The digital age is changing the way that music is recorded and promoted, but, nevertheless, getting a good deal with a record label has major advantages if you are considering a career as a solo artist. Major record labels are interested in signing artists who they see as being a good investment. Indie record labels, on the other hand, have a reputation for being more artist friendly. Indie labels don't want to lose money, but they may be more sympathetic to your musical vision and aspirations.
Develop your talent. The first step to becoming recognized and signed as a solo artist is talent. Take vocal lessons, perform as much as possible, become proficient on an instrument, and fine tune your songwriting skills. In addition to having a great voice, the ability to write your own material is very big plus. It helps to define you as an artist and make you unique.
Sharpen your personal communication and business skills. In addition to musical talent, a successful solo artists needs to be business savvy and have good communication skills.
Put together a talented group of musicians. Find the right group of players who are dedicated and able to produce the musical sounds that you need. Spend time rehearsing the material and then book as many gigs as possible. Use the Internet to research different venues that feature musicians and artists similar to you.
Make a demo CD and PR packet. Select three or four of your best songs and book time in a professional recording studio. The song selection should reflect your strength and diversity, both as a singer and as a writer. Have a few professional photographs taken, and select one or two for the packet. The packet should also include contact information, a brief history of your career, press clippings and reviews, and a list of the important or interesting gigs that you have played.
Research different record labels. Decide if you are more interested in an indie label or a major label. Gather details and information about the labels. Look at the roster of artists and bands. Find out what their distribution policies are; it is good to know if they distribute nationally and if they have online distribution as well. Investigate their advertising and support policies. It is important to know how much effort they put into advertising and marketing their artists and if they offer financial support and backing for tours.
Contact record labels. Record labels are interested in a solid investment and in artists who have a strong following. The best way to catch a record label's attention is to create buzz and draw attention to yourself. This comes from playing lots of live shows, creating a fan base and playing some strategically important shows. You are in the best shape when the record label comes looking for you. At the same time, send out your demo packet to the labels you are interested in. Let them know about upcoming shows in their area.