Local Records has been checking in on me every now and again to keep me up to date on what's happening and generally see how I am.
Today, they offered me a record deal.
The move came from Label Partner, who told me this morning that the label's lawyers are busy drawing up three different contracts, each of which ties me to the record company for a certain period of time. That window ranges from six albums in one document (and I'm definitely not on board for that), to half a year in another. I'll probably go with the in-between option, which would keep us in a legal relationship for half a dozen singles. That gives me the flexibility to move on if I find a better opportunity elsewhere, but also the option of continuing work with a group of people who so far have been honest, accommodating, professional, and understanding.
"We're going to give those documents to you and your father on April 17th," she said. "Make sure you take them and have your lawyer look over them. I don't want you to get into the habit of signing things without reading them."
There is no signing bonus, but I don't have to pay anything out, I get recording time and promotion for free, and I'll begin making money on royalties as soon as we start selling CDs and downloads.
If they have their way, things will move pretty quickly starting this summer.
To begin with, Local Records would like to use three of the four songs I sang for them, and in pursuit of that they've sent the vocal track we did to a musician who after hearing the pieces has said he wants to work with me.
Label Partner also revealed a set of goals the label has and outlined when they'd like to reach them. As Label Owner stated, a full album with at least ten totally mixed and mastered original songs will probably not be completed until May of 2011. However, Local Records wishes to have a demo of four to six tracks done by December of 2010 and would like to release my first single, "So Long," by late summer.
"We're hoping to have it out in July or August," Label Partner said.
"That soon?" I asked, surprised but happy. I acknowledge that a lot of hard work and a lot of time will go into this effort, but I'm also a big proponent of doing as much as possible as soon as possible.
"I really believe in this song," she said. "I'm going to invest my own money. And while of course we want to have all of your songs done, I'd really like to focus on getting that one ready and having it out for summer. I see it as a summer anthem."
"I understand that," I said. "First thing's first."
"Exactly," she said. "And the next time you come in we'll want you to meet with our chief marketer. She likes music but she likes money a lot more, and she's the one who's going to make you and the label a lot of money. She's going to get a feel for you and see what kind of look we want to go for. We're thinking of doing something tough but soft, if that makes sense."
That dichotomy is essentially the essence of the pop rock sound I'm going for, but I still laughed.
"You should probably aim for soft," I said. "Because I couldn't intimidate a five-year-old."
"Oh, trust me, that will help," she said. "The target demographic we're going to market you to is 13-16-year-olds, mostly girls, some boys, so that will play very well. With regard to your image...we always want input from the artist and above all we want you to be comfortable, but there is a certain direction we want to take this. I'm not sure how far you want to go."
"As far as possible," I said without hesitation. "I know you guys are making a pretty huge investment and you have a right to get a return on it. I'm not averse to being very commercial."
"Well, that's good," she said. "Our chief marketer will love to hear that."
I've been promised that I'll be "poked and prodded a lot, probably more than you're comfortable with" but that "it will be worth it to get the end result."
Label Partner has said that a trip to Largest City may be necessary to get the right clothes, while the photoshoot planned for this summer could involve our heading to a beach in the southern part of this state so that I have a reasonable excuse to be photographed without a shirt on.
As far as the dreaded prospect of a haircut: Marketer is said to be for it, but Label Owner and Label Partner have been adamant that I don't have to go through with that if I don't want to. I'm going to keep an open mind, and we're set to try straightening it first and seeing what everyone thinks.
A music video for "So Long" is also be filmed and then posted to YouTube. I'm assuming that this will be a fairly low-quality affair (the label members have been clear about their limited budget), but it's still pretty cool and frankly very surreal that I could have a music video to my first single floating around the Internet by the end of this summer.
The concept for the video, which I've had since I wrote the song in 2008, goes back and forth between a house party and a high school.
"We'd need about thirty to fifty people to do that," Label Partner said. "So start asking your friends if they'd like to be in a music video, because it would be a lot easier if we didn't have to pay the extras."
The video may end up being filmed at Privileged High School, where I graduated, and I'm excited about that prospect.
In addition to the contracts, Label Partner said we would have to discuss "expectations and responsibilities."
"Like what?" I asked.
"Like being professional," she said. "Like being on time. This hasn't been a problem with you, but we just want to have it out there. You need to start watching your image now, so don't do anything crazy."
I guess that means no more wild partying.
"There are going to be times when you might be frustrated or confused," she continued. "For example, when we're recording you might have to sing something over and over again or you might start in the middle instead of the beginning. It will all get put together in the end."
"That's fine," I said.
"We're going to want to do a website where we have a biography of you and some pictures," she said. "We have a photographer who does a great job and we'll have her come out and figure out how she'd like to approach this. We've also thought about the idea of you writing a weekly piece on your journey, something we could submit to music magazines. We'd like to try and get something in Rolling Stone."
I literally laughed at that.
"Why would they care about me?" I asked.
"They have an interest in covering new artists," she replied. "Don't get it wrong: you're not going to have a full page or anything. But if we can get even a tiny inset with your name in it, people who read that magazine will have heard of you. We'd also like to film you a bit in the studio and maybe have a blog for you where you keep people updated on what you're doing."
Aside from trying not to laugh at how much more qualified I am to keep a blog than my label could know, I was mostly stunned. The label wants this entire marketing push to roll out about three weeks before the single is released, which would put it sometime in June or July and could mean that some of the preparations (photo shoots, websites, press releases being written) would happen even earlier. As intimidated and excited as I am, there's a weird duality to all of it.
On the one hand, I'm mentally preparing myself for this onslaught of recording and promotion with all the attendant insanity, and on the other hand I'm leading the life of an average 21-year-old college student on a campus where almost no one knows I can even sing, let alone that I'm being prepped by a record label.
The strangest part by far of this entire thing has been getting up, going to class, stressing over exams and tuition, and trying to find a summer job while the prospect of what I could be on the cusp of plays out in the back of my mind. Amid the mundane activities of daily life at university, I sometimes feel like the other stuff is a fantasy I dreamed up.
It's not, though.
It's coming, however much that might surprise and even scare me.
"Do you realize what's going on here?" Anne asked me after I'd told her how Label Partner had called me "wholesome" and, to my chagrin, compared me to Justin Bieber. "They were looking for someone to make. They were looking for someone to build from the ground up."
"Label Partner said she's investing her retirement money in it," I agreed.
"Well, do yourself a favor," Anne advised. "Listen to them. Listen to what they say."
The whole situation brings up a host of things to consider, including the fate of this blog. I could completely flop and not make it past my bathroom door, but on the off chance I don't bomb I have to acknowledge that many things in my life would change and I must be ready for it.
That's something I've weighed, reflecting on the positives and negatives, and decided on balance I'm okay with.
"This is going to take time," Label Partner said as our conversation closed. "Time and work. Too many people go in thinking they'll make it overnight, and that's not how it is."
I told her I understood completely.
Getting where I want to go may take a while. What matters is that I'm on my way.