How to Find Record Labels Looking for Artists
Record labels are always looking for new artists. However, if you’ve ever sent your demo or pleaded with your college friend who works at a label to pass on your SoundCloud link to the Director of A&R, you’ve probably been left feeling like you’re playing your future hit single to a brick wall. It’s crazy how mysterious the whole process of getting signed to a label can sometimes feel. How do you know when record labels are actively seeking artists? How can you get them to give your tunes a spin? Who’s the best person to contact? In this blog post we’re going to demystify the whole process of landing a label deal.
Build your own buzz.
The number one way to get a record deal might seem obvious, but it’s the only real way to garner label attention. The secret to catching a record exec’s ear is (drum roll please)…making music so good it’s impossible to ignore. You probably already know this, but are you really practicing it? The truth is a lot of bands reach out to record labels before they’re really ready to get to the next level. A label wants to see you’re the whole package and you’re about to take the world by storm. Then they’ll invest in you.
So how can a band kick their presence and artistry up a notch? Well, for starters, make sure you’ve got a fresh, distinctive artistic vision. No label wants to sign a cheap version of another band; they want someone striking, someone who makes you sit up and take notice. Once you’re sure your band isn’t just writing retreads of another group’s songs, you can further hone your performance and creative skills by performing live as much as possible. Since touring is a massive part of music industry income these days, labels want to see a captivating frontperson who knows how to put on a show. But it’s not just about labels — it’s also about growing your own organic, wild-about-you audience.
No label wants to sign a cheap version of another band; they want someone striking, someone who makes you sit up and take notice.
The size and passion of your fanbase ensure you’ll constantly be gaining new fans, as your old, ardent audience shares your songs with their friends, and so on. More fans equal more people willing to buy your LPs, your mixtapes, and your t-shirts. More fans also means increased exposure to music industry professionals who can bolster your career — from other bands who might want to tour with you or put in a good word with their Manager to young A&R Coordinators looking for exciting, undiscovered artists to pitch to their department. This is also where networking comes in; get out and meet other bands, fans, and music industry professionals in your local scene.
Of course, social media numbers and interaction also play a part in this. Make sure you’re on all the sites that make sense for your project; it’s probably some combination of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr. You can gain more fans this way and effectively communicate with your longtime supporters about upcoming shows and new releases. A strong social following looks good to labels, too, and you might even find label employees among your online fans. Once these people start sharing your music far and wide, you won’t have to look for labels. They’ll already be looking for you.
How to find music submission opportunities.
Let’s say Fool’s Gold or Epitaph aren’t leaving you longing voicemails and responding to your emails within seconds just yet but you’re still ready to send your demo out. You’ve got to have a solid game plan; know what you’re selling and who’s most likely to buy. Start off by spending some time online, figuring out which labels rep artists with a sound similar to yours. Make a list of labels who might dig your style.
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 will feature staff info on their website, including email addresses. Look for the A&R people. Other sites are more secretive about this sort of thing, but 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, you have a good chance of reaching A&R Head Carl Carlson if you email email@example.com. You can also use LinkedIn to search for label employees.
A label wants to see you’re the whole package and you’re about to take the world by storm. Then they’ll invest in you.
If all that sounds like too much work, you can purchase the A&R Registry. We sell it through our site. 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.
How to submit correctly.
If you write a poorly-crafted cover letter or submit your music in the wrong format, you reduce your odds of getting your music heard and increase the odds of getting it sent to some label employee’s desktop trash bin. Some record labels will tell you how they prefer to receive demos, but if you can’t find this info, send a SoundCloud or a Bandcamp link. Streaming links are preferred, as it takes time to download tracks (which can also seem suspicious if people are worried about viruses) or find a CD player.
Make sure you’re submitting to the appropriate person at an appropriate label. Don’t send your submission to the firstname.lastname@example.org address. It’s going to get deleted. Don’t send EDM to a hip-hop label. You can learn about more mistakes to avoid when contacting a record label by reading this classic blog story.
If your tracks pique label interest, you want them to be able to easily learn more about your band, so there’s certain info each submission must include. It’s easy to overlook some of these seemingly basic things when you’re sending a whole slew of demo submissions, so create a checklist and make sure you’ve included everything before you hit send. Be sure you’re including a streaming link to your music, any social media pages (list the ones with the biggest following first), your professional website (if you have one), any connections you might have to the label or their bands, and, if possible, an intriguing quote about your band (i.e. “My new favorite DJ!” — Tiesto or “A brilliant indie rapper with an electrifying live show” — Complex) Don’t forget to list your contact info, of course. Happy submitting!
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