Home recording is so inexpensive to do that it shouldn’t be an obstacle for anyone. A nice home studio can be set up for under $1,000. You also might be able to work something out with a local recording studio, which are often in need of business since the home recording revolution took hold.
There’s no one perfect answer, but you have to get the attention of the person who’s booking the festival/tour. Show them that you’re drawing big crowds at your gigs and that you’re getting a lot of radio/retail/press attention…you get the picture. State your case in terms that translate to people showing up to see the show.
You should sign with a manager when the opportunities a manager can create are better than the ones you can create yourself. Or if you are spending more time deal making than writing songs, you should get a manager. A good manager can drum up new business, coordinate your existing business activities, and generally advise you and propel your career forward. Managers get a percentage of your earnings, so your ideal candidate (a) believes in your career and its possibilities, (b) is aggressive in seeking out new revenue streams, (c) is looking out for your long-term best interests in any deals that are made and (d) is trustworthy.
There is no one simple answer to this question. It’s a competitive market so you need to do your homework and develop a solid fan base. Start by building your e-mail list. The people who sign up are your best customers for your music and merchandise. Let people know when you’re performing next in your e-mail correspondence to draw them in for your next gig. When you’ve built up a local following, you should expand to a few new towns. Check out the popular networking sites. Create a great web site and stay in touch with your audience. You might want to hire a publicist and gradually expand your touring area, in turn building your e-mail base. Also, make sure your CD sales are being tracked so you can build a story around that. You can also network at key industry events around the country like SXSW, CMJ or the DIY Convention. Build your e-mail list; build your network of people who support you; and you will evolve from there.
Keep in mind that, although companies like Taxi provide a legitimate service of shopping your music to industry executives, it will cost you. A few agencies will also include evaluations, live events, news pages and other bells and whistles but it’s best to consult with your manager or attorney to determine whether or not you should sign up for such a service.
The sleeve should be the place that anyone who enjoys your music can find out information about how to contact people vital to your career. Include the name, phone number and e-mail addresses for your publishing company, record label, manager or attorney. You should always include your band’s web site and email addresses with an easy link for signing up for your mailing list. Don’t clutter the sleeve up with inside jokes and special thanks to all of your friends - busy professionals, like music supervisors and festival bookers, want easily accessible contact information.
When it comes to demos, the simpler: the better. Nothing ruins a great song like a bad presentation, so keep it to three songs maximum with guitar and vocals, or piano and vocals only. Always leave room for the imagination of the listener.