How To Find Out If A Record Label Is Accepting Demos
The music industry may be changing, but most artists, especially those who are still building their careers, remain interested in signing record deals and being part of a label’s roster. It may or may not be necessary to making a living in music (depending on who you ask and what kind of music one is making), but it is still something millions of artists aspire to. Because of that reason (among many others), getting your music heard by someone at a label can be incredibly difficult, let alone actually landing a deal. No matter what anybody says, there is nothing you can do to ensure a record deal is in your future. You can make the best music, sell a million copies, or even become a viral sensation, but nothing is promised. Having made that clear, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If there are people out there interested in buying your music, streaming it over and over, and seeing you live, there’s a chance at least one record label is willing to sign you and your band up to some sort of deal. The first step is getting your music heard by the right people, but it’s a very tricky first step. Here are a few tips to help you find out which record labels are accepting demos and how you can actually submit to them.
Look For Submission Policies
Before you start sending CDs out, emailing everybody on staff at a company, or calling the headquarters nonstop, try looking at the websites of all of the record labels you’re considering sending music to. Some of them have specifically spelled out policies regarding sending in demos, and these can either be a hindrance or very helpful. For example, Sony Music has a page on their site saying the company “and its employees do not accept, or consider, unsolicited sound recordings, musical compositions or any other creative materials.” The statement goes on to add, “For one of Sony Music’s labels or creative centers to review a demo, it must come recommended through an established music industry professional, such as a Manager, Lawyer, Agent, Producer, artist, programmer, or tastemaker.”
That might not be what you were hoping to see, but at least you know. Plenty of smaller companies will also have their acceptance policies written down, and quite a few indie labels (especially those further down the totem pole of popularity) will actually provide you with either an email address or a physical address where you can send things. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll hear back, or that somebody will listen, but if it’s how the company wants to be pitched new music, you should at least start there.
Once you’ve looked to make sure a specific label doesn’t tell you flat out how and where to send music, your next step is to simply ask. It’s a pretty big possibility if you send a message to a general email address at Warner Brothers or Universal regarding submitting music from a band nobody has heard of, you don’t stand a great chance of hearing back. Don’t let this discourage you; it’s just how these things go. You will probably have much better luck with smaller, more independent labels. The smaller the company, the better chance you have of receiving an answer to your question, even if it’s a copy-pasted reply that has likely been sent a few hundred times by now (at minimum).
Keep your communications, be they email, mail, or another route, very short, sweet, and to the point. Don’t feel the need to ramble on about who you are, what your band does, and what your music sounds like. A lot of this information is unnecessary in the beginning, as this isn’t when people start sending out contracts. This is just your first moment of contact where you should be primarily interested in finding the right email address, website, or perhaps office where you can ship a CD.
Remember, if you don’t do the most basic research before reaching out to a label, and you ask them how to submit music when this information was already publicly available, you’re getting off on a very bad foot. In fact, if you can’t spend a tiny amount of time to look at the company’s website first, they’ll probably ignore your inquiry entirely (and with good reason).
At the end of the day, this is absolutely not a foolproof way to submit music and to get your work in front of those who can make decisions at a record label, but it’s an incredibly simple way to try. You never know what you can get until you ask for it, and this method should absolutely be towards the top of your checklist.
Get In Touch With Their Bands
Once you have your list of record labels you feel may be interested in your music all written out and organized properly and you’ve done your due diligence to see if you can just quickly send over some music, start looking at what bands are signed to these labels. You’ve probably already done this in order to decide which companies might be great fits for you and your bandmates, but you may want to reacquaint yourself with their roster. Find the smaller bands listed and start reaching out to them one by one, using whatever method you like. You can tweet them, message them on Facebook, contact their Manager, or try to speak with one of the members individually using any platform.
Keep it short and be very respectful, making sure to note you’re a fan of their work and that’s why you want to learn from what they have done. Ask how they went about securing their deal. Those you hear back from will likely have different stories, as there is no surefire one way to get a record deal, but any advice or lessons you can learn are going to be valuable. Sometimes they’ll be brief, while others may go so far as to give you names of people or detailed descriptions of how they went about contacting somebody at the firm and making the kind of relationship that eventually led to a deal.
Again, this is going to be very difficult when looking at major labels or even the bigger indies, but it’s a possibility for those artists who are also just getting started (but who are signed).
Chat With Someone Directly
This can get tricky, but if you’re polite, respectful, and courteous (not to mention concise, which I’ve mentioned before) about your ask, you might get a response, and hopefully it will be helpful.
Use platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to find out who works at record labels and what they do. You might be surprised how many names you’ll be able to keep track of after just a quick look, but afterward comes the difficult part: contacting them. You’ll need to track these employees down on social media or possibly find their emails and actually reach out to them. Most record labels are also listed in the A&R Registry.
Remember chances are, whoever you are contacting is not the person who will be able to hand you a deal, and they may not have any sway when it comes to convincing anybody your art is better or more commercial than anyone else’s. But that’s not what you’re looking for at the moment. Your ask is small: How can you get your music in front of somebody? Is there an email address that works well, or might they have any suggestions to help your package stand out when you mail it or drop it off at an office?
Most of the time, these people will not respond to you, because they have heard this all before. It’s a shame, but everybody tangentially connected to a record label gets inundated with requests like this, and there are only so many they can tackle (if they do at all). If you’re lucky, and you’ve phrased your message in a way that is quick to read and extremely polite (I can’t stress this one enough), you might hear back and get the info you were looking for.
Just Send It!
If everything else has failed and you haven’t gotten the information you need to properly submit your demo to a record label, just send it! Find a general email address or the physical address where the company operates and just go for it. This is almost certain to result in no action and no response, but if there weren’t any suggestions when it came to submitting music and this is your only option, it hopefully won’t be viewed as a nuisance. After all, these companies likely see this happen all the time.
Do your best to make whatever you’re sending, be it an electronic missive or a package containing your CD (and perhaps other goodies) stand out in any way. Colors, packaging, a headline that catches the eye…do whatever you need to up the chances somebody will actually see your attempt and perhaps give it a listen.
Again, please don’t think you’ll see a high success rate when it comes to this way of operating, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and try! There are plenty of examples of bands that ended up succeeding in this fashion, so give it your best and don’t expect the world.
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