Unsigned, unsealed, undelivered: Breaking into the music industry


SW Londoner reporter Richard Weston takes a look at the difficulties of unsigned bands and the music industry due to illegal downloading.


By Richard Weston

Can you imagine trying to join a worldwide industry by putting in years of unemployed work?

You would be putting in the same hours of work a week as your employed peers do in these financially difficult times.

You would be going for a job which you cannot actually apply for, at least not in the conventional way of handing in a CV and attending an interview.

And you would be leaving yourself open to potentially extreme criticism from those whose respect you crave.

Moreover, the industry in question is one which is losing an estimated $4billion (£2.6billion) a year to piracy, according to Plunkett Research.

Dom Little, 23, of Fulham, is trying to become a part of the music industry with his band Goldtrip.

The four-piece band, who began playing together at Bristol University four years ago, worked with a music producer to release an EP called I Try on iTunes in April.

Dom has played over twenty gigs over the past three months but laughs when asked how to go about making money while still unsigned.

“You don’t!” he said. “It’s like starting up a company, the initial costs are big and then hopefully one day you start earning money, for us it’s an investment.”

The statistics suggest it is becoming harder and harder for unsigned bands to secure record deals.

Music sales have not grown for a full year since 2004, partly due to the amount of music downloaded illegally for free.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry claimed in a 2009 report that around 95% of all music is downloaded without payment.

And Dom believes unsigned bands would be given more opportunities by record companies if they weren’t losing so much money due to piracy.

He said: “They’re never going to take a punt on new bands, financially they can’t do it at the moment.”

In their quest to make a living out of their love for music, Goldtrip have experienced the highs and lows involved with the battle to gain recognition.

Highlights this year include being played on BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, as well as securing a deal with an online poker company beginning in January next year.

Singer Dom, guitarist Joe Rawnsley, drummer Alex Brisland and bassist Sam Lloyd also won new fans by supporting Bon Jovi at Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium in June.

But the band has had to learn to take the rough with the smooth over the years.

Dom said: “About two years ago, someone from the industry just took us into a bar and basically said ‘no-one gives a s*** about your band.’

“I think he was just doing it to scare us, but it makes you feel like it’s not going to work.”

David Exley, who works for Coda Music Agency, says it is not always enough for new bands to have raw talent and passion for a wide range of music – they must be original too.

He said: “There are a lot of good bands out there who will never make it but these days you have to be really good and offer something a bit different.”

Although posting music online means new bands may not make much money due to streaming or illegal downloads, it makes it easier for music agencies to discover them.

The internet has made it easier for bands to secure agent representation, but competition to become a widely recognised band is intense.

“Getting signed to a label and actually breaking is a totally different kettle of fish, as only a handful of acts really make it each year,” David adds.

It is one thing putting a couple of videos on YouTube but the successful musicians learn to exploit a vast array of mediums.

“You can definitely assume there’s serious musical talent going under the radar,” Dom added.
Trying to secure a contract with a record label can feel like doing years of unpaid work experience.

While unsigned, you can’t claim expensive equipment or instruments as work expenses.
Being signed to a record label is the job you don’t apply for – you have to get to the stage where employers come to find you.

Goldtrip’s next release will be in early 2012. Listen to the band at and find out more about Coda Music Agency at


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