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Backing A Singer With Label Interests - Advice Needed!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by metalinthenight, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. Hey fellow Tbers!

    I recently (as in two days ago) auditioned and landed a gig playing bass in a backing band for a local singer/songwriter. The genre is blues/rock (think Edgar Winter) and I really dig the sound. Check the link in my sig for some songs (obviously I'm not on them, there may not even be bass tracks...I'm not sure).

    Anyways, I really dig the music and I'm especially excited because it is (a) my first "pro" paying gig, and because (b) it is a departure from my other gig in an Indie Rock band (yeah, we're gonna be famous :eyebrow:, again, check the sig! :D) and sates a lot of things that are musically lacking from my current project (I.E. some musical elements, styles or sounds that are not necessarily right for the style of music we play).

    Alright, point...yes there is one :ninja:...at the audition I talked with the singer and his manager and he is of course wanting to move forward strongly and attract label support. Here is my problem.

    Throughout the past few years playing and touring in my indie band, we (I) have developed a strong DIY-or-die attitude and basically try and do as much as we possibly can ourselves. We print our own merchandise, book our own shows, and handle all of the business end of things (with varying degrees of success, of course, but we are getting better all the time). During this time I have come to the conclusion that in this day and age a label isn't necessarily paramount in terms of becoming a successful musician (not that all that sweet financial backing doesn't count for something :rolleyes:).

    If and when the singer of this band attracts label attention and wants to move forward (and hopefully bring me along for the ride), how should I approach the contracting and business end? One of my biggest fears in the whole "record label owns your soul" side of things is that in many cases, artists lose their creative control and usually the rights to their music. In my current position within this backing band scenario, I don't really have much creative input anyways and they have made it clear from the get-go that the singer is the principal songwriter. That is fine by me, I'm just there to make it groove :bassist:.

    So my main question is, what should I be prepared for in the event that the singer wants to sign with a label? Does that mean that I have to sign a contract as well? I would assume so, but how would that affect my ability to create music myself and for other projects that I would invariably be apart of?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!! :help:
  2. when the time comes to sign stuff,protect yourself.....in the mean time you might be able to help them get a grasp of the diy thing w/o getting too up in face,as you're the new guy.....but before i'd sign away anything i'd regret later i'd consider opting for hired gun status
  3. stoneboy26


    Jul 11, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: Thump Music
    It sounds to me as though you are a hired gun. In which case, do your job, and do it well so that when this guy gets his label deal he (and the label) want you to hang around and not get replaced by some dude the label thinks is better - seen it happen plenty of times!

    Seems like a good time to enjoy the ride, learn a bit about the business and not really have to deal with too much of that business yourself.
  4. Not to be a butthole or anything, but prepare to be dumped... The label will want the singer, not the band.

    On the chance you don't get dumped then hell... Reap the benefits for as long as you can! And also make sure your interests and in order and yada yada.
  5. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I played with a signed singer/songwriter like this a couple of years ago. Although his better days were behind him. As far as I know only him, his manager and his songs were part of the label. The band were employees and a backing band, period. We could be replaced at any time or choose to leave as I did when we wanted. I signed nothing got payed by checks, taxed etc like I was working a job. I enjoyed it but it got stale after 2 years. IMO the singer your speaking of will sign since its his songs the band wont but I could be wrong.

    I wouldnt worry thou. Today getting signed to a good label is hard to find and rare.
  6. Winnb


    Nov 4, 2010
    You are a backing musician. Enjoy it! If the singer is very attractive and talented (or just a hot chick) you will eventually be kicked from the band if he/she is successful.

    Like some others have already stated - just enjoy the ride my friend!
  7. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    You need to think about positioning yourself from a "tool" that she uses to get going where she wants to go, to being an actual human being who is choosing to invest your time and effort in making a better situation for you BOTH. The more you are able to be seen as a person instead of an object, the better off you're going to be. If doesn't mean kiss a$$ like there's no tomorrow, but the subtle path of showing your interest and doing what you can do to make yourself indispensible as possible, that what makes the music, and everything work is not that you play bass, but that the bass player is YOU. If you get what I'm saying here.

    Think about it like a hostage situation (funny, but go with me for a minute): the more you can pitch yourself as a human being (with a life, feelings, etc...), the less likely you'll be viewed strictly as an object/tool, and the less likely you'll be killed off.
  8. Awesome, thanks for the input guys! That is pretty comforting in some ways....hahaha. Either way I'm excited for the experience.
  9. That's a killer - :D get it? :bag: - analogy.

    sorry I couldn't resist. Seriously though, I dig what you're saying.
  10. jimulate


    Dec 21, 2007
    Berkshire, UK
    I do this kind of work a lot and I completely agree with what everyone else has said - consider it a "session" gig and that you're only hired on a show-by-show basis, not tied down to a contract.

    I just wanted to point out that, although it is a definite possibility that if the singer gets signed you'll get dumped from the band, you don't need to see this as a bad thing. If they start making a name for themselves playing with someone else, you've still got their name on your CV (and there's no need to tell anyone that you played with them "before they were famous", eh?) and you can use that to get a lot more work!

  11. A bit like a boy spider huh?
  12. Well, let's look at this realistically...with the industry the way it is, getting a major label deal is pretty unlikely even with the most talented and lucky musicians. But if it does happen, hey, it could be great! I understand your concerns, and the best thing you can do is invest in a few hours (shouldn't take more than a couple) in talking to a good lawyer who knows about music contract law, and finding out a strategy that you're comfortable with. Yes, if you do an album with a major label you'll likely not have much say on what they do with it (unless your bandleader really works his contract), but on the other hand, you can arrange your involvement so that you have freedom to work with other bands, on other labels etc., and maintain your freedom to work with your Indie bands. I can't see this as being anything but positive, as long as you do some legal groundwork ahead of time and cover your butt.
  13. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    Make yourself a valuable asset to the act. If you sing, make sure you can contribute great backing vocals. If you have songwriting skills, use them. Work to tighten up the rhythm section to make the singer's job easier. Go the extra mile to do many things other than just play bass. Obviously, your playing skills are good enough to get the gig or they would not have hired you. If you know any band management skills, use them to your advantage to assist with travel, bookings, gear, etc.
  14. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    I have no real experience with this getting signed thing (dammit!) however I do have a few suggestions.

    For one, I wouldn't worry too much about getting signed since that is one of those maybe one day, it would be nice kind of situations. For right now what I would worry about is playing the song so well that the main singer/songwriter couldn't think of doing it without you. Listen to what they're describing to you for the feel or vibe they want for their song, then do every thing you can to nail what it is they want.

    In a semi related topic, I had a chance encounter with Phil Martin at Carvin HQ a few days ago and I was able to spend about an hour with him one on one picking his brain for wisdom. Although he gave me several tips the one thing that really stuck with me was his comment that went sort of like this "The reason I get the gigs and you don't is because I play the SONG better than you. Maybe not technically speaking, but I play for the song and give them what they want." Seems pretty basic, and I already knew that, but when somebody who pays their mortgage by playing bass tells you that, it carries some weight.

    As for the contracts with labels thing, I would not go into those negotiations without your own legal council. Hire a lawyer to protect your interests, and don't go in on a band lawyer. Get one of your own. Remember with lawyers they will agree with and fight for whoever is filling their pockets. The label and singer / songwriter will both have theirs so why not bring your own and level the field as much as possible. NEVER EVER sign any legal document without reading it!

    Remember there was a thread here that was a question of "what's a bass player worth", questioning pay verses other musicians in the "band". The truth is you are worth what you can negotiate with your employer and that my friend is the business side of the music business. For now just play your butt off and do the best you can do with this gig. If it goes further than where its at, great, but for now just play the song.

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