Good afternoon, my name is Jay Mathes. I'm an indie songwriter - singer/guitarist/pianist, to be a bit more specific. I've been writing music since I was 13 years old, playing music since I was 10, and listening to my mom play covers of Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, and John Denver on the guitar for as long as I can remember.
There are few things more exciting to me in the world than a great song. They are rare grains in a sea of musical chaff - a world where everyone has access to GarageBand and thinks he can be the next American Idol.
Rob Miller, of Bloodshot Records, recently wrote an article for knowthemusicbiz.com (republished here: http://www.chicagoartistsresource.org/music/node/17404) about what indie labels look for before signing a band. I couldn't be happier to hear from his own lips that it's really, really, really simple: 1) you have to be serious - career serious, and 2) you're music has to be great.
The label has to be able to stand behind your record 100%. They'll never fight for it like you will, but if they love it, they'll give it everything they can. Plus, if they weren't behind it 100%, they would not be living true to their own convictions - which is the only reason that indie music succeeds in the first place!
You DO NOT want a label that is not behind you every step of the way, so don't pursue a deal with a label that doesn't know where you stand or where you're coming from. Again, all of this is pretty much just regurgitating what Rob said, but he's right. Don't waste your time sending your music to labels that aren't a GREAT fit for you. Do your research.
Back to the first point, you need to honestly evaluate why you're pursuing music, a label deal, songwriting, etc. Is it about the chicks, the fame, the money, the booze? Is it a hobby? Is it something else? Are you willing to bleed for your music? For me, it's simple, and again on this point, I line up with Rob:
Who am I? I am a songwriter. What does that mean? It means that I can't help but write. I can't help but compose. I can't help but hum new melodies in the car or on the El. It's who I am. It's who I was born to be. It's what I'll do until the day that I die, and there's nothing anyone can do to change that.
I couldn't agree with all of Rob's remarks more, and I am anxious about the release of my new record, Glimmer. I'm putting more time, more sweat, more passion into this record than anything else I've done before in my life. And I expect it to pay off.