Want A Record Deal? Sign Yourself To Any And All Records

AaalogoAn important aspect to the Internet as a combination global media network and digital toolbox is that it's now much easier for artists to focus on being sole proprietors or collectives and to sign themselves. Yet some musicians will always feel insecure until legitimated by a third party. Any And All Records recently launched to help bridge the gap for those who need a cosign or who just love a bit of conceptual humor.

Any And All Records is a project of Andrew Dubber (co-founder of MusicThinkTank) and the folks from New Music Strategies. They've also signed themselves to their own roster.

Any And All Records launched last month in order to erase the "stigma" of being unsigned by signing anyone who wants to join their record label. The only stipulation is that you'll have to agree to this brief contract that features such clauses as:

"I/We understand that signing to Any And All Records as our record label obligates nobody to anything."

"I/We agree to stop calling ourselves 'unsigned' and to encourage others not to use that term."

"I/We understand that if we want to go sign to some other record label, that’s all cool. We totally get that this contract will instantly expire the moment we decide we want to go do that."

"I/We understand that there is no small print, and nobody’s being tricked into anything here. No money will change hands and nobody’s situation or rights are different than they were before we agreed to this."

It's a serious joke intended to encourage musicians who haven't signed label contracts to think of themselves as independent rather than unsigned. Cofounder Steve Lawson says:

"I’ve never – as a listener, journalist, musician or friend of musicians – found any remotely useful distinction between being ‘signed’ and not signed…Unsigned implies that either the ideal state is to be signed and this person isn’t, or that there’s some qualitative meaningful difference between an artist on a label and one who who isn’t. Both of those statements are steaming piles of bullshit."

As recent signee Ardie of Cult Fiction points out:

"The idea may seem to be just about giving music labels the finger, but I think it’s also about getting over this idea that getting signed is a musician’s ultimate goal. I could maybe understand that mentality from someone living in an era when the only way one could ever dream of having one’s music heard any further than the local pubs you played in and the only way of increasing the possibility of living a life where your main source of income was music so that you could just devote all of your time and efforts to the thing you love was to get signed. But with the way we can distribute music online now, getting signed is not something quite as pertinent."

And that's the power of the Internet. You can do things on your own. You can sign yourself. And if you're not interested in being on Any And All Records, which is more of a conceptual spur though it might be useful for a wee bit of marketing and a logo, you can start your own business. You don't need the label's money because they're not going to sign you till you have a following and if you have a following you can get your own money via crowdfunding.

As the folks at Any And All Records point out, they're not going to do anything beyond what you see on the site but there are plenty of great services for you to do it on your own. You know, DIY.

So take charge and sign yourself to a sole proprietorship (which is basically what most unsigned artists actually are), sign yourself to Any And All Records or sign yourself to your own LLC. Just don't call yourself unsigned unless you honestly believe that your primary goal and your only route to legitimation is signing to a label. Either way, most of the work you need to do is the same. So get back to work!

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and is soon launching Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Not really a terrible idea. in fact if you get a record ready for release let us know and we’ll work out a distro agreement. GotDistribution.net

  2. So “Independent” vs. “Unsigned” With connotations of being by choice and not by choice, respectively. Kind of like the distinction between “Single” and “Unmarried.”
    This is a great, cool idea, if it helps promote more of an “indie and proud of it” mentality.

  3. I don’t get the point at all. Sorry, Andrew, you’ve got many good ideas, but I don’t get this one at all.
    Being signed, once, meant you were “selected”.
    Your label doesn’t select anything.
    I understand it’s no use trying to being signed these days, for we can do it all by ourselves, but I don’t think being signed on a dummy label might change anything.
    The only way you’re signed these days is the fact that you have many many followers, whatever the way you got them, and eventually you earn a living with it.

  4. An absolutely brilliant idea. Well done Andrew and Steve.
    Need a distribution network. Use bandcamp, tell your fans, and let them do the rest.
    Bandcamp has just passed the amazing milestone of £20 million into the pocket of grass roots musicians.
    Does not do anything for the artist. Strange how those who have signed to Any And All Records say otherwise.

  5. Don’t agree, Keith, it’s not brilliant at all. It’s useless.
    Bands don’t have to be signed, they have to get followers. Would love a brilliant idea which might help me get more followers.
    I’ve been signed several times (small labels, even a major one after a remix contest)… Being signed mean nothing… Being signed to a dummy label which doesn’t do anything mean nothing at all.

  6. I mean it’s a wrong fight. Don’t convince bands they have to be signed and pretend so.
    Convinced listeners interesting music doesn’t have to be signed.

  7. There’s no fight and there’s nobody pretending anything. It’s more of a conceptual spur.
    I don’t think listeners hold it against you if you’re not on a label. Lots of unsigned acts have gotten huge followings on the web because they make music those people care about. In fact, in the States, most acts now have to have a following before they can get signed. And even before the web most bands had to be able to excite an audience of some size to get signed.
    You don’t have to convince your listeners of anything if they like your music. If they don’t like it, they won’t care what label you’re on.

  8. In the early 80s, a completely non-musical guy called Malcolm McLaren who wanted to travel the world, coincidentally also a publicly known face as the controversial manager of British band Sex Pistols, not coincidentally named after his clothing shop “Sex”, got himself signed to a recording contract with a label. They payed him an advance sum and from that, he got his budget for his travels around the world. The only obligation he had was to take along a producer on his trip and at least pretend to try and make an album with him.
    Out came “Duck Rock”, which introduced the world at large to sampling techiques from hip hop, scratching and South African township music. Despite sounding really out there, the album produced several hits.
    That’s what “getting signed” could do if the label actually would let the artist free reign, even if the artist is not a musician. But these days, the labels put their own formulas onto the artists and influence their creative work in a way they see fit and out comes a homogenized product.
    It’s sad another “Duck Rock” would not be able these days, even with Any And All Records because they don’t pay an advance.

  9. You sir owe me 5 minutes. It took minutes to read, and 30 seconds to type this. The other 2.5 minutes is out of principle. Worthless.

  10. Nope, I’m keeping it and now you’re that much closer to death. And if you listed a correct email, which you probably didn’t since you’re hiding your identity, you’ll be that much closer to death when you read this comment.

  11. So, sign yourself. Sample a real artist’s material and get a looper. Go on the road and lip sync. Make a video. Go viral on You Tube. Give away free downloads on your blog. Next thing you know you’ll be on American Idol.

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