Avoid These Mistakes With Record Labels

Posted by on Friday, September 15, 2017 Under: Career Advice

For many artists, landing a record deal is the ultimate goal. Obviously you’re undertaking a Herculean task in trying to get label attention, but here’s some insider knowledge that should help you feel a little better: Here are some of the biggest mistakes made when contacting record labels, learn what you can do to set yourself up as the type of artist labels dream of signing.

1. Not Doing Your Research

This is the cardinal sin in contacting record labels! You wouldn’t believe how many people blindly send their demos out with little regard to whether the label they’re contacting is a death metal label, Christian label or even a record label at all. (Yes, this happens. People send their music to businesses with absolutely nothing to do with the record industry.) Do some research on the artists you love, with a similar sound to you, and find out who has released their records over the course of their careers. If an artist you like is on a major label, look up their discography online and see where they started out. Imagine this scenario: your music has a similar vibe to a hypothetical rapper with a lot of underground buzz, who just signed to Def Jam or a big indie like Rhymesayers. Who put out this rapper’s early stuff? Is there a hole in their artist roster where this artist used to be — a hole you could fill? Sure, submit your demo to the bigger name labels, but investigate the smaller ones, too. Obviously those ultra indie labels are already on the big labels’ radar, or they wouldn’t be scouting their artists. Plus a smaller label might be the better fit for your music, your artistic world view, and your fanbase.

2. Submitting in the Wrong Format

Before you send anything, find out how your potential label partner likes to be approached. Some websites will list a PO Box for physical CD submissions. Others will prefer links to your Soundcloud or Bandcamp, which is pretty much the industry standard these days. If you send a streaming link to your demo, it’s just so much easier for someone to click it than go through the process of finding a CD player, opening the packaging, slipping the CD in, and so on.

Don’t attach MP3 files to your submission either. Sometimes, for security purposes, labels delete emails with attachments right off the bat —if they don’t end up caught in the Spam folder first. MP3 files can also take too long to download and can seem suspicious. Would you open an attachment from someone you don’t know? Probably not.

A couple more tips: if it says “no unsolicited recordings” on their website, they mean it. Find another way in. Do you have any form of personal or business connection to anyone at the label? Can you make a connection? Creating a spreadsheet can help in properly targeting your submissions, and in keeping track of who you contacted, when, and if they replied or not.

3. Not Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Imagine reading your demo submission from a record label employee’s point of view. Most people work at labels because they genuinely love the music, but as we all know, love doesn’t pay the bills. When approaching a label, you’ve got to have killer tunes, but you’ve also got to prove you’re committed to progressing in your career. How can you show labels you’re serious?

Start by making sure your best track is the first one they’ll hear. If you can’t decide on a best track, get feedback. Which song sticks with your fans? Which song do you find yourself or your friends humming? Has a radio show dedicated to local music played one of your tracks on the air? That’s the song you want to showcase. Seek feedback from people you know involved in the music business, who have an ear for what works. Avoid asking people who are too close to you. It’s probably not the best idea to ask your mom, your girlfriend/boyfriend or your best friend. Even if they mean to be objective, they’ve got too much of a personal connection to you, which means they’re less likely to tell you when a song isn’t working, or when you need to go back to the drawing board and write better songs before submitting to a label.

It’s also important to demonstrate a history of playing shows. Let them know you regularly pull in big crowds at your city’s most well-known venue, or you opened for a big act on their Southern California dates. This demonstrates you’re capable of building a fanbase who will support your artistic efforts financially.

You’ll also want to include links to your website and social media presence. This will help the label understand how you see yourself, how you’re marketing your music, and how you interact with your fans.

By: Alison Stolpa

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