Before we even get into the details of sending a demo it’s important to understand the amount of music that is released every week. I’m sure Beatport quoted 10,000 tracks across all genres, even as a new artist on a popular label might not gain the traction you expect. But hey let’s not get too pessimistic just yet, as a new techno producer and new techno label owner I have sent hundreds of demos over the past couple of years to varying sizes of labels with some very, be it small, degree of success. If you search Google there is a wealth of articles on the subject, but I will be talking from my own personal experiences.
It goes without saying the music has to be good. I do all my production and mastering in Ableton. With some practise you can get a well-balanced track and master it yourself to achieve a good level of quality and loudness. I should also say that to get this practise you have to be finishing a lot of music from beginning to end, the end being a mastered track. If your music does happen to get a listen then you want it to be sounding as good as possible. I will be writing a follow-up article on how to achieve a good standard of home mastering that will be good enough for sending demos. For now, let’s just say you have been producing for a while getting fairly decent at mixing and some basic mastering. Of course, getting some feedback from trusted friends or other producers is key to helping assess that your music is ready.
How to get your music heard on SoundCloud
There are dozens of different ways to send music over the Internet. My preference has always been Soundcloud. Love it or hate it but it has some very valuable features when it comes to sending demos for both you as the sender and the label receiving. You can sign up for a free sound cloud account that will give you 3 hours of audio. The best feature to use is the private track or playlist.
Marking a track in Soundcloud private means it is only accessible via a secret link. If you then email that secret link to label, using the stats, you will know if the track has been played. This is obviously very useful information for the demo sender. If you know a track has been played then you know someone at the label has at least listened to your music. It’s worth creating a swipe file of labels you know listen to for future reference. More often than not I have had a label listen to my music and not respond. Now there could be a million reasons why but the important thing here is not to get disheartened and assume it’s because of your music. If they listened it could be worth trying again at a later stage. At least you know they listened.
Ok, so you have your tracks all prepared, I would suggest between 2 and 4 is a good number. You should then upload them to Soundcloud. If you upload them together and mark them all as private you create a playlist. This playlist will be private and have its own secret link. This is link you will use when contacting the label. It’s always good to do it this way because you can name the playlist “demos for [[insert label]]” and as the tracks are private and haven’t been playing the label will feel that they are the first to hear them and they have been written with them in mind. This is a good thing, trust me!
Ok, when it comes to the email to send keep it fairly short. The label will most likely be inundated with emails and a long read will be off-putting and most likely be binned. I always go for a very short intro, who I am, what type of music I write. Followed up by a short statement with why I would like to be on the label. Usually, I am a big fan of their music and some praise of the label's music will always help, but again keep it short. Then a statement about the music you have prepared and how it’s been exclusively written for the label and then the private Soundcloud playlist link. It’s good to include your signature with links to any relevant social media pages or music released. I know the number of followers on social media shouldn’t matter, but I would be surprised if the person reading doesn’t take a look and it perhaps had some influence on their decision, purely speculation of course. One big “No-No” and I can’t emphasise this enough, do not use the same email and playlist for more than one label. Absolutely no CC’ing multiple labels. It looks bad and it will instantly get deleted.
So here is an example of an email template similar to what I have used and gotten responses from in the past.
My name is Johnny Utah and I am a new Techno producer from just outside Detroit. I am a huge fan of your label and many of the artists on it. I would state that your music is a big influence on my own productions, particularly track [[insert favourite track]] I have been producing for 2 years now and making great progress. I have been slowly building my catalogue and getting great feedback from some of the Promo campaigns I have done. I have also released these other labels [[insert labels]] I feel my productions have matured enough for me to be confident in sending you demo tracks that you might perhaps consider for your label. I hope you get a chance to listen and even some valuable feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Kind Regards, Johnny Utah Social Media/ Website Links
So you have your email and you have your tracks prepared and ready, so where the heck do you send this thing? A little research is required, but if you are producing in a certain genre, techno music for example, and then you will no doubt have your favourite labels. As I said before it would be a good idea to create a swipe file where you can record all the information for each label you have sent to.
It’s unusual for a label not to have a website and social media presence. More often than not within the “about page” or the “contact page” there will be information on sending demos and who to contact, but not always. Once you obtain an email address you can then check over your email and send it off. If there is no mention of demos you can try any other contact email but from experience, your chances of this getting listened to are probably reduced even further. It’s worth noting if you get into doing this a lot you will most likely be copying and pasting email templates. A word of warning! Make sure you check the email thoroughly before sending it. I once had an email that ended “I hope you all at Drumcode get a chance to listen to my music”. Not great is it?
From my own experience, certainly in techno, the big labels that are very successful are the least likely to respond and listen to unsolicited demos, even if they say they are accepting. I fully appreciate why this has happened as they must get bombarded with these emails every day and it becomes unmanageable and a thankless task for anyone having to go through them. With my own label, I have had a small taste of what this is like and have sometimes been quite shocked by how little effort people put in. I have had one line emails such as “please sign my tracks” with MP3 files attached to the email! Take from me this will be deleted without a listen.
Of course, email isn’t the only way to contact labels. I would try contacting the owner via Facebook messenger. This will entirely be down the person at the label you contact, some might not mind and some might get annoyed so it can be risky. It takes time and you have to build a relationship but could yield results if you go about it in a friendly manner, absolutely no stalking, and don’t just barge in with “please listen to my music”. Overall connecting with people and networking is without a doubt the best way to get to known and increase your chances of getting your music heard. If the opportunity is there this would be my first call with email and Facebook messenger being second on the list. I probably should mention Twitter, and whilst it’s good for perhaps getting your name known it’s too public a platform for sending demos in my opinion.
How to get your music heard by record labels
If you’re in a position where you have released some music and there has been a DJ promo campaign then it’s definitely worth contacting DJs that have left you good feedback. I’m talking about decent comments and not things like “will try, thanks :-)”. If they like your music then they already might be familiar with your name and will be more open to listening to more tracks. This for me has been quite successful so far in terms of getting tracks at least listened to.
Do record labels listen to demos?
How long should you wait after sending the emails? My advice would be at least two weeks. After that, there is no problem sending a casual reminder. I would say after a further two weeks with no response and no listens it’s safe to assume that this labels mailbox has too high a demand and you should write it off and move on.
If you do get a response from a label and it’s a “not for me” it’s worth asking the question if they would consider listening to more and try again. Music is all about taste and it varies from track to track. So just because they didn’t like your first tracks doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t like subsequent tracks you send. Ask them if they would be open to listening to some more and if they say yes try again, this can show determination and has worked for me in the past.
It can be difficult at times to keep this process going for a long period of time and also very unrewarding with the lack of response and being told No. But if you keep doing it your tracks will get better with more practice of finishing music and you will get to know labels that listen again increasing your chances of getting signed.
My Top 10 Tips for sending your demo to record labels
To summarise my article I thought I would provide you with a breakdown of my top 10 tips for sending your demos. There are a vast number of record companies that accept unsolicited demos, so it’s worth trying to find them and see if you can make some progress.
- Quality music
If you are sending your music to a label then you want to give yourself the absolute best chance. When an A&R person listens it has to be sounding as good as possible. There are a lot of tutorials online and learning materials to improve your mix. You could even consider getting it professionally mastered as many mastering engineers may provide you with additional help and information on how to improve your track.
- Be prepared to be told “NO”
I see this often with demos to my own label. I receive a demo track and it’s not quite for me so it’s a no. Then I never hear from the artist again. The chances of your demo getting listened to are already very slim. The chances of your first track being listened to and signed are substantially lower again. Be persistent and prepared to send on more than one occasion, providing the label is happy for you to do so. At the end of the day, it boils down to the listeners taste. Just because they don’t like the first track doesn’t mean they won’t like the second.
- Label Research
Research the label you are sending to. Do not mail bomb multiple labels with the same demo it just looks bad will get deleted immediately. There are many record companies looking for demos so pick a single label and research their website and social media. Make sure they are receiving demos. Send your high quality finished tracks on private sound cloud links specifically for that label.
- A well-crafted email
Another one of my bugbear’s. One line emails that read “Here is my track please sign”. Your email has to contain information about you as an artist, what you have achieved and why you want to be signed to the label receiving. It doesn’t and shouldn’t be war and peace but a couple of paragraphs with this information goes a long way.
The internet obviously brings its global audience benefits. But when it comes to networking there is nothing like a good face to face chat. I know some labels will not sign artists without meeting them face to face and it’s probably more true of the bigger labels. Get to label nights and go and see DJs that are signed to labels you want to be on. Try and introduce yourself, without seeming like a stalker, and you will find you get a lot further
- Physical Media
This one goes hand in hand with networking. If you can get your music to A&R or label staff directly then you have a much better chance of being remembered. Perhaps preparing a USB stick with your tracks and some contact details would be a great way to hand over your music, or even go old school with a CD.
- Start a label
Not as difficult as you might think but starting a label is a 100% sure-fire way to get your music released into the world. There are many companies that offer full distribution and music label management such as EPM or Labelworx. If you have the determination and are prepared to put in the work then getting your website, social media and evidence of your first few releases is a good start before approaching such companies to show that you are serious about doing it. Once you have a label up and running it can certainly open more doors and provide more opportunities to reach out to bigger artists and labels and in turn, get your music heard on a bigger platform.
- Start an event or club night
Starting your own event and booking other well-known DJs will give you a chance to network and get your name known. You can then revert to my point six once you can get to meet such people and build a relationship.
- Follow up with promo responses
I mentioned this one in the main article, but if you did start your own label and run successful promo campaigns with your releases it’s well worth trying to get in touch with any DJs that were digging your music. Your name is most likely now known to them and you have proven that you have released music to their taste. Again this could potentially make life easier if you were to send them demos.
- Ensure your music is a good fit
Countless times I have received demos that are miles away from the style of my label, going as far as to receiving pop music. Hey, I like a lot of different styles of music, not just electronic but it’s important the music you send fits with the ethos of the label you are sending to. Again this goes back to research on point 3.
I hope you have enjoyed my article on sending demos. If you have any questions or feedback please get in touch.