“…this is the best demo email we’ve ever received! Thank you for taking the time to write at such lengths and with so much thought and thank you for your support on the label!!”
Are you interested in learning how to not only get your music signed to a label but also make valuable industry connections at the same time? This quote was from a label that I had “cold called” and shopped my music too. Long story short, my music was released and I made a great contact in the process.
How to get signed to a record label
Over the years here at Pyramind we’ve seen many students go through our programs and go on to build successful careers as artists in the music industry. We’ve had students release music on labels such as Anjunabeats and Owsla.
Year after year there have become an increasing number of ways that young artists can get their music into the world. As of this writing one could share their music via Soundcloud, sign with a distribution company such as Distrokid, create their own label and sell music through Bandcamp, rely on Spotify playlists, and of course the time-tested approach of getting music signed to a label.
Today we are going to focus on that last one. While there are so many great ways to share your work with the world, getting your music signed to a label is still one the most sought after goals for young artists. It’s proven to be effective time and time again not only at getting exposure for your art but to announce your arrival into your scene. Regardless of the current landscape, it’s important to have actual releases on labels.
One of the most common questions we get asked at our school is, “how do I get my music signed and released?” Well, we have the answers to this question as well as some helpful tips on how to make the right first impression. Not only that but we have a great FREE email template that you can use right now to start reaching out to record labels.
This process has worked for me many times. It may seem like a lot to do just to get your music released but this is the reality of getting your work into the world. It takes time and effort outside of just creating the music.
You’ll want to be organized, persistent, and ready to take on a challenge. Remember, the goal is to get a piece of art that you’ve spent hours, days, or even months working on into the hands of people all over the globe. This is akin to a garage band playing dive bars for years until they start playing bigger and bigger venues. If you put in the time and effort now, it will pay off down the road.
Before we dive into this information let’s preface this all by saying, you need to have good music to showcase.
The tips and process that we are about to outline here will only work if your music is produced well, mixed well, and ultimately fits the label that you are shopping it to.
If you are looking to improve your skills then we welcome you to take a closer look at our Complete Producer program HERE. Remember, you are pitching a product to people who hear tracks all the time.
Be sure that it is something that you are proud of and can stand behind. There are many ways you can go about getting your music signed but this is an organized framework to help lead you to success.
Do you have some quality tracks that you are looking to get signed? Alright, let’s dive in then!
Who Should I Send My Music To?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this process please keep in mind this guide can be used by anyone and any style of music.
From my experience this has been practiced with independent dance music labels however the concepts are universal. Not only that, but a lot of labels have the same types of goals you do. They are building something from nothing to help push your sound forward.
Remember, at the end of the day you are sharing music with other human beings. The mechanics of each label may be different but by and large, this process should get your music picked up.
For many young artists, (myself included when I was just starting out) they of course know of the biggest and most influential labels/artists in their scene. Ask anyone from the hip hop scene, techno scene, vaporwave scene, trance scene, etc and they could rattle off the biggest players that are the lifeblood of their little corner of the world. This is great but it is important to know who the B list, C list, and D list labels are as well. Who are the young and upcoming labels in your scene?
Who are the young, hungry artists? What labels are they releasing on?
It is important to research and assess the movers and shakers in your community. Go to Beatport, Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc and start making a spreadsheet of label names, their websites, their social media pages, and if you can be sure to note their contact info. This is all important information to have as it will form the framework of how we approach this process.
Quick and important sidenote, remember to look at labels that fit the sound you are creating.
One of the biggest pet peeves we hear from label owners is having to sift through demos of music that just don’t fit the aesthetic or sound of the label.
For example, if you are creating big room house, you probably wouldn’t reach out to a drum and bass label or if you run an indie pop label you most likely will be annoyed if you keep receiving warehouse techno tracks. If you shop to labels that fit the sound you are going for, this process will be much easier!
Once you’ve made your spreadsheet of labels start to organize them. I suggest doing something like I mentioned earlier in this section; create a tier system such as:
A – List/Dream Labels – These are the biggest labels that you look up to. Usually the most established artists in your scene are releasing on these labels. These are the long term goal labels that you would like to end up one day.
B – List – These are the ones that you would feel proud to say you’ve released music on. These are the ones that make up the majority of the releases within your sound and could potentially lead to your A List labels.
C – List – These are the up and coming labels who may either be releasing their friend’s records or are taking chances that some of the bigger labels may not be. These are solid ones that would be great to have on the resume but aren’t the ones that are going to send your music into the stratosphere.
D – List – I can best describe these labels by comparing them to you the artist. They are young, hungry, and are looking to make a name for themselves. Typically not a lot of people know about these labels… yet. They are on the ground floor and looking to grow, to build a sound/aesthetic, and are (usually) aggressive to find good talent. Remember, more often than not they want to get their label to a point where they can sign music from an established artist within the scene. In order to do that, they need to build a solid catalog/reputation and that starts with signing great music…like yours!
Later on I’m going to break down why this organizational process is so important and how we are going to use this as our guide to getting signed. There is a method to the madness, I’m not just trying to trick you into using spreadsheets, I promise!
- Know who the players are in your community
- Understand where they are in the market
- Do your research!
- Make a spreadsheet with any and all pertinent information about the label that will help you later on
- Be sure to send your music to a label that fits your sound
How Should I Deliver My Music?
Now that we’ve started to build our framework, we have a clear delineation of who the players are in our community. The next step is preparing your music to be showcased. This oftentimes can be a little tricky because different labels have different requirements for demos.
For example, some like direct emails, others (like our own Pyramind Records) use platforms like Label Radar to streamline the submission process.
We’ll break this section down into two smaller sections: How to prepare your music and how to deliver it to the label.
How to prepare your music
- Whenever I share my music with a label I want to show them the most true-to-life sound that I possibly can. As a bedroom producer, you have the ability to make sure that what you send to a label makes the best first impression. It’s not like you have to do test screenings for movie producers/studios or send in drafts to an editor.
You can actually create as close to a finished product as possible! What does this mean exactly? It means that you’ll want to send a fully mixed and mastered version of your track to the label. If you don’t know how to master your music then you can contact us or look at something like our Electronic Music Producer program HERE for that.
Why is mastering your track important? Won’t the label just end up mastering my music for me? I’ll answer that by sharing an excerpt from our example email (which you can download below). I will typically say verbatim:
“These tracks have gone through a rough home mastering process for showcase purposes. If you would like to move forward with it let me know and I’d be happy to send over the unprocessed copies.”
Most labels will want unmastered versions of the tracks they sign so that either someone at the label or a mastering engineer can take care of that job.
This helps add to the overall sound of the label over time. It is important to send and tell them that you’ve done even a rough master so they know that what they are hearing is as close to what it would sound like in a club or event. Take the guesswork out of their experience and show them what your music sounds like. Again, you’ve spent countless hours on this project, why deliver something that doesn’t truly represent what you were intending?
- You’ll also want to make sure that your metadata is all correct. What this means is that you’ll want to ensure that your artist name, the name of the track, etc is all imprinted within the file. This in the event you end up sending a zipped file of your tracks/EP/LP. More on this in a minute.
- Be sure to send .wav files of your music. Do not, I repeat, do not send .mp3’s of your music. Even though your music will end up in .mp3 format, remember to look back at number 1 in this section. Always deliver your best product!
How to deliver your music to the label
Remember earlier when we were talking about doing your research into the labels? Part of that research includes the following:
- Do they even accept demos?
- Do they accept demos through email?
- Do they have a demo submission page on their website?
- What are their guidelines for submitting demos?
- What email are you to send your demos to?
- What file format do they prefer?
- Do they want Soundcloud links?
- Do they want file transfers?
If you look around enough you’ll find that the answers to these questions all depend on the label. Labels will put guidelines like these out so they can receive demo submissions in a way that will help them get through everything as efficiently as possible.
It is very important to follow these guidelines! Remember, you are most likely reaching out to these people for the first time. Why not start by making a good first impression?
I usually like it when they have an email address because that way I can utilize this entire process. It’s more personal and I get to really “sell” myself along with the music.
What Do I Say in My Email? The Do’s and Dont's of Contacting Record Labels
If you’ve ever read an article from label owners you will most likely hear the same thing, “we hate receiving mass, spam demo emails!” This is one of the biggest pet peeves of label owners or A&R executives.
It never fails though, people will still send out mass messages to multiple labels at a time. It’s cold, has no soul, and frankly is quite disrespectful to the label. Again, we are not only trying to get our music out to the world but we are trying to build quality connections in the industry.
So, how do we do this? It all comes down to taking the time to craft a genuine email. Show these folks that you A) want to work with them B) that you are a fan of their label, and C) the knowledge you have about their releases.
Remember, the people operating the majority of labels out there are just people who have invested in a passion project.
By and large they aren’t in it for the money, they are in it to push a specific sound forward. Show them you know what the hell you are talking about!
As mentioned previously, I personally like it when there is an email address to send a demo to. This way I can send a carefully worded message along with the music. Below is the draft that I work from every time I submit to a label I’ve ever dealt with.
FREE Demo Submission Email Template
Subject: Demo Submission for ___ (Name of Label)
Hey __ (Name of Label) Crew,
I hope you are doing well! My name is __ and I am a DJ/producer currently living in __. First off, congrats on (name a recent release or milestone they’ve accomplished. This shows you’ve been paying attention). Everything sounds really nice on it.
I’m writing today to share some unsigned tracks for consideration of release on the label. I’ve been a big fan of __ (Name of Label) for some time now and I frequently play out the __ (Name a track or two that you play and/or listen to). I also really enjoy the __ (Name another track, preferably a deeper cut from the catalog).
I know that you have gone with some more established names in the __ (Name of genre/s) genre but I wanted to see if this is something you would be interested in. The __ (Name of your EP) is a collection of three grooves that __ (Describe your EP in a few words). All three tracks were born of the same elements and could be played together or separately in various styles of sets.
LINK TO YOUR TRACKS – SOUNDCLOUD PRIVATE LINK – FOLDER, ETC
These tracks have gone through a rough home mastering process for showcase purposes. If you would like to move forward with it let me know and I’d be happy to send over the unprocessed copies.
I haven’t sent these tracks to anyone else as I wanted to share them with you first. Given your catalog and the style of music you put out I thought they might have a good home here. It would be an honor to release on __(Name of Label) and help the sound move forward. If you aren’t interested in the tracks then no hard feelings at all. I will continue with my support for the label and the sound that you are pushing!
I look forward to hearing from you soon!
By reading through the template, you can see that we are using various techniques in one message.
- We are showing them that we are familiar with their work/catalog
- We are telling them a bit about ourselves as an artist
- We are describing the music a little bit so we can entice them to actually click the link and listen
- We are letting them know that they are special, and that we are only sending these tracks to them.
Overall, you want to have a confident yet relaxed tone to your email. You want to show that you are a fan of their catalog but not be over eager. It can be nerve wracking and very exciting to get in touch with labels but remember, stay cool and calm.
Let’s talk about that last paragraph for a second. You’ll see in the next section that we are going to send these tracks to multiple labels at one time.
This template was written as if you are sending the EP to one of your A – List labels. I recommend only sending your music to them first and on one else. At least until you get a “yes”, a “no”, or a non-response after a week or two. Once we get to the C-List and D-List labels you’ll want to spread these out and send it to multiple labels at a time. In that case, simply change the wording a bit. Something I like to use is:
“I am currently sharing these tracks with other labels to find a good home for them. I’d love to work with you so if you are interested let me know! If you aren’t interested in the tracks then no hard feelings at all. I will continue with my support for the label and the sound that you are pushing!”
This conveys a few things:
- You are being honest and upfront with them about what you are doing with your music. Again, start the connection out on the right foot.
- You are implementing a bit of a sales trick and that’s introducing “scarcity” into the mix. Let them know that your EP could be snatched up by one of their competitors. This works!
- This also gives you an out in the event another label responds to you first and wants to pick up your tracks. If this label shows interest you can write them back to let them know but that you would still love to work with them. You can try to leverage an opportunity once they’ve responded!
The Whole Process
Now that we have everything in place it is time to actually start reaching out to shop your music. You should have:
- A spreadsheet with label names, contact info, demo submission info, etc
- A mixed and mastered package of tracks complete with artist name, song titles, etc to send
- A good idea of which labels you want to send this particular set of tracks to
- An organized list of labels in the A-List, B-List, etc format
- An email draft that you can use for each label you send your music to
If you are missing any one of these then take a pause, go back and make sure to prepare properly. This is essential as we are about to embark on a four to six week long process that should end in getting your music signed!
Week 1 – A-List/Dream Label/s
If you feel confident in the work that you’ve created then by all means, shoot your shot! Go for the goal right from the start. I recommend choosing one of your dream labels to start with and only one. The others will be there down the road but for this process, start with one dream label.
On Monday of week one prepare and send your email to the dream label. This can be terrifying but you’ve prepped, you’ve written a heartfelt message, and you (should) have some great music. The process has begun!
Week 2 – Follow up with Dream Label
Here is where things get a little nerve wracking. If you’ve sent a private Soundcloud link it’s going to be extremely difficult to not check it every hour of every day to see if the label has listened yet. It’s also unnerving to see that they’ve listened, but haven’t responded to your email. It may happen, it may not, remember, stay cool and calm!
If you haven’t heard back from this first label after a week, send a polite check-in email. Ask if they received the email you sent a week prior and then, wait. This first step of the process is all about patience. If you are sending tracks to your dream label/s it’s best to give them room to breathe.
Week 3 – Move on to B – List Labels
If by the third week of the process you haven’t heard from your dream label or if your tracks weren’t picked up, then it’s time to move on to your B – List labels.
Now, you may feel the sting of rejection here and there isn’t a lot I can say that will help you get over this. This is something every artist has to experience in order to succeed. Do not feel bad, do not quit, and do not get down on yourself! My best advice if you get rejected is to use it as fuel to make even better music. It’s amazing what you can do when you turn a negative into a positive.
This is the week where you can start to send to a couple of labels at a time. Amend your email to a couple of your B – List labels and send them off! Now is when we begin to cast a wider net.
Week 4 – Follow up and Reach out to C – List Labels
If you have yet to hear from your B – List labels then send gentle check-in much like you did with the A – List label in week 2.
If you aren’t hearing back or receive an email stating that they aren’t going to sign your tracks, no worries. Later that week you can start sending to your C – List labels.
Week 5 – Follow up with C – List Labels and Reach out to D – List Labels
Follow the exact process as you did in week 4.
Week 6 – Follow up with D – List Labels
This week we are going to send a gentle check-in with your D – List labels.
If you’ve arrived at week 6 and no one has picked up your tracks yet, then it may be time to reassess a couple of things:
- Are your tracks produced/written well enough? Remember, this process only works if you have a quality product to pitch
- Are you shopping your music to the right labels? Are these labels the one that would be the right fit for your sound?
- Are you reaching out to a diverse set of labels within your scene?
It is of course no fun at all to have to ask those questions after you are six weeks into this process. However as mentioned before, this is a great opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. For instance, any time I’ve received a rejection email (which I’ve received my fair share) or even worse, having not heard back from a label at all, I promise myself to make even better music. The better your music, the better chance you will have at getting signed.
If your music was picked up prior to week 6 then congratulations! You did it! Here is one tip to keep in mind in the early stages of shopping your music; 99% of the time you’ll want to go with the first label that shows interest in your music.
There is no need to get into a bidding war or to wait for another label to come along. Remember, you’ve organized all of these labels to start this process and they should be ones that you would be happy to release on no matter where they fall on your list. The purpose of this is to start getting music released. Actual releases look more impressive on Soundcloud, they lead to more gigs, more opportunities, and accolades.
This process may seem rather involved and more structured than what you were thinking. Remember, these things take time and a lot of patience. We are inundated with new music every single day and it may seem like it’s really easy to get music out into the world. If you want to do something right, it will take time and effort.
This is a process that has worked countless times for myself and for others I’ve shared it with. Give it a try and let us know how it works! Also, if this is the first time you are seeing anything like this, be sure to take a look at the Indie Artist Business Toolkit through Pyramind Online HERE.
This is a great course that was designed to help you, the emerging artist navigate their way through the ever evolving music industry.
We wish you the best of luck out there and can’t wait to hear how this process works for you!