It’s true, labels are looking for music in the style of artists who have hit it big already. The key is to dance along the line of familiarity and originality. Be a couple steps ahead of radio, but within a comfortable distance. If you are too left field, it would be hard to digest by labels and possibly even fans. If you are too similar to what’s hot now, you’ll miss the boat by the time your music gets big.
Make sure you have the ultimate product, before you invest ridiculous amounts of time and money into promoting it. Although the following has been stated repeatedly, sometimes repetition is key to truly understanding your goals. Practice your craft everyday, play gigs as often as possible and find legitimate sources of constructive feedback. As an artist, you must also realize that that it takes financial investment to develop a brand. PR, radio campaigns, web developers for your site, service companies, CD replication, copyright, professional photos, graphic design and so much more. If you are genuinely prepared to make your music a career, investing into your brand is key.
All that being said, it’s all about great art, a story and a movement. Truly, it’s a constant battle of balancing the time of perfecting your craft and developing your brand. Once you find this middle ground and you persistently create a movement with hit songs, you’ll find your way. Pursuing A&R’s through their assistants or interns, attacking blogs consistently with your music, creating interesting viral videos and finally developing an enthusiastic following will propel you towards where you need to be.