Ask Tooth & Nail: What Does It Take For A Band To Get Signed?

TGIF y’all! You know what that means: time for this week’s edition of Ask Tooth & Nail!

Today’s question was asked by…everyone:

What does it take for a band to get signed to Tooth & Nail? (Or some variation of this.)

Our answer:

I asked my office neighbor Adam (who I should perhaps mention happens to be one of the A&R guys here) to give me a list of his top three things that he looks for when checking out a band. These were his answers, with some color commentary by yours truly:

1. Music

This seems obvious, I suppose, but the music has to be good. The hard part is that the definition of “good music” varies from genre to genre and person to person. What I like may not be what Adam likes, and what Adam and I like might not be what a different A&R guy likes. There’s no accounting for taste, as they say. But if your band can appeal to a bunch of people – especially ones who aren’t related to you – you’re probably off to a decent start.

2. Drive

We’re not talking the movie starring Ryan Gosling – well, not in so many words. But a band should be ambitious and persistent and dedicated. What are you actively doing to further the status of your band? Playing shows? Finding ways to record your songs? Communicating with your fans? Spreading the word about your music? What are you doing to demonstrate that not only are you a good band, but that you want to be a better band? Hard work pays off. It will keep paying off. The work isn’t done once you’ve signed to a label. Our most successful bands are the most relentless. They know how to hustle.

3. Personality

According to Adam, this means you should be a Raiders fan who hates eggs and thinks the Ninja Turtles are cool. However, I would probably assert the complete opposite. But he and I can both agree that in order to be a rock star, you probably shouldn’t have the attitude of a “rock star.” We consider Tooth & Nail a family. Generally speaking, families spend a lot of time working and playing together; they support and cooperate with each other. In that sense, wouldn’t you more readily welcome people who were nice and funny and tenacious into your family than those who were condescending or lazy or…Raiders fans?

Unfortunately, there is no checklist or blueprint for what exactly we or any label is looking for in a band. Sometimes even when an artist has all these things at length, things still don’t work out. It’s a place to start though, I suppose. If you really want to be in a band, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. You’re going to have to earn your stripes. Not everyone makes it, but you might discover something about yourself in the process. And isn’t that what matters?

You know, aside from an armload of Grammys.

If you have a question you’d like answered, leave us a comment here, tweet us @toothandnail or shoot us an email at and hopefully you’ll see your question here on a future edition of Ask Tooth & Nail.

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3 Responses to “Ask Tooth & Nail: What Does It Take For A Band To Get Signed?”

  1. Nyla Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    Is Albatross by The Classic Crime ever going to be released on vinyl?

  2. Steven Ward Says:
    November 30th, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    In the big picture, those who have a combination of commitment , raw talent, creativity, inner desire, open mind, dedication, and the innate ability to benefit from those they network with will likely rise to the top with time. Our goal is to find the next “gem” and polish it to perfection with drive. Best of luck to all the up and coming college bands waiting to be discovered………we’re looking for you !

  3. Denise Says:
    January 15th, 2015 at 2:01 AM

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