10 Tips for Making a Demo to Send to Record Labels

While It’s not a secret that the number of independent artists and producers is increasing by the day, record labels still reign supreme when it comes to new track releases.

Perhaps it’s because they are endowed in terms of resources – financial and expertise. After all, it’s the label’s bread and butter to produce and sell music for their artists, which means they are often a step ahead of the rest. 

As an artist, you might be at that phase in your career where you are considering associations with record labels to help you produce and promote your art.

Chances are, you are wondering about the best way to make and send a demo that will get you accepted and signed on by a label. This article will help you navigate this murky world. It focuses on ten best practices for making and sending out demos.

Let’s dive straight in.

10 Tips for Making a Demo to Send to Record Labels

1. Make Your Demo Sound Great

1. Make Your Demo Sound Great

I will bluntly tell you this – demo submissions are often rejected because the music does not sound good enough. It would be best not to send a premature track when applying for a recording deal, as most labels will simply ignore it. Instead, ensure it’s perfectly mixed, mastered, and arranged. 

It would help if you understood that record companies receive lots of submissions daily, and the number of poorly-produced tracks in their pile usually exceeds the well-produced demos. Therefore, it is best to ensure the production quality of your demo is as high as possible to give you an edge over the others.

Consider asking for feedback from producer friends before finally submitting the demo. While friends and family can be your biggest supporters, they may not honestly criticize your work for fear of hurting your feelings.

Also, avoid sending demos with copyrighted materials because record labels will discard them quickly. Remember, they don’t want to get in trouble over copyright issues triggered by new signees. 

2. Work on Your Social Media Presence

2. Work on Your Social Media Presence

As previously stated, recording companies receive numerous demo submissions daily. They, therefore, may employ various tactics to identify the most promising talents in the application list, including checking your socials. 

To understand why your social statistics are essential to record labels, try to see through the eyes of an A&R representative. Their mandate is to search, sign and oversee the development of new talents in a record label. They are in the business of preparing artists for their audience, producing records for them, and marketing at a cost in the hope that they’ll make more money when they sell the records. 

Now, if, as an artist, you have minimal social media followers, low stats on streaming channels like Spotify, and engage poorly with your fans, it means the label will have to put in more effort and finances to develop you to a caliber they can sell to people. In other words, it will be a more significant risk for them to sign you.

To be a worthwhile investment for them, ensure you have an existing viable fan base before submitting your demos. Your online photos, website, and social media platforms should also exhibit professionalism. I mean, who can risk signing a joker?

3. Research the Record Label First

3. Research the Record Label First

Every recording company has its own culture, style, and preferences. For this reason, it’s essential to ensure your music aligns with the genre and style of the label you are sending it to. Sending a techno-track demo to a house label is as good as sending none because the producer will brush it off as soon as they play it.

The best analysis approach is compiling a list of your most preferred record labels. Visit their websites, social media profiles, and other channels and read through their posts, reviews, and testimonials. Collect as much information as possible – it will be convenient when writing a submission email.

4. Read the Demo Policy

4. Read the Demo Policy

Most record companies will attach a policy section on their website that provides guidelines for submitting demos. Please read them carefully while taking note of information about acceptable demo formats, unsolicited demos, mastering preferences, compulsory artist details, official communication channels, and other requirements.

Some demo policies also explain how the label handles demo submissions. By reading them carefully, you familiarize yourself with what to include and what to avoid when presenting your demo.

5. Attach Links Instead of Files

5. Attach Links Instead of Files

Unless their demo submission guidelines advise otherwise, sending links instead of files is a good idea. In an already complicated world, links make everything easy for everyone. Consequently, most record labels prefer SoundCloud links because they can listen to your track before downloading.

If you are sending your demo via email, attaching a link will work much better than a file. This is because file attachments are often deleted or tossed in the SPAM folder for security reasons while also occupying more space.

6. Use Official Communication Channels

6. Use Official Communication Channels

While record labels can respond to messages on their social media accounts, it doesn’t mean they can review and accept demos submitted through their inbox. Have some professional courtesy and submit them via the official contact methods listed on their websites.

If you can’t find an official contact and are contemplating messaging them your demo on Facebook or Twitter, it would be better to inquire beforehand. Ask them how they always receive demo submissions and follow the prompts.

7. Personalize Your Email

7. Personalize Your Email

Remember, nobody will listen to your demo if they can’t open your message. While some labels may require you to fill out a submission form, most prefer email because it is professional, organized, and has no distractions.

To stand out from dozens or hundreds of other musicians you are competing against, you should add a personal touch to your message, starting from the subject line. Mention your recipient by name in the salutation, then introduce yourself concisely and directly – in three lines at most.

Also, do not forget to specify your desired type of deal. A clear explanation of what you expect the label to do for you will go a long way. This may include whether or not you’ll want publishing as part of the deal or for the company to provide an all-round deal inclusive of management, live bookings, merchandise, etc. 

8. Track Your Email

8. Track Your Email

The waiting game begins as soon as you send the draft. Fortunately, you can easily find automated tools that track your email progress. They can tell if your email was opened, read, or ignored. If you attach a link to your music, email trackers can also show whether they were clicked.

With such analytics, you can determine when to expect a response or send a follow-up email.

9. Send a Follow-Up Email

9. Send a Follow-Up Email

Did you think sending a follow-up message would even be an option? Well, it is an excellent option if you feel your pitch deserves a response.

However, do not make the mistake of rushing to write a follow-up before waiting long enough for feedback. More prominent labels will take longer to filter through the numerous submissions. If the record label’s demo policy doesn’t highlight the time it might take to give feedback, it’s safe to send a follow-up email after about three weeks.

More importantly, do not spam their emails by sending multiple follow-ups subsequently – this would be the simplest way to whittle down yourself automatically. One follow-up is enough.

10. Don’t Give Up

10. Don't Give Up

You must acknowledge “NO” as a common answer in the music game and keep soldiering on. If one record label rejects your demo, make a better one and move to the next label. You are even lucky they responded. But if you are consistent enough, you’ll land a deal soon enough.

Bottom Line

I know how frustrating it can be when your demo is rejected or snubbed. But the secret to getting it accepted lies within you. You must prepare a quality demo, research the most suitable record label, and take the best approach to reach them.

If you don’t get feedback within a couple of weeks, you’d better follow up with a more detailed second message. Good luck submitting your demo!

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