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How to Get a Record Deal… For Those That Absolutely Want One

In today’s music industry, you will see many artists creating music through various mediums. An independent artist might release music through platforms they can control and retain all control over their music. Other musicians dream of signing with record companies and making elaborate music videos.

Whatever your scene is, we can all acknowledge that signing a record label has gotten trickier over the years. Part of that is because there is a plethora of artists vying for the record companies’ attention. It can be nearly impossible to get an audience unless you’re already noticed by millions of people. Additionally, there is ongoing upheaval in the record industry that makes labels less eager to take risks. This is part of why you’ll see plenty of artists choosing to go an independent route.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get signed or that you won’t get signed if/when you try. Record labels come with a lot of benefits that you simply can’t find elsewhere. If you want to give the record label route, you will need to do a few things.

How Do You Get A Record Label? (Step By Step)

You may want a record label for many reasons. For starters, the resources and budget that are available to signed artists aren’t often something independent artists can achieve. A recording artist may enjoy support for distribution, marketing, merchandise, music video production, touring, and plenty of other expenses. Do keep in mind that each deal and company has its own budgets and new artists aren’t as likely to get massive budgets.

Another pro of singing a label is the existing network and connections. These record deals can open doors that you didn’t even know existed. Most companies have well-established connections with booking agents, publishing companies, music venues, publishing companies, and every other aspect you can think of.

The last thing I’ll mention here is the reputation and influence that you can rest in when you sign a label deal. Having a big name behind you gives your music a certain level that is hard to achieve on your own. It connects you with a large base of people who know and trust the record company to put out good music.

Many popular artists we know and love might not have ever gotten their music heard if not for the deals they signed and the companies they worked with.

So, here’s what you do:

Finalize A Couple Of Songs To Show Off Your Originality

Neither a major nor independent label is going to sign someone who sounds the same as everyone else in the recording industry. Originality makes all the difference in the world. Not even a massive budget for marketing and promotion can substitute for a sense of originality.

That being said, you need to be confident in your style and your voice before you start putting things out. Undeveloped and inconsistent don’t equal original or desirable.

Submit A Demo Song

In decades past where there wasn’t access to powerful computers around every corner, it might have been easier to submit a demo where the only thing well done was your voice. Major labels wouldn’t expect every independent musician to have stellar recording equipment on hand.

However, things have changed. The music-making industry is even more competitive than it ever has been. You can’t just deliver something that’s “good.” “Presentable” isn’t good enough. You need something outstanding. You need great hooks and carefully crafted music that’s professionally recorded, mixed, and mastered. If you can’t get it professionally done, it will have to be very close.

How Do You Know When You Are Ready?

When you’re sure that you can bring something new to the music industry, you have your brand all figured out, and you know there’s a niche market for what you’re offering, that’s when you know you’re ready to approach record labels confidently.

Create a project presentation that’s impressive, professional, well-organized, and prepared. You should always have this presentation with you so that any opportunity you have to present your product, you can take.

Get Heard By a Music Label

If you want to be heard by the major companies, you have to put yourself out there. Send emails, build connections within the industry. Use social media to showcase your music at minimal expense to yourself. Upload your music to Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, and others. Give free concerts and play out in public. In the early stages, it’s all about getting your music heard.

Keep It High Quality

High quality is not an option for young artists. Everything you do from your clothes to your videos has to look unique and of excellent quality. The most important piece of your project is, of course, your music, but the last thing you want is to see your music turned down because you didn’t put effort into your outfit, and that made the whole thing feel amateur to the people you were trying to impress.

On average, it seems that artists invest anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 in their demos to make sure they’re adequately prepared. Don’t leave anything up to chance that you have control over.

Build A Fanbase

One of the best ways to generate notice for your work is to have a fanbase. With the world at our fingertips, it’s become easier to connect with people, so use that to your advantage. Do everything within your power to communicate with your followers while you make music. Stay in touch. Make them feel special.

Not only will this generate talk about your music and show record labels that you can be successful on your own, but it’s also a great way to get to know your audience.

Find A Music Agent in the Music Business

Having a music agent can allow you to focus on writing and producing music instead of putting all your energy into time-consuming marketing.

You do need to be careful when picking a music agent. Not all of them are worth having. Make sure you research the market in your area and check out all the candidates before making your final decision. You need someone who understands you and your vision. They should be as excited to work with you as you are with them.

How Do You Find A Music Agent?

Music agents are constantly scouting out new artists. In order for them to find you, you have to be out there, performing. Some booking agents may come up and introduce themselves, but that doesn’t mean you accept the first offer that comes your way. Be selective and careful when you sign any kind of contract, but especially when you’re signing with the person who will be managing your brand for you.

What Are The Different Types Of Agents in the Music Industry? 

There are a few different kinds of agents in the music industry and it’s important to know who does what. Here’s a compact list for your review:

  • Managing Agents manage their artists’ contracts. This includes knowing what rights each party has and what each party is legally obligated to do.
  • Marketing Agents promote and market your acts. This helps get their word about your events. This sometimes includes booking interviews, and appearing on blogs, social media, and radio shows, to name a few.
  • Sales Agents help sell records. They work hard to get reviews, sell copies of your album(s), and get people to listen.
  • Contract Agents will know how to handle the tricky details that come with agreements, contracts, and permissions. For example, they would know how/where to get permits for a show.
  • Accounting Agents will handle taxes and bookkeeping, which can be fairly tricky when you’re filtering through contracts, expenses, and deadlines.
  • Booking Agents get artists booked for venues and set up live tours. They also handle ticketing and admission to your events.

How Do You Successfully Submit Music To Different Record Labels?

With so many companies out there, how do you know what to do?

Do you always sign with the first company that offers you a deal? Do you take whatever a company offers no matter how it sounds for fear that they’ll turn you away? Do you take a loss in exchange for exposure?

The answer to all the questions above is “No.” Just like you wouldn’t align yourself with any music agent who comes your way, don’t sacrifice the good of your music by aligning with the wrong company. Research everyone. Choose a label that’s successful. Make sure you’re profiting from any deal they put to you.

Know this, you can negotiate. If they’ve come to you, that means they’re interested. Don’t let them push you around.

What To Expect From A Record Deal

Record labels promote and sell music. Typically, you’ll see record labels focusing on one genre or connected genres, but they don’t stick to a defined style. Because they’re in the business of making money, they’ll sign in anyone they think will be successful.

Record labels handle all the press, promotion, and booking necessary to help the artist expose their songs to a big audience. They also provide special opportunities that most independent artists don’t have access to. Some examples include certain musical festivals, exclusive music events, professional studios, and advertising.

What Record Labels DON’T Do

Record labels invest money into artists, but, as the creator, you still have to do the work to make it profitable.

Record labels can’t make people like you, and they don’t manage your finances. You will need to handle both of those on your own. Growing your fanbase may prove trickier than handling your financials, but if you’re authentic, kind, approachable, and you’re putting out stellar music, you will likely find your people.

Preparing Yourself For A Record Deal

Almost no one goes anywhere without working for it. As an independent artist, you will need to put in a lot of effort before you ever see a droplet of interest from a record company.

Releasing Your Music

You do need to get your music out there but never release unprofessional music. Instead, do as much as you can on your own with a computer and a free digital/audio workstation. Once you define your sound, try to release a song or two every month on every streaming platform, You may also need to hire a sound engineer at some point if you’re unable to get your sound professional.

Once you’ve got some music, share it.

Marketing on Social Media

Social media is where it happens. In order to generate a following, hire a graphic designer and curate a professional brand.

Utilize all the tools you have. Post on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and so on, and so forth. Consistently posting and interacting with people is one of the fastest ways to secure a devoted following.

On top of everything else, remain authentic. People want to know you, not some face you put on once a week.

How Do I Know What Label Is Right For Me?

Signing with a major label doesn’t always lead to success. There’s more that goes into it.

Finding the right fit can be a little bit tricky, so be sure to do your research. Below, you can find some of the major points of major vs. indie labels.

Major Label vs. Indie Label

Within an indie label, you’ll be working in closer quarters with the people who are managing your time. This is just the nature of being a smaller business. You’ll likely have good relationships with everyone in the company and strike artist-friendly deals. You will also have fewer resources just by nature of dealing with a small company.

Major labels sometimes have very complex contracts that don’t always work for the artist. These companies are a little more removed from the artists that they sign, but you have a massive network to work with and, usually, larger budgets.

One option is not more correct than the other. Both have pros, both have cons. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into and make the deal that you think will work best with you, your team, and your vision.