How to get signed to a record label

June 17, 2019
Written by
Buster Bennett
How to get signed to a record label

How To Get Signed To A Record Label - The Definitive Guide.

To become a great DJ and tour the world you need to release hit music on a record label, but how do you go about getting the attention you need in a crowded market? Use our step by step guide to help you understand how to submit your demo tracks, avoid the common pitfalls and target the right labels.

Step One - Are you ready?

Follow these steps and avoid these mistakes before you even considering contacting a label.

Are you good enough?

One of the most common mistakes new producers make is submitting their first tracks too soon. It takes time to learn the trade and become a decent producer. First impressions really count so if you submit early with a half-baked track you risk the label ignoring you when you really have a polished record to release. Make sure you have taken enough time to master the art of producing before you start reaching out to labels. If you're not sure if you're ready seek the advice of a professional producer who has already released. Get them to listen to your tracks and give constructive feedback. Click here if you would like to contact us for advice.

Do you have the rights?

Many new producers are using samples to create their tracks, and many use acapellas in place of an original vocalist. Most sample download sites do give you the license to use the samples commercially on a release but if you source a sample from anywhere else, like ripping it from an existing track, you risk trying to release something you have no legal rights over. Any label you sign to will make you sign a contract stating you have the legal right to release all the content in the track, if you don't have you are risking a lawsuit from the original owner or the record label or both!

The Power of Original Vocals.

Record labels are going to be most interested in tracks with original vocals. If you're working with a talented singer, writing songs and recording vocals you are like gold dust in the industry. Many producers are cutting corners by using samples and acapellas, which risks sample ownership issues and other legal complications. If you have original vocals you don't have to worry about any of that, and have much more commercial appeal. Vocal tracks are of course more memorable and more likely to get you noticed. Of course, writing a song and working with vocals requires more skill. Make sure you're checking the quality of your tracks with more experienced producers before submitting to any labels.

Are you ahead of the curve?

It takes many months to plan a successful release so your track needs to be ahead of the curve. Labels want to hear tracks that are pushing boundaries stylistically and not just following the trend. Make sure you are setting the agenda with a unique sound months ahead of the competition. You don't need to reinvent the wheel but you need to offer something new. The easiest way to do this is to adopt new technology before your rivals. Make sure you're the first to use that new preset or the first to master that synth.

Do you have a press pack, professional photo and graphics?

Record labels want to sign producers who are ready to promote. You have to have a slick press pack that contains a range of professional press shots in high resolution, a well-written DJ biography and any graphics like logos you use for your brand. If you have any press clippings you should also add these into the pack. Click here for our blog about how to get more press coverage as a DJ. Click here to learn more about how a great press photo can change your career. Click here to learn how to write a DJ biography.

Have you established yourself on social media?

Make sure you have a consistent look across all social media platforms and include those links in your application. Love it or hate it social media is now a major part of promoting yourself as a DJ and producer. Labels will expect to see your social media profiles populated with great content that consistently represents you and the track you are going to submit to them. Click here to read this blog from Island Records on how to manage your social media as a DJ or producer.

Step Two - How to submit your demo

If you've ticked off the criteria above and have faith in your new hit demo, it's time to contact the labels.

1st, 2nd and 3rd Choice Labels

Firstly, you should research all the record labels out there, and compile your first, second and third choice labels. Make sure you're aiming for labels that are releasing your genre and closely align with your style. You should look at each labels roster of artists and make sure you fit in. Look at the press shots for the artists they are already signing, do you look similar? Focus on contacting the first label first and if you get no response work on your back ups.

Avoid The Scams

There are some labels out there that just exist to prey on new producers. They release almost any track and make money by signing you into a contract where you don't make any money back unless sales reach a certain threshold, which is mostly unobtainable for newbie producers. In this way they make all the money from your releases and you're left with the embarrassment of having released a track on a dubious label. If you release on one of these labels bigger more credible labels won't touch you and you'll need to completely rebrand and start again.

Work Your Way Up

Be realistic, you're most likely to be signed to a small label first so aim for something appropriate. Try and go for a label with a good ethos run professionally, supporting similar acts. Make sure they have a cool cutting-edge image so that it does not damage your future image. It's normal to start on the underground and work your way up.

Get On Their Radar

Now you've chosen your target labels and avoided the scams you should try and appear on their radar. Make sure you follow them and everything they do on social media, attend all their events and launches and buy their releases (direct where possible so they have to physically post it to you.) Why not buy their record and then post about your new purchase on an instagram story and tag them. Little things like this can reinforce your name in their mind and help support your application. Labels are much more likely to work with you if you support them and they know you're an expert in what they're about. Avoid spamming them of course, don't look desperate!

Prepare Your Press Pack & Private Demo Link

Now you've chosen your target labels you should prepare your application. You need to make sure you have your press pack ready, ideally as a shareable file on dropbox. You also need to have the pre-master of your track uploaded to Soundcloud, crucially under a private link. Don't make the mistake of uploading the track publicly anywhere before signing it, if you do it will render it worthless in the eyes of any label. If you are submitting to multiple labels we recommend you create a new private link upload for each application and adjust the title of the demo accordingly. This way, the label knows you're not sending it out to everyone and makes them feel like you're more invested in them.

The Power Of The Physical Medium!

The worst way to submit a demo is by email. Everyone does it because it's easy but of course they are also easy to delete. Many labels get hundreds or even thousands of demo submissions, too many to actually listen to. If you instead approach them from a less travelled path you're far more likely to get heard. Why not send your demo in on a USB to their office along with a print-out of your press pack. Take advice from this LSA success story of Nick Burdick who has been signed to Toolroom records after posting a physical demo to their head office. Click here to read the blog and learn the secret!

Follow Up Call

Follow up your postal submission with a phone call to check they have received it and to ask for any feedback. Try not to be pushy, just be conversational and polite and express enthusiasm for their label. If they have not listened try and get an alternative email to address to send to other than the catch-all address many labels use but don't monitor.

Email As A Last Resort

Email is the least effective way to contact a record label but it does sometimes work. You should send in an email if the first methods above don't work. Make sure you format the email so it looks professional. You can often find the submission email address on their website or by messaging them on social media.

Competitions

Some labels run competitions for submissions via their website where the public upload demos and then rate them. The winner often gets their demo reviewed by the label. This should be a last resort because once your track is publicly available it's worthless to any other label.

Go It Alone

If no one is biting and releasing your track you should ask yourself if it's just not good enough. But, if you have total faith in the release why not try and release it yourself by creating your own digital record label. Nowadays there are many companies like Labelworx who make this possible.

If you would like more help with your productions, advice on releasing music and 1-2-1 mentorship just contact us.

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