How to get Signed to an Independent Record Label | 5 Things You Must Know

If you have the drive and enthusiasm as an artist and would like to make a career out of making music then there are things you must know if you would like to get signed to an independent record label.

Independent labels are a great alternative to major record labels when signing a record deal. We have some great advice that can show you how to approach your favourite independent record labels that are looking for artists and help you get a record deal now. 

If you are talented and a good performer then it is possible that an independent record label would like to sign you. However, there are some steps that will make the process easier to accomplish. Here are 5 things to know if you would like to get signed to an independent record label. 

Independent record labels 

indie record labels

There are two different types of record label: majors and independents. The majors include Sony, Warner and Universal and any label that isn’t owned by either of these three falls into the independent category. 

The main difference between major labels and independent ones are that major labels will keep the rights to the artists’ music whereas an independent one will not. Another difference is money, independent labels are run with very little funding compared to major labels, however – an independent label will pay their artists between ’45-70%’ of royalties compared to a major label which will only reward their artists with ’10 – 15%’ of royalties.  

This explains how major labels run and shows that their focus is mainly on the money side of making music rather than what you would experience at an independent label which is the creative side of music making. 

Independent record labels are very diverse and operate across all genres. There are some indie labels that only have a couple people in their team and some that employ a lot of people with artists that outperform those on majors. 

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Signing a record deal 

When the time comes for you to sign a record deal, make sure you have a complete understanding of what it is you are signing. Get in touch with a music lawyer to properly read through it because they will have the experience to know if it is a fair deal or not.  

Different labels offer different kinds of deals so even if you get a chance to sign one, it doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Make sure the label is clear about what they are offering and that the royalty split is a fair representation of this.  

See if there is any room for negotiation because if one label wants to sign you, the chances are that there may be more out there that will want to as well.  

The easiest way to get signed to a record label 

There are a few things that labels will look for before they consider signing you. Talent is obviously an important factor and if you aren’t ready for a record deal, a label might offer an artist development deal. 

Labels will also look for great songs, an amazing live show and an audience that will listen to your records. You need to have a unique and authentic identity on stage and online that the label will be prepared to invest in. 

The truth is that the easiest way to get signed to a record label is to work hard and get yourself in front of A&Rs from the label you want to sign to. The relationship between you and the label needs to be beneficial for everyone involved so prove them that you’re worth it! 

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How to get signed to a record label  

getting signed to a record label

#1 Do your research 

It is absolutely imperative that an adequate amount of research is undertaken before you get signed to an independent label. As the budget is usually lower than what a major record label will have available to them, indie labels will only sign artists relevant to their niche. This is why you need to make sure you know you fit in with the culture of the label you’re trying to sign to.  

Take the time to listen to other artists that a label has already signed and network with the correct person who can really give you a foot in the door. So, for example, don’t go contacting the person in charge of finances when it is the A&R that will eventually sign you. 

Labels that you would want to sign to should be ones that you know well with artists that you listen to.This makes sense as there is no point being a reggae artist and sending your work off to a trance label! 

Remember that a lot of other people out there are also trying to get signed so be proactive and make contacts in the industry. Take time speaking to other musicians, get on the festival circuit and play lots of gigs to get your name out there and improve your chance of getting signed to a label.  

#2 Communication is key  

Getting signed by a label is like applying for a new job, if you want the one that is right for you, you have to put in the effort and take no shortcuts.  

Record labels get contacted every day by new bands or artists wanting a shot at getting signed and they can tell who has put the effort in and who hasn’t. Really show the label what makes you unique and different to everyone else and why they should sign you over the next artist who wants a record deal.  

If the independent label agrees with you and what your vision is, they will help you out any way they can, as it is their job!  

Communication is key here and asking questions, however silly they may seem to you at first is an important first step as it shows a willingness to learn and participate. The more you can communicate effectively on the same wavelength as people at the label then the more chance you have of getting signed. 

Make sure all of your social media is up-to-date, and start a website, the internet is a great resource for musicians to put themselves out there. Try emailing independent record labels to say that you love their work and if you can get some advice. This can get you on their radar and is more effective than asking them to sign you straight away.  

Independent labels want to find the next best thing as long as it relates to who they are as a brand, therefore if you communicate effectively with the right label you are one step closer to getting a deal.  

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#3 Get to know the team 

One of the best things about Independent labels is that they are run by a small number of extremely passionate people. This means they are usually more down to earth than their finance focused counterparts at major labels. 

This is great for the artist as there is less struggle to get attention or for the executives to take notice of them. The companies are smaller and therefore independent record labels genuinely exist for the artists themselves, compared to the major labels that have a different ethos and mission. If you as an artist can align yourself with an independent label’s mission then you are already winning!! 

#4 Get them to believe in you 

When you are looking to get signed, if a label believes in you and your work then it is a big ego boost, this brings with it an increased chance of success, which of course is what it is all about. Becoming a signed recording artist requires hard work and dedication, so don’t let setbacks affect you, there may be a few “Nos” from labels who don’t think your right but all you need is that one “Yes” and you are on your way to kick-start your career. 

As an artist when you are looking to get signed, belief ins yourself is of utmost importance, then when a record label believes in what you do, this heightens productivity. You are receiving more encouragement, thus enabling you to grow creatively as an artist and discover new hidden depths to your work. 

Spend time working on your social media platforms and website but understand that it’s not the be-all and end-all. You may have 50, 000 views on YouTube but if no-one is turning up to your gigs then something needs to change. You can do this via promotion, get into newspapers, use leaflets, flyers and posters and social media. Once you have done that, promote some more – build up a fanbase of loyal supporters who all love and respect your work, then labels can see how you are received from an audience perspective, thus making you much more signable as an artist. 

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#5 Know what they are looking for 

As trends in music change, record labels are looking to sign then next new and exciting artist. The best thing about Independent labels is that there is less change compared to the big commercial labels. This is accountable to a sturdier workforce and more focus on just one or two styles of music. 

If you contact them in the right manner and have done the right amount of research then they might listen to one of your tracks, heightening your chances of getting signed. 

Be aware that as trends change, labels will be looking for the latest sounds. Therefore, keep up-to-date with current music trends and really let them know that you know what you are talking about!  

If you’re with the right label they will support you the whole way through your career and not drop you for someone else, career longevity is what an artist and label are looking for ultimately. 

Is it hard to get signed to an independent record label? 

easy ways to get signed to anindependent record label 

It can be tricky but with the right skills and dedication, anything is possible! It is easier to get signed to an independent label than a major record label, that’s for sure!  

Major labels tend to be very stuck in their ways about what they expect from their recording artists, whereas independent labels are freer from an artist perspective. If it is flow and creativity that you want to explore in your career then getting signed to an independent label is definitely the way forward.

They have fewer boundaries on what they expect from their artists, therefore artists have much more creative freedom over what they choose to record and release.  

Let us know who your favourite independent record labels are and which ones you would want to sign a record deal with!

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