[ The reference to labels in this post is largely referring to big or medium size labels. Labels that have some prestige and backing in the dance music scene. Of course, smaller labels and newly started labels will be MUCH easier to get on, as they won’t have the brand power and media reach of the big guys.These are AWESOME places to start, so don't over look them when getting your name out there]
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Every single producer at some point will say these words.
Why won’t a label take my
I've never met a single producer that hasn't been rejected by a label.
If you've never been rejected, you've never tired
With the modern era of social
In 30 seconds, a label can size you up and see if you would be a good fit for their brand.
A label? A brand? What?
In the days of digital distribution( aka now), you no longer need a label to share your song. You can share your song with as many people as you’d like largely for free.
This is the power of the internet.
However, most producers still seek labels as the end all be all for their success. Why is this?
Simple, the labels have a large fan base and
When seeking out labels, there is
Not only do you want to find a good fit for your music, you also need to consider your current reach as an artist. In the modern climate of dance music, for better or worse the “social profiles” you have online or the reach of your brand as an artist will largely determine your ability to land on labels.
To an outsider looking in this may not make much sense, why would a label care about what I've already done, wouldn't they just care about the current music I make?
Yes and No. (Mainly No)
Many years ago, I remember the advice a veteran gave me on the music industry.
Now this isn't 100% true, as I've personally met 2 artists that have been “brought up” via major labels( major on dance music terms), but for the most part, your best bet to land on these decent size labels is already have a large media reach ( aka lots of people love your music).
Now you may be saying...
This doesn't make much sense or....
I can't make it without a label ! .......
Hear me out.
The issue with labels( again the top labels in your genre) is like the issue in the job market.
Just say you want to be the manager of clothing company in your local mall.
You go to the job interview and they say, well you have to have 3-5 years experience as a manager to get this job.
You go to a different clothing company, same deal, 3-5 years experience as a manager, to get this job.
Long story short, often times these places want you to have already done the job else where in order to land the job currently.
Of course its hard to land a manager's job when no one will hire you to be a manger.
Labels can be like this at times, it’s hard to land on a decent sized label until you have proven yourself as a producer, sadly, often times this means how well you've charted or how strong your following is.
You may be an awesome manager, you may think you're talented and can lead people, but the company isn't going to hire someone who isn't proven.
My friends often joke that by the time you have a strong enough media/music reach to land on the big labels, often times you can just do it yourself.
To make a super long story short, start viewing the big labels as the FINAL last push of your music. Like, you've already done a lot on your own, and these labels can push you to the top.
Don’t think for a minute that a label is your saving grace, don’t think a label is going to magically help you because your talented or work really hard. There are thousands of equally talented producers all over the world, that work day in and day out , talent and hard work alone aren't enough in this industry.
[WOW ! This is negative Nyonyxx, usually, your like...happy.]
Yes, had to be a bit rough here to get my point across.
My point is do NOT WAIT for labels to make you, make yourself. If you make yourself to decent level, small labels will pound on your door. If you get exposure above that medium labels will pound on your door.
Simply put, if you can offer the label VALUE when signing with them, your much more likely to land a deal.
Now with all that being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when you do end up working with labels, hopefully these tips will help you land the label of your dreams “after you've already proven yourself, ehhhhhh”
Stop Getting Rejected By Labels, Quick Guide
[ Just a side note here, obv, the music quality is important, but eventually your music will be professional level if you put in the time. At this point, your music will be “solid” and quality will no longer become an issue, this is when its most important to offer value in other ways.
Prior to this turning point, you NEED to focus on your music quality. However, while your building your quality of music, consider building your value as a brand, having one without the other won’t do much good in the long run.
Basically, the most important tip is have awesome music, the below tips already assume your music is killer. However, music quality alone is only one piece of the pie. ]
Tip 1 -Show VALUE to the label.
Yes music has value, but unless your the next Madeon or can mix and produce like Knife Party, there is a good chance the label has other tracks lined up that are equally as well produced as yours.
So beyond having AWESOME music what can you offer a label?
If your shooting for a big label, you want to show them what you've ALREADY done. Things like chart records, previous labels, gigs landed, current social media stats etc. If you look “good on paper” a label is MUCH more likely to take your track. You may be weak in some areas but strong in others.
Never played a gig? No big deal if you have 100k Facebook fans and 15,000 downloads of a song you uploaded last week for free.
No one is ever going to have all the perfect metrics lined up, but make sure you showcase your BEST side.
Maybe your online stats aren't that good, but you've been playing 4 gigs a week for the last 2 years. Show this side of yourself.
Basically, you want the label to go, ohh this IS SOMEONE, I should check out more about them.
If you don’t have any stats or metrics, make them.
Start today, its rather simple its just a long winded process. Hit the streets and make connections in your city to start DJing, befriend blog owners that can showcase your music. There are a million ways to build your brand up, and remember often times you won’t land on a decent label until you've already “made it” so to speak.
Tip 2- Start Small
A popular message I get is,
Nyonyxx, Hey ! I sent my track to “ the top 5 labels on Beatport” they never responded, wtf :(
I've done it, we've all done it, many years ago under a different name I sent my tracks (horrible tracks to boot) to all the big labels, I have NO IDEA what I was thinking at the time, but I feel I am not alone.
I truly am sorry for the guy that has to go through all the tracks day in day out, as I assume there are other producers like me who used to spam the hell out of these labels.
You know that awkward phase in the production cycle when you think your tracks are AWESOME, but later find out they weren't? We all had it, just be aware this can happen in your earlier years so you don't later go, OMG wtf was I thinking.
I’m going to be blunt here, if you've only been producing a year or so , unless you have some crazy insane talent and work ethic, your tracks are not good enough for these labels. Not only that, most likely you haven’t built up a brand to sustain these labels needs either.
If your just starting out,START SMALL. Find new labels that are looking for new talent, find small labels that would be happy to have you !
The hard part with this is that the labels are HARD to find, I don’t have much advice on how to seek them out either other then keep your eyes open.
Put it this way, these labels are hard to find, but when you do its rather easy ( assuming your music is solid) to land on them. Of course, some of them aren't even worth signing with as they have no brand of their own, but I have found some true gems over the years in the small label realm.
Look for these labels, check out THEIR social media profiles and see if it is worth your music.
Remember, this label is just a tiny stepping stone on your path up the ranks, be proud when you land on one and don’t let anyone give you shit for not being on a big label.
Tip 3 -Stop the MASS SPAMMING (wrong genres/ styles)
The people that I've worked with that run labels always HATE when they get the dreaded copy and paste message.
The message basically says” I did zero fucking research on your label, I have NO IDEA what style of music you normally release and I am just hoping the best by sending this same message to every single label on the current top 100 list”
Let’s face it, we've all trolled the top 100 list for labels to send tracks to however it seems a lot of people hope that playing the numbers will add up to a big win...it usually doesn't.
When you send your track to a label, tiny, small, medium, big or mainstream learn everything you can about the label ahead of time.
Try to find the name of the person you are contacting. (who handles the inbox of promos/ tracks at the label etc)
Awhile back a buddy of mine was trying to land on a certain label, he figured out the person's name that handles incoming tracks, he found their twitter and social page, he then briefly checked out what they chatted about and liked.
Long story short, when he sent over his track, he addressed the person by name and even brought up a short topic about something the person said on twitter, this already made him look different then the 100’s of copy and paste messages he (label guy) saw daily.
As someone who gets a decent amount of email, I can safely say that most of the time I don’t feel like a person, I feel like a robot answering other robots.
If you send an email to a label, try to show that you are indeed a human being and that your a cool upbeat person. At the very least, the person will have a refreshing email to read and not another.
Here’s my track, its not done, but if you could offer some tips, then maybe sign it?
Thanks( write back soon, hurry)
[ OK the above is a bit over the top, but you get my gist, you’d be amazed at the emails people send labels, again no judgement, I've been there]
Basically, try to treat the person on the other end as a friend, not just another number and not just to USE them for their label.
Remember, always offer value from your work to your brand to the way you communicate.
Tip 4- Be Unique
This is part of the above section, but needs its own category.
Along with the above section on treating the person on the other end like a real human being and not just a number, there are ton’s of unique cool things you can send ALONG with your email( or whatever form of contact that label goes for)
99.9% of producers will just send a generic copy paste message and wonder why NO one contacts them back. ( I was copy paste man, no judgement here, truly)
Again, let’s go back to offering value. Let’s say your the club DJ we talked about before, not much social media power but you have weekly gigs. How about you send over a short clip of you playing the track at the club, uploaded privately for them.
Even if it’s a small club, if there are 20 people dancing and enjoying your track is looks better then simply sending the normal style of message everyone is doing.
Yes, it will take you an extra few hours of work, but in the end at the very least you should make a strong impression on the label.
Want to push it up a notch?
If you have strong social media stats, or some other way to offer value to the label why don’t you tell them in a personal video.
Instead of listing out what you have done and your current brand power (awareness) why don’t you tell them directly.
Put a cam in your studio and simply chat with them like you would a friend. Tell them (briefly) about yourself, your brand and your music. Keep it short ( like in the minute range) as these are usually hyper busy people. Record the video and send along when you shoot over the track.
Doing this will accomplish 3 things.
You connect with them as a real person ( no copy and paste here)
It shows your professional (even if your not) but shows you care deeply
They will remember you ( no one goes to such lengths to showcase themselves)
Remember, these people get a ton of emails and tracks, standing out is only going to help you assuming its done in a positive way.
[ Another side note, although I said it before, the above is assuming your music is already SOLID. I wouldn't recommend doing any of the above until your music is at a certain level so to speak]
Also, it should be noted, I would avoid sending the default " DJ BIO"
Ever since DJ Joe was 8 years old, he had been popping out the hits. His life started ......blah blah blah
When your chatting about yourself, keep it UBER SHORT and talk about facts. You have X number of downloads of a track. X number of plays, X number of Twitter Followers, X number of weekly gigs.
Going into your full life story bio will most likely make the person click next for the sake of time.
Tip 5 - Ignore The Labels, focus on other media for exposure
Modern labels aren't so much “record dealers” and more so have become PR and marketing giants. The label exposes you to their channel, their network and their resources. They are in turn marketing your music for you. Doing this for you, they get a percentage of sales and it’s a win win for both.
However, you no longer need anyone to release your music for you, you can do it yourself.
Everyone releases their own music now a days, that’s a given.
What’s not given is the fact that most producers do a few things
Release a track with no effort to promote it (they figure not on a label, no point to spend time promoting it)
Wait for the magic moment they get a big break on a big label, thus never promoting anything assuming the label will take care of it when the day comes.
As I said before, you don’t want to wait for the label to be your meal ticket, you’ll be waiting a long long time my friends.
Instead of focusing on getting on a label early in your career, focus on building your name up via other networks.
Youtube channels/ blogs/ pay to post Soundcloud channels, things like this act as a modern day label, they will distribute your music to a wider audience.( via links etc)
Look at it this way, the MAIN reason why you want to get on a label is to expose your music to new fans and a larger audience.
You no longer NEED a label to do this, it can be done via many channels and networks online. The key is just plugging away at these, once you have a good foundation, the labels will be much easier and willing to sign you.
Tip 6- Make Friends with People at the label via other means.
Some of the bigger labels in Dance ( but more so in the pop world) will have a artist that makes the track, a team mix the track, a team master the track etc.
Hell, a lot of tracks are ghost produced, but I won’t go their for various reasons.
Ghost producing aside, there are a LOT of small and medium sized labels that may benefit from someone who is good at mixing and mastering.
Just say your decent at mastering, why don’t you try to contact some small labels and see if they would like to have you master their tracks, free of charge.
If they like your masters, you can eventually build a relationship with that label and easily get tracks released. This doesn't have to stay confined to small labels, if your really good at a certain aspect, maybe your mixes are insane, or you know the perfect Mid-Side processing for mastering. Even just one skill is a good way to get your foot in the door.
Mixing and mastering is just one tiny thing, there are TON’s of other things you can offer a label to build a relationship with them (of course, you will need skill in that field)
-Artwork ( this one is huge, I know two guys that got on decent labels due to their artwork relationship first)
-Exposure to a community or group they are unaware of.
-Pushing them on your blog/network or anyplace else you have connections.
-Hooking them up with vocalists (connecting people)
These are just a few small things, basically, the more value you offer the better.
Tip 7 - Send to a BUNCH of Labels ( not at once)
This one seems like common sense on some aspects, but isn't applied often.
When I chat with friends or clients about labels, if they are having problems getting on one the topic usually comes up “ how many labels did you send your track to”
I've asked this maybe 3 dozen times, with the answer of 3-5 being most common.
Most people will send their track to 3 or 5 labels and give up.
Don’t do this.
Send to 3-5, wait 8-10 days, if you hear nothing send to 3-5 more labels.
I don’t recommend spamming the track to 50 labels at a time, but 3-5 total just isn't enough to get your track heard in the modern marketplace, there is just so much music.
Send it to a lot, but do it in a non spammy way ( aka give at least a week for the label to respond).
Look at it this way, most likely you sent your track to 3-5 easy to find labels. In fact, most producers send their track ONLY to the top 3-5 labels in their genre, when your starting out don’t swing for this. Go for some lesser known ones, build your fan base on your own and with the help of smaller labels before shooting for the moon.
In the end, “not” getting on a label is often simply
-Music Quality Below Label’s Value
-No Social Media Power
-Not making yourself stand out
-Value Leeching from the first email ( asking for feedback, saying this is a demo, saying things like PLEASE LISTEN TO MY TRACK) This screams that your using the label and not trying to offer the label value, think win win.
If you keep these things in mind, you have a much better shot at getting on a label.
If your not landing big ones, ( and your music is awesome) then it’s time to take a look how to market yourself and promote yourself without a label, when the times comes and you've hustled yourself for a good number of years, the labels will come calling to you.
Keep Killin it
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