Let's say you have been producing music for a couple of months up to a couple of years now and you think your music is becoming better and better, now what do you do? Do you keep on going like this and hope a label will connect you about your music? Well that might work for some, but the majority of the producers will never be seen without some proper marketing. So you need to get your music out there to as much people as possible and you want your music to be sold right? Then you need to have your music released on a record label and guess what, this article tells you the five most important things to remember when sending your demos to a record label.
The most obvious rule that I want to point out first is that your music should be of an high enough production value and it should be able to compete with the music of other artists that sell their music through Beatport or other digital stores. If your music is not on par with the music of those artists there will be a smaller chance of a label wanting to release your music, so keep remembering that a good quality production is the first and most important part of getting signed. There are countless other things to consider as well, like how do you present yourself and how can you differentiate yourself from all the others? Let's get down to business...
1. Send a label your best work
I see this happening so much, people send me a track asking me to give them some feedback since they want to improve the track one final time and then send it to record labels as a demo submission. I then go to their Soundcloud to listen to the track and more than often the track plainly sucks. Now me being as honest as I am, I will tell you it suck since I don't want to give anybody any false hope like people did when I was just starting out. If you want to send a demo to a record label then think twice, or wait think a third or fourth time as well about which track or tracks you will send. The track you send will be the first thing a record label hears from you, so you better make sure it's the best you can, otherwise you're only limiting your chances of getting signed.
Now you should also be aware that listeners will interpret your music different than you do yourself, therefor a track that you have an emotional bonding with because it took you the longest time to create might actually not be getting as much plays as that track you created in one or two days. When that happens you should sit back and analyze what is going on, always make sure you are open to suggestions and try to find out why it is that the track which you made in a short amount of time is doing better than the more production-heavy tracks you did. The answer is simple: less is more. The thing is that you know how much work as gone into making that particular melody, the other side of the story is that the listener doesn't give a crap about this, they only care about how it sounds.
Another big mistake I hear of a lot from record label owners is that producers get way too excited over their newest production and they send the little snippet of one minute long to their favourite record label with a message like: "Hey there, I'm working on this new project and it's becoming MY BEST EVER! Please listen to this since I think it would fit your label.". Now this is a bad thing, labels will never sign a producer over a snippet. The fact that you made that super-insane-jawdropping-and-dancefloor-shaking-drop will not say a record label will sign you, a good drop is nothing without a good structure around it. A good intro and buildup turns a good drop into something amazing, while a bad intro will actually take the good drop and squash it into something mediocre. The art is in making a full track that feels solid, and with that comes structure and composition. So remember, even if you get so excited over your newest project always wait till it's finished before sending it to a record label.
2. Pick the right labels and submission methods
So you have decided you are ready to start sending record labels your music, now you need to start finding record labels that release music similar to that of yourself. A good thing to start with is to simply do a quick Google search with the genre of your music and the word record labels behind it. So for instance I could search "Glitch Hop record labels" and that will give me some results of most likely some record label websites and some forum posts of the same question. Take a pen and piece of paper and simply write down the names of all record labels you can find. Then I will go to sites like Beatport, find the charts for the particular genre you are producing and also write down all the label names you find in there. By the end of doing this you most likely will have a list of twenty or more record labels, some bigger than others but they have one thing in common: they release the same kind of music as you produce.
Now you need to filter this list into something useable by going through the labels one by one and looking up their website and social media profiles, simply search the record label's name on Google to find all this information. You need to decide whether or not it will be likely that this label will sign you or not, since a industry leading record label like OWSLA or Mau5trap will most likely not release the music of a beginning and unknown producer. If you are only making music for a couple of years and this will be your first release then try and aim for some smaller labels, these generally release music that is a little bit lower in quality compared to the big labels, but they still provide a nice step-up into the music production industry. So think about which labels will most likely release your work and rule the ones out that will most likely not release your music as of now. After this you might have narrowed your list to about half the labels you had earlier.
Now you know the right labels to send your music to you will now need to search on their websites to find how they want your demo to be submitted, since every label has their own prefered method. Some labels simply ask you to send a 320Kbps MP3 file to their email address, while others ask for 44.1Khz WAV files. Other labels might use digital services and will accept private Soundcloud links instead of the actual audio files, but be sure to keep the track uploaded as private until it is released. Another form of submitting demos to a record label is by using their Soundcloud dropbox, in which you can simply upload a track directly to their Dropbox and they will get it on their stream. A similar and quite new digital method for demo submissions is the website "demodrop.com", a website designed for record labels to receive demos from musicians, the website is fairly new but it looks to be very promising!
So always be sure that you send your demo the way the record label prefers it, nothing is as annoying and unprofessional as a musician sending a demo to the a general contact email address when the label has a special 'demo submission' email address or when they use the Soundcloud Dropbox feature instead. Also when a label says on their website to only send a maximum of one track per producer per month, then obey it! Don't go sending them a new track each week, since that will make you look unprofessional and it will minimize your chances on getting signed.
3. Just your music is not enough!
These days your music isn't the only thing that helps to boost your chances of getting signed, instead it's the whole presence and hype you create around your music as well. Sure, the music is the most important thing, but a good social media presence can be the key for a label to start working with you. I can say that for a record label it's much more interesting to work with a producer who has already managed to establish a decent following on both Twitter and Facebook and possibly even on Youtube since that way the record label knows the releases will be spread to that same group of followers. Now I'm not saying it's not possible to get signed when you don't have Twitter or Facebook, but I'm saying that by being active on both you can boost your chances of getting signed for sure.
So be present at social media, that is very important, but also be sure to behave at least a little bit professional on your social media. You can have chats with other producers without problems, but if you are continuously talking about prostitutes and "my little pony" than there might be a chance a label owner will not send you something back. If however you are talking a lot about music production and are connecting with other producers a lot that shows you are passionate about it, which will result in a better social appearance not only for your fans, but also for possible distributors for your music. Remember: your first impression counts.
4. Never brag about stuff that isn't true
It's easy to brag about a thing or two and help you maintain a professional appearance and possibly get you signed, and sure who am I to say you can't lie about your achievements? But remember this: the bigger the lie, the more likely the truth will come out one day. A very small lie can be made here and there, but you don't go applying for a job as a company's CEO or director without having the proper studies and certificates, since your lies will most like be found out. So don't brag about stuff when you send a demo! I will never lie about with which artists I've collaborated with or about the releases I've had so far. Keep it clean, and you will be treated equally.
5. Keep it short!
The last thing from this list is all about the email you send, keep it short. Not a single label owner is waiting to hear your entire life story on your first contact, instead you should only tell them the most important things. I always start with a very short introduction stating my artist name, my real name and where I'm from. After that I will tell them something about my demo like what genres it can be categorized under and maybe some brief explanation of the vision behind the production. Then I will include a link to the track on Soundcloud as a private link.
After all the important stuff I like to include some more information about my Youtube channel and my achievements so far, but I only do this since my channel is related to the subject and can be a form of promotion when a label wants to release my music. If my Youtube channel would've been about hamburger eating contests and twerking surfchicks than I would most likely not include it in my email since it's not relevant to the subject. Now if the label owner has a fetish for twerking surfchicks who compete in hamburger eating contests than I might reconsider my last statement.
So all with all you just need to be yourself and be professional, that is what will help you to increase your chance of getting signed. This is easier said than done though, and it's by no means the key to getting signed, but in the end it will only benefit you if you think about these five things starting today.
I have been making music for over 10 years, have had releases on several different record labels and I have a love for everything that involves using my creativity. I spend my days as a musician, graphic designer and wannabe photographer who likes to roam the streets of his hometown, especially during the night. Maybe I'm nocturnal, who knows? One thing I know for sure, I do whatever I want to do.