That’s it! That’s it!
You feel ready to finally go further in your career, with the support of a music label.
A music label provides logistical and financial support to artists and music groups in exchange for a share of their income.
Although it is not easy to get the attention of a label when you are just starting out, many artists feel that this is an objective in itself and wonder how to get to this crucial stage.
If this is your case and you are ready to provide the necessary work to get out of self-employment, here are some practical tips for signing a first contract with a music label.
1. Have a strong and coherent music project
It is impossible to approach a music label without knowing a professional approach to your music.
This concerns first of all your music (creativity, rigour, etc.), but also your universe and the extent to which you invest yourself in your project and your image.
A music label will never give money to a band starting from scratch, just because it is “promising”.
So, develop your music as much as you need before going any further:
- Build a repertoire of original songs and covers
- Repeat until you know your songs at your fingertips
- Constantly compose new titles
- Improve your stage presence
The best way to find out if your music is ready is to ask people who are not close to you and who know a minimum of the industry. In this case, if several people point to the same problem, it will have to be solved to move forward.
As soon as possible, make sure you record a professional demo to send to programmers, journalists and labels in the future.
Since this is an expensive investment if you go through a real studio, it is important to plan it well in advance, control your budget, record only a handful of your best songs and try to make the most of it.
2. Build a fanbase and a solid presence
Once the music is in place, it is time to demonstrate the potential of your musical project by confronting the reality on the ground.
Indeed, once again, music labels will not be interested or very little in a project that does not rotate and/or whose fanbase is almost non-existent.
As such, one of the first things the label will do when you contact them is to look at your online presence and the status of your fanbase.
Hence the need to make a good first impression:
- Build your local fanbase by playing regular concerts in your city and region
- Build your network and be the first part of other groups similar to yours
- Create a strong presence on the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram at least) and use YouTube to your advantage in order to reach new fans
- Don’t forget to create your artist website and your email list
- Don’t neglect your visual aspect: photographs, logo, visual identity, etc.
- Understand the commercial aspect of this profession and start monetizing your project through the sale of music and merchandising (tshirts for example)
Once the project has been developed enough, you can go on tour, participate in festivals, springboards and gain visibility in the traditional media (press, radio, TV).
3. Put yourself in the place of the music label
More than anything, a music label is a business like any other.
The label at fixed and variable costs, seeks to generate profit (and therefore a margin on your project) and must sometimes make difficult decisions to ensure its survival.
So you should understand that the first thing music labels are looking for are artists with a strong and certain economic potential and who can provide evidence of this: an interesting repertoire, a good knowledge of the music industry and marketing, a massive fan base, a significant individual investment, a deep fan-artist relationship, etc.
Once this is in mind, it must be understood that all labels are literally overwhelmed by demand.
Many receive tens or even hundreds of demos per week and simply can’t answer and listen to all the artists. As a result, labels are abandoning this form of contact and favouring the network.
What music labels are really looking for are musical projects that can generate a lot of attention (and buzz) to stand out from the crowd.
Today’s labels no longer have the time or the means to develop an artist or a group internally.
They must therefore first of all build their careers as freelancers, like real music lovers.
Labels will naturally come knocking at your door if you can build a loyal and growing fan base, sell your brand image and gain visibility without their help.
Music and talent are not enough..
4. Select your targets
In your country and around the world, there are thousands of music labels taking all forms and signing all types of artists.
First, it is necessary to sort out the labels you would like to work with, by consulting their catalogue to determine if certain groups similar to yours are present.
Make a list of 7 interesting labels that are compatible with your music.
(Tip: There is no point in contacting an electro music label if you play punk rock.)
Take the first label from the list and try to find all the information you can about it, including its contact points (social networks, websites, email address).
Do not use the generalist email address of the label found earlier until you have conducted a small survey. It is best to contact an employee in private first.
To do this, it will be necessary to be able to determine which email address to use to reach a decision maker, knowing that the greater the label, the harder it is to find the right contact.
You are free to use the features of Facebook, Twitter, Google or LinkedIn to find someone from the label who can help you and influence your approach: A&R, director, founder, employee, etc.
5. Infiltrate the label
As we saw in the third point, if you send your demo to the label the same way as the others, it will probably end up in the trash.
To succeed in this difficult stage, you have to be determined and very picky.
If we assume that you have everything you need to seduce the label (excellent music, online presence, coherent brand image, etc.), you will have to “infiltrate” its network.
Indeed, the label’s employees are much more inclined to listen to and promote music received from their own network, rather than demos with which they are not familiar.
The goal is to create proximity with its employees by showing your goodwill, interacting with them on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or by email and creating a dialogue.
All these little things will help you a lot once you want to send your demo.
Don’t try to go too fast and don’t spam these people. Take a few weeks to build a real relationship before you try your luck.
Thanks to the contact you have, send messages and emails that do not seek to sell your band, but just to express your appreciation for the label.
Once you receive an answer you can start the dialogue and why not meet employees in person.
You will have understood it, it is a matter of creating friendly and sincere relationships, so try to be honest and consistent so that people do not think that your approach was purely interested.
6. Send your music
It is high time to send your music. To do this, you must respect a few key points:
- Just send 100% original music that is not already published somewhere else
- Focus on quality rather than quantity: send your three best titles at the most
- Send a personalized message so as not to appear as a spammer
- Choose the right audio format: avoid heavy formats and prefer a simple 320 kb/s MP3
- Fill in the metadata of your titles (ID3 tags): give all the information about your songs (title, artist, year, etc.) in order to facilitate the search.
- Never send attachments: it is better to send a link to a streaming platform in private (Soundcloud, Youtube or your site) and a download link (Dropbox, Google Drive or your site)
- Add your electronic press kit
- Send the email to the employee who knows you best or worst to the general address of the label
- Get to the point in your email: take care of the title, add your links, send the message to only one recipient at a time, hold a simple and effective call to action
- Follow up if you have not received a response within the week and repeat this for 2 to 3 weeks. Beyond that it is necessary to try with another label.
Once your music has been sent, it is time to analyze the result: did it work or not?
If so, it is time to discuss a contract.
Otherwise, you can move on to the next label on your list.
If after trying with all your Top 7 you still don’t have a positive answer, you may not be ready for that yet and you should work more on points 1 to 3. Otherwise you can always add other labels and start again.
It’s not that hard to sign with a music label as long as you invest yourself personally, intelligently and with motivation.
If you can learn from your mistakes, then there is no reason for you to fail.