Signing to a label can make an artist’s career; labels like Desolat, Defected, Toolroom, Mad Decent and Fool’s Gold all have a proven track record of “breaking” a producer. The secret to signing with any of these musical minds is, of course, to spend time making good music, knowing that eventually someone will hear it and enjoy it. But the process of getting a track to the right people at the right time is somewhat of a science, and a little finesse goes along way.
ORIGINALITY: BE THE PURPLE COW
Throughout high school and college marketing classes, one of the pieces of dogma almost every instructor reminded us of was the effectiveness of the so-called “Purple Cow Approach.”
The name derives from a parable of a man driving a car through farmland, unobservant and bored, until he stumbles across a purple cow. The cow, unlike anything the man has seen before, leaves an indelible mark, and the man drives on continuing to think about the purple cow for days to come.
What You Should Do: To make your music desirable to people, especially to labels with a bottom line, package your music as a “purple cow.” Whenever contacting labels, organizing talks with them, or branding your music in any way, think of how you can present your music as unique, different, and interesting.
THINK OF COCKTAIL PARTIES
Imagine walking into a crowded cocktail party: how would you introduce yourself to the important people in the room?
What you probably wouldn’t do: take all your business cards, or emails, and digital media, throw them at the entire group in a single shot, and hope someone takes notice.
This is basically what you do when you type up an email containing your Facebook/Soundcloud/Mixcloud links, and send a SINGLE email to every label you can find contact info on. We spoke with Vladimir Ivkovic, Label Manager at Desolat Records (Loco Dice’s label) about the process of selecting records from the e-mails associated with them. Here’s a clip of what he had to say:
“We are music guys, fans, in the first place, when we release music, we put much effort and passion in it – from mastering to artwork and vinyl pressing. When we receive demo emails – and we receive and hear a lot – first selection takes place by checking the address bar. It doesn’t feel right when you see every label known to man as addressee. It’s like a flirt, at least try to make us feel that we’re somehow special to you, and not randomly chosen by your email program.”
What you should do: approach each person at the proverbial cocktail party individually. If you are genuinely a fan of their work, sharing some work with artists on their imprint. If you can, and talk to some people face-to-face at a showcase. Be active (not annoying) on their social media pages. Particularly with smaller dance-music centric labels, communication should center around your passion for the label and its music. Desolat’s Vladmir noted to us:
“If the producer doesn’t care much about the music, why should we?”
Another A&R rep, Gus Calderone from Funktion Recordings, mentioned a few submissions which were not only handwritten, but even included candy in the submission postage. We don’t advise going out and buying candy bars in bulk, but think about what an A&R rep might want when receiving a demo:
- Easy To Listen: Make everything downloadable, or even better, send the label a CD or DVD containing the tracks.
- Be Descriptive: Include text in the file that they will be able to find; identifying tags such as [DEMO] go a long way.
- Tag Like A Pro: Always tag all of your files with proper ID3 tags – you want people to be able to see your music more than once in their library and remember who you are.
- Next Action: Always create a way for them to follow up quickly with you if they like the music right then – make it easy for them to contact you by including details.
RIYL: RELATED SOUNDS
One of the constant responses we got when talking to label-heads about demo-submissions was flat-out genre mismatch in their inbox. Dance music labels are very different from imprints like Sony or Warner Bros: they might like your newest Liquid DnB record, but if they’re a tech house imprint, they’re never going to release it.
Really listen to the feel of the label’s releases: is there a genre they seem to gravitate towards? Do they have a tempo range they seem to work in? Particular artists they release over and over again? All of this paints a portrait of the label you can use to tailor your e-mails to achieve the best results.
What you should do: In your correspondence with labels, the more you know about them, the better. For example, referencing other tracks you like, or the genre of the track as it relates to their other releases, will give them a better idea of how you see your release fitting in with others. Radio stations recieve promo CDs all the time with related bands on the promo sticker labeled “RIYL:” – Recommended If You Like
IF YOU SIGN: TREAD LIGHTLY
A final thing to consider: creating a label is easier than ever. In many ways, this is a boon to the music community, as smaller labels bring more risk-takers and diverse tastes to the scene, it’s also a potential pitfall.
Signing to a label used to mean you had “made it.” Now, labels can (and do) subsist on sales of under a hundred copies per track. Remember this when approaching labels, particularly smaller ones with less influence and promotional power: you’re essentially giving up creative control of a track.
When dealing with free downloads, you’re free to take a track down and edit the master file. With labels, what’s done is done, and the record (pun not intended) of that track remains on the internet permanently. Not necessarily a bad thing, but reinvention is key to growth as a musician, and it can be frustrating to improve drastically but still be chained to your earliest, poorly mixed releases.
In all cases, the advice is the same: tread lightly. Do your research, ask around, look at the success of other artists on the label, and really consider whether it’s worth giving up the viral potential of a free track for the potential financial reward a label offers. Remember that the glitz and glamour of labels can be enticing, but remember your duty should be first and foremost to make good, enjoyable music.
Experienced sending tracks to a label? What worked for you? Share below.
Nick Perloff, DJTT intern, collaborated with Eric Robinson on article.
Hi there, feel free to send us your demo.
I’ve had tracks signed in the past with other labels & recently sent a demo to a new label via a private downloadable Soundcloud link which had been mastered by Landr.com. The label listened within a day, then emailed me (not personally “Dear Artist”) saying they loved the track & would sign it but it needed mastering. They offer to master it for me & a radio edit for 50% off for 60Euros/£50. Has this happened to anyone else, could it be a scam ?
this is all a big BS! you need 3 things to succeed in this business:
1. talent (not so necessary but nice to have)
2. extremely good PR
the example of the Ktheory band that this article shows as bad example of sharing their music to as many people as possible is exactly the opposite! The results are there.. check their soundcloud page and see for yourself.
they are already touring while we all whip about why labels don’t listen to our shit!
this is really interesting!!! will def save this for future reads! one question ive had for a looong loong time tho, and i hope somebody here can help me out a little, is about sampling! basicly everything there is to know about the legal side of sampling and when it comes to sending sampled tracks to labels. basicly is there something we should say, something we should do before, should we not care and not mention it at all? does the label handle everything? i know that in the industry selling sampled music can be tricky and there must be much to know about it!
everytime i see this question is like everyone is looking for an EASIER way to get away with sampling…and there is a REALLY easy way to get away with it. AS FOR PERMISSION. thats it. I dont care what country anyone is from, they WILL and CAN come after you if they want to at any given point. If its not LEGALLY taken care of BEFORE the song is completed, you are going to put youself in a position of wasting time, having to destroy material, or worse yet, facing legal battles.
Just ask for their permission and wait for an answer.
iF they dont give you an answer, that doesnt mean you can say “Well i waited X months with no reply so i guess that means its OK”
Its only OK if they say it is. If they say nothing, its still NOT ok.
Theres really nothing “tricky” about it
And I found that its better to send demos during winter.
Labels (Especially big ones) tend to be super busy during summer because of all the big festivals, and will have almost no time to listen to anything but work for their artists.
lool! thats unusual thinking, but there might be something to that!!
I’m not a novice and had several acclaimed releases on labels. I put tons of efforts in my productions and pitch ready to go, fully completed EPs only. The material is not shit, and it’s well produced.
After getting a bit pissed about the relative lack of feedback and responses I got after sending my things to a meticulously researched a list of labels, I started using e-mail tracking in all e-mails I send to them. I see it when they open it and click on the link, also often when they listen on Soundcloud. The truth is, I can tell many won’t even open the e-mails, repeatedly, for months. After checking with some of their artist, they confirmed the same experience.
The advantage of this tracking feedback is that now I can tell the bullshitters and hobbyists apart. I know who listens and who doesn’t now, and that already tells you quite a bit about the professionality – there are labels who might not reply, but you see them having 3-4 full listens, so at least they were contemplating it and giving it a fair hearing. The ones that are pro also listen on the next day of sending or very early on, few days at most.
The lesson – no time to waste. Obviously personal contacts are the way to go first, but the next thing is the cold approach and it should be fast and firm. Spend several days crafting personal emails to label owners when you have something, maybe divide labels into A list, B and C. Wait two-three weeks for the A lists for feedback, but for the rest email them all at once (separately, but send out many emails on the same day). If there’s a bidding war? Too bad. Times are changing anyway, and a small label won’t help you much, you might want to go on your own.
@DJTechtools crew, if you want I could pen up an article about this. Lots of interesting insights since I started using this approach. You can see my email I guess 😉
How do you track emails?
Just sayin’ K Theory is really sick. You guys should check them out.
I agree and disagree with what @grazz16:disqus has said. First and foremost IMO you have to have the music, without that you are the same as the thousands and thousands of other Dj’s. Next you have to build your brand. Again you have to make yourself stand out. There is lots and lots of great music being made you have to find that thing that will get people to listen to your music.
I stick to the principle “if it’s not going on a solid label i’m going to give it away or just sit on the music until it finds a home” Releasing music on a label that gets no press no exposure is a waist of you time and effort you might as well give the music away to build your brand.
I have found the best way to get your music signed to a good label is go to the parties that the label holds. If you are in LA go to Dim Mak and Mad Decent parties if you are in NYC go to Trouble N Bass or Fools Gold Parties and meet the people that play and run the label.
This method has worked for me to some extent. If you can’t get to those parties send your tracks to people that are on the label. If you can get the artist playing your tracks your halfway there. Also with that if people are not playing your tracks out (not including your friends) have a look at your production chances are it’s not up to par.
Just incase people are wondering here is my soundcloud and facebook if you want to see what I have out.
You’re right, this is absolutely one way of doing it as well. I think its just as difficult to go about it this way as any other however. There really are no quick and easy solutions, either way you gotta work for it.
Grazz i have a question for ya. Its more your opinion i am asking for on this one and im going to ask quite a number of people here on DJTT probably with the next article i write, which just might be tied to this one.
What are you feelings on producing a track, only to get it out to a distribution company who can send it out to 1,000’s or even 10’s of 1,000’s of recipients regularly.
There are plenty of companies out there right now (several i am registered with) who will let YOU as a producer, send them your music (mastered of course) and they put it into their distribution listing. Where it gets sent out to thousands of legitimate recipients. record store owners, radio station personnel, djs, promoters, and the like.
Now they do this for FREE… did you catch that? Free..
The only time they do take any money from the transaction is “IF” the track or tracks are purchased through their sending it out.
The recipients who regularly receive their emails, are also getting the music for free.
However some of them are label owners, licensing departments, scoring agents, and so on. SO these would be the people who would want to purchase the song for resale or licensing.
What do you think about this process or for that matter, is it worth the effort from the producer.
Honestly i dont know enough about those kinds of services to make a judgement call either way. Could be a good idea, or it could be kind of a waste i really dont have any experience with that kind of thing.
The best advice that I can give is: if you want something, pretend like you already have attained it.
If you want to be signed to a label, pretend like your music is already signed to a label and don’t worry so much about actually getting it signed. Instead, spend your time generating buzz about your music. If you can’t generate buzz about your own music, how can you expect a record label to do it?
Try creating a 4 track EP. Get it digitally mastered. Put it on Soundcloud and start Tweeting/ Facebooking about it. Get DJ gigs in your hometown and drop your new tracks during your set. Record video of how the crowd reacts and post it on Youtube. Host the recorded mix on Soundcloud. Send your EP to a few semi-famous DJs and ask them to play it in their sets. Follow up to see if they played it. When and Where? Find recordings or videos of them playing it out. Tweet, post and link. Post, link and tweet religiously.
After a year or two and after 4-5 EPs, if all goes well and your music is pretty good, you will start to generate a following. Three things will likely happen:
A) If you do decide to send a few tracks to a well-respected label they will be able to easily judge on your social media sites your consistency in producing music, how many followers you have (potential buyers) and also how much you are willing to hustle to not only make music but to promote it too, or
B) An A&R guy for a label will hear about the buzz you are generating and contact you to see if you could submit some material for a future release. They may even decide to welcome you into their family and sign a “360 deal” to release your music, promote your music and book you gigs, or
C) You start to gain such a large following (like Deadmau5) that it doesn’t make sense to join a label. You should probably start your own or sell your music via iTunes, Bandcamp or A.W.O.L. yourself. Stay in charge of your own creativity and maintain the rights to all your artwork.
Unfortunately, getting signed is not the end goal anymore and neither is simply making great music. Although, making great music is a given, getting as many people as possible exposed to it to grow your following is just as important.
Sounds like good advice. The only thing I would add is to try and self-publish on iTunes. Publishing by yourself is fine, getting a few friends together who also make music and publishing as a label might be better, but try as hard as you can to monetize on your own. While this might be more likely to lead to ending C, since a label might be less likely to sign someone who has taken matters into his own hands, it helps a lot with trying to make a living while you’re working on getting big. This way, you can have a little extra cash to do whatever it is that you deem fit.
Sure. Nothing wrong with trying to earn some money if you are spending money on music gear and mastering. I would link from soundcloud to bancamp. In the early days, make it a “pay-what-you-feel” for each track and then start to increase it to Beatport prices ($1-3 per song) as your quality grows.
I’m putting this in my evernote/notational velocity database.. This makes perfect sense.. I feel like you gave me a road map that I can use to start gaining traction.. Thank you profusely.
great to hear that Ez
I’m saving this advice!!!
what a nice thing to say. Thanks
I’m curious what everyone’s take is on submitting “demos” vs. professional mix/mastered tracks to labels. I hear some people say labels are just looking for good tracks and if they like it they will do what it takes to make them sound how they need to, while other lables (such as Claude VonStroke from Birty Bird) state that they wont even bother listening to tracks if the production quality isn’t there. I done tons of research and feel that my production skills are up there, but I know my tracks aren’t quite where they should be to compete with today’s pro releases. I submitted two of my tracks (GTFO and Barn Burner) to a few labels and received a response from both labels saying they were interested to release but in the end I turned them down because they were ready to sign with the tracks as is which confused me. I always imagined that since labels are in the business to sell tracks they would focus on making tracks commercial quality. Who is going to purchase a track that doesn’t have the right amount of bass or brightness or doesn’t sound spatial enough, etc. – Of course this could all be a case of submitting to big labels vs. small overnight labels.
In that same light, I’d be curious to know how many producers reading this do their own mixing and mastering from start to finish and who mixes and send out for mastering etc. For those that do their own mixing and mastering, any suggestions on sites that would help producers conquer that last little bit of production quality that often seems out of reach? And for those who send tracks out, do you have any suggestions of mixing / mastering studios that worked well for them? I’ve sent my tracks to some of these online mastering studios and it always just sounds like something i can obtain with T-racks, or Ozone. But I’m sure some studios out there actually do what needs to be done.
I’ve heard a lot of people say something along the lines of “I get my tracks all mixed and sounding good, but never master your own tracks, leave that for the pros” (course that could be people trying to sell their services lol). But I would like to know what is more or less common practice for the up and coming producers of today.
When trying to get your first tracks signed, get them mastered. Once you build a reputation labels will probably be more willing to accept unmastered files which they will pay to have mastered by their preferred company.
Getting stuff digitally mastered is pretty cheap these days. $40-$50 per track. Yes, that is cheap. You may want to pay more money $70-80 and go for full on D/A A/D conversion where the engineer will add real tape saturation, analog warmth, yummy yummy etc.
If you spent months working on a 4 track EP, and you truly believe the music you made is a reflection of your soul and your art, why would you not want to go the extra mile and pay $400 to have it mastered? I can tell you right now, all these other bedroom producers are not doing it. If you went to audio engineering school and know a thing or two about real mastering you might be able to do it yourself. MIGHT.
People always ask how to get that extra pop or energy that their favorite producer has. Well, it’s their studio monitors ($4000 each) and synths ($2000 each) combined with their chosen mastering engineer who likely has 2-3 Manely EQs ($5000 each) for starters. If you can’t get it to sound close to other tracks you admire then leave it up to the pros with their jaw-dropping expensive studio and pay $400. Better yet, find a studio near you and book a session. Go down to the studio and sit there and watch the engineer work. Answer his questions about how you want it to sound or who you are looking to sound similar to musically. You will learn SO MUCH that you should be willing to pay $800.
Every label is different, but I find respected record labels want to test music out in the club at least once after it passes the first round of listening. If it works in the club then they will want to release it.
Put yourself in the label manager’s shoes. The less work a record label has to do the better. So if you are a nobody sending in your music to a label for the first time with it already mastered by a respectable agency (not your friend who stole the Ozone Mastering Suite VST) it’s a bonus for them and it demonstrates you are dead serious about your music that you are willing to spend $400-800.
Best thing is to read the liner notes and see where the label you want to send music to gets their releases mastered. Here are few good ones.
Beautiful, thanks for all the info! Can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent beating my head against the wall and getting discouraged. The general theme I’ve been hearing and reading is that all producers of today need to be mixing/mastering engineers too. My biggest frustration was sending my tracks to the $30-$40 online mastering services and getting back a louder version of my track, but it still sounded less than commercial ready. I agree $70 – $80 – $100 is totally acceptable to have a professional sounding track, i just thought i would be wasting my money since i had such bad luck with the cheaper online mastering services (and i tried 5 of them). I’m not far from LA, so perhaps ill see if i can book a session out there. Thanks again for all your input.
Adam, there’s a couple of good spots in LA you should check out other than the big name ones. Oasis Mastering in Burbank, for example. They have done some of my past releases (non-electronic) and I’ve been very happy with the result. Sure, it’s cost a little more, but it’s worth it.
Good luck! We’re all in it to help each other anyway! 🙂
Having the knowledge of a mixing and mastering engineer is important so that you can understand the process of what can happen during the mixing and mastering period. The more informed you are the better you will be at selecting a mastering studio, answering the engineer’s questions and knowing if they actually added something to your music or just returned you a louder track. You will also know not to send poor tracks or expect miracles from the mastering studio if you sent them a hunk of shit expecting them to polish it.
You will make the mastering engineer’s life much easier by knowing to send them a proper pre-master with enough head room, no master-chain, squash compression, etc. freeing him to focus on making your music spectacular instead of okay.
With the rise in bedroom producers, cheap mastering software and music schools churning out audio engineers, there are numerous digital mastering studios popping up on the net. If you pick a good digital mastering agency (that offers analog mastering as well and not just digital mastering) they should be able to bring something to the table other than just making it louder.
It sounds like you need to go to the next step as digital mastering can only do so much. If you know a thing or two about mastering like you seem to do, maybe the audio engineer felt all he had to do was make it louder. Take it as an expensive complement. 😉
For those of you wanting to learn about mixing/mastering check out: http://www.pensadosplace.tv/?
Mastering is a tricky issue. Every label I’ve signed with has a different approach to this. Some have their own mastering engineer, some want you to do it yourself, and some don’t really care as long as it gets done.
Personally I master my own tracks to send as demos. Honestly, get Izotope Ozone, its seriously the best thing ever. Spend a little time learning how to use it and you can get some great results. But still I’m really torn about doing it. On one hand labels should really know if a track is good enough with the right mastering job, but sometimes they just don’t care unless it sounds professionally perfect right off the bat. Other labels, aren’t picky about this. My issue is spending the money to get tracks mastered only to have the label disregard that and have their own ppl do it. Kind of a waste.
Back to one of my other comments, it is not so important to spend time submitting to record labels, but I understand the desire to submit at the same time.
Just be careful to remember quality over quantity when releasing because getting a string of so-so releases on small net labels versus waiting until you can sign one high caliber release on a popular label might be better. Some respectable labels won’t sign you if you have already flooded the market with numerous sub-par releases and developed a reputation for yourself that their marketing can’t reverse.
To move away from a poor reputation, it may require you to start a new moniker to produce under. Any social media following that you have built will probably suffer.
Izotope Ozone is great software at an affordable price, but I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone as one might do more harm than good. For the novice, time spent learning to use new software is time not spent making music or promoting yourself. If you are an expert already and possess the capabilities to get the track to sound comparable to other released music then sure save a penny and do it yourself if you want.
The experience you are describing is basically a result of the labels not being professional. You made a great decisions to not release with them. I have made that mistake early on and, speaking form experience, you would have gained absolutely nothing from that release.
My approach is to get the mixdown sounding as good as I can and and then use a limiter (max 3db reduction) to get the volume comparable to commercial releases. If your mixdown is good, labels will be fine with that. Mastering is not the most important part of the process (but can make a huge difference). I play all of my tracks in clubs using the method I just described and they don’t sound significantly lacking compared to a professionally mastered track.
Here is an example of a track I have done this mixing and limiting process to http://snd.sc/13LLelr
A good label will want to have control of the mastering process because they care about the end result.
The bottom line; having your track mastered will NOT make the difference between a label signing your track and not signing your track.
Wouldn’t agree the part about sending CDs/DVDs or any form of physical media. Every single label A&R person I’ve spoken to says they hate that. Soundcloud or an easy download link are the norm these days.
Alot of A&R guys may use Macbook Airs, or similar driveless laptops on the go and your CD is essentially useless. Plus, if they don’t like it you’re wasting your own money and they have to deal with disposing of the hard media, which is wasteful and time consuming.
Stick with digital distribution for demos.
immediately thought of this 😀
one of the cows heads looks like its stitched on! 😛
nice to see this one spark an almost immediate discussion. Thanks for liking this one guys. The article was my concept. Dan, thanks for posting it
All i can say iss Grazz16 has it 150%, Enough said x
thank you 😛
on the flip side to this starting your own lable can work
You could, but if you don’t have a huge fan base behind you to do it, you aren’t likely to go anywhere. You need to meet minimum sales quotas to keep your label on Beatport for example.
how about JUNO?
You have to apply to all of the 3 major DL stores (Beatport, Traxsouce and Juno) and possibly others too. You don’t just make a username and password and start selling your stuff.
There are digital distribution companies that can do that stuff for you but that costs money so you really need to be sure of the music you are releasing and your ability to market it.
I think there is a massive misconception about this and many people seem to believe that if you start a label you will become famous and successful.
The people I have seen start labels that have quickly become successful usually have all of the following:
– Some amazing industry contacts in the genre of their label
– A skilled and passionate team to help them
– Money and contacts to get some top-shelf remixers on the first releases
– A keen ear for A&R and a determination to only ever release great music
– An existing fan base as an artist (most but not all cases)
If the main purpose of starting a label is te release your own music because no one else will, your label is most likely never going to succeed.
Sorry for being so blunt about this but I have seen it happen a lot over the past few years.
personal experience has taught me that this is, not the case i personally have played along side people that were no body and now are in ibiza they may not be the big draw, but they do well in production, DJ, Promotion, and record label. it took years for them it can work if you know the right formula and have the skill and passion
i have to say that i am in the boat with James here Dilby. Its possible you havent simply noticed the smaller people making that transition. Its not that it doesnt happen. This article i wrote is proof that it does happen. Infact i put in a lot of hours researching this one and talking with a HUGE list of labels. And for the most part (and my most i mean well more than 50% of the people approached) were just a bunch of “people like us right here” who had no major connections. were trying to make as many online friends as possible and really spending TONS of hours going at it the wrong way…… until they started to break from the mold and follow the words of:
“Achieve greatness by walking in the opposite direction of others.”
Im sure they are out there Dilby. You just havent noticed them yet
Could you please give some examples of labels you noticed ” that have quickly become successful” by just muddling along and doing it by themselves?
two acts I know that have lables are the Doorly’s own label pigeon-hole this and the squatters, although I anit sure what there’s is called but they have 1… (they not be as well known world wide But I know the made the Transition)
Both those artists launched their labels in 2012 at which stage they had achieved significant success and been touring as full time DJ’s for several years. Playing on gigs with big names is one of the best ways to make connections so I assume they had pretty good connections by 2012. Doorly was already releasing on Fools Gold and Ministry of Sound and The Squatters were releasing on both Kissy Sell Out’s label and Will Bailey’s label.
I would say that these two examples actually reinforce what I was trying to say.
If you read my post again, it was talking about the idea people seem to have that, as an unsigned bedroom producer, one of the easiest ways to make it is by starting their own label. I was trying to point out that this is a huge misconception and people underestimate what is involved in starting a label and growing it to a household name.
true but you also said the successful people also had
“amazing industry contacts,Money and contacts to get some top-shelf remixers, Large fanbase…” which is why i posted the list above. These labels had none of these things and they release new music to a now growing fanbase weekly
Here is an interesting article on the idea of what it takes to run a successful and prolific label if you’re interested… http://www.attackmagazine.com/features/how-to-run-a-label-properly/
No problem Dilby. I dont mean to take this as you arguing a point and i hope you arent but if ti helps to see a few labels in the light of your querry, not a problem at all. How about these
Clonk Records (Italy)
Vamos Music (France)
Progressive Grooves records (West Cordova, Vancouver)
Date Records (Italy)
Karmak Records (Larnaka, Cyprus)
i can list more but that would be a moot point i think?
I just started producing a year ago come Sept. and in that year I managed to get ~20 tracks signed by various record labels so a couple things from my experiences here:
1. Get ready to be ignored, wait, and if you are really lucky, hear “no” a lot
In my experience many labels who say they accept demos actually don’t bother to listen to them. Weeks will go by with no indication as to if a label has actually even seen your demo submission or not. There is a very easy way to track this as Soundcloud has a play counter. Unfortunately you are at their mercy here especially since, as the article pointed out, you should send your music to similar sounding labels. If they don’t listen there isn’t much you can do about it. My experience with being the “purple cow” is most labels don’t actually want this. They want you to sound like the rest of the music on their label. If you are too far outside their norm they aren’t likely to take a chance on you since they have built a fan base of people who want that specific sound.
1b. When they do reject you in a email, thank them.
As hard as it may be to take the rejection, I make a point of thanking each A&R guy who rejects a song for even listening to the track in the first place, because hell, 1/2 of them don’t even bother with that to being with. Never hurts to be nice.
2. The industry works extremely slow when it comes to releases
Of those 20 tracks I have signed, only 5 have actually been released, and those were my first ones which I’m almost embarrassed of compared to what I’m doing now. If a track does get signed you can expect a 3-6 month wait before it is released.
3. When you send a track, use a private Soundcloud link, and try not to “double submit”
Many labels will not even listen to a public link as they want exclusive content. technically you aren’t supposed to “double submit” to multiple labels either, however with no indication as to if they will even listen or not, you will be tempted to. Soundcloud has a feature to get around this where the stats of a track can be completely disabled so no one will know if its been listen to or not. That being said, some labels will get back to you in a timely fashion. Don’t double submit with these ones, give them a change to get back to you first.
4. Don’t expect to make any money off this
Music sales are a joke in general now. On a single track with a 50-50 label/artist split in sales you might see 25cents off 1 sale. As the article mentioned, most people are looking at less than 100 copies sold per track unless you sign with a huge label right off the bat. You also collect this money very infrequently, its not your 2 week paycheck here.
5. Don’t spam your demo on other people’s release tracks on Soundcloud
This has got to be the worst etiquette ever. You have no idea how many times I’ve seen “i sent you a demo yesterday have you listen to it yet?” as a comment on a label’s latest Soundcloud release. Baaaad idea. If I were a label and I saw that, I’d blacklist you immediately.
6. Have patience, never stop improving, and keep working hard.
Sending tracks to labels can be brutally demoralizing and a serious blow to your ego. If possible try and get feedback from the A&R guys should they actually respond to you. Most of the time is super vague, but letting them know you want to improve is a good way to establish a relationship with the guys listening to your track. Maybe next time they’ll remember you and start tracking your progress. Last but not least, keep working hard and never stop improving. There is no end to what you need to know in the producing game, never think you are too good to learn something new and improve your skills.
How have you had 20 tracks signed after producing for 1 year? Thats incredible.
Thanks 🙂 I was in a bit of a unique situation and had a couple things working in my favour this year that let me do this: 1. I had a fair bit of time on my hands, 2. I knew I wasn’t like to be in this situation again so I made the most of it, 3. I set a clear goal to get to this point (in fact i wanted to be further along but producing is a LOT harder than I thought it was), 4. I have a long history with music and song writing in particular, thats been a huge advantage, and 5. I worked very, very hard at it. Every single day. Articles, forum posts, Youtube videos, anything I could get my hands on to improve.
can you link us to your soundcloud?
sure, here you go: https://soundcloud.com/andrewlangmusic
I don’t think being signed is that big of a deal unless you really get a good record label. This guy’s soundcloud is proof of that. He’s “Signed” but only has basically less than 20 views on most of his songs? Signed means nothing in todays electronic scene. I could make a record label soundcloud and “sign” anyone I wanted to theoretically. Even stuff released on MD, Fool’s Gold, and OWSLA gets little to no recognition. It’s all about making your brand and selling YOURSELF not the music. Sorry. That’s why music is an industry.
You’re largely correct in that getting signed doesn’t necessarily mean anything in and of itself. If you read my original post, which it doesn’t seem like you did, otherwise you would already know that of those 20 songs only 5 have ever been released. So of course I have few plays on those tracks, I haven’t been marketed at all yet. Nobody knows I even exist at this point! This is a marathon not a sprint. Unless you really strike gold and get in with a big label right off the bat, you have to build an audience and get exposure. That takes time my friend, especially if you are doing it like myself trying to build this from the ground up, one listener at a time, one release at a time.
There are 2 ways of doing this: get a gimmick, wave your proverbial arms around and yell “LOOK AT ME!!”, or you focus on writing good music and hope it slowly gets noticed by the right people. Many people already have a following already before they get into producing via DJing or whatever. In that case, yeah sure, start your own label and put out your own music if you want. Good luck meeting Beatport minimum sales quotas.
You’re right in that if you have a gimmick and sell yourself you probably have a better chance of being that “purple cow” but unless you want to be a pop star you are sorely mistaken if you think anyone gives a shit about your “image” as a producer just starting out. Try this: go do a professional photo shoot, send a picture of yourself with a faux-hawk, sunglasses, and a deep V-neck to a few labels along with your musically worthless track (since its not about the music, right?) and see how many recording contracts you sign.
Good luck getting on any decent label just by “selling yourself” and not working on the music aspect. You said its about “selling yourself not the music” I’m sorry but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You aren’t Pauly D, you aren’t Paris Hilton. If you are serious about producing you damn well better know what you are doing musically. If you don’t, you better have a million hits on your Soundcloud page before any label is going to even bother with you. I’ll state this again, this is a marathon not a sprint, if you expect to be an overnight star as a producer, you better go find a new hobby. Remember, you are looking at 3-6 month release times before anyone even hears what you did, let alone getting any sort of recognition for it.
i agree with most of what you said. but the minimum sales you need should not bother someone to much. in a slow week 500-700 downloads are enough to be number one in the electro house charts. do you know how many acts buy their own songs to appear in the beatport top 100? there is no money in selling songs on beatport as long as you are not deadmau5 but getting gigs for good money because you are in the beatport charts is a different story..
thats obviously the hole point! get your name out with productions, get the money with gigs!
Wow, I hope when you guys are emailing labels you make sure to spell-check everything before sending it and hopefully checking for obvious grammatical errors. Just my two cents.