Useful Tips to Achieve a Record Deal

Posted by Daniel Hodson (Updated: Saturday, May 28, 2022)

Approximately 17 minutes reading time

How To Get Signed To A Record Label

What is one of the best achievements a band can attain? Of course, this is entirely subjective, but the majority of people within the music industry would consider signing to a record label as one of the biggest triumphs. This perception of success is timeless and stands true even now in the digital age. Due to the birth of Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, and other digital distribution platforms, just about anyone can write a song and allow the world to listen to it - but just how easy is it to become the next big thing? Let a record label guide the way, of course.

So, why is it that even in the digital age, record labels are still desirable? Record labels have remained a constant cog in the machine for most bands and artists working within the music industry. Helped by their vast distribution networks, and a myriad of media contacts (that would otherwise be unattainable or incredibly costly), record labels assist you in accomplishing goals that seem near impossible to achieve independently.

There’s no doubt about it - signing to a record label might not be easy, but we’re here to help you be noticed and perhaps secure a deal with one. The first thing to do is consider how you might get noticed by a record label, and MusicMissile can help you with that! There are many boxes to be ticked: luck, talent, and making the right connections. Read on to learn more.

 

Is It The Right Time?

Do You Feel The Production And Songwriting Are Good Enough?

The first step is to prepare for something rather difficult: compare yourself to other upcoming bands and artists within the same music scene and genre as you. Is the production of your music, and your songwriting, up to a high enough standard? It’s crucial to ensure you’re at your peak with professional demos and hard-hitting lyrics. Is it enough to be considered in the top percentage of talent and potential currently out there? Ultimately, that is what record labels are looking for. It’s a stark reality to draw competitive elements into something as beautiful as the art of music, but it’s a weighty truth: you need to be something extraordinary to gain the attention you deserve from a record label.

Let’s consider what it takes to achieve ‘extraordinary’ through an investment such as hiring a producer. A producer will piece your vision together, provide a professional mix of your music, and suggest second opinions on how best to tweak your songs and unlock their utmost potential. With a unique ear for recognizing bestselling music, a producer’s passion for the job could be the missing link to securing a record label - a link forged by leveling up the quality of your sound and music.

After this, you may find yourself with a song that could be the next big thing, so gather thoughts and opinions from your friends and acquaintances, before sending it to labels and other music industry folk. Don’t just accept compliments - ask for constructive criticism! Is the chorus catchy enough? Does the drumbeat work with the guitar? Do the lyrics hit a nerve? Experiment and be open to change and improvement.

It takes time to find a consistent, unique, and professional sound, and this is made especially difficult when it’s every other artist’s and band’s dream, too. Some will take years to mold their sound into something they are happy with, and even after fame and success, they continue to build and evolve their music. Most successful bands and artists don’t remain stagnant with their sound: find your groove to begin with, and once you feel you’ve created something special, you’re ready to go somewhere.

 

Is Your Music Original And Do You Own All Rights

This might sound like a silly question, but the more songwriting experience you have, the more “flavor” you’re likely to bring to your demos. This can often involve the use of samples or even guest vocals.

Did you know several websites offer copyright-free loops and samples for commercial use, such as Looperman and Samplefocus? However, when you’re in the process of finding that “perfect” sample, you could find yourself being less attentive to your sources, so ensure you’re using sounds you have rights to. For example, if you end up with a song featuring samples or vocals from an external source, you could be lining yourself up for a lawsuit if you don’t have any written consent to use it.

Record labels will sign you into a contract stating that you own the legal right to release all content within your tracks, so it’s best to ensure this is airtight before submitting your music to one.

 

What Makes You Unique?

We’re not telling you to reinvent an entire music genre, but putting your spin on a genre and creating a signature sound is highly sought after by record labels. This will set you apart from the sea of bands that are directly mimicking their influences. It’s unlikely labels will be interested in signing what they would consider being a beta version of a project imitating a band or artist who is already successful. However, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t draw inspiration from the music you love - just remember to try and make it your own. 

It’s important to note that in this day and age, a band or artist isn’t purely represented by just their music. Musical acts are judged by the music industry, and more importantly, the public eye. This encompasses your entire package: your music, band members, image, gimmicks, and any movements or messages you wish to represent. 

For example, a band or artist’s image within the music world can often be tailored to fit the stereotype of that genre: metal is “evil”, pop is “sexualized”, rap is “gangster”, and so on. However, recently there has been a trend of artists breaking away from the mold. For example, some rap artists have been adopting the evil image, and a few metal bands have been opting for a popular look. Breaking away from the norm can help you appear unique, and in some cases, attract additional interest and exposure.

The importance of a concept behind a band or artist’s image has grown significantly, especially as the formula has been proven successful multiple times. Some have taken it further and developed their image to fully embrace a gimmick, with some global acts pushing things up a notch by adopting alter egos or wearing masks to perform.

In addition to the concept of a music act, there is also usually a message which represents the band or artist’s beliefs, highlighting what they stand for. This message can often be presented through their live shows, interviews, and in their lyrics. Try to think outside the box and consider what you could be doing to make your project stand out. What can you do to catch a record label’s eye?

Social media has equipped artists all over the globe with an ability to amass an almost cult-like following, which further contributes to building their band as a brand. For example, giving fans special names, such as “little monsters”, or by using stand out phrases like “worship”. Some go as far as to add taglines that are then associated with that fanbase. This concept is not limited to famous acts - you can adopt this, too. If successful, it will help towards building your online hype, develop your brand and amass awareness.

 

Are You Making A Buzz In The Music Scene? 

In most cases, to create a buzz in the music scene, you’ll start small and gradually build yourself up. Once you believe your music and branding are to a consistently high standard, several paths become available but you’ll still need to contemplate going down some other avenues to be considered by a record label. 

Digital marketing and social media have rapidly become key players in helping bands and artists achieve exposure, both for attracting music industry professionals and gaining new fans. It’s becoming more and more popular to see a band or artist hit the big time by one of their songs going viral, and consequently leaping closer towards the big league record labels within a matter of months. 

On the other hand, these opportunities are few and far between, and it’s unwise to make it the focus of your music career if you’re looking for longevity. Instead, it’s highly important to direct your concentration towards keeping your social media platforms and image consistent with your music’s brand, as regularly using these channels maintains a close connection with your fan base. 

Whilst keeping a flow of regular content is crucial, it also doesn’t hold the answer to stardom. This is where further digital marketing comes in, as it plays a vital part in helping you generate new fans and creating a buzz.

For example, one way is to have a website. A website builds a perception of your professionalism and how seriously you take your music, on top of creating possibilities for remarketing. It also unlocks further opportunities to connect with your fans - eg. give them the option to sign up for a mailing list. 

A current debate surrounding the algorithms and popularity of social media platforms means success on a certain channel could be short-term. You do not want to lose fans through changing times, therefore you have yet another argument to have a website represent you. A centralized site will help you gather your fans in one place, and over time, generate enough support to grow your online streams, downloads, and the overall success of which a record label will be paying attention.

At the end of the day, live shows are the bread and butter for most bands and artists when it comes to making some kind of income. Keeping tight, memorable performances should be the foundation of your music career. Although this was arguably the only way to break through the music industry in the 80s, the importance of this still stands true. Live shows are the most frequent place to win over genuine, hardcore fans, and it’s in a record label’s interests to know that you can put on a strong live performance.  

Once the momentum starts building and you find your popularity soaring due to live shows and online presence, you’ll start receiving offers for higher-profile shows. Eventually, this will lead to the attention of the music media world.

Most high-profile media is attained through a PR company, which pushes your music out to magazines, radio stations, and even television. You can hire a PR company independently, or through a label once you have one. However, this isn’t to say you can’t achieve media attention organically; remember, perpetuating a buzz online and through the live music circuit bolsters coverage and increases your profile in the music scene. This can only help your case when pitching to a record label - and with or without a PR company - it is all noticed.

 

How Do I Submit My Music?

Do Your Research And Network

It isn’t an easy task to find the best record label to represent you, especially when there are several points to consider: Which record label will best support your subgenre? Is the plan to license your music globally, or just in your country? Does the record label have a good track record with the artists on their current roster? What can the record labels you have in mind do to sky-rocket your career in music?

An important note: never devalue your music and settle for the smallest or earliest option you have available to you, as this can do long term damage to your music. Consider making a list of your top choices that are most ideal to represent your music; research and learn everything about them; check their website to see where they’re based; find out who their A&R representative is, and finally, have a gander at their social media channels. 

Reaching out to a record label - or anyone in the music industry, for that matter - should be a friendly experience. In most cases, unsolicited demos are accepted and record labels will usually have a designated email address for submissions. This is a route you can take, but be aware that the label in question may receive hundreds of emails per day, so it’s important to have a follow-up plan.  

You can also find A&R representatives directly - even via LinkedIn, if necessary. Show you’re serious by referencing research you’ve conducted and show your interest in the record label’s day-to-day doings to evidence you’re clued up, as well as a fan. This should be followed by asking what the best route is to submit your music, but try to keep it short and sweet. This eager, but a polite approach, opens up an opportunity for communication between you and the A&R representative, increasing the chances of your music being heard.

Remember, MusicMissile has all the contacts you need on one centralized and streamlined platform! So, what are you waiting for? Fast track your contact with industry professionals, and reduce the time spent researching by signing up today for free.

 

Create An Electronic Press Kit (EPK)

An EPK is a digital document that explains and summarises who you are and what you’ve achieved so far. Think of it as a resume for your music. An EPK portrays the professionalism of a band/artist and covers many important topics: biography, photos, artwork, awards, previous sales, achievements, as well as your touring history.

It’s a lot of information to contain within one document, making it perfect for a record label to peruse. A record label will only do this if they are already interested in spending time to check you out, so it’s important to pique their curiosity. 

This leads us to the question: how do you get a record label interested? When you feel you’ve conducted enough research, contacted the label, honored their demo application route, and followed up by reaching out to their A&R staff, you’re ready to pitch your music again. This time, however, you can reference the A&R representative you’ve spoken to, and how you have followed their application advice (if any exists).

We suggest following this rule when sending your EPK to a record label: ensure all your content is on a link and not an attachment. This creates an ease of access for record labels, who are busy and most likely inundated with music submissions. A simple link to click on is more likely to appeal to the label and increases the chance of catching their eye. It’s also easy for them to forward the link to anyone else within the industry, creating further opportunities.

Alongside your EPK, keep your email informative, but short and straight to the point. Link your released music, website, social media channels, and contact details if you haven’t already included these in your EPK, or repeat them for emphasis.

If you’re yet to create an EPK, there are a whole host of websites that offer templates and examples for you to follow, as well as inspire. Examples include EPKBuilder, Reverbnation, and SonicBids. If you’re wondering how to build a website to link to, user-friendly options exist, such as Wix or WordPress.

Check out our article How to Make an EPK in the guidance section, for more support and information on this topic.

 

The Physical Submission Route 

In today’s modern world, we would argue that submitting your music to a record label through a physical approach is underrated. Let us explain: if you use this method to pitch your music, it could set you aside from the rest of the crowd who are all using an electronic route.

It also demonstrates effort as you’ve gone that extra mile, and if done well, can make a good impression. Create a mailing pack that includes an introductory covering letter with contact details, a printed version of your EPK, and a CD/USB showcasing your released and unreleased music.

You could even take it a step further if you’re feeling brave: if you have a record label in mind, try calling their office, explain who you are, and request to get in touch with their A&R representative. This cements the first step of communication. Follow up with an email and/or another phone call - be persistent - but remember to listen to what they tell you. The last thing you want is to alienate yourself or annoy anyone within the industry.

Ultimately, your key aim is to organize a meeting and begin to network on a face-to-face level, giving you a stronger chance of having your music heard, and creating a potential long-term contact in the music industry. 

 

Make Them Come To You

Most successful bands and artists who went onto reach global fame were headhunted by a record label’s A&R representative. This is due to their role of constantly being on the ball when it comes to the music industry; their careers are primarily based on finding rising talent and signing them to their record label.

So, how do you attract the attention of an A&R representative? There are many factors to take into account which we will discuss, but the main one is obvious: be the best at what you do in your genre, and as previously stated, offer something unique if you can.

If you can evidence how you’re creating a buzz in the music scene, this reinforces the idea that with the right representation, this hype can be taken globally. The level of traction your music brings will be measured by your online presence and interaction, alongside the turnout and engagement received during your live shows.

Our number one piece of advice - and of course the whole premise of MusicMissile - is to network! Networking is essential for any band or artist looking to move up the ranks and get their music heard to bigger crowds. Needless to say, the more people you get to know within the music industry - regardless of their status - brings more potential opportunities your way.

This stands true for networking with other bands and artists, too. The underground music scene is a close-knit community, and while you’re all striving for the same goal, the supportive spirit for one another is very visible. That band you played with last year could be at the top of the charts next week. Did you network and maintain a relationship with them, and can you remember what they thought of your music? If you have a positive connection with that band, you could be the act they choose to take on their next tour - this grows your profile, and in turn, attracts the attention of record labels. 

This concept of networking is undeniably important with any other music industry professionals, too. Remember - the music industry talks! If there is confident chatter within the community about your music and performances, alongside a positive affirmation of your character/s, you could have an A&R representative turning up at your next gig (which could be the big break you’ve been waiting for)!


Rejecting Offers

If you’re signing to a record label purely to tick it off your bucket list, you could find this yields a disappointing outcome. It’s a sad reality, but this frustration can stem from two places: the first is a lack of support and development opportunities presented by the record label. This absence might not be worth the royalties lost on your music. 

Secondly, you may have signed a contract that wasn’t fully vetted and thoroughly checked, resulting in a few nasty surprises down the line. For example, you may end up with the label taking the majority of your successes, leaving you out in the cold. If you are fortunate with your music submission and receive an offer from a record label, they will usually provide a deal in their favor, to begin with, and there is an expectation of further negotiation before an agreement, so never take the first proposal. 

There are organizations such as the Musician’s Union and Federation of Musicians who can offer support if you become a member of them. Alternatively, you can always seek advice from a music attorney who will walk you through a contract, negotiate on your behalf, and make amendments to keep you protected. Compromise can be necessary when coming to an agreement with a record label, so don’t be afraid to reject an offer if you’re unsure about it. 

 

What Does A Record Label Want?

A Record Label Is A Business

Like any other business, a record label will deal with overhead costs related to personnel, distribution, production, marketing, design, and much more. Any time a record label considers signing a band or an artist, it is seen as an investment and a business decision that pays off in the future.

More often than not, a record label will present a contract with several options. An option, in this case, relates to a release, so bear in mind that when you sign a deal, you are quite possibly signing yourself to the label for multiple albums. As you grow and sell more music, the record label will benefit from this long-term as you are locked in with them.

Aside from the addition of contacts within the music media and the benefits of distribution methods, you’d be wise to treat a record label like a bank offering a loan. Recouping costs will vary from contract to contract, but in the majority of cases, the standard model is as follows: you’ll receive a $10,000 advance for your first album, with a 20% royalty percentage scheme to you. You will need to redeem the advance with your royalty percentage alone, so this means you’ll be required to make $50,000 overall before you even start to see any of the royalties pay off. This prospect might seem scary, but if you believe in the record label you’ve signed to, and you’re confident in your music and message, then what’s stopping you from pursuing success? The worst outcome for any release is poor sales, which in some cases, can result in the record label dropping you. Do not be afraid by this notion though, as it’s only natural: a record label is there to generate money and develop mutual success with the acts on the roster. If this hasn’t happened, the label will see this as a poor investment on their behalf and will not want to continue.


To Sum Up...

There’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to get signed to a record label, and hopefully, this article has covered the main topics to support you with this. We have a few final thoughts to touch on that we believe will do the most to help you.

 

Build A Team 

Before thinking about how to get signed by a record label, you may need to take an equally difficult road of securing other team members. In the pursuit of developing your musical project, you need to build from the ground up, so consider bringing a band/artist manager and booking agent on board. It’s a dilemma but it can be solved: if existing partnerships are already in place, it’s far easier to attract other music industry professionals.

Judge it from a record label’s point of view. A music manager representing you means ease of contact, professional negotiations, and bigger opportunities. If you’ve climbed the ranks independently through generating a buzz online and on the live scene, it means you’ve attracted enough attention to be approached by a music manager. Chances are, you’re worth considering signing.

Booking agents go hand in hand with this, as they help you land higher-profile shows and festivals. This snowball effect of growth and development for you as an artist is invaluable.

 

Play Consistently Good Live Performances

For the majority of record deals, a record label doesn’t directly profit from your live performances. However, a record label considers high-profile tours, festivals, and shows to be an invaluable benefit for their artists, as they can lead to a dramatic increase in sales and streams.

Aside from agreements within the contract, a record label will sometimes offer grants to the bands/artists on their roster, should an expensive but exceptional tour opportunity come their way. This is because it is seen as a long-term investment, in gaining new fans, exposure, and ultimately, sales. From a record label’s point of view, live shows should be remarkable and unforgettable for them to offer this.

So, what does a record label deem as a remarkable show? Playing tight, having confidence, and belief in your music - you need to be able to play and perform to the standard of a headliner at a music festival. It isn’t just about the playing - it’s all about the performance, too. Get into your rhythm, vibe with it, and for the love of music, do not stand still and hide away in a corner. Don’t take winning over new fans for granted; they need to be wowed so be memorable! Consider your crowd interaction, and what you can do to make your performance unique. You could even stretch to props or gimmicks if you feel they fit your brand aesthetic.

 

Set Yourself Apart From The Crowd

Ideally, a record label will always be looking for a fresh, sellable package that encompasses music and branding to a unique and professional level. After all, if you’re able to successfully shock or relate to a large demographic, this will correlate well with sales when executed creatively and effectively. 

It is up to you as to how closely you wish to follow a tactical and commercialized route. Unfortunately, niche genres of music are most likely not going to be topping the charts anytime soon, however, there are record labels out there that still feel passionately about these certain genres. So, the good news is there will always be a sea of bands and artists competing to become an authority within that music scene, creating healthy competition and keeping these uncommon genres flowing. 

Ultimately, bringing something new to the table is what will get you noticed by a record label, but that doesn’t mean you can’t deconstruct something that already exists and make it your own. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to a record label and drop them a message through MusicMissile today. Sign up for free and launch your music mission!

Daniel Hodson

Daniel Hodson is a co-founder of Music Missile, and the drummer and founder of various UK bands. His passion stems from both studying and working in the music industry for the past decade.

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