The knack: How to get a record contract, by Simon Stafford

"If none of your relatives owns EMI, or you have failed to marry the boss of Warner Brothers, then the best way to get a contract is to have songs. Record companies tend to like songs that make good singles that make them a lot of money, so either: a) write some timeless melodies, with lyrics that reflect the changing consciousness of the record-buying public; b) rip off some cheap-shot formula that appeals to mums and dads; or c) befriend someone who has done either and learn to play bass.

You won't need a manager until you have to pay tax - so get a roadie with a van and a credit card. You must be careful when exposing yourself to the world. Make sure your trousers and haircuts are co-ordinated; when you play live, don't play for longer than half an hour; make sure your demo has two-and-a-half minute versions of two or three of your best songs. Take the tape round, saying, 'I was in town to see Sony/ Island, had some time to kill, thought you might be interested ...'

When they come to see you perform, make sure you have a decent sound engineer at a half-decent venue, if possible in London. Get loads of people there, and make sure there's more than one A&R man. They can't make up their minds on their own, so invite 10 and maybe three will turn up. Don't talk about business, just drink and drink and drink. Then, a few days later, 'bond' on the phone - 'Christ, I was arseholed.' 'Me, too.' The rest should fall into place." Fiona McClymont

Simon Stafford is the bass player in The Longpigs, and is currently working on a follow-up article, "How to Write a Second Album"