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Getting music signed seems to be everyone’s main goal – producers, rappers, bands, and songwriters. I’m here to explain that it might not be the best thing for you to be aiming for right now, but I’ve also got some pointers to boost your chances should you still want that precious record deal.

#1 – Make Sure You Fit The Label

Really? A good label will have a strong aesthetic, sound, style and brand. Just because it’s your favourite label doesn’t mean your music belongs there. It’s really worth assessing your suitability objectively.

Is your music good enough?

I know from experience that it’s easy to over-estimate the quality of your own music, mainly due to the learning curve when it comes to production – which is especially the case today with the abundance of great sample packs, patches and tutorials. You can learn so much in a short space of time, so much that it can trick you into thinking your music is at a professional level. The usual curve goes I suck – I’m ok – I’m really good – Ok I still suck. This isn’t supposed to be disheartening, just a reminder that this isn’t easy and skills take time.

#2 – Lower Your Expectations

This one is borrowed from my previous post on overcoming the fear of rejection.

Some labels get hundreds of demos per day. They often can’t listen to them let alone sign them all. A rejection (or no response) doesn’t necessarily mean your music is bad or even unsuitable, you just need to keep in mind the sheer volume of music they get sent.

You should never base your plans, self worth, or your future on getting signed on any given submission to any particular label. By all means, submit away, but resting your hopes on a response is not healthy, or beneficial for your career.

#3 – Remember The Odds

An extension of the previous tip just to drive this one home – you really need to understand that no matter how good your music is, this is still a lottery. You’ll usually need more than one ticket in one draw to win.

The good news is you can increase your odds – not only by sending more emails and submitting to more labels, but by making MORE MUSIC. Resting your hopes on one song is not advisable to anyone. I know, it’s the best song you’ve ever made and the best song in the whole world. Make 20 more.

Remember success is improvement over time. You shouldn’t need to be signed to feel successful. If you’re making music you’re proud of, you are successful.

#4 – Build Your Own Following First

This should be your main priority, not getting signed.

We all have the tools at our disposal today – social media and its many platforms. Create, engage – the same old story you’ve heard everywhere else. It’s a hard slog yes, but nothing good comes easy. Aim to build your following one person at a time by self-releasing and pushing the social media game.

Record labels are businesses, not charities.

They want to sell records and stack streams, that’s why they exist. They want to sign artists with their own core following of engaged listeners. There’s always a chance your music could blow them away regardless, but if you want a greater chance, build a following.

Not only will this help you get signed by a label, but you might get to the point where you don’t even need a label. In 2019 you can avoid putting your future in someone else’s hands and look out for numero uno. I’m sure you’ve heard before that no one cares as much about your music career as you do.

Labels can usually put your music in front of more people and a great team can really make a big difference to an artist’s success, but you shouldn’t lean on this as an excuse to not be doing everything you can for yourself right now.

#5 – Self Release

You really can’t avoid this, even if it’s just in the beginning. If you’re sitting on your music waiting for it to be signed, you could be wasting time and potential growth.

We all know how to upload to Soundcloud – this is where most producers start out. Download gates can be great for building your following and spreading your music. I use The Artist Union (free).

Soundcloud are apparently launching their own distribution service (where they get your music on other platforms like Spotify and Apple), which could be a great tool for artists with Soundcloud becoming a one-stop-shop for content sharing.

At the moment you have other options – Distrokid is very popular. For a yearly fee they let you upload unlimited music to all platforms and keep 100% of the royalties. There are some other small fees here and there, and your collaborators might not like paying a yearly fee to get their royalties, but it’s a popular option with great reviews.

I personally use Stem. There are zero fees and they take 5% of your royalties. They do collaborator splits, work with all major platforms, and I really don’t have anything bad to say about them.

If you build your own following through self-releasing, you will have a much easier time getting signed to a label in the future. Like I said, you might even decide you don’t need a label.

Go and finish some music and start growing!