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Getting signed: 10 easy steps to fame and fortune

Getting signed: 10 easy steps to fame and fortune

It’s not a wild exaggeration to say that the internet has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives, and the music industry was one of the first in line to get a long and sustained cyber kicking. How we consume, market and buy music has changed and how music gets signed has also changed, but for the average record label boss it’s probably not for the best.

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

Sometimes the right image helps too…

Papa’s gonna have to dish out some tough love here as this is obviously a pretty important subject. As a label owner and with friends who own labels, I have spent many a whisky-soaked night talking about the ins and outs of running a label, and demos is a subject that has often cropped up.

The problem is that with so many people making music and sending out links to their latest “killer trax”, A&R people have succumbed to demo fatigue! Wading through one hundred emails a day is a genuinely dispiriting experience.

On many occasions I have been going through my inbox skipping through tracks which can only have been sent in error, thinking why is my chest wet? Only to discover that I have been weeping for the last ten minutes. So with that in mind, here are a few pointers on how to send your music and improve your chances of getting signed.

How to get your demo heard!

1. Only send demos to a label that’s interested in your particular style of music, there’s little point in sending your Death Metal future classic, “The Deathly Balls of Keith Chegwin” to a label who specialise in baptist organ recitals. This will only excite the chagrin of the bemused recipient. Listen to a lot of the back catalogue to really get a feel for what they are about and be honest with yourself….would your music make a worthy addition to the label roster?

2. Some imprints have a CD only policy as the online deluge makes it far too easy to send music in a scattergun fashion. The rationale behind this is that you would have to be committed to go to the effort of sending a CD and will have hopefully done your homework, so find out what the demo policy of the label is and follow it with fanatical zeal. Don’t send emails with MP3 attachments as this darkens moods and clogs up inboxes. A private link is by far the most preferable way of emailing your music.

3. Send a short bio with a decent photo and include any press clippings, reviews and anything that shows you in a positive light. Don’t waffle on too much about how you were listening to The Clash as a foetus and wrote your first opera at 18 months. Just a flavour of what you and the music are about, any significant achievements and what’s new regarding gigs, more recording etc. Perhaps leave out any comments from your mum and stuff like “This is just bull****” – Bruce Forsyth.

Elvis Presley totally would have had a SoundCloud. Probably.

Elvis Presley totally would have had a SoundCloud. Probably.

4. If you are using Soundcloud, for the love of the infant baby Jesus, please don’t share the track to 9678 people, this will only give rise to snorts of derision as A&R people don’t like the idea of a track being all over the internet before they sign it. Using this approach is demo suicide.

Soundcloud is one of the more preferred options as tracks can be played without the need for downloading. Make the track private though, A&R like to think they are getting it hot off the press and that it’s not been sent to the whole world.

5. Every artist that you admire will have in all likelihood sent out a demo only to be told “no thanks”, or most likely never heard anything back at all. Often when a label turns you down it is for the reason that the music doesn’t fit the output of that label so don’t be despondent, move on to the next one and keep going.

6. Only send out three or four of your best tracks. Attention spans are short with A&R types. Consult with people whose opinion you value as to what are your best tracks and get a general consensus of opinion. Never send tracks that are incomplete, it’s insulting, and don’t ramble on about them being unmastered or needing a touch up in the mix, really the less said the better. Image is also key, the more you can appear as a fully formed artist, the more serious A&R will take you.

7. The personal touch! Introducing yourself at a gig or other function can work very well if you are charming and don’t bore the back legs off them. This is always going to be a judgment call as some people really don’t go for being hassled when they are out of the office so to speak, whereas others are happy to chat away merrily. I guess you could say that art mirrors life, as do A&R types. Get it right and there’s a good chance you will get your music heard, shamble up like a witless buffoon and there’s every chance you won’t.

Soundcloud8. With smaller indie imprints it’s often very much a labour of love for the owner and they will probably be doing most of the work, press, distribution, A&R etc. so it can take a little time to get back to you. There’s certainly nothing wrong in following up on your demo, but don’t pester. Smaller labels are generally more approachable and will often work with you in developing your music before you release it with them.  In general if you don’t hear anything back, try again next time.

9. Keep in touch with any label that gets back to you, as most won’t. If someone extends you the rare courtesy of saying something such as, “It’s good but not right for us”, they may see you as potentially promising for the future. It’s also perfectly acceptable to invite them to a gig if you are playing in the area and generally build up a relationship by keeping them in the loop with new tracks etc. To grease the wheels of industry you can always drop it in that there will be a few drinks under their name behind the bar.

10. Demo quality is key no doubt about it. In many cases you are pitching the final product as small labels don’t have the budget to re-record. So be sure that you are happy with the mixing and production. Remember that competition is fiercer than ever and your music, production and image should be bringing something new to the table in order to get any attention.

Ultimately there is no secret handshake or technique that is going to guarantee that you will get a release on a label, but with thick skin, a professional approach and most importantly great music, plus a bit of luck, you will get your break.

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Red Dog Music is the UK’s friendliest musical instrument and pro-audio dealer. Between our 5000 square foot Edinburgh shop filled with an incredible range of products, and a London showroom in Clapham specialising in high-end instruments, dj and pro-audio, Red Dog Music has you covered from north to south and from performance to playback.

About The Author

Red Dog Music

Dawsons Music is delighted to announce that the Red Dog Music brand is now part of the Dawsons family. This is an exciting opportunity to bring both communities together and create a stronger, wider network of people passionate about music gear. We both share a common heritage to support musicians throughout the UK and Dawsons want to support Red Dog Music customers in their continued musical journey.

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