When you want to get your music heard by record labels you may not know where to start.
Many successful bands have “made it” and got signed in completely different ways.
You’ve written and recorded your music so now what?
How exactly do you go about getting your music heard by record labels?
Cold calling their main office isn’t going to work.
Should you email them an mp3? Send a CD to them in the mail?
Well, maybe, and maybe not. If you want to know how to get heard and get signed like a pro, just keep reading.
Get Your Personal Brand in Order
“Fake it until you make it” is the key adage here.
If you want to be a professional music artist, act like one until you are one.
This means establishing a consistent persona on your website, social media accounts, and bio blurbs.
You’re not just selling your music–you’re also selling your ability to sell it.
You’re selling a complete package.
If a record label sees that you’re willing and able to market yourself with or without them, that label is much more likely to consider signing you.
Social media is a permanent fixture in our lives these days, and if you have some savvy at it, you’re already a step ahead.
Get your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts cleaned up.
Make your handles consistent with each other and easier to search and remember.
Then try to look at yourself honestly.
If you were just a random music fan, would you follow you? Why or why not?
What can you do to improve your persona and remain consistent with it?
Work On Your Bio
A good bio paragraph describes who you are and will bring across the heart of your music.
Ask yourself what you’re trying to say about the world, because this is what you’ll be sharing through your music.
A memorable bio will also help you stand out amidst the crowd of artists submitting music, and could be the difference between getting lost in the pile and having your demo set aside for a second look.
Spell-Check & Proofread Before Submission
Above all, don’t cut corners when it comes to how you present yourself.
Maybe you don’t use fancy words or have a college degree, but whatever writing level you do use, use it well.
Make sure your grammar is accurate and that you don’t have spelling mistakes when you contact record labels.
The person responsible for artists and repertoire (A&R) at a record company is going to see corner-cutting in the pitching process as a sign that you’ll be hard to work with later.
Know What You’re Talking About
Don’t use music industry terms incorrectly, or place your music in genres where it doesn’t belong.
A record label wants a business partner, not an intern.
Sure, they expect you to do some learning on the job, but they also expect you to do your research and speak to them on the right level.
If you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about, you immediately look like a lot more work for them to take on than someone who came prepared.
Have a Following
If you want your music to get heard by record labels then remember, they are going to check you out and see if you have the sort of fan base they can grow into a profitable enterprise for both of you.
Having live performances under your belt is also a good plus.
Anything that you’ve done professionally is a big resume boost, so work on that while you’re looking for labels that are accepting submissions.
Researching Record Labels
The only one-size-fits-all rule for submitting to record labels is this: one size doesn’t fit all.
Every label has its preferences for pitching, and they want you to follow them.
Look for submission guidelines on their website and remember, this isn’t the time or place to be inventive.
Put Yourself In Their Place
If someone you met on the street hands you a CD, you may actually listen to it when you get home.
But what if hundreds of people hand you CDs on the same day?
Even if you religiously pore over each one, what happens if the name and contact info of each artist isn’t clearly attached to the CD?
That’s right–you have no idea who they are and will never find them again.
Not only that, you won’t know who you want to listen to first, or remember anything about them from when they handed you the CD.
You may even end up throwing most of the CDs away because you don’t have time to deal with them.
Now you know what it’s like to be a record company.
Don’t be that person who turns in a plain CD with the mysterious label that says ‘play me’ in the hope that curiosity will get them to comply.
Talent acquisition reps have a lot of work to do, and they don’t have time for games.
That’s why they use the submission guidelines to toss out anyone who doesn’t follow the rules.
- NEVER send an mp3 file attached to an email unless specifically requested. When in doubt, send a link to your digitally hosted track, so that the reviewer can stream the demo. Sending attachments directly to an email address can clog and crash an email server, which is never a great start to anyone’s day.
- When uploading your tracks to a hosting site, or into a mixing program to burn onto a CD, don’t compromise on quality. Make sure it’s industry-standard 320Kbps to avoid quality loss on playback. They can’t love your music if bad sound quality makes it sound inferior!
- Have your track labeled with its name and your name, at minimum. If you have an album name, it should look like this: Track Title – Album Title – Artist Name.
- Do NOT send shortened versions of your songs. The record company representatives will want to hear the full song in order to judge it on its merits. If they are interested, they will request the submission of some of your other tracks.
- Some labels may request a physical CD demo of your music. Now is not the time to be cheap. Use a brand new (not re-writeable) CD, and burn it with a quality music program, preferably one that imbeds your track info for display on playback. iTunes does this quite well.
- Be professional in your correspondances. Keep it polite, brief, and to the point. Do not nag, plead, or threaten; don’t claim to be the “best musician since x” or anything else that is grandiose. Prove that you’ve done your research with a brief sentence along the lines of “Since you represent one of my favorite music artists, Musician X, I thought that you may be interested in my work, which is Y Genre along the lines of Z Song/Album.” Make sure that whatever you’re comparing yourself to is accurate.
- Don’t send emails every week until someone answers. Because they won’t–they’ll probably block your address. A record label could get anywhere from hundreds of submissions per week to thousands per day, depending on their size. If they like you, they’ll respond. However, a polite and well-timed (think 4-6 weeks after submission) email could be just the thing to help you stand out. If they don’t answer after that, don’t take it personally. They have a lot to mark off their to-do list, and replying ‘Sorry, but no’ wasn’t on there.
What Record Labels Want
Just like the people running them, each label has its own quirks and preferences.
You won’t get your music heard by record labels by ignoring the stated guidelines, and will only hurt yourself in the long run.
Check their websites, look at their current artists, and only address yourself to labels representing your genre.
A good place to start is to find out who represents your favorite musicians and research the label.
To give you a head start on your research, below is a sampling of record labels, the main genres they represent, and any stated submission preferences.
Record Labels to Submit Your Demos
Atlantic Records was founded in 1947 and has signed some of music history’s greatest musicians, including Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Cher, and Cream.
They currently represent performers like Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Mraz, Janelle Monáe, and Skrillex.
They are not currently accepting unsolicited submissions.
This means that either you have to know someone who knows someone, or they’ll come to you.
Alternatively, watch their page or subscribe to updates to find out when they’re open for submissions.
The artists they represent cover the genres of Alternative, Blues, Hip Hop, Pop, Reggae, and Rock.
ATO Records: This folk-centric record label has been around since 2000.
They have connections throughout the music industry, with links to major labels for distribution purposes.
They’ve represented artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, My Morning Jacket, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Old 97’s, Alabama Shakes, and Primus.
The only submission information is an email address on the About Us page, so here’s your chance to show how professional your pitch can be without specific instructions.
Their genres include Folk-Pop, Folk-Rock, and Country-Folk.
Nuclear Blast Records: Representing the likes of Nightwish, Battle Beast, Avantasia, Blind Guardian, Epica, and Machine Head.
They promise to listen to every CD sent to them, but ask that every hopeful artist critique themselves to make sure they’re polished and ready for partnership with a major label. NO mp3s, DATs, or mini-discs.
They want a hard-copy CD, and prefer a press kit with band photos, a brief artist/band bio, any tours, appearances, or press coverage, and any previously released songs or records.
They represent: Metal, Death/Black Metal, Heavy Metal, and Symphonic Metal
Silverado Records: A smaller indie label started in Nashville, TN, in 2016, this company’s mission is to help up-and-coming country artists get their start.
Their artist roster may be small right now, but they’re already getting a lot of submissions.
If you think you want to get on the ground floor of a growing label, Silverado has a submission form and asks that you do NOT send links or sound clips in an email.
They represent Ali Morgan, Joe Diffie, Crystal Yates, Tyler Jordan, and Tony Winkler. Winkler’s songs have been featured on ESPN’s Game Day show and video games such as Country Dance. They represent: Country.
Babygrande Records: Since 2001, they’ve been active in the Electronic Dance Music, Hip-Hop, and Indie Rock genres.
With artists like GZA, Drako, and The Burn Unit (featuring Smoke DZA, Trademark Da Skydiver and Young Roddy), they represent the daring of the popular music movement toward fresh new attitude.
They accept submissions only through email–requesting all relevant info and links to your demos.
The lack of structure gives you the opportunity to show that you know how to professionally submit to a major label.
This is just the beginning of the possibilities you may find as you get deeper into the music industry.
Make contacts, form a network, and ask questions when the opportunity arises.
You never know when that person you’re talking to will turn out to know someone who knows someone that can give you your big break.
How GigFaster Can Help
Thanks for reading. Here at GigFaster, we help artists submit to indie record labels.
We bridge the gap between hard working artists like you and venues, music bloggers and indie record labels.
You hustle with your music and we help you get your music heard and recognized.
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