How to… get an independent record label deal

record player

Transgressive Records has spotted, signed and supported some of the UK’s most iconic independent acts of recent times.

From Foals and Bloc Party to newcomers like Arlo Parks and Julien Chang, label founders Toby L and Tim Dellow and their team – including partner Lilas Bourboulon, A&R manager Mike Harounoff and label coordinator Grace Manning – have a proven knack for sniffing out talent.

Here, we grab a few minutes with Toby to learn how to get ahead as an independent artist and what, for him, makes a new act worth signing…

On getting noticed…

My advice would be, don’t worry, don’t rush. Just take your time. Get fantastic at your craft. Think everything though. We’re in a very visual age, a very social age. Obviously, prioritise the music, but then think about the universe around the music and the way you want to communicate that.

On playing live…

Really think about your performance, how you want to perform, how you don’t want to perform. Where you want to perform. Think carefully about how you want to present your personality on stage.

On honouring your heroes…

Think about the identity of others that you’re inspired by. What is it they did to create a niche for themselves? How can you emulate facets of that without diluting your own individuality?

On getting a record deal…

Think about all the elements above and then start thinking about how you’re going to get your music out there. Don’t think, ‘I need to get a deal in order to do these things.’ Get good, get great, love what you do, focus on the craft and we’ll find you. That’s the job of the music industry – to find great talent. It’s not the talent’s job to necessarily find the industry, you know? When the music industry is doing its job, hopefully it will step in. But don’t sweat it too much because it’ll corrupt your perspective.

On luck and the laws of the universe…

I would say nine times out of 10, if you’re supposed to be doing music and it makes sense, you will get discovered at the right point. Don’t lose your faith. And also, if you’re doing music for the right reasons, which is to be a soulful exchange, a creative expression, then really, whether you get discovered or not is kind of irrelevant.

On learning from others…

I was chatting to Foals recently about their early days in the Oxford scene and how they, and all their mates, never dreamed they’d get signed. If bands like Foals didn’t think they were going to get signed – and now look at the position they’re in – hopefully that gives you an indication of the humility that’s also required alongside getting great at your craft.

On when things go wrong…

I think where all this music industry bollocks goes wrong is when you’re in an environment that puts too much pressure on you, you’re mixing with the wrong crowd, or you’re doing the wrong thing. That’s how the music industry eats you up. The best thing you can do is keep it sacred, keep the music beautiful, keep your love of live music and just be a fan. If you keep your fandom, then you can’t go wrong.

And finally…

No one is owed anything in life. We all create our own opportunities. I think, for any brand new artist, just keep focused on the art, the craft, rehearsing and getting as good as you can locally. Build up a bit of steam for what you’re doing among family and friends and contemporaries, and then things can grow.

Read our in-depth interview with Toby and listen to our 15 Years of Transgressive Records playlist

 

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