For independent artists, it can be tricky to get in touch with and send a demo to record labels. Artists used to send in physical copies of their demos on CDs or cassettes to record companies in hopes of landing a contract. Practically every music label now navigates the digital world to find new artists to sign or get in touch with. On the one hand, send a demo to a record label has never been easier. However, often indie musicians are faced with the challenge of getting in touch with record labels and actually getting their demos heard. Many recording labels do not accept unsolicited submissions from artists because they are so overwhelmed with requests. Here is everything you need to know about how to send a demo to record labels, get your music heard, and potentially sign a contract.
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1. Prepare and send a clean demo to a record label
You need to prepare a clean demo before you send your music to recording companies. This is key in boosting your chances of getting a positive response. You don’t need fancy equipment to record a clean demo, but you shouldn’t record it on your phone either. More and more independent musicians are making music in their home studios nowadays. Recording a clean demo at home is completely acceptable, as long as it’s done well. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but make sure to get a clean recording and mix the levels properly. You can always go into a recording studio and work with professionals if you have the budget. The demo is your chance to make a good first impression to record labels.
2. Spot the record labels that interest you
After preparing a clean demo, you need to spot the record labels that interest you. It wouldn’t make sense to send your demo to a bunch of random labels without putting in the work first. If you find record labels that correspond to your style and your expectations, you’re more likely to get a response.
2.1 What is your music style?
Define your music style and genre. This is crucial in narrowing down record labels that could be interested in signing you. Let’s face it, the music industry is a big machine that uses genres to properly pitch new artists to the music market. Sometimes artists push back against the general labeling of their projects as simply “Pop” or “Rap“, believing it doesn’t capture the nuance of their unique style. Fair enough, but the recording industry needs these categories to run their business. Once you’ve narrowed down your style, start researching the record labels that sign artists in your genre/genres.
2.2 What is the evolution of your musical project?
What stage are you at in your musical project? Are you just starting out or have you released music in the past? This is important in figuring out which labels you could potentially get a record deal with. Some labels focus on emerging artists, while others will only sign a contract with artists that already have an established fanbase.
2.3 What do you expect from a music label?
When researching record labels that interest you, ask yourself: what do you expect from a music label? Do you expect them to take on the entire production aspect of your project- recording and producing the music? Or are you approaching them with a finished product and want them to primarily help you with promotion and visibility? Not all labels will provide the same services and a lot of them have different contracts available for artists. Make sure the labels you are interested in meet your expectations of where you want your project to go.
2.4 Look at indie artists
A great way to find labels that correspond with your style is to find indie artists similar to you and look at the labels they signed with. Look at artists who play in your city’s local scene or artists you admire that have made it big on the indie scene. All of those famous indie artists had to start somewhere, so see where they got their start.
2.5 The difference between major record labels and independent record labels
When finding a label to send your demo to, you must first understand the difference between major record labels and independent record labels. The three major labels, also known as the “Big Three“, are Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group. These labels own major subsidiaries that include big companies like Capitol, owned by Universal, and Columbia Records, owned by Sony. Major labels are known to have a lot of financial resources and influence, but they may not be adapted to the artist development of every musical project.
Independent labels run on independent funding and represented 31% of the recorded music market in 2020. These record labels range in size and notoriety and include the well known labels like Matador and XL Recordings. Independent labels also include all the small collectives that are founded on college campuses and out of garages. These labels could be better suited to growing your project than a big label and could have more time to invest in you. It is also easier to get in touch with them!
3. How do I contact a record label (in a professional way)?
Now that you’ve done your research, how do you contact and send a demo to record labels in a professional way? Here are our tips.
3.1 Send a demo to a record label via Groover
Often artists send demos to record labels and never get a response. By using Groover, you don’t have to wait around anymore! Groover is an innovative platform that connects artists directly to professionals in the music industry with a guaranteed response. For 2 Grooviz, or 2 euros, an artist can send their music to an influencer of their choosing and receive a response in 7 days or less. If they don’t respond, they get the Grooviz back to send their music to someone else. The influencers you can get in touch with on Groover are diverse and span all genres. You can send your demo directly to a recording label, or to Spotify playlists, managers, medias, and more. Just make sure you filter by genre so that you are sending your project to the right people: from punk to hip-hop, Groover can open doors for every artists in every genre -> discover the list of record labels available on Groover here 👀
3.2 Send a demo to a record label via Email
If you’ve managed to find an email for a label you want to send your demo to, go ahead and contact them. Make sure that they accept unsolicited submissions before reaching out. Briefly present yourself and your project, making sure to include a short but captivating artist biography. You can find tips on how to write a good artist biography here. We’ll talk what else to include in your email in section 4.
Lots of new artists try contacting record labels through DM (direct message) on social media: don’t do this. Unless you are asking for the contact email of someone to send your demo to, it’s usually not a good idea. Record labels are overwhelmed with submissions and sliding into their DMs is not going to help you get anywhere.
4. How can I send my music to record labels?
Now that you’ve figured out how to get in touch with record labels, how should you send your music to them?
4.1 Send a private Soundcloud or Youtube link
The easiest way to send your music to record labels is to upload your demo to Soundcloud or Youtube as a private link. This is better than sending WAV or MP3 files directly in an email. The advantage of having your demo as a private Soundcloud or Youtube link is that it can easily be shared with others. If one person from the label likes what they heard, they can pass it along.
4.2 Send a personalized message
Don’t forget to include a personalized message in your email, whether it’s to an independent music label or a major record label. Why are you contacting them specifically? Show that you know who you are talking to and why they could be potentially interested in signing you as a new artist.
4.3 Pitch your track the best way you can in a few words
Professionals in the record industry don’t have a lot of time, so be succinct and pitch your track the best you can in a few words. Sell yourself and make them want to listen. Try to keep your song pitch to one or two sentences. Include relevant details about the sound, instruments, vibe, and subject matter.
4.4 Make it clear if it is a demo
If you’re sending a demo and not a finished product, make it clear. When you upload your track to Soundcloud or Youtube, you can even write (Demo) in parentheses to emphasis this. This is important to let the music label know what stage the song is at.
4.4 Explain your intentions clearly
Briefly explain your intentions clearly. What are looking to get from the label in response? Are you looking to sign a recording contract? Are you just looking to get feedback on your demo? How can they help you in properly developing and promoting your music career? Make these intentions known. Contacting a label with a simple, “Hey, check out my new track,” is not enough. You need to be clear and direct about what you want so that they can understand how they could benefit from your project. Welcome to the music business.
4.5 Let them know about important news
Are you playing a show soon? Did some of your past songs end up on the radio or in a big playlist? Have you gotten recent attention from the press? All of this is important news to share with a record label. As an indie artist, there are now more resources than ever to build your own fanbase without the help of a label. Show them that you are a good investment.
5. Follow up if you don’t receive an answer
If you reach out to a label and you haven’t gotten an answer within one to two weeks, reach back out to follow up. Don’t spam them everyday with new messages, but follow up to remind them that you reached out. There is no harm in doing so and sometimes emails can just go overlooked. Following up with a label shows that you are actively interested and persistent.
6. Answer even if the feedback is not what you expected
If you get a response and the feedback is not what you expected, make sure to answer anyway. The feedback may be negative but at least the person on the other end took the time to listen and give you an answer. It’s important to create a link and respond, even if you’re disappointed. Who know’s, maybe they’ll like your next track.