How To Send Demos To Record Labels

For rising producers who are ready to go beyond self-release and promotion, there’s a clear “next step”. Submitting your tracks to labels with the hopes of getting a release isn’t easy. But in today’s article, guest contributor and JOOF label A&R manager Daniel Sokolovskiy reveals a few key insights. Keep reading to learn how to properly send demos to record labels, with the goal of getting a response.


Having great music is the essential part of a music producer’s career. Marketing, social media, and other promotional tools work only if your music is truly great.

But when dealing with record labels, just having great music is not enough — you have to know how to properly pitch the labels. Otherwise, you may end up like a radio telescope in the above image – blasting out signals but never getting a reply back.

In this article, I’ll share my insights on sending a demo to a record label, and how to increase chances of a positive response.

Demonstrate your best

Some producers think that demo is a 1-minute cut from the full track, some others think it’s a work-in-progress preview. Let’s clarify what the ‘demo’ actually means in the first place.

‘demo’ is short for demonstration — the demonstration of the best you can do.

Let’s take photographers for example. A good photographer won’t show just a piece of his shots to the clients, saying something like “Well, you know, it’s a work-in-progress, but after Photoshop it will be better”.

Imagine if photographs only shared a section of their completed work. Show the best you can do, not some tiny unfinished piece
Imagine if photographers only shared a section of their completed work – it wouldn’t make sense! Show the best you can do, not some tiny unfinished piece.

So when sending submissions to labels, don’t send ideas and rough previews saying “I’ll finish if your label is interested in it”. Send only finished tracks, and only when you’re absolutely sure it’s the best you can do.

Do Your Research; Submit To The Right Labels

Surprisingly, producers often send tracks that don’t match a label’s genre. It may sound obvious, but before hitting send, do some research. Before you submit a demo, make sure it totally suits the style and concept of the label. Why would a Trance label would ever want to listen to your Drum & Bass demo?

It can be good to have specific label in mind when you are producing a track. But if you just starting out and not sure where your music fits in, try this research process:

  • Find five or ten artists with similar music to yours
  • Check where those artists have been released
  • Check those labels and listen to their other releases.

Do this process a few times and you’ll have a solid list of record labels where your music potentially fits in.

Use Official Contacts, Not Facebook Messages

Please don't be like this guy. Just don't.
Please don’t be like this guy. Just don’t.

All the people in the music industry have public accounts: on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Google+, and other social media. But just because these accounts have “Send a message” buttons doesn’t mean that label heads want to receive your demos here. In fact, it might be quite the opposite.

Personal and business communication are different things, and not all people like to mix it together. I advise to respect people’s privacy, and don’t send demos in personal messages on social media. If you try this, know that your message might not even get there – for instance, Facebook filters out messages from people who don’t have a certain number of shared friends.

Instead, I recommend using a label’s official contact methods for demo submission. Go to the label’s website or Facebook page, look for the contacts section, and check their specific instructions out. If they accept demos via form on their website only, then send via that form. If they ask to send an email to specific address — send an email to that address.

If you’re unwilling to follow the directions that a label has set out for submitting tracks, this means something to the label manager. Do they really want to work with someone (an artist) who can’t follow directions and submit music properly? Probably not.

Personalize Your Submission

Some producers use mass mailings, hoping that the odds are that someone will pick their track up. Trust me – chances of getting released on a decent label by mass mailing are very, very low.

"My demo for the best labels", this email says. A fancy MailChimp template makes it look even more artificial, the opposite of what a real person-to-person email would look like
“My demo for the best labels”, this email says. A fancy MailChimp template makes it look even more artificial, the opposite of what a real person-to-person email would look like

Going beyond that, I advise personalizing your submission. Instead of simply saying, “Hi, here is my demo” (which may indicate that you probably sent this demo to other labels as well), add that particular label name in subject line, or in track title, or in track description, or wherever.

This instantly gives a feeling of a personalized demo sent specifically for this label. This is important! If you don’t care which label you want to be released on, then most likely the label won’t care much about you either.

Send a Brief-but-Specific Message

It’s surprising how often I receive emails like this:

Hi,
I hope you’ll like my new track!
Sent from my iPhone

Who is the sender, what’s their artist name? What track did they sent, and for what purpose? Well, you can only guess! Most likely, such messages are simply ignored in a favor of many other incoming messages in the queue. Remember, credible labels with good reputations receive dozens of demos on a daily basis!

But please don’t write a huge wall of text either. The best practice is to briefly introduce yourself, tell something about the track, and why you’re sending it. It’s okay to mention some other tracks or artists you like from the label, this shows you’re a fan of the label, which is always a good sign.

A good message might look look like this:

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-oct-12-13-47-amHere’s a template you can duplicate in your own submissions:

  • One short paragraph about yourself
  • One or two sentences about this demo
  • Signature with one main website link

Send Links, Not Files

Never ever attach audio files to the email message. Some mail servers and filters have a limit on incoming file size, you risk that your message won’t be delivered at all. It also can comes off as less professional.

I recommend uploading your files to one of the trusted and reliable platforms – SoundCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, or WeTransfer. Make sure to name files properly with your artist name and track title rather than something like “ID1.mp3”.

Personally, I prefer SoundCloud links most of all. But there are three things to keep in mind when sending over SoundCloud:

  • Turn on download option. Listening online is super handy, but sometimes a person who is making a decision may want to download this track to listen in another environment (ex: on a long overseas flight)
  • Keep your uploads private. Labels want to get exclusive material that no one has heard before, so public uploads significantly reduce chances of it getting signed.
  • Make sure you send a proper link. This one is a common mistake: to get a private link, you have to click on the “Share” button, and then copy text from the “Private Share” line. Double-check it: the link should include some few random digits at the end – try opening it in an Incognito browsing window. If you just copy-paste the regular link from your browser, everyone but you will see this:

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-oct-12-19-20-am

Be Patient + Learn to Accept ‘No’

Don’t expect to get a reply back instantaneously. Good manners and business ethics imply waiting for a response for at least a week is reasonable. This is one of the main differences between quick online chats with friends and business communication.

Keep in mind that A&R Managers are often active artists themselves. They usually have busy schedules with their own music production and touring.

It is okay to send a reminder if you haven’t got a reply in 2-3 weeks. But don’t fall into a trap of false illusions: probably, you won’t hear back at all. Don’t let that discourage you – if your track is really amazing, well-produced, and totally fits the label, you’ll get a reply.

Being an active artist myself, I know how frustrating it can be to get a rejection or even no response. But don’t be afraid of getting “no” as an answer. Being alright with rejection and learning what works and what doesn’t helps you grow as a producer!

Daniel Sokolovskiy is a Psytrance music producer and DJ, known under the alias Daniel Lesden — an artist at Digital Om Productions roster and A&R manager at JOOF Recordings. Daniel hosts his monthly show Rave Podcast on Digitally Imported radio and shares experience in the weekly Advice blog.

  • Feel Decimal Black
  • H. D.

    Been doing some research on this lately… liked this article, well done Dan, and this one http://bit.ly/2tV3QSy
    These two gave me the full picture.

  • Jody Taylor

    With 25,000 songs upload on Beatport per week, this is definitely a topic that needs to be discussed more and more in the industry. I have dedicated my life to streamlining the demo submission process between artist and label through Write Rhythm. Thanks Daniel for giving some insight on how to do it correctly. We support all the above points. Now? Executing the said points in the most efficient way possible.

  • vitamindevo

    Being a Label Owner ( http://lasernative.com ) I have been getting all sorts of Demos. I have to say all this is great advice, for any new and or older producer, looking to release with us. Have some sort of communication as well, are you brand new? Is this a new alias, but you have a bigger other alias… Information really helps.

    • Daniel Lesden

      Thanks, I’m glad you find it useful. Cheers!

  • George

    What about sites like DemoDrop.com?

    • Daniel Lesden

      What about them? 🙂

  • Hana Sheala

    Big thanks for this article. I have maybe a bad question, what does A&R stand for, Artists and Research?

    • Daniel Lesden

      You welcome! It’s Artists and Repertoire 🙂

  • Julian

    I’m under the impression that once you get a track signed with a specific label the track that was released is now owned by the label… is this true?

    • Daniel Lesden

      Usually, artist grants exploitation rights to the label, otherwise distribution and sale of the recordings would be illegal. But you still own copyrights as an author. So there’s nothing really to worry about unless you dealing with some scam label. Just make sure to read the contract properly, and if something seems confusing to you, don’t hesitate to ask the label to clarify it.

    • vitamindevo

      It’s a team effort, you need them, they need you. Make sure you have good contracts and know what you are signing. If you are handing over a lot of rights with the song, but then they are marketing the hell out of you, then its worth it in the end.

  • Envinite

    Nice article. I’ll try finding record label when I get back to finishing some tracks since it bores me lately, and I’m a lazy piece of shit :P.

  • Rolfski

    Or you just can set up your own label and publishing and keep your complete creative freedom. It’s really not that hard. And as you won’t be making any substantial money in the music business anyway, at least you get to keep more of it.

    • Daniel Lesden

      That’s not really true. In reality, stores are flooded with music and keep getting thousands of new arrivals weekly, just the fact you get your music out on Beatport on your own label doesn’t really change anything. Plus, thinking that setting up an own label would make things easier is a big mistake because operating as B2B you will have to deal with even more complicated bureaucracy, papers, accountants, reporting, and more.

      This is why you need a credible and trustworthy label if as an artist you want to reach out the audience. You surely can run a label and make it become one of those credible and trustworthy ones, but it’ll take a lot of time, money, and efforts.

      • Rolfski

        I’ve set up a label myself and believe me, it’s very doable. Of course you have to dig down a bit deeper into the nitty gritty of the music business, but that’s my whole point: If you want to be even slightly successful, that’s exactly what you have to do anyway.

        The times that sending in demos was enough for a potential ticket to stardom are over, especially in electronic music. Nowadays you have to be your own publisher, performer, writer, composer, technician, marketeer, social media expert, account manager, financial manager, label manager, roadie, booking agent and what not first as a musician to get a foothold on the ground.

        Only then you can make a really educated judgment about what a particular label might bring to the table for your specific goals.

        • Tomash Ghz

          Totally agree, you gotta be on the other side of the food chain.

    • vitamindevo

      As someone who has done this, and invited all my friends to release on the label, I can tell you that it takes a lot of work and dedication. It’s not for everyone, and its a lot of time, that you could be spending on writing music.

      • Rolfski

        There’s no denying in that, but these are basic music business survival skills you NEED to make your own first anyway, for any reasonable chance on long time success.

        • Erwan

          After reading this article I was wondering why not proposing a skype contact or something, I feel mails are really colds and inhuman. I would like to know if some of you are asking that to the labels ?

          • Daniel Lesden

            The problem with Skype and any other instant messengers is that people typically expect to hear a reply back RIGHT NOW, especially when they see that you’ve read the message. Don’t forget that big labels receive dozens and even hundreds demos a day, every day, so having all those conversations in Skype would be quite difficult to manage.

            I have the advice about using instant messengers vs. email for business, perhaps you might find it intersting: http://daniellesden.com/blog/all/messengers-vs-email/

            I hope it answers the question 🙂

          • Agreed mate. Labels dont have time for Skype calls unless they are 90% sure they want to sign them and do something ‘big’.

    • This is a fair point and I do agree. At some point in your career, if you get there, making your own label is the next step.

      I think there is not enough Entrepreneurship in the artist community, especially in electronic music. Because of the ‘everything must go viral’ model that everyone is so heavily chasing, which is directly linked to one hit wonders, no one wants to work hard anymore. Young artists are getting lazy with hustling, networking and to make some noise in the industry. So making your own label? Maybe if your a hard worker by default but with the artist mindset today? Finding the right labels and creating a list of label email address is considered too much work let alone create their own label, deal with admin, promotion, distribution, etc. What happened to entrepreneurship in the artist community?

  • James Britt / Neurogami

    Why would someone want to do this? What’s the value proposition of being with a label?
    Is there any assurance you’ll get decent promotion? Proper (and prompt) payment?

    • Daniel Lesden

      Well, I think we should start off with the fact: music sales (and streaming) are no longer the source of income for artists, we should treat music like a “business card” — you give it, and get fans in return. I’m sorry if this statement will hurt someone, but this is true. Releasing on a label is a marketing tool allowing to reach a broader audience, and when dealing with a credible label that has a good reputation — it works great.

      I have written two articles in the advice blog that answers what record labels really do, and what possible release routes which also some includes some pros and cons of labels (I’m not sure it’s appropriate to post links here, so I hope you’ll find it 🙂

      • James Britt / Neurogami

        Thanks for the reply.

        I’m sure its appropriate to post relevant links, if you could do so.

        • Daniel Lesden

          Labels get more income from music sales simply because their overall amount of releases is more. Let’s say, if an artist releases one EP per three months, a label would have one release per week — that’s 12 times more. This why I said sales is not a source of income for artists, but obviously it is the main source for labels (although, it’s still really small as far as I’m aware). I hope it makes sense 🙂

          As for “why one would even want to be on a label” — well, it’s one of the ways of getting an audience and keep the words spread out, and to me, audience is quite essential component of every music producer and DJ.

          • James Britt / Neurogami

            This is what this sounds like to me: There’s essentially no money in the music business for artists, but (thanks to artists) there is money for labels .

            But it’s not a total loss for the people making the music: they get exposure.

            Thanks for the link, I’l check out your other writings.

            Maybe I’ll learn how to run a label.

          • Daniel Lesden

            Not really, because ‘music business’ includes much more than music sales and artists mainly get money from performance. Merchandise, licensing, streaming, sales, teaching etc are all extra sources for artists, but they are just much smaller ‘pieces of the pie’ comparing to gigs.

            Anyway, this conversation goes far beyond the topic of the article, so for more questions about music industry feel free to drop me an email 🙂

  • RogueMURICAN

    Since when were “Record Labels” even relevant anymore?

    • Daniel Lesden

      Records labels were, still are, and certainly will be relevant for quite some time. My answer below to James Britt somewhat explains why 🙂

    • vitamindevo

      In dance music, they are still if not completely relevant. An artist releases on a label and then can get entire tours based on that one release.

    • I see where this is coming from. Can an artist self release? Sure! Go to Tunecore, CD Baby and those distribution companies and your tracks are placed on Spotfiy, iTunes, Beatport, etc.

      But there are so many reasons why labels are still relevant, especially in the electronic dance music landscape.

  • Chael

    Cool article, would you recommend sending fully mastered material for demo purposes or is it totally acceptable to send pre mastered versions of tracks?

    • Daniel Lesden

      Thanks! Most labels have an in-house engineer, so it’s okay to send non-mastered tracks in most cases. Just make sure the track has proper mixdown. I have written about mixing and mastering when dealing with labels in my blog, feel free to read it if you like.

      • Chael

        Thanks for the info Daniel, i will be sure to check out your blog – you can never have enough reading material when its quiet at work

  • Ztronical

    Yes Digitally Imported! And yes I bought the membership!
    Oh and yes my two favorites are the Electro and Psy-Trance channels. Psy-chill is also nice.
    Just subscribed to your Soundcloud.Very good advice thanks.
    The style and genre advice is good, but then I do notice that some labels all the artists sound so similar that I only bother listening to a couple tracks before skipping that label for any future music.
    So although a drum and bass label may not accept trance, I do wonder if labels are somewhat causing the artists to limit creativity just to get music out. As a positive effect I guess it may also help an artist make a more defined or structured music as well.

    • Daniel Lesden

      Thanks for subscribing 🙂 Well, it depends. Some labels prefer to narrow down their music to the very specific kind of sound of a specific sub-genre. Some other labels accept a wider spectrum of music and BPM range. But I don’t think it’s limit producer’s creativity anyhow, in fact, any label strives for something unique and original even within a narrow sub-genre.

  • Daniel Lesden

    Totally delighted to have my article posted on DJTT! I hope this humble writing will be useful 🙂

    For anyone who has any questions, feel free to post it over, I’ll try to answer.

    • BMSS Records

      Well done Daniel, very accurate!

      • Daniel Lesden

        Thank you!

    • Chris Wunder

      Johnny on the spot with the comment replies, big kudos to you, thanks for all the great info!

      • Daniel Lesden

        Thanks, sir! I’ve actually googled what does “Johnny on the spot” mean as I haven’t been familiar with that phrase till now. It’s always good to learn something new 🙂

  • werwolf

    as senior a&r for a major record label i can only emphasize each and every single one of these recommendations. makes our and the artists’ lives soooo much easier.

    optional step: if you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to the person you want to send your material to at a gig, business event or something similar – do it! and do it before you send your stuff. works both ways: sometimes you will get an immediate response like ‘thanks, but not looking for unsolicited material right now.’ which saves you some trouble; and sometimes you’ll get ‘yeah, sure. send your stuff!’ and they’ll know just who sent the email, which is never a bad thing. it’s a people’s business after all.

    • Daniel Lesden

      Good point, thanks for your input!

    • vitamindevo

      Having a human who can communicate on the other end of that song is so crucial to the relationship. If the song is great, but the artist can’t figure out how to send an email, it can be very challenging to release and spend time on them. Im looking for artists that can grow with the label, not just 1 hit wonders.

      • Agreed! Thats what we trying to solve with Write Rhythm!