfill a thirst for musical knowledge.
read in numerous places that when growing up, your family had quite a musical
impact on you. What was life like living in that environment and how does this
affect your music today?
JB: "Well, I mean I was lucky because there was always jazz music
in my house. That's what I thought all music was like. I think it made me a
better player for sure."
gave you more opportunities?
"Ooh yeah. I had plenty of opportunities."
other musical influences, if any, have you had over recent years?
JB: "Well the usual guitar players that were typical of growing up.
Johnny Smith was a big influence and Hank Garland really influenced me as well.
Then it moved to Saxophone players and piano players since I was 16."
you listen to other musical genres or do you prefer to stick to jazz?
JB: "Well you know, I do music like almost 24 hours a day. So I
listen to a lot of music. If it's work related, then I'm always listing to
mostly my stuff really or sometimes another guitar player. If I think of
music for enjoyment, it's classical music . I like that, I like the
oldies, I like Willy Nelson a lot and Bonny Rates. Somebody that I just
discovered was Susan Tideshi. I mean she's not new but she is new to me. Other
styles of music."
do you feel about the different directions jazz is taking in today's society?
They're so many different styles of jazz from improv to classical. What's your
opinion on them? Do you like them or prefer the jazz standards?
JB: "Well I think there's some really good new directions going on.
I don't think all of them are real good. I think a lot of it has to do with
commercialism and making money. It's pretty obvious when jazz musicians try to
do that. I don't think that that's a good trend. However, I know people need to
eat and stuff like that and make a living.
The good side is that they're exposing more people to jazz and the
downside is that it's not giving them quality. I don't cast any judgments on
that. I choose not to do that but anybody who is doing that and making a good
living has my respect and admiration because a lot them are good musicians and
good players and they choose to this and that's fine."
have extensive experience as a recording artist. What challenges do you
personally face while in the recording studio?
JB: "The recording studio is really a difficult environment. Even a
live recording is too because it's always in the back of your mind that this is
permanent and you kind of have to make that go away. It's really hard to resist
the temptation to go back and fix everything because with today's technology,
you can. With me, I find that if I do that it kind of makes me sound a little
sterile. I've always enjoyed the recordings from the 60's where they're not
perfect. You can hear somebody breathing or making sounds and not every line
that they play is perfect… I'm kind of partial to that.
do appreciate the people that record the other way and really polish it up. I
mean, some of that is really pretty good so long as you don't do it too much and
take away from the music. What is too much and what is too little? I don't
really know. That's a big one and the other one is sound. You always want to try
and get it to sound the way it sounds to you in your own head. Which is really
difficult because you have a producer, there's an engineer; there's the
microphone, the amplifier that you choose and the board that it's going through.
They shape the final sounds so you're never going to get what's in your head,
it's just impossible but you can get real close.
It's funny because sometimes I'll talk to another player and I'll
mention "Wow, you really have a good guitar sound on that CD, I really like it"
to which the player will respond "Ahh, I hated it!" The one that I hated the
most was my guitar sound on the CD burning. I love the music; I think it's some
of the best playing I've done. In those days my playing over the top kind of but
it was only the second CD but I hated the sound of the guitar and I get lots of
compliments on how good the guitar sounds. It's one of those things I don't
the other hand I like the sound on The Live at Birdland records, both of them
and midnight blue, the solo guitar came out pretty close. The other thing in the
Studio is that there's no audience. That's a big one because I thoroughly
believe that art needs an audience for it to be art. There has to be somebody on
the other end of this. Then when someone listens to the CD you have an
you don't know what direction it's going in or if you feel that it's not the
right sound you're looking for.
JB: "You definitely get something from an audience that is lacking
in the studio."
Where can you discover the most about your instrument? Is it self-taught or
amongst other people?
JB: "A little bit of both I think. Playing with a lot of good
musicians and developing your ear. Getting away from the academia is also
speed and technical prowess is unsurpassed in the world of jazz. How did you
bring yourself to this level of playing without getting stuck on a plateau?
JB: "Well when I was a kid, like I said my Father was a guitar
player, so he was always playing out of violin books and there was always a lot
of violinists at my house from the Philly orchestra and classical musicians. So
I didn't really start out playing jazz. I was like 10 or 8 years old and from
that point until the time I was 16 I was studying a lot of these books and
listening to what these players were saying.
thought that everybody had technique. A violinist that has no technique can't
work. Classical musicians have phenomenal technique and so I just thought that
was what I had to do to become a musician. It had nothing to do with
you get nervous before playing in front of large audiences?
JB: "No, it's a bit of an adrenaline rush but not nervous. I mean
it's exciting to do that!"
of our subscribers' dream of having a professional career as a musician, what
advice would you like to pass on to them?
JB: "Never give up! Become as good a musician as you possibly can
and find your own voice. Don't copy anyone and be sincere in your music. Don't
talk yourself into wealth and thinking, "This way, I'll make more money" because
you have to be sincere and really believe in the music that you're playing.
Otherwise, I think audiences can tell and you certainly can tell -- so you have
to be true to yourself. Otherwise you won't be happy."
did you make the decision that jazz was what you were going to do with your
JB: "I think when I was 16 I did and then I got tired of starving.
After 22 I moved to Vegas and became a commercial sideman musician, then I went
LA and did that for a while. Then when I was 35 I wasn't playing much jazz and I
was pretty unhappy and yet at the same time making a decent living. So I decided
to quit music because as far as I was concerned that was about as far as I could
go being a "Professional Musician." I kind of quit for a while and decided that
if I I'm going to play it would be jazz. When I started before it was to play
jazz and give that a shot and I was lucky enough that it worked
you play any other guitars such as strats or acoustics?
JB: "Sure, oh yeah! I did when I was a sideman and I played
everything. I played other guitars, banjos, mandolins… The whole thing.
does your practice routine look like?
JB: "Well I don't have a daily practice routine any more. I'm
playing and working all the time so if I get the chance to practice I usually
will try to write something. When I was learning I would practice scales,
arpeggios, interval studies, board studies, learning tunes, transposing tunes
into a different piece or trying to learn tunes off of a CD or in those days a
record rather than the real book. I think that's a bad crutch and it's misused.
What happens is that we have a lot of young musicians who don't
ever develop an ear fro learning a song by themselves. They just do it by the
real book and they never heard the lyrics or the recordings. The upside is that
if you can play already and if you already have an ear it's not bad to look
something up now and then but I always refer to the record."
Looking through your site and previous written articles, it's evident that you
are a talented and patient teacher. So was teaching and putting lessons up on
your site something you fell into or something that you chose to do?
JB: "I always like to teach because you get a lot of questions
about music and what you think about when you're playing. I remember when I had
those same questions too and it was really frustrating not to get a really good
answer. You meet some older musicians and they say "Well, you just hear it."
That's great but what if you can't just hear it? They say "Practice your scales"
and that's great too because you need to practice scales to be able to play your
instrument. I don't think you need to put a specific scale over a specific
Somehow it's gotten to that point and all of that is helpful and
true information but it's only helpful after the fact. It's a great tool and a
good education chance to analyze something but I don't think it's the best way
to go about creating music. That has to come from someplace else. It can't be
noticed that you like to teach improv. How do you bring out the tips and tricks
when teaching a student something that can't really be taught?
JB: " First you need to make sure that they can
play the guitar to some degree. They don't have to be a virtuoso but it can't be
"Put your finger here." The first thing I do is limit someone's area on the
guitar where they can play. One spot and they have to stay there and learn the
sounds in that one spot with specific fingers.
Then, I'll get them to play different lines and
different melodies without any chord changes and then I can correct, well not
correct the melody but sometimes improve it and give them different examples of
how they can make their lines better. At the same time start changing those
sounds with the spot on the fingerboard and then add the harmony. The
progression not the isolated chord as I don't think that tells you very
that raps up our interview with Jimmy Bruno. From all of the staff here at
Guitar Tips, I would like to personally thank Mr. Bruno for taking the time out
of his hectic schedule to answer some of my questions. We wish you the best and
look forward to seeing what you come up with next. Keep on being you!