Many artists ask themselves if a label is right for them. For some, it may be the best decision they will ever make, while others will thrive independently.
In this blog, we'll unpack the different kinds of record labels in the music industry, and how you can use them to your benefit.
Do I Need A Record Label?
No, if you want to be successful as a musician, you don't need a record label.
Many artists now choose to take charge of their own music careers and become independent musicians.
Many artists now choose to take charge of their own music careers and become independent musicians. On the flip side, many artists utilize record labels because of their convenience.
They can save you a boatload of time, energy, and resources that could be used toward your craft. Let's get into if a record label is right for you, and the fundamental basics of record labels.
Keep in mind that there are independent artists who are extremely successful, who never used a label (think about Russ or ChanceTheRapper).
Is A Record Label Right For Me?
Record labels have a huge impact on the music business as a whole. Not only can they accelerate an artist's career, but change the music industry altogether.
Let's start by answering the question above!
A record label is a great idea if you're a decently well-established musician, with an upwards trajectory.
Think of this like Shark Tank. Do extremely small businesses ever get the deal?
Maybe sometimes, but most likely not.
Why is this? Because those businesses have no track record. They don't have any evidence that supports that their business will succeed.
Once you think of record deals like an investing game, the objective becomes clear.
Major labels are the Sharks, while the artist is a business trying to get a deal.
So, if you find yourself in this camp then a record label might be a great option for you!
When Not To Submit To Record Labels
Unfortunately, when it comes to the music industry, first impressions are everything.
If you submit labels too early, that might hinder your ability to work with them in the future.
It's important to stay humble as an artist because many times record labels will deny artists that submit to them multiple times due to that first impression.
You want to make sure you're in a good position before you submit music to a major label!
Ensuring your artistic development is up to par, will greatly benefit you in the long run.
How Do I Get A Record Deal
So, you've decided you are well-established enough to take the jump and start submitting to record labels! Let's get into exactly how exactly you can get a record deal.
Before getting a deal, obviously, you have to submit your music first!
Here's how it goes:
You reach out to a label, or a label reaches out to you.
You submit your music, they review it, and hopefully you get a response
They will likely propose a deal that works for you.
You review it (with an attorney), and decide if it's the right deal for you.
You either sign or deny!
Pretty simple, right?
OK, so you're ready to release music with major record labels, but where do you find them?
How Do I Find Record Labels?
It's pretty easy to find record labels, especially smaller ones.
Just google "record labels accepting demos, or check out our list below!
Artist Necessities To Getting Signed
Before submitting to a major label, see if you are any of these!
Here's exactly what record labels are looking for:
Make great music with your own style
Do something that no one else is doing or that no one else is doing better
Have something authentic about you that makes you stand out
Establish a strong social media presence
Have a strong fan base that will come to your shows and stream your music
Have strong momentum, you should be on the come up
Show that you care about your project and are ready to move on to the next phase of your artistic career
Most record labels are interested in all of these things because they help them do their jobs better.
They want to see a music artist that will benefit their label's reputation, and sales, and establish them as a dominant label in the music scene.
You want them to know that you are professional, dedicated, and driven.
You should be asking what YOU can do for your label, not what your label can do for you. Your label may help you in the short term, but in the long term, you should benefit from your label the most! Unsigned artists always get this part wrong, they think that it's all about "What can you do for me?"
Once you switch your mindset around, you will see great success!
Make Exceptional Music
This one is key. Too many new artists make this mistake!
They think that their music is the greatest thing that has ever been created in the entire universe, only to come to the realization that it's not. You don't want to figure that out when you get rejection after rejection from labels.
It doesn't matter which genre you're creating electronic dance music, hip hop, or indie, you should get honest feedback about your work.
As artists, it's sometimes easy to overlook minor details in your own work and be highly critical of others. You should drop this attitude if you want to get signed to a record label.
Learn How To Write Hit Records
People always want to hear what new artists are creating.
You can't be that new artist if you're stuck five years behind.
"But how do I come up with something new? It seems like everything has already been done before!"
This may be partly true, but there are some things you can do to improve your chances of making the next hit song!
Your song has to be:
easy to understand
a little bit catchy
complex to some degree of uniqueness
What makes you connect with one piece of music more than another?
Most likely, it's not a record executive's marketing plan or how much money was spent on a FaceBook ad campaign.
Even without the help of a professional team, great music can still stand on its own.
Songs speak to us because they remind us of things we've been through.
The art of songwriting is taking complex emotions, and condensing them into palatable, lyrical phrases that listeners can connect with.
How do you get through these walls? It's all about making reliability a goal.
As artists, many of us like to hear something that we haven't heard before.
But it's important to keep in mind that most average listeners are more attuned to more common ways of writing songs.
It's totally fine and even a good idea to get ideas from other artists and songs. This is what being an artist is all about!
The idea that your work has to be something completely unique every single time is just plain stupid!
You'll certainly want to make songs your own, but finding inspiration in common chords, melodies, and song structures can help you craft killer music.
Label Prep 101
Okay, so you aren't quite there yet, right?
That's okay, and you've already completed the first step!
Which is admitting that you aren't ready yet.
So let's get into it!
Setup Your Artist Brand First
If you just started, or are ten years deep in your music career, you probably already know the importance of branding.
Music producers, artists, record companies, singers....basically everyone has some sort of branding!
Before you begin posting content & building your social media accounts, you should think about what your brand pillars are.
Here are some thought-provoking questions you can ask yourself:
What point is your music trying to convey?
What feeling/vibe are you trying to display to your audience?
How are you trying to make them feel?
What social issues do you stand for/against?
What do you feel strongly about?
Once you have your brand pillars down, you can begin to translate those ideas into digestible content for your target audience.
Make Sure You Look Legit
The little things matter.
Let's start with the fundamentals to this new digital era of the music industry.
Do your links work?
Are you a verified artist on Spotify?
Are your social media profiles well-designed & aesthetically pleasing?
In the grand scheme of things, these things matter! Where else do you think a major label will look to know more about you?
Think of your social media profiles as you!
Learn The “Business Side” of Music
Some know the ins & outs of the music business, while other artists struggle with this!
Especially if you're looking to be an independent artist, you should know how the music industry works!
Be Active On Social Media
Having a strong online presence can give you a big edge over other artists. Make a profile on Facebook, Twitter, a YouTube Channel, TikTok, and even a website to get your name out there.
You don't have to be active on all of them. You can try each one to see which one works best.
Once you've found the right ones, you can start building a following.
Here are some tips on how to make your social media profile look good:
Choose a username that fits with what you're doing.
Have a good picture for your profile
Spend some time writing a business bio.
Linktree and other similar services can help you send your fans to your other channels.
Post sneak peeks of your new songs to give your fans and people who find you something to look forward to.
Move around! Get to know other people!
The Different Kinds Of Labels
There are two main kinds of labels:
Independent Record Label
Each one has its own pros and cons, but let's see which one will work best for you!
Major Label or Indie Label?
Major labels are almost like big businesses/corporations. They have a board of directors, and employees, and operate like a business. There are different departments, each with a different function for making their artists succeed.
Benefits Of A Record Label
You'll want to consider a major label if you're trying to expand your music to a huge audience. If you're looking to become the next Drake, this might be your avenue. Independent labels take a much different approach, which can be beneficial as well.
Why Independent Works
Independent labels often find much success when working with artists because they are artist-focused and less business-focused. Most of the time, they truly care about your well-being as an artist!
Here are some pros to Independent labels:
Good contracts/record deals
Great for the start of a music career
Submitting To Record Labels
When submitting your music to record labels, you should be focusing on your professionality, personality, and intent.
Labels get messages all the time from artists, and you mustn't make the same mistake artists make frequently!
Don't Be Annoying
The first and most basic step is to not be spammy, annoying, or needy. You want the label to feel like they need you, not the other way around. In your emails, DMs, or even phone calls keep this in mind! Labels get annoying artists all the time, so if you're personable they will likely contact you back.
How To Be Professional
Remember, a label no matter the size is a business. Act like you would in a regular business environment. Be respectful, have proper punctuation/grammar, and know that first impressions are everything!
Where Do Labels Find Me?
Your favorite label will find you on social media, through word of mouth, or through live gigs. Most likely, you will be discovered either on a streaming platform or social media.
So make sure that your socials are spot on!
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