Top 10 Songs that Got a Recording Contract for an Artist

These songs got the attention of record companies /record executives. The songs were first released as demos or singles, or were on albums and EPs that were self-released, self-produced, etc.

The Top Ten

1 Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits

It was first released as a demo single in 1978 and was produced by the band. It was put on rotation at Radio London, became popular and Dire Straits were offered a contract with Phonogram Records. Dire Straits re-recorded the song for their debut album. - Metal_Treasure

2 Working Man - Rush

The song was on their debut album, released in Canada by their own company, Moon Records.
Donna Halper was a disc jockey and music director at WMMS in Cleveland, Ohio, who played "Working Man" on the air. Every time the song was played the station received phone calls asking where to buy the record. The response resulted in a record deal for the band and the album was quickly re-released by Mercury Records.
Donna Halper is credited with getting Rush noticed in the United States. Rush gave her special thanks for her part in their early history and dedicated their first two albums to her. - Metal_Treasure

3 If I Had $1000000 - Barenaked Ladies

The song first appeared on an independent band release and gained popularity before the release of their first album. - Metal_Treasure

4 These Eyes - The Guess Who
5 California Über Alles - Dead Kennedys
6 Swing, Swing - The All-American Rejects
7 I Will Be Heard - Hatebreed
8 Baby Don't Go - Sonny & Cher
9 Compton - Kendrick Lamar
10 O Mio Babbino Caro - Jackie Evancho

Within minutes of her debut on "America's Got Talent", and performing this number at age 10, major labels starting calling.

I'm amazed that a girl this young achieved such a feat. She desrved her win! - BlueTopazIceVanilla

The Contenders

11 Another Day - U2

It was first released on their EP Three (aka U2 3) that was produced by the band. - Metal_Treasure

12 Trouble Every Day - The Mothers of Invention

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention got their first record deal with Verve Records after producer Tom Wilson heard this song and assumed they were a white blues band. He was in for a shock. - Gg2000

13 Captain Jack - Billy Joel

After leaving the small label Family Productions over a bad mastering error in his first album, Billy Joel went on tour. He performed a concert at Sigma Studios which was broadcast live on WMMR radio in Philadelphia. The station played the live tape of "Captain Jack" regularly on the station, and it became popular among the station's listeners. The song's popularity caught Columbia Records president Clive Davis' attention, and he offered Billy a record deal. - Gg2000

14 Turn on Your Love Light - Them

A fan recording of Them doing Turn On Your Love Light live at the Maritime Club in Belfast made its way into the hands of two higher ups who contacted Dick Rowe (then the head of Decca Records) and told him to travel to Belfast to watch them perform. This eventually led to Them being signed to Decca Records. - Gg2000

15 It's My Own Fault - Johnny Winter

Guitarist Mike Bloomfield invited Johnny Winter to perform at a concert he was headlining with Al Kooper, and he got up on stage to perform It's My Own Fault (a B.B. King concert). Some of Columbia Records' executives were at the concert, and they gave him an advance of $600,000- which allegedly was the highest advance given out to anybody at the time. - Gg2000

16 Hey Joe - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Former Animals bassist Chas Chandler quit playing bass in 1966 to become a music manager and a producer. He liked the song Hey Joe, and he was convinced that the right version could become a big hit. After seeing Jimi Hendrix play the song while performing at the Cafe Wha? in New York, he offered him a management contract, gave him a contract from Track Records (The Who's label), and released Hey Joe as his first single. - Gg2000

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