How To Get Signed To A Record Label

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Building your brand, creating great music, establishing a loyal fanbase and demonstrating self reliance is the way to get yourself noticed by an EDM label

In the digital era, the independent artist has far more opportunities to market his or herself online and make a lucrative career out of music without ever having to sign on the dotted line. However, there is a reason why pretty much every EDM artist who is currently breaching the top half of the Billboard 200 is signed to a major label or a dance-music sub-label.

If you sign to a major label, the music consuming public will instantly associate you with the high standards of the label’s brand. In addition to this, labels will help you to distribute your music through major networks, give you vast media exposure that would be unattainable to independent musicians and create the opportunity for you to work with an array of successful artists, among other things!

While it’s perfectly acceptable to go the independent route, if you do want to harness the multiple advantages that come from signing to a label, here are the steps you need to take to ensure your success:

Good music

It’s pretty obvious that good (or preferably great) music is the cornerstone for any EDM musician’s career, but not everyone has the astute perception or brutal honesty to admit when they are falling short. As a general rule of thumb, if you listen to your best track interspersed with two of your favourite tracks from other artists and you can notice an inconsistency in quality, then you need to go back to the drawing board! Record labels are looking to promote a complete artist, not nurture one who’s still trying to master their craft.

Make it obvious that you are worth investing in

If you want a label to take you seriously, it needs to be abundantly clear that you are self reliant and are not looking for a handout. Thus, you should have already established a strong presence on social media and all of your profile bios, graphics, design aesthetics and uploaded music must be of a professional standard. Lack of a digital presence will dramatically hinder your chances of being picked up by a label rep who probably listens to hundreds of new artists a day. In other words, make it obvious that you’re the kind of person who is committed and diligent – labels are not going to want to invest in someone who doesn’t demonstrate a strong work ethic.

Identify appropriate labels

Whatever label you hope to sign to, they must be able to envision you amongst the other artists on their roster and your brand must match theirs. As an initial step, try to identify a handful of leading labels involved in the same sub-genre as yourself. It goes without saying, if you produce uplifting house music there’s probably not much value in contacting a label that specializes in heavy metal or hardcore rap!

Cultivate relationships

It’s a good idea to identify key decision making personnel within the label (A&R’s are a good bet) and find their contact information on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. This gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself and show your appreciation for the label without hard-selling your product. If you can find the twitter accounts of specific label employees, retweeting and contributing to discussions goes a long way in helping to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Simply getting a conversation going without attempting to manipulate them into liking you will pay huge dividends when it comes to sending out your demo.

Be smart with your demo

It’s much better to send your digital demo to a specific person rather than to the generic email address of the label, hence why cultivating relationships is so important. That being said, you should always follow the label’s submission guidelines if they are clearly displayed on the label’s website. A link to stream/download one to three songs is ideal accompanied by a succinct, polite email. Resist the urge to send an entire album, that will do more harm than good. Likewise, a high quality (196 or 320kps) mp3 is perfectly acceptable, a huge .WAV file is likely to be ignored! If you don’t get a reply, try again in a couple of weeks, but don’t overdo it – persistence is good, desperation is not!

Invite a label rep to your show

If you’ve managed to enter a dialogue with someone at your target label and you’ve demonstrated that your music is high quality and you have a strong digital presence, you can always invite a label rep to come see you perform. Hearing a track on Soundcloud is quite different to observing the visceral impact your musics create in a nightclub environment – this may be a crucial factor for a label rep to determine your marketability and audience reception.

Evolve from criticism

Try to get as much feedback as you can, even if it’s negative. If you can get feedback from bonafide movers and shakers at high flying EDM labels then this will dictate what needs to be improved in order for you to get signed. If you’re being told that your music isn’t good enough, push your ego to the side and keep evolving. If you’re being told that your digital presence is lacking, take steps to work on your brand and expand your audience. If you aren’t getting any feedback then go back to point four and work on your relationships.

While some artists get lucky by playing the demo lottery, why not make it so that your presence is so strong and your music is so good that it would make a label foolish not to invest in you? At the end of the day, a label is a business, and businesses need to generate revenue. Don’t don’t think about what they can do for you, instead make it overtly clear what you can do for them!

Jack K

Jack K is a writer, lyricist and studio veteran who has a passionate interest for the way modern technology has transformed the music industry. In his own words, "I rock an obscenely aggressive hairstyle, do not believe in monogamy and am rather adept at performing the dumbell benchpress."

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