Do Record Labels Listen to Demos (How to Approach Them)


Ahh the big question, do labels listen to demos? Here is what I discovered:

Yes most record labels listen to demo submissions they receive. Here are a few things you can do to increase your chances: Send your music through a link, send quality recorded material, target the right label, optimize your email properly, design great track names & include a picture of your self.

What Will Happen with Your Demo

First of all, your demo has to reach the right hands, back in the day you had to send a physical CD, that would increase the chances of the submission getting lost. Today in our modern digital age things are quite easier, you only need the right email address, and remember to cross your fingers that your message won’t be buried in somebody’s Inbox.

Most labels tend to support a first-come-first-served listening policy. Keep in mind that there may not be a specific person handling the demo submissions, instead most labels have a small team that handles these type of tasks.

Most music labels claim that they will listen to all demos, even if that’s true labels may receive hundreds of submissions per day and don’t forget the vast competition involved. This means you’re competing with other 2.000-3.000 submissions per month, don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear anything back from them after a couple of days. Also, from what I’ve heard, several people may listen to a demo before a final decision is reached, at least that’s the case in large labels, therefore, days or even weeks may pass by before hearing something back.

[box type=”bio”] PRO TIP: It is best to first contact small labels since their Inbox will be less cluttered to compared to the big boys.[/box]

Some labels will respond to everyone and others will only contact artist they are interested in working with, don’t get offended or get it personal just remember this is how business goes.

10 Tips to Increase Your Chances of a Record Label Hearing Your Demo

You can never get a guarantee that a label will listen to your demo, but there are several things you can do to increase your chances of success.

1 Make Sure You Create Quality Music

Now don’t get me wrong, when I say quality music I’m not referring to a specific genre, I’m simply stating that when you send a submission to a label make sure it is your best track and that it can compete with the big-name producers and artists out there.
If you’re not sure if your song is good enough, have other producers listen to it and have them point out where you can improve upon.

PRO TIP: I can listen to your songs, tell you what to improve. These past years I have studied hits from different genres and learned about little tricks that will have a big impact on your tracks. Click here to learn more about my track review gig.

If you follow only this simple rule, you’ll immediately have an advantage over the majority of the other demo submissions.

2 Be Sure You Target the Right Labels

If you are a hip-hop producer (and that’s the only genre you want to produce) there is little to no use sending your demo to an Indie label, even if they like it they won’t do anything with it.
You must see labels as businesses; every business has its product and its audience; labels are no exception to that rule.

3 Get Big on Social

I know that labels won’t just focus on quality, they also look at how big the artist in question is, how many followers they have on social media, how many plays on SoundCloud and YouTube.

This is because a label is prepared to invest a great deal of money for studio time and promotional material, therefore they don’t want to waste their money on someone who isn’t serious enough. When they find an artist that already has thousands of followers they make the label’s job easier as the artist earns credibility points by proving that they are serious about achieving success.

4 Include the Right Things Your Music Demo Submission Letter

I know that a lot of artists make the mistake of sending their demo together with an either too short or too long story attached to it, don’t make the same mistake!

Ideally, you should include a half-page bio, a photo with your face (no sunglasses) and press cuttings if you have them. Remember to mention if you have released any tracks before or if you have toured and performed at major events. Also mention if you have received attention from other industry professionals such as agents, labels managers, etc.

Lastly, Include not more than three tracks, and they better be the catchiest, most amazingly insane songs that you’ve made. 🙂

5 Don’t Forget the Most Obvious Contact Details

Even if you sent your demo through an email service always include your contact details, that is your name, email addresses and social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud and of course YouTube.
If you’re not that active on social don’t list all the before mentioned services but include at least one. If I had to choose,   I would go for LinkedIn since it’s easier there to connect with other industry professionals

6 Do They Accept Unsolicited Demos?

Some labels will ask you not to send unsolicited demo submissions, that is not the case for all labels. If after reading their label policy on demo submissions this matter is still unclear to you, try to find who is the A&R manager and contact them directly. One way to do that is finding his email address through LinkedIn and send him a personal email message.

Furthermore, most labels prefer certain demo formats. Some want Dropbox links, others prefer SoundCloud links, and a few of them don’t mind email attachments or Cd’s. Do your research and discover what each label prefers.

7 How About Copyright?

99% of labels will ask for original non-copyrighted tracks. Often they reject remixes, unfinished tracks, and short previews; it’s your responsibility to apply yourself to these rules.

8 Links vs Files

Before we touched upon demo formats, while it’s true that some labels accept CDs and USB submissions, most of the labels prefer private streaming links, the most important reason being:

Downloading files is time-consuming. 
Imagine having fifty or a hundred submissions a day and that you have to download individually each and every track on your computer. This is incredibly time-consuming and messy since some files may not download properly, or they might end up in some unrelated folder and stay there for weeks.

Private streaming links.
On the other hand,  PSL’s are fast, easy and reliable, there is nothing to download and therefore there is nothing for a firewall or antivirus to block.

9 Are Personalized Messages Important?

I’ve heard from fellow producers that some of them will create an email template and simply copy-paste it and send the same text body to all labels, in my opinion, this is a vital mistake.
As we know already labels receive up to hundreds of name submission today if you personalize your message you will give yourself some extra points by standing out from your competition.

Devote the time and craft a masterful opening sentence, your opening line it must be enticing, something that will make the reader want to open your email.

Avoid the following mistakes:

1 Don’t put your music in a box by giving it a specific genre or a label.

2 Don’t add too many links; one or two links are enough.

3 Don’t use tacky language, instead always be polite.

4 Don’t list artists you think you sound like, let them form their own opinion.

10 Get off Your @$$ and Build Relationships

Sitting behind a screen sending a bunch of emails and connecting or social is a good strategy, but it’s not enough! People enjoy other people’s company, building relationships and creating friends is a valuable asset that can help you boost your career.
I recently saw an interview where an industry professional said how much he enjoys Ed Sheran’s personality and how smoothly their collaboration went, just keep in mind that even if someone is talented if they have an unpleasant character they won’t be preferred as a business partner.

Mistakes to Avoid When Sending Your Demo

There are more than a few mistakes avoid making when sending a demo submission:

a) Don’t apologize if your tracks are unmastered, yes you demos should have the best quality possible if you send an unmastered track don’t mention that in your email.
If you don’t have the funds to pay professional mastering engineer (which could be as cheap as $60 per track) consider ozone 8 Mastering suite or send your tracks to me, I can master them for you according to professional standards. If you’re interested send me an email through the contact page right here.

b) Don’t apologize about your songs being unfinished because you should never send unfinished tracks!! The label needs to know that you can deliver a product from beginning till end.

c) Don’t send physical CDs or MP3 downloads instead opt for a streaming service such as SoundCloud which is quite popular amongst AnR managers (check the labels guidelines).

d) Don’t send the same canned email to all labels. Make them feel special, treat them as your girlfriend or boyfriend, mak them feel unique and show that you took the time and effort to approach them.

e) Don’t copy established artists! A fellow producer and a friend of mine once told me he knew this female singer who was about to get signed with a big label they were at the last phase of the deal, everything was set, but at the last moment, the label pulled back canceling everything!

Why?

Because there was another upcoming artist that was about to blow up, (which she also did! She is know for her awesome voice, dancing hips and blond hair 😉 ) the label dint saw the added value because they shared too many similarities in performance and style.

f) Don’t talk about your age unless your 19 or younger, if it’s not an asset don’t include it.

g) Don’t send more than three tracks unless you believe you have an album, in that case, you can pitch it as a whole, otherwise, one to three tracks will suffice.

Do the Following and Increase Your Chance of a Successful Demo Submission

  1. Have a great artist name.
  2. Have a great track name.
  3. Always keep email attachments size to a minimum (but remember labels prefer streaming links).
  4. Show a great visual representation of your work (album cover, artist logo).
  5. Use streaming links such as Dropbox or SoundCloud.
  6. Introduce yourself politely and tell them who you are, don’t use more than half a page usually a couple of sentences will be enough.
  7. Include a picture of yourself; make sure your face is visible.
  8. Include information about gigs and tours you’ve been on.
  9. Do your homework, learn about the label’s history and include a couple of sentences where you talk about how much you enjoy the style of the label and praise what they have accomplished so far. Be sure to always come across as genuine.
  10. If you have a big artist supporting you include that in the letter.
  11. Only include your best tracks.
  12. Target the right labels that fit your style.
  13. Share your social media accounts.
  14. Use copyright-free material.

6 Reasons Why Most Demo Submissions Get Rejected

  1. Lack of originality.
  2. Lack of the musician’s ability to adequately play their instruments.
  3. Poorly recorded material.
  4. Lack of contact information.
  5. The songs sound too similar to already established artists.
  6. The music is simply bad.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed by Music Labels

The biggest red flag is if the music label wants money upfront.
Some upcoming producers and artists falsely believe that a publishing house asks money from the artist to sign them, that is simply not true.
The way music labels earn their money by discovering new artists and taking a percentage from the profits, no one will ask you to pay anything upfront. However, there is one exception; if you are an indie artist, in that case, they may request a fee to pay the producers and studio.

If it sounds too good to be true…

Promises of working with specific artists from “some guy that works at a music label“ are mostly false. They can’t guarantee that an artist will like or even listen to your song, as they can’t guarantee a number one hit, no one cant not even top-notch producers.

Watch out for Consultants

Consultants are supposed to be the industry experts; They hold the knowledge, the contacts and will help you progress with your music career. However, some consultants make promises out of thin air, while they may have had some form of success in the past it doesn’t mean that they still have the same leverage and hold the same contacts.

You have to do your homework to recognize a legit person from a scam artist.

Nowadays, with the Internet you can uncover any information imaginable, Google their name, ask for references that you may contact and ask them for additional proof. Keep in mind that these types of professionals rarely advertise themselves; There is no need for that since they’re already in great demand.

Watch out for Fake Managers

Fake managers may claim to have access to high-profile artists, again ask for proof such as pictures and video footage, or releases where their name is being mentioned.

Of course, getting scammed by a music label is not the norm, don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch 😉 .

Conclusion

There you have it, a comprehensive guide on how to approach a label. I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I did!

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