By Dusty Ray

So you’ve formed a band, you’ve been playing venues around the Front Range and Denver, you have an album/EP, and you’re ready to take it to the next level: signing on to a label.
The benefits of getting signed are huge: It exposes your music to a wider audience, puts your group on tour, protects your music from copyright infringement, and networks you with other bands/promoters who share your musical ideas. Pulling the full weight of promotion, distribution, performance, and songwriting can be tough on a band; signing to a label can help to take some of this weight off the shoulders of the musicians.
Before you start label hunting, however, there are some important tools you should have in your promotional arsenal:
A Press kit. The most basic and important part of self-promotion, the press kit is your band’s résumé. Include all of your contact info (website, social networking sites, email). Also include a bio of your band and a brief description of the type of music you play. Insert any press clippings you have of the band (album reviews, interviews, show promotions, posters), and include a list of all the venues you have played as well as the names of larger acts you have shared the stage with.
Perhaps most importantly, be sure to have professional photos taken of your band: Many magazine editors will deny giving you coverage simply because there are no photos to go alongside it.
Be sure to have hard copies of the press kit to hand directly to promoters and venues along with a PDF version that can be emailed directly to label representatives.
Try not to be arrogant, but don’t shy away from a little shameless self-promotion.
A Manager. Having someone who is familiar with the band’s intentions and can represent your music without any member of the band present is key to successful exposure. A manager will help you book shows, promote you to labels, and create press material. This frees up more time for the musicians to write, record and play shows. Make sure that you find someone who is enthusiastic about your music and band; view the manager as another member of the band.
An Album or EP. Your music is what will ultimately get you signed. Be sure to have at least four to five tracks that are well recorded, that you are proud of, and that you feel best represent your band’s music to include with your press kit. Have hard copies of the music on CDs as well as a digital album that can be emailed. Combining your press kit and album into one promotional webpage is a good idea – it allows for easy access to your material by the press and any label reps who might be interested in your project.
Now that you have your promotional weaponry ready, it’s time to rely on your music, dedication, and a little luck to find the right label for your band. Social networking sites have done wonders for up-and-coming musicians, and are an essential networking tool for connecting musicians with labels. They provide a quick and easy way of mass promotion as well as exposure to label representatives. Know your music and connect with similar bands; find out what labels they are on and begin to network, network, network. Once you have found a few labels that seem to be a good fit for your music, contact them with your press kit and CD ready.
Another way to connect with a record label is to play shows and build up a network of fellow musicians and promoters. The more people you pull in to your shows, the more likely you are to find someone to network with. Play opening sets for international acts (many bands tour with a representative of their label) or bands closely associated with the label you’re interested in. You never know when the right person will be in your audience, so keep your live act entertaining and original.
Playing in a battle of the bands contest is also a good idea. Oftentimes the prizes in the contests include studio time, promotional opportunities, graphic design, and/or cash. Label representatives are often in the audience at these contests, prowling for new talent to add to their labels. Play like your life depends on it; know the guidelines for winning and follow them; surprise the judges and keep the audience enthralled. Even if you don’t win, put your heart into it and the right person will take notice.
Promotion is essential in finding a label; treat promoting your band like a business, but keep true to your musical ideals. Hard work, dedication, and resilience will get you noticed, and will make the fruits of your labor all the more refreshing and deserved.
Visit the Fort Collins Music Index for a plethora of information on local venues, performing organizations, and promoters to help get you started.