Now it’s time to determine exactly who you’ll be contacting. You can create your own list if you’ve got lots of time and have serious Google skills.
Some labels are super open and upfront about their demo submissions guidelines.
Others are not. Many record labels will feature staff info on their website, including email addresses. Look for the A&R people.
For the sites that are more secretive about this sort of thing, you can often google “A&R and [name of label]” and find an email address or a blog story featuring this person and telling you their name.
Once you’ve got a name, if you can figure out how the company formats its emails, you’ve got a decent shot of guessing someone’s email address. For example, if you see an internship opening listed on the label website with instructions to send resumes to Imaginary Label H&R Person Helen Parker, whose email is listed as email@example.com, you have a good chance of reaching A&R Head Carl Carlson if you email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also use LinkedIn to search for label employees.
If all that sounds like too much work, you can purchase the A&R Registry from TheMusicRegistry.com. It’s a massive book of A&R and important label execs at pretty much every US and UK label you can think of, plus their contact info.
If you’ve got some extra cash, you could also hire an indie A&R service like Taxi. For a fee, companies like Taxi will get your music in the hands/ears of record label execs and film/TV projects looking for music, which in turn could lead to greater attention for your songs.
Although you won’t have the same clout as an indie A&R service, you can also search for submission opportunities on sites like ReverbNation and MusicGorilla and do it yourself.
Another smart tactic is netting your band a performance slot at a music industry conference. These meetings go on year-round — it’s not just the big ones like Winter Music Conference, SXSW, or CMJ. Indieonthemove.com has a comprehensive list of conferences for which you might be a good fit, both geographically and genre-wise.
I’ve gone to these conferences myself and seen unsigned acts that were absolutely mesmerizing. Often, no one had really heard of them outside of their hometown. I became a fan and followed some of these acts and told my friends. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction, because a couple years later, at least one of these bands was on a mid-sized indie label, playing to packed rooms at SXSW and touring the US.
That’s why playing at conferences is worth your time.