If you’re an artist, you’ve likely heard that getting a record deal with an independent or major label can help you boost your music career, and generally speaking, equip you with valuable advisers who can shine a light on your music. Today, we are sharing some ideas about record labels, maximizing your chances of getting signed to a record label and better allowing you to understand what benefits they provide.
Creating music has never been an easy career path. Though many talented and passionate musicians have succeeded in building rhythmic sonic landscape from a “complex puzzle of words and thoughts”, this musical savvy does not guarantee them success in the music industry. The main reason for this is often that musicians fail to surround themselves with the right people. Finding structure, a team – record label, editor, manager – is essential to stay on the right path.
The recording industry, now more than ever, is a unique artistic enterprise. It’s important to remember that the music business is just that — a business. It brings together legal, economic, and promotional virtuosos who have an amalgam of different skills. Given this reality, you should seek to form alliances with professionals within the music industry early on. Signing a contract with a music label (this extends to both major labels and indie labels) can help you navigate the difficult terrain of the recording industry, giving you back time to focus on the creative aspects of your music projects.
1. How to Get Signed to a Record Label?
To get a record deal with a music label as an unsigned, independent musician is quite feasible in this day and age, as increasingly independent record labels are rising to the demand of indie musicians worldwide. Therefore, the first step is to become familiar with the universe of ‘labels’ and all its components, with the idea of reaching out to people who may be drawn to your music (just as media outlets are guided by their editorial line).
Searching for the right representatives is critical to the process of getting record deals. If you don’t find someone invested in your artist development, the partnership will likely not be fruitful for either side. There is no standard procedure to follow to get a record contract with a music label, but a good jumping off point is to dig into music you enjoy and respect. Accredited on every song is the name of the person who produced it – basically, a possible future contact. Luckily, here on Groover, we’ve brought together over a hundred record labels who are ready to listen to new music and new artists. They ask to receive songs/music projects that correspond to their preferred style(s), so it’s easy to find contacts that might be interested in your art or in striking a record deal with you. You’ll be able to send them an email and break the ice!
Are you looking to get sign by a Record Label? ⬇️
Once you’ve found who to show your music to, let’s take a look at what you need to show them. It goes without saying that you absolutely must have samples of your work – why not invite them to check out your social media accounts, your SoundCloud page, YouTube, Spotify, or any other platforms where they can listen to you? For independent musicians looking to gain new followers, you can read our article dedicated to Instagram 👈
The concept is almost the same as getting in touch with journalists, minus the press kit: you have to create an interest from the record company or music label towards you and your profile. A good way to pique the interest of record labels and demonstrate your potential is to develop your fan base and generate a significant number of streams on Spotify.
Once you’ve found an artist representative, indie music label, or other music professional you’re interested in, make sure you stay in constant contact with them. Above all else, send them your new tracks so they can keep an eye on your evolution until they offer to produce you. The rest is a question of contracts; we will come back to that. Don’t be in a hurry, and be smart. Any refusal should not undermine your morale. If someone is not up for the challenge or willing to go on the adventure with you, it might just be a poor fit. Music is subjective, and just because you don’t resonate with one person doesn’t mean others will feel the same. Don’t sign a deal without feeling confident with what they can bring to the table: what will make you stick out in the crowd is your choice of company and who you surround yourself with.
2. What a Record Label can do for Artists
Let’s assume that you’ve done it, and a music label wants to sign you. They can offer you several types of help and assistance, depending on their financial situation and the scale of the organization (e.g. a major label will offer a different level of assistance than an independent record label).
- Music Labels may pay for studio sessions, sound engineers or any other additional people involved in your music; this is called the production process.
- They can also finance anything that has to do with your image, from making a music video to a professional photoshoot.
- A good music label will protect you from legal issues and find new ways for you to earn money,
The legal aspect is not to be overlooked. By this we are referring to your rights as an artist, such as intellectual property and copyright rights, which will be discussed with a legal team and require your written consent. Keep this in mind for your future negotiations: by joining a record label, you, the artist, are the essential part of a functioning machine that extends beyond just music creation.
| Check out : Music rights and how do they work?
Your record label should help you with all of the promotion necessary for your music. Again, the possibilities differ by music label and artist, but can include any or all of the following:
- Hiring a press secretary
- Calling a journalist to write your bio
- Canvassing media outlets or other channels to do publicity
The means of promoting an artist are numerous, and are constantly growing – publicity campaigns, concerts or live performances, merchandising, physical and online distribution of your music, etc. Whether your record label is independent or major, renowned or just taking off, it should take care of these responsibilities to ensure your artistic development. And always remember: though there are varying degrees of flexibility, you should have the last word when it comes to how they represent you. Just make sure that the contracts you signed with the record label at the start of your collaboration allow you to stay true to your art and yourself.
3. Artist and licensing contracts
You are likely to find three main types of recording contracts with music labels. First, the most popular, the “artist” contract – or “exclusive recording” contract. Here, the record label will put its hand in its pockets for everything related to the costs of recording, publishing, and distributing your music. Additionally, they will manage everything related to marketing and promotion. They will also be able to accompany you in the creation of your music via an artistic director.
Regarding your remuneration, it will be based on your working time (meaning the time you spend composing), and on a percentage of the total income you generate thanks to your music – such as your record sales. This is called “royalties”, and the percentage varies depending on the artist’s fame, or depending on the initial way you negotiate the contract. Often an artist earns between 5 and 20%. In an artist contract, you will also stipulate the duration that binds you to your producer (usually 2 or 3 years), as well as the number of musical projects (albums, EP, etc.) that you owe them – in most cases, no more than 2.
The advantage here is simply that you don’t have to pay anything on your own for your music upfront: from recording to distribution, the whole process is taken care of. The downside is that you will receive a small amount compared to the total likely profits, and that you will not own your recordings (also called “masters”). The license agreement is arguably the most important kind of contract nowadays; it involves self-production, and deals with everything related to the sale of your music. Thus, there are two cases:
- You sign an artist contract where the entirety of this service will be paid for by the music record label that you are signed to.
- You are self-produced, and therefore, you have a finished record that you own entirely.
In this second case, your record company will no longer have the role of a producer, but instead that of a publisher. It will then exclusively invest in promotion, communication and marketing. It is important to stress here that after the ratification of this contract, you grant your record company, for a fixed period, the possibility of reproducing, manufacturing and communicating your recordings – you, in effect, grant it a license. The usefulness of this approach is to maximize the sales of your music by distributing it massively, across all media types, thanks to the contacts and expertise of your music label. On the other hand, if this does not work, the losses will be substantial, since you will have already financed the entire creation process with your own money.
| Check out this article on the ICON Collective Blog: Being an independent artist vs signing to a record label
4. The distribution contract
As the name suggests, this contract binds the publisher and/or producer to the distributor. It will therefore allow you to call on specialists, whose mission will be to make your music accessible, whether physically (via independent record stores, department stores, etc.), or digitally (get your music on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, YouTube Music, etc.). Here again, the distributor buys a finished product, ready to be marketed. To get paid, they will take a percentage on the wholesale price (of your music). If you have an artist contract, this process is included in the contract; the same goes for license agreements.
Finally, if you have self-produced music and therefore have managed the artistic and commercial aspects of your project, this last contract is for you. It will allow you to make your music accessible and you will reap almost all of the benefits from it, without paying anything back to your record label. This direction is very complicated and is mainly reserved for well known composers established in the community rather than independent artists just getting their footing. However, even more so than the license agreement, if things do not go well, you will lose big time!
Today, since creation is no longer reserved for an elite few (given the lower cost of production for independent musicians), the license agreement is generally the most suitable record label contract. However, to get started and build a solid base with a music label that inspires you with confidence, we recommend the artist contract. You may earn less, but you can focus almost exclusively on making music. No matter what you choose, still pay close attention to the length of your contract and commitment, and make sure it meets your needs as an independent artist.
5. Some Examples of The Best Independent Record Labels
Want to find out what independent record labels you can contact on Groover? Want to see who some unsigned artists on Groover got a record deal with? Check out the below to read a bit about each independent record label ⬇️
The artistic line of the Cracki Records label is varied. They are driven by heart and aim to offer a wide range of eclectic, quality music. Therefore, they consider themselves a laboratory but also a springboard: “the support and development of young emerging artists is our leitmotif.”
Styles of music : electropop, indie pop, indie rock, new-disco, pop soul, psychedelic pop, synthpop, synthwave.
Artists signed to Cracki Records : Agar Agar, Saint DX, Alma Elste, GENTS, Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra, Mangabey, Yen Yen, Antonin Appaix et bien d’autres…
A passionate team, defending a record and publishing company that provides artists with everything they need for their career. Their team is made up of a label director, a communications manager, a booker and a marketing manager.
Styles of music : all styles.
Artists signed to Colligence Records : Dimanche, Sacre, Söra, Poppy Moukoukenoff, Theophane, MAB, Babysolo33.
Chinese Man Records
Independent music label started in 2004.
Styles of music: funk, hip hop, latin music, soul, rap, r&b.
Artists signed to Chinese Man Records : Chinese Man (High Ku, Sly, Zé Mateo), Taiwan MC, Scratch Bandits Crew, Deluxe, Baja Frequencia, Youthstar, Rumble, LeYan, Skoob le Roi, Tomapam…
French and French-speaking underground pop network, publishing compilations since 2014. La Souterraine is a French association created by Benjamin Caschera and Laurent Bajon. The creators of the company defines themselves as a “French musical underground observation laboratory”. The association also carries out the activity of a label by publishing compilations and artist albums that have little-to-no previous distribution. In January 2019, La Souterraine hosted 700 artists (190 compilations, 2,000 songs) on its Bandcamp platform and brought in 50,000 unique listeners.
Styles of music : all styles.
Jeune à Jamais
Jeune à Jamais is developing an urban musical catalog with a unique aesthetic. Label, publisher, talent scout and musical supervisor, Jeune à Jamais dreams of being the reflection of a generation. JAJ is attached to the publishing house Alter K.
Styles of music : urban.
Artists signed to Jeune à Jamais : Andie Luidje, Jo Le Pheno, Marty de Lutece, Nodey, Pehoz, Roseboy666, Sali, Ucyll & Ryo, Wit., Zuukou Mayzie.
A label and playlist producer full of good vibes.
Styles of music : disco, electro, french house, new-disco.
– Translated by Betty Gonzalez Gray –