Article by Chris Cox (Omega Dubstep): http://bassmusicmastering.com
The goal of this article is to shed a bit of light on the often mysterious process of getting your music signed to a big label. While there is no ‘surefire method’, there are a lot of small things that can help the process along significantly. Before we dive into the discussion of how to get signed, it’s worth spending some time on discussing why you would want to get signed - and why some folks choose avoid this process altogether.
The place of record labels in the industry has shifted dramatically over the last decade or so - especially in the rapidly expanding EDM scene - and it’s important to understand what functions they do and do not serve. Gone are the days of labels giving artists massive advances, providing studios, hiring engineers/producers, booking massive tours, etc. In the modern EDM scene, most artists work from a home studio that they finance independently, and they are expected to fill the full spectrum of roles from composer to recording engineer and mixdown engineer. EDM labels typically provide mastering, art design, and varying degrees of promotion and marketing. This added promotion is often considered the most vital aspect of working with a contemporary independent EDM Label, the reach of their promotional network often far exceeds that of the individual artist, and can play a massive role in spreading awareness about up-and-coming artists.
Because the role of the label is smaller, some artists choose to stay independent and not work with labels at all, and in certain cases (Pretty Lights, NiT GriT) it has worked out brilliantly. But in general, labels play a vital and often necessary role in getting artists’ names out, acquiring releases through all major distribution networks (Beatport, Itunes, Amazon), and perhaps most importantly, acting as quality control in the eyes of DJs and fans.
So once you have decided that you do want to get on a label, what are the most important thing to know about making it happen?
1. Make sure your music is ready!
It’s easy to be unreasonably optimistic about your own creations, but you need to take a hard objective look at your work, and ask yourself if it’s up to the standard of the labels you are hoping to release on. Ask for feedback from informed and honest friends - DJs, producers, and other folks involved in the scene are best. Compare your tracks side by side with established artists, mix them in DJ sets, play them out at shows. Your unmastered tracks won’t have the loudness of professionally mastered tracks, but they shouldn’t be noticeably inferior in terms of mixdown, sound design, musical depth, frequency richness, etc. Labels hate having their time wasted by demos of obviously inexperienced producers.
**DO NOT EVER send Works In Progress to a label as a demo of your work.
2. Submit to labels that make sense for your style.
Some labels tend to stick to certain genres/sub-genres, so be aware of their catalog. If your tracks wouldn’t fit in a DJ set with other tracks from that label, chances are they won’t want to sign you. It’s also important to consider that labels that typically cater to a certain audience will not have the reach to promote music outside of their specialization.
3. Follow submission guidelines (if they have them).
Many labels have a detailed set of instructions for submitting demos on their Website/Facebook/Soundcloud. Follow these directions to the letter, and do not omitt anything. Generally if they provide instructions, they won’t even look at submissions that do not follow these guidelines.
4. Be persistent - NOT obnoxious.
Big labels get hundreds of demos every week, as a result you will sometimes need to try several times before getting their attention. This doesn’t mean you should spam their Facebook page, or spam tracks on their Soundcloud with “CHECK OUT MY TUNE!” comments. Seriously, don’t do this EVER. Send polite emails that follow the labels submission guidelines, and space out your requests adequately to not look like spam….nobody is going to read spam, you’re more likely to get permanently blocked this way.
5. DO NOT ever send mass emails.
If you are trying to get signed to a label, take the time to write an email directly for each submission. Give them some indication that you know about their label, and have a specific interest in being a part of it. Refrain from telling a sob-story or including things like “this is my first dubstep track ever”, or other blatantly self-defeating comments.
6. Other people promoting you is always better than you promoting yourself.
We all tend to trust someone less when they are promoting themself, and much more when they are promoting someone else. So network, get your tracks out to DJs. (But be aware that some labels won’t sign tracks that have had too much circulation as dubs, so keep a few locked down). If you can get an established artist on a label to support your tunes, this is an incredibly powerful way to get noticed by the label boss. Many big labels don’t have any public submission method, because they are perpetually overwhelmed by artists wanting to release through them. In this case, having someone already on the label supporting you might be the only way to get noticed.
7. Give away free music with the support of relevant press outlets.
Seeing as you are reading this article on Dubstep.net, you should already know this one. The power of YouTube channels, blogs, and Soundcloud can’t be overestimated, and all of these outlets really like having free content to provide for their audiences. Even though this won’t directly get you signed, having some free tunes blow up will get you massive traction and give labels a reason to take you seriously as a producer.
Doing remixes of already established artists is a great way to get attention, and labels often host official remix contests for the purpose of recruiting new artists… take part in these whenever possible, you have nothing to lose, and it’s a great way to build a library for live-play. In some cases bootleg remixes can also serve this purpose, but be aware of the copyright risks that this entails, and be willing to remove any bootleg remix from your Soundcloud/YouTube at a moments notice if the original artist or their label requests it.
Labels are constantly inundated with demos from copycats of the current trends, so it is absolutely essential for you to stand out in order to be given a second glance. Working within an established style is fine, but you’ll only garner attention by bringing something unique to the table. Creating radically original sound-design as opposed to the use of readily and widely available samples and presets is a great first step to achieving an original sound.