How to sign your music to labels
A big topic that comes up often with my music production students is how to get songs signed to labels. In the past I didn’t address this topic because, quite honestly, I wasn’t signing many tracks myself. I didn’t feel right about giving advice that hasn’t worked for me personally.
As many of you who have followed me over the last year, that all has changed & I feel I’ve got some helpful information to share. Below are some tips that are certain to improve your chances of signing more of your finished songs to labels.
They are just people
The very first thing I want you to understand, is that electronic record labels are not high & mighty entities. At the end of the day, it’s just people trying to make a statement in the music scene. Labels aren’t a whole lot different than artists, in fact, most of these labels are run by producer’s themselves.
With every label I have worked with or signed to, I can tell you this. None of the labels I have dealt with have been any more than a casual conversation. They want to know that you “get” their vibe & that their followers will buy what they release. It’s really that simple.
Find the labels
So the very first step I would recommend to you is to search out the labels that will marry up nicely with your sound. Labels are very specific in their “sound” as it’s the thing that makes them unique. Do not disrespect a label by offering them music that doesn’t fit their sound. It’ll just prove to them that you don’t “get” it & they won’t be interested in building a relationship with you as an artist.
If you produce & DJ, you probably already have an idea of which labels sound similar to your style. If not, try going to Mixcloud.com and hunt down mixes in your style & take a look at the artists and labels on their playlists. Often times, most of the labels will be of a similar vibe, so that can give you a head start.
I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but do your best to keep your ego in check & realize that bigger labels rarely sign artists that don’t already have some sort of reputation & some releases under their belt. Generally speaking, you should start small and build your way up. Smaller labels will be more open to new artists, as they aren’t expecting to sell 5000 copies. Bigger commercial labels have to take all of that into account, so are less likely to pick you out of all the piles of submissions they get on a daily basis.
I’m not suggesting that you sell yourself short. There are some artists who do get signed to a bigger label right out of the gates, but I would assume that some kind of relationship was already in place. This is a very social scene & labels are more likely to sign friends than they are to sign a stranger. I’ll get into that more later in this post.
Do your research
When you know which label(s) you want to aim for, you’ll want to do some online research(google is your friend). Find out who runs the label(s) you are interested in & which artists are on the roster. Social media really becomes a blessing when it comes to building a relationship with these people, but you are sure to fail if you get ahead of yourself. You’ll want to keep things slow and steady.
Do not introduce yourself as a music producer
This is a huge fail for anyone who wants to sign to a label. If you are hunting down label owners & sending them a link to your Soundcloud in your introduction, expect to be permanently ignored. If you have promoted yourself by commenting on other people’s songs with “Nice tune bro! check out mine”, quit it! You’re failing.
The much better approach is to genuinely give a shit about the other artists & their success. Get in the conversations & know what you are talking about. If the artist makes a new release, and you like it, by all means, share it & comment on it. Don’t just say “nice tune bro”(in fact, never use “bro” unless you guys are already pretty tight), instead say specifically what you dig about the tunes. This shows that you actually understand the artists sound. That’s important. It shows you are paying attention.
Do not give your constructive criticism on the artist’s music. You’re relationship isn’t there yet. Any criticism should be private anyway and you shouldn’t private message someone unless you have already been chatting publicly with the artist.
If you want a shot at a certain label, make sure the label owner sees you a lot in conversations with other artists the label associates with. Don’t spam & don’t share you music (although, feel free to share songs you think the artists would want to add to their DJ sets)
Be confident, not arrogant
Never criticize yourself or your own music in conversations. Be able to look someone in the eye & say “this is good”. If you can’t do that, you aren’t ready for a label yet. If you are apologizing for your music & lack confidence, how will you expect anyone to have faith in you as an artist?
Don’t send unfinished demos to labels ever. Unless you have build that type of relationship, they have no time to nurture you or tell you what your song needs. You should consider your song finished before sharing it.
Find a production friend or mentor
It’s always good to have a friend of mentor who “gets” your sound & can give you their constructive ideas to making your song sound label ready. It’s as important as a writer hiring a great editor. I can’t tell you how many of my songs have been improved, or completely saved from the trash bin by being open to advice.
This person shouldn’t just be a buddy of yours. You need someone to tell you honestly when your music is not up to par, but at the same time a person who genuinely wants you to succeed.
Don’t underestimate this step!
EP’s not singles
When you are looking to sign your music, you don’t want to think in terms of single tracks. These days labels are looking for an EP worth of music.
Most Labels want at least 2 original songs from you & will typically have 1 or 2 remixes, however other labels will want 4 or 5 originals. Understand the way a label likes to release music before submitting or you can expect to be ignored.
Get a soundcloud account
These days, many labels research artists through their soundcloud, so you’ll want to at least have snippets of your work & perhaps a few DJ mixes (not a bad way to get gigs). Some labels like you to submit them private links to your songs instead of downloads, so Soundcloud makes this really easy. Although I recommend getting a paid account, you can certainly start with a free account.
When submitting music to a label, you’ll need to have some patience. Although some labels may get back to you quickly, others take some time. If you don’t hear back in a week, check back with them. Some labels may not respond if they aren’t interested. Don’t sweat it, just know when to move on. There are tons of labels, so if your music is good, you are certain to find a fit.
Start your own Label
Many artists who found it difficult to categorize their sound specifically for other labels have had quite a bit of success at starting their own. Although this subject can be a whole post of it’s own, a great way to get your music on to Beatport, iTunes, Spotify and many others important places is to find a digital distributor. Running a label is hard work & is no way to get rich, but can be a wonderful way to get exposure & build your name.
Although it’s not extremely easy to get accepted, it’s easier than going direct to some of these digital stores. You’ll typically want a 6 month release plan before going to a distributor. They want to know that you will be releasing at least once a month & that the quality will be consistent.
You may need to pay a remixer or 2 just to have a little name recognition for the label. That can help your label to get accepted. Here are a couple distributors you can look into.
Have any of your own tips? Let me know if the comments!
Happy music making,