How to Send a Demo to a Record Label
Sending a demo to a record label could be the simplest way to get your music heard. Believe it or not, there are still A&R guys out there looking for the next big thing, so you must do everything you can to make sure that you get your shot.
So, how exactly do you send a demo to a record label? Firstly, only when you’re ready and making music good enough. Secondly, you have to send in a way that suits the label. It could mean burning and posting CD’s or emailing SoundCloud links.
Sending a demo to a label is an opportunity for you to showcase your talent. If they do listen, you need to make sure that they see you as a person that they want to work with. So, before you even send that demo in, you need to be ready.
What is an unsolicited demo?
An unsolicited demo simply means that you are sending a demonstration of your best work without the record label asking you to. More often than not, labels will let you know whether they will accept unsolicited demos. If they are allowing them, they will let you know how they want you to send them.
If they are not accepting demos, they will also let you know. It’s worth heeding their message as you will just be wasting time and effort.
Do record labels still take demos?
Yes! There are hundreds of labels out there, who are on the look-out for fresh talent. Some companies even have online forms when you can submit your details.
How do I get my music heard by record labels?
This may sound obvious suggestion but you need to identify exactly who you have a shot at signing with. If you are singing country ballads, don’t send your demo to a metal label. You will be wasting your time and theirs.
To maximise your chances you need to be sure that you are what that particular label is looking for. Visit their website, check out the bands and artists they represent and see if your sound fits in with theirs.
Could you imagine touring with one of their acts? Could you be a viable support act? If so, then they are a label worth approaching. If you really love the label, then show it. Tell them how you follow their acts, how you’ve been a part of that scene. It won’t harm your chances.
Some record labels even provide their own guide to getting signed.
How do I submit a demo to a record label?
Most labels who are accepting demos will provide details of how they want you to submit. Some will ask for SoundCloud links, others for MP3’s and some would prefer you to send a CD. Make sure you stick to their guidelines because otherwise, you are likely to be wasting your time.
The point to take home here is that A&R departments are inundated and they have a method that works for them. The great news is that by setting out conditions, you know for sure that they ARE listening to tracks. If you can’t see a definitive answer, try your luck sending music to the generic contact address on their website, or try and find one of the A&R guys on LinkedIn and make a connection that way.
How do I get my music heard by record labels?
Most online demo submission forms will give you the opportunity to either drop in dedicated social media links or there will be a space for a bio – which you should use to add your social media links. If you haven’t set up a band/artist account on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, SoundCloud, then you need to do so with some urgency. What’s more, you need to be using them to build a solid fan-base that you can use as proof of development to any potential suitors.
They will want to see that there is an appetite for your sound and style. You should ideally appear to be on the cusp of breaking into the mainstream of your particular genre. It also will not harm your chances for other acts on their roster to have heard of you through social media.
In the hunt for a record deal, it can be tempting to see the task as simply a numbers game. The more demos you send, the more chance you have of receiving a response. As tempting as this sounds, you would be surprised at just how easily A&R departments are at spotting mass-emails.
Bear in mind it is their job to vet submissions. Trust us when we say that they can spot them a mile away. So give yourself the best possible chance and personalise each and every submission. Your future depends on it.
How do you email a record label?
If a label is asking for email submissions then you should send private YouTube or SoundCloud links. You will also need to describe yourself, your sound and possibly even provide a bit of your back story. It’s easy to get carried away here but be concise and let your music do the talking.
If your music isn’t good enough then nothing you say will change their mind. However, if your music is great, they could be put off listening if your email is too over the top. It’s a very tough balance to strike but vitally important you don’t overdo it either way.
How many major record labels are there?
Technically speaking there are only three major record labels; Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group. Combined, they sell two-thirds of the music available right now, including streaming across platforms like Spotify and Apple music.
These labels have subsidiary labels that cater to specific genres but fall under the main umbrella company. There are also thousands of independent labels across the globe. While it is admirable to want to get a deal with one of the big names, it’s harder to do. Don’t shy away from sending your demo to smaller labels, it could even be a better option.
How do I send music to artists?
You might want your song to be performed and recorded by another artist. This is effectively a what’s called a publishing deal. In simple terms, you will be selling or licensing the song to the artist. This can be a lucrative way to be part of the recording business without being the main focus.
You can earn royalties each time the song is played on the radio and in concert. It goes without saying that working your way to the top of the songwriting tree is as tough as becoming a huge artist. If you are really serious about making it as a songwriter you can apply some of the same principles we have outlined previously.
The world’s biggest artists get thousand of songs pitched to them each time they record an album. They will often go with proven songwriters to ensure they get the hits they desire. With that in mind, it might be better to seek out up and coming artists.
In this way, you can use their trajectory to aid your own. New and emerging artists are more likely to be interested and take a chance on your song. What’s more, they are much easier to approach as they won’t have teams of people vetting submissions, as the big stars do.
How do I make a music demo?
It’s imperative that as an artist, you get to know the recording process and make your demo as good as you can possibly make it. This begins, of course, with your songwriting and performing skills. It is these elements, above all, that the record label will be interested in. You may need to find a local studio or producer to help you record.
One of the best ways to see where you should be recording is to check out the sleeve notes of albums. This way you can find out where they recorded their albums, EP’s and singles. Who did they work with? Can you find out any additional information about the recording process? Did they record to tape? Did they record in different places and send their work to be mixed and mastered somewhere else?
If you want to increase your chances of a deal, you should seek out a well-known producer in your genre and see if they will work with you. By virtue of association, this can have a huge effect on your chances. Not only that, by working with someone who knows much more than you, you can learn how to improve as an artist.
How can I publish my own music?
Publishing your own music is certainly an option but does require some work on your part. First and foremost you will need to set up a registered company as the entity that will collect the royalties that your music earns.
It means that rather than share a portion of your profits with a publisher, you retain 100% of anything that is owed to you. This will include revenue generated from mechanical royalties (sales of physical recordings and downloads), public performance, digital (internet radio and on-demand streaming), synchronization (TV, film, and video games).
There are plenty of services online that can help you register a company and they are remarkably cost-effective and comprehensive. Some will even help you register a domain name so you can build a simple website too.
It’s important to register with Companies House as this will make your enterprise a legal entity. This allows you to file tax returns, which are of course a legal requirement.
You will also need to find a performing rights organisation. They will ensure you get paid royalties for radio play and live performances. PRO or PRS services like BMI are designed to help artists and publishers keep track of the royalties they are earning across the globe.
Once you have all of these things in place, you can use a third-party service (like TuneCore) to get your music to appear on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer and any of the other streaming platforms you may be interested in.
Once there, you will accumulate plays and may even get playlisted (where your tracks appear in a popular playlist and accumulate even more plays). You will then be paid the standard rate for each of those plays, which will vary depending on the platform.
Before you record a demo
There’s a lot more to becoming an artist than just having a couple of great tracks that you have sent to a label. Even if they absolutely love your music, they are going to check you out to see if you are suitable for the label and whether you have any commercial appeal.
So you need to have already created some social media presence and to have begun amassing some kind of fan base. Playing gigs will help too. It will show that you are trying to get yourself out there and serious about becoming a performer.
If you are at the stage where you want to be in contact with record labels, then you absolutely must have music that is up to scratch. Do all of your compositions have a definite structure? Have you really worked on the intros and endings?
Have you taken time to work on your arrangements and made sure there are no lulls, needless repetitions, wasted bars or blunt transitions? Can you say, hand-on-heart, that the tune is catchy, cool, confident and complete?
If another artist took it on, could they put their spin on it but still keep the essence the same? Could it stand the test of time on a radio stations playlist?
These are all questions that you should be asking yourself before you even think about sending a demo to be judged by an A&R rep. Your music has to be as close to perfect as you can make it.