10 ways to get a proper record deal
Apr 2011 12

With a couple of years of experience on the label side of the music bizz I thought it was worth it to give some insights from a label’s point of view and why certain things don’t work the way people think they should work regarding GETTING A RECORD DEAL.

Every label works differently so below is not a set of rules, but I know some of the mistakes both artist and label make to annoy the fuck out of each other and a little help might do us all some good.

So, here we go…..and yes, this post goes beyond 250 characters :-)

1. don’t send out mass e-mails with every label in the world in cc!!
Pretty obvious you say? Well, not for some aspiring artists out there cuz we (the labels) still seem to get a lot of demo e-mails with as many as 50 other labels in CC. Seriously guys and gals, no label (and I do mean NO) is interested in your demo e-mail as soon as they discover that they are not the only ones getting your ‘exclusive hot demo’. It just reflects that you are a lazy ass who didn’t take the time to get personal with a label, find out who they really are and start building some sort of relationship with them.

2. don’t send Trance garbage to a credible techno label (and vice versa).
Again, if you are really looking to connect with a label representing your music then it might help if you first check out their site and musical style, to see if it fits your genre.

Don’t think that bombing people with the wrong shit (at least, that’s what a label will think of you and your music if your genre is way off from theirs) gives you the result you are looking for….in other words, a record deal.

3. If you Google “techno music + label” you might think that whatever pops up first, that should be your first choice of label for sending them demos, right?….nope, wrong again.
Check out what you buy as a music lover and which labels you like and play as a DJ. Or check on Beatport the charts of your genre to get familiar with labels and their artists. Don’t get fired up just cuz you’ve downloaded the latest Ableton version with a zillion plugins (which can make u feel pretty awesome of course). Familiarize yourself with labels and artists, ask other artists what their experience is with some of their labels and then decide which ones fits your musical needs.

4. Facilitate…don’t irritate
yeay yeah, we all know sendspace, yousendit, hotfile, rapidshare and almost every other kind of free file sharing site out there. But, those sites don’t make it easier for a label manager to go through it all. Long downloads (never send demo wav files please), slots not working, waiting annoyingly for 45 secs before download starts etc etc…bleh!

Don’t get shocked (..of course you should be) but the average electronic label receives over 10 – 30 demos…each week!

And that’s probably only the amount of demos that the relatively smaller labels receive, don’t even mention the bigger ones like Great Stuff and Minus who reportedly get over 100 demos (!) each week, according to an article in Groove magazine.

So, make it as easy as possible for a label to listen to your music. Upload to Soundcloud and send a label those links so that with only one click any label manager can have a quick listen to your music and decide of your demo is something for them (or not).

5. Don’t get frustrated…send a friendly reminder :-)
As mentioned before, many labels get tons of e-mails every day and, since most of the label managers are men, they don’t handle such an information overload very well (women are better organised, ask your mum). Some labels have a notification on their website which says something like “due to the amount of demos we receive it is impossible to reply on every email…blablabla”. I know, such a line sounds lame and uber cool at the same time (depending on your point of view) but at least you know where you stand when you don’t get a quick response on your e-mail.

So, as a general rule of thumb, if you don’t get an answer:

a) after 1 day….wait another 2 days

b) after a week….send a friendly reminder asking your contact if he/she had time to listen to your demo. I say ‘stay friendly’ cuz if you get too excited or irritated in your e-mail….be honest…nobody likes that and busy labels won’t even bother to reply you with a ‘screw-slash-fuck-you’ e-mail….or at least I wouldn’t 😉

c) after 2 weeks (which includes you sending that friendly reminder)….start wondering if this is the kind of label that you want to be on as an artist since they probably don’t have the professional courtesy (or time) to respond at all. This usually is an indication that a label doesn’t care less about anyone besides themselves or that they don’t have the staff to handle the e-mail overload….both annoy the fuck out of me and such labels should be considered a no go label. The least a label could do is let you know if they’ve received your e-mail or have something stated on their website that they only reply whenever they are interested in a demo.

d) after a month with numerous reminders (from friendly to almost wanting to write ‘go fuck yourself you arrogant label pricks)….you should by now think “this is not the label for me’.

e) after 3 months (yes I do know artists who are very persistent to get signed onto certain labels…if you still think it is worth being on a label that clearly doesn’t give s shit about their future artists…then…well…you are a naive ass sucker (nothing personal) who will bump into more frustrating music industry bullshit during his/her career as an artist……but don’t let that hold you back of course.

6. Ask for feedback on your music…but be prepared for an honest reply.
Once you have a connection with someone from your label of choice you can ask for some honest feedback (which will always be brutally honest if it sucks..but again, don’t let that bring u down) on your music. Sometimes a track is 80% finished, has the right vibe but just doesn’t cut it to be released…yet. Maybe with some proper advice from a label manager you can lift your track to a higher level which might make it release worthy.

7. Make a selection of your best tracks…..there are no b-sides in the digital age!
With vinyl you would want to use every part on that precious black golden disc to make it worth your money. But with so many labels turning digital for the majority of their releases (even the big ones) why bother having middle of the road b-side tracks on your release? Send the best of your work to the label that fits your style and pray that they have a label manager working there that has some good ears for discovering golden nuggets. If it’s good, it is good and you will get a release…period!

8. Like any regular job…..you start from the bottom (and work your way up)
In the real world, with any given job, you know you can not walk into a building and head straight over to the CEO chair, assisted by that lovely big breasted secretary and start earning those Benjamins (when you live in the US) or Euries (when you live in Europe). No sir, you just start out like everyone…in the basement.

Same story goes for any aspiring artist who just started to produce his/her first number 1 tune. If nobody knows who you are and you haven’t got a track record which says ‘Hi, my name is Lutzenkirchen’ you can not expect to be picked up by the big labels from the start of your career. Learn who is who in the bizz and start selecting the labels that reflect your musical style and who seem to be doing well regarding promoting their releases and artists. Get some records out there and become visible to the world and other labels who always tend to have one eye open for new talent who produce on a regular basis.

9. Promo does not equal Spam
Being visible to others and connecting with key figures in the scene is the key to bring your persona and music to the attention of others (fans, label managers, promoters etc). So promo your own ass off too cuz it’s not just the labels that need to promote your music. YOU, need to promote your music too. Wether you’re release is already signed to a label or is ready to be signed you must interact and become visible in your scene (be it Minimal, Techno, Dubstep or whatever style you fancy).

But….don’t become a zombie spammer, posting every fart you create, therefore irritating the hell out of everybody. Post interesting content about yourself and others and have something genuine to say. Spam kills your friends (and fans) faster then you can say ‘go-buy-my-record-on-beatport-cuz-richie-hawtin-is-playing-it’…..which is really not very interesting to anybody anymore nowadays.

10. and finally….doing something is better then doing nothing at all.
Simple and plain….just do it!

Focus on what you want cuz there’s too much information on the net, people’s attention span is short and simply posting something on Facebook every now and then will help you only so much (but not enough). Get rid of Myspace (go fuck yourself Rupert Murdoch) and everything that takes up too much time in return for nothing and focus on your own website in combination with facebook, twitter, soundcloud and youtube (the Big Five-O at this moment).

Use various forums to seek other fellow producers for tips and tricks and post your DJ sets and releases regularly in groups on forums, soundcloud and facebook. Connect with people, watch and learn from the pros bust most of all…have fun and enjoy making music…cuz if you’re doing it for The Fame, and want to live the life of the rich and famous..well…then you’re probably better off downloading the Lady Gaga album by the same name 😉



PS Feel free to comment and give tips and suggestions…
…we learn from each other, not just from our mother (Murderdoll)

PS 2 still feel like sending us your demo? Cool! Drop it right here