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Thread: [TIPS] How To Get Your Demo Heard; Approaching Labels

  1. #1

    [TIPS] How To Get Your Demo Heard; Approaching Labels

    I'm creating this thread because there are a lot of producers I see here on the boards wondering, "How do I get my tracks released? Who should I send them to? What can I do to increase my chances of getting a big label to sign my material?" I've taken some time to outline some important points, as well as bring in quotes from a lot of articles and interviews with label owners. You'll find in the end, they tend to follow the same basic trends when evaluating producers demos.

    Disclaimer: No, I'm not a huge big shot producer, signed with Anjunabeats, touring the globe. And admittedly, I have broken some of these rules along the way. But, I've done my fair share of researching this over the past couple years, and asking questions to guys I've come to know in the industry. And what follows below is very true in my experience thus far, and I think any other guys on here running labels and having tracks released can attest to the validity of what I'm about to say.


    ****BEFORE YOU START MARKETING*****
    Solid, Quality Track(s)
    Before even thinking of your marketing/signing plan, you need to have a solid product. Many threads have been started here and elsewhere with new producers asking, "What 'image' do I need to portray? How many listens on soundcloud do I need to have?" Forget all that. I'm putting this as #1, because you need to have a solid track down before all else; good production quality, creative writing/arranging, and concrete understanding of what sound you are trying to achieve with your track. Chances are, if you've been producing for a while (by while, I don't mean a couple months) you probably have a fairly good idea whether your track is quality or not to send to a label. If you aren't sure, utilize the track submission sub-forum and ask for feedback on it. (Do NOT use this forum to continuously spam for listens and comments with no interest in taking feedback.)

    All in all, don't send a turd out to a label; if you do that enough times they'll start to ignore you. Also, there's enough crap on the charts right now, the world doesn't need more, so make sure it's well-done
    ****NOW LET'S TALK DEMOS****


    Assuming you have done the above, now some notes from 'Attack Magazine': Kristan J Caryl interviews industry figures [sparsed throughout, thank you to @MacarizeLive for the link] -->
    http://www.attackmagazine.com/featur...rack-released/

    KNOW THE LABEL!!!!
    “I’m aware some people’s understanding of music is not really chin stroker-y, but some of the stuff I get sent is outrageous,” laughs Jamie Russell of*Hypercolour, Glass Table, Losing Suki and Space Hardware association. “It’s as if they haven’t even checked what we do. Or they heard*Huxley’s ‘Let It Go’, think it’s a big electro track like Afrojack or some shit and send us something that’s so far off the mark it’s unbelievable. I can tell when someone really likes the label and listens to all we do versus someone who’s just checked one or two tracks.”

    It’s a sentiment echoed by most label bosses as the number one rule of submitting demos: only send to labels which will be interested in your style of music.
    Some notes from Macarize's Kristoffer Ljungerg --> http://www.twitlonger.com/show/lbnltm

    I got the question from someone today if I had any advice for him as an aspiring producer who wants to be signed on Macarize. I thought about it and one thing came to mind. No matter what label you want to release your music on, you should make sure that the music you plan on submitting is equal to the stuff on the label or preferably even better. Try to be as honest as possible to yourself and don't rush things. If you on the other hand don't feel that your music is as good as the stuff already released on your favourite label, maybe you should go back to the drawing table and make the necessary adjustments in order to give your track that extra edge.

    To achieve this you need to be very self-critical, patient and have honest and skilled people around you who constantly help you with feedback. If you time after time send material that aren't on par with the rest of the stuff, you will slowly become less interesting for the A&R's and if you're really unlucky, they won't even listen to your next submission. I know this may sound harsh, but it's the truth.

    So, to sum up, be prepared and give it all you got and a little bit more before you approach ANY label.
    Notes from Raz Nitzan, of Adrian Raz Recordings (worked with Armin, Sander Van Doorn, Ferry Corsten, and more) --> http://trancehub.com/music/product/1...ls-raz-nitzan/

    1.*Don’t send me demos with all labels on CC.*If you won’t bother sending me a personal mail, I won’t bother checking it!

    2. Don’t send “An almost finished track”, “A two minutes preview” or “Unmastered track”,*send The Best track – you’ve EVER sent! You have a one time momentum!

    3.*Don’t send more than one track at a time,*we’re not looking for an album deal! Nail a single deal and the Album might follow! One step at a time please!

    4.*Please Don’t send wav files…!*A private streaming link such as soundcloud is perfect… streaming while driving (where we do our most listening) is easier!

    5.*Don’t send tracks with samples of somebody else’s copyright!*If you are not sure – check it first or mention it on your demo pitch!

    6. Your email should be in English! Not a joke! And it should include*CLEAR Track Name, Artist name and your Contact details…

    7.*Don’t send a copy of track already released*on one of our labels… If we’ve already released the original why would I need a copy?

    8.*Send music that’s relevant to the Label you are sending it to… or please don’t send me Rap, R&B, Country, Metal, Minimal, Techno, etc. Nothing against any of these… I just wouldn’t know what to do with them during office hours!

    9. Please*don’t*send Reminders or*ask on Twitter – “did you listen to my demo?”*It’s our job to find new music and the next big thing.

    10. Please don’t send us a*“new track” that you have already posted on forums and shares with 999 people*on soundcloud with a free DL link…

    The ten Don’ts kinda make the “Ten things to do” when sending your demo rather easy:

    1.*Study your music scene*and send your demo to the perfect Label with the perfect relevant sound to fit and compliment your work, style and sound!

    2 . When sending the label your demo – write in English and clearly all the relevant information:*Artist Name, Track name, Contact details, Style, BPM etc… Some additional information about previous releases can be helpful and make a difference!

    3. Send a*personal message to one A&R / Label at a time.

    4. Send your Best track EVER! Almost finished is not good enough.

    5.*Send ONE track at a time! Land the deal for this one track and you pave the way to the next one and the next one and the next one!

    6.*Send a streaming link (Dropbox or Soundcloud for example) so Labels won’t need to download your track before hearing it! First I wanna hear it and then decide if I wanna download it!

    7.*Send original music.*We might all share the same heart but we kinda look a bit different from the outside! Bring what makes you a bit different into your music!

    8.*Send only unreleased work. Unreleased meaning – no forums, no soundcloud, no youtube, no DJs friends playing it before a Label gets to sign it. This is a tough one… I know… Labels are much more likely to wanna sign an unshared unexposed track!

    9.*Say your prayer or whatever ritual you wanna have*then send the track and immediately start producing your next track! Hassling A&Rs rarely works so don’t waste time on “did you listen to my demo?”. It’s our job to do it! Your job it to show up and deliver your next record! Quantity often bring quality. Quality often brings success.

    10. Get signed!

    Best of success to all you amazingly talented musicians out there! We’ve been waiting for you!

    Quality over Quantity
    Hypercolour, Tsuba and Defected all agree that three or four tracks is the most you should be sending. Turbo go one further. “Send as few as possible to get the point across,” says Von Party. “Send your best. Never advertise that things are unfinished; it’s insulting. There’s no need to say things are unmixed or unmastered either… In a way, the less said the better.”
    Delivery Format - Know what the labels wants/expects
    The second biggest rule also crops up across the board, pertaining to method of delivery.*”The biggest no-no for me is MP3s attached to emails,” says Andy Daniell, A&R Manager at*Defected. “They clog up your inbox and crash your email program. A SoundCloud stream is far preferable as you can check quickly and download if it feels relevant. Also, private links are nicer… Something that puts you off a record is seeing that you’re one of 50 people the track’s been emailed to, or that it’s been available publicly on SoundCloud for nine months and it’s only had 100 plays. That doesn’t inspire confidence!”

    Jamie Russell is even more explicit: “Labels like to feel special. If we see something we like it’s easy to go off it if you see it’s been sent to ten other labels as well, because no one really wants to get into a bidding war at this independent level. That’s just a massive fucking turn off, to be honest.”
    What Not To Do
    “Stuff has to be sent to the demo email address!” exclaims the sole force behind every part of the*Tsuba*operation, Kevin Griffiths. “Don’t talk to me on Facebook chat either! Some days you just get randoms firing links at you. ‘Hey bro, here’s my new demo!’*Sigh. I allocate time to listening to demos and I don’t want to get interrupted in the middle of it.”

    You must also remember at this stage that this isn’t a personal process. Label staff don’t have time to reply to every single demo they get. Rather than take umbrage, suck up a lack of response and try again next time. It’s brutally simple: if you didn’t hear back, you didn’t make the cut.

    “Do not*pester for feedback,” states Thomas Von Party, ‘A&R Slash Vibe Master’ at Canadian imprint*Turbo Recordings. Nobody wants to look like a loser begging for advice on how to improve their rejected track. Which leads directly onto the next issue.
    Having a Profile
    Unlike Joy, not everyone can be lucky enough to land on a big label with their first release, but there are ways you can manufacture your own profile even without the help of an established outlet. Building up a bit of a reputation before you approach labels is a sure way to make them pay attention, especially in the modern age, where just about anyone can release a track digitally off their own back. Even pressing up your own wax can be a good idea, as it proved for the now Defected-aligned Flashmob who self-released 300 vinyl copies of their early tracks like*‘Brick House’, distributed them themselves and generated a buzz in the process.

    “It does help to have some level of profile, even if it’s a remix or two or just one release,” says Griffiths. “Being set up with Facebook artist pages, Twitter and SoundCloud – having that end of things covered makes you a more attractive proposition. Even some bigger people don’t have profiles. In this day and age, when you’re trying to promote the stuff, you can’t even tag them, and that’s important.”
    Narrow Your Focus; Choose Your Target(s) Wisely
    Dean Muhsin, one half of Bearweasel and co-boss of*Never Learnt, is typically candid in his views: “One thing that worries me is signing something from someone who’s up for getting his music out almost*anywhere, not just places that fit his sound. It makes you think, ‘Hang on, if I put this out and he appears on some naff little label that isn’t promoting stuff properly in the meantime, his reputation’s basically ruined already’. Focus on the labels you care about. Don’t sell yourself short.”

    Muhsin continues on that note: “Looking focussed and dedicated is important. One person we signed had just a select few tracks on SoundCloud; he hadn’t put every demo up, which can be a bit of a turn-off because it means it isn’t special. Anyone and everyone could have heard it. It’s good to know people are serious, that they aren’t just chancers. Our latest signing also had a live set in the works, which shows he isn’t just sat there chancing it, he’s obviously committed. For a small label like us, that’s important.”
    "No Magic Formula; Keep The Faith"
    At times, it’s easy to believe that there are hurdles in your path at every step of the demo submission process. But you shouldn’t be disheartened. As long as the music’s good, there are plenty of opportunities out there for artists with no profile whatsoever.

    Remember that labels are as keen to unearth the next big thing as you are hell-bent on*being*that next big thing. Consider Turbo, who reckon that most of their roster has been championed from a standing start. Artists like Popof, Proxy, Gesaffelstein, Duke Dumont, JoeFarr and Clouds all came to the label from nowhere. Or look at Hypercolour, which uses its digital offshoot as a breeding and testing ground for new talents.

    Sadly, there’s no magic formula for persuading labels to release your music, but a methodical, carefully researched approach with a professional attitude and – of course – great music to back it up will give you the best chance of making a good first impression.
    More notes from Macarize's Kristoffer Ljungerg on doing remixes for labels -->

    I often wonder what some A&R's/label managers think about when they want remixes for the music they sign. Let's say you sign a summery progressive tune, why on earth would you want a summery progressive remix? I've seen singles being released with 3 remixes and every one of them sounds the same. What's the point of that? When I look for remixers I always think: What style/shape would be cool on this track? How can I make this release even more interesting and appealing to different people and tastes? And when I figure that out, I almost always know where to go. For example, when Atlantis Ocean brought me "Ancient Breed", my first instinct was: Ok, let's release this in an EP and later on try to get Terry Da Libra to remix it. Terry was the first name that popped into my head because I know his style and what he can do, and surely, his remix turned out great. Maybe you don't agree with me and that's fine, but that's a model I try to follow on every release.
    Last edited by thehadgi; 04-29-2013 at 01:12 PM.

  2. #2
    In effect, there are a couple basics gleaned from above:

    DO
    -Ensure you have quality tracks
    -MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE LABEL; in all seriousness, this may be one of the biggest points that will make or break your chances with a label
    -Make sure you know the preferred method of delivery a label wants (usually says on their FB, SC, or website)
    -Make the label feel special and that you sending your demo to them was a thoughtful, focused effort; not 'hey this is a rando label i'm gonna send em my stuff and see what happens'
    -Ensure you are set up on all mainstream marketing tools (FB, SC, website, twitter, etc). This allows the label to get your name out more easily
    -When writing the accompanying message, use proper English (or whatever language), include an introduction, and be descriptive, yet concise, and thank them for their time
    -Be prompt and a good communicator in correspondence with a label


    DO NOT
    -Let them know in any way your track is 'unfinished', 'unmixed', 'unmastered', etc
    -Spam/CC 50 labels all at the same time
    -Post your stuff all over the internet and allow free downloads, then approach a label for release when 99% of the world already has it on zippyshare
    -Stalk them; if you don't get a response, wait a month and try again. If nothing, just leave it be
    -Think all labels are the same; they have different preferences and methodologies for how they select and respond to demo's
    -Give up!

    If anyone else has any tips, feel free to share. I may update as I think of more stuff (biographies may be a future topic covered here)
    Last edited by thehadgi; 04-29-2013 at 01:07 PM.

  3. #3
    Notes from Andrew Bayer on signing with Anjunabeats; Earmilk interview--> http://www.earmilk.com/2013/04/17/an...album-preview/

    "[...]so you've since developed your own sound that kind of works with the Anjunabeats family sound. How did you get to that point?"
    "I actually wanted to be signed to Anjunabeats for years and years when I was a kid. So I tried so hard, and I absolutely badgered them with demos. Every other week I'd just send them demo after demo and they were like, "You know, it's really good but, it's not there yet," "It's not there yet," and again "It's not there yet." Three years of that, and then finally I did "Aria Epica" and they were finally like, "OK we're going to sign this tune." And I thought to myself, "Oh My God," it just totally blew my me away that they were going to sign something of mine. So, it really was a long process."
    Key Points:
    -He knew the label inside and out, and it showed
    -He utilized the feedback to tailor his sound for the label
    -He narrowed his focus and targeted Anjunabeats
    -He didn't give up
    -It was a LONG PROCESS

    You can see he didn't start producing, then a couple months later he gets signed to one of the biggest labels. It was a process, including many many rejections. Instead of just shopping his tracks around to other smaller labels that would release his stuff, he focused on bettering his music to the point where it was finally good enough to be released on the label he wanted it on

    "How did you get into electronic music and decide that that's what you wanted to do for a living?"
    "I was 12 year old, and I graduated from the 8th grade (it was middle school), and as a graduation present, my parents sent me to Germany with one of my best friends. I was kind of dabbling with electronic music at that time, and was into really commercial, cheesy dance music, stuff that was on the radio and stuff: and when I went to Germany, they were playing legit trance records. They had this one TV channel called Viva, and I remember seeing the video for Gouryella at the time, which was Ferry Corsten and Tiesto. And, I mean, I heard that, and was just like "Oh my god." It blew me away. I didn't realize that there was a level of depth to electronic music that that kind of stuff had, and I just loved it. So I literally went home and started producing right after that trip, and teaching myself how to produce."
    Started when he was 12. So don't be fooled into thinking success comes quickly! It's a long road, but rewarding in the end even if it's just the fact that you become better at your craft; sometimes the art you make itself is reward enough (although widespread recognition is always nice )
    Last edited by thehadgi; 04-29-2013 at 01:06 PM.

  4. #4
    Member mr_ragz's Avatar
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    Dem Stickies
    Quote Originally Posted by KLH View Post
    Welcome back, Ragz. You are always welcome here.
    Guys, this is the legend. Recognize the greatness.

  5. #5
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    Amazing guide to anyone producing. I'm just starting out and have no intention of getting signed anytime soon, but I'll be sure to use this when I feel confident enough in my music!

  6. #6
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    All this is true Hagdi. There are at least a few thousand new producers out there trying to make the cut so it's a tough game for producers.

    As an A&R/label manager myself I look for demos that are suitable for our label's identity and we adapt the tried and tested motto of quality over quantity, but we are always on the lookout for the next big thing!

    I just don't jump on the first track I like in a batch of demos I get everyday. I listen to all of them then decide which ones would meet our criteria. Since we are one of the bigger labels we tend to be picky so our rejection rate is around 95%... Why? Because these producers did not do their homework..........always research the label before sending your demo!

    I normally do a quick listen of 1-2 minutes per track usually on the first minute or two of the track I already know if its good or not. Not all the demos we get are perfect so sometimes I would make some constructive critiques and help out the producer and tell them what revisions are needed in order for the track to pass the test.

    Here is hint for you producers:

    Most A&R's usually would listen to only three parts of a track........
    1.The intro
    2.The middle part
    3.The outro

    Why? 90% of the customers are DJ's so you want to make the track DJ friendly......The intro and outro usually are the most important parts of a track it is what carries the tempo/mood for the entire track so if you have a lousy intro and outro but have nice melodies in the middle of the track does not stand out coz there is no momentum.

    A good track has to be memorable enough that it gets played a few times. EDM tracks only have a 2 week shelf life and we as a label have to make those 2 weeks count for us in sales and we usually have the same customers buy tracks from our label every week.

    We also like to know more about the producer what his musical influences are etc...... and always be polite and formal when introducing yourself, being rude and cocky does not make the cut. My 02 cents!

  7. #7
    Excellent input Dave! Thanks for droppin by to give your view!

    For those don't know, Dave Pineda is the A&R label manager @ the prominent progressive (and other genres) 'Nueva Digital'.

    Nueva Digital:
    Progressive House, Progressive Trance, Progressive Breaks


    Dave has mentioned that those producers producing progressive/melodic house similar to the label's agenda should go ahead and submit demos for review! (Please follow the guidelines above and remember to check the label out fully to make sure you fit the label's overall sound.)

    A&R/ Label Manager: Dave Pineda
    Contact: nuevadigital@rogers.com
    Last edited by thehadgi; 05-04-2013 at 04:14 PM.

  8. #8
    Another great write-up from Macarize's Kristoffer Ljungberg on releasing tracks from a label's perspective. Worth a read, he isn't intending to offend any artist looking for fees, as many are quality. But he does highlight that in the current scene, a label needs to ensure that releasing a track makes sense mathematically. At the beginning, exposure for a label is great, but in the end a label really does need to maintain profits to continue the label's existence, and to keep putting out quality material to the scene.

    For a long time I've thought about certain managers, remix/original mix fees and that whole thing and due to recent events I decided to make this post. I'm in the business of melodic progressive house and trance, mainly, and we all know that sales are very poor even though the label might have 5000+ followers and whatnot. I guess it can seem a lot better than it really is. Anyway, the point is, some artists in our scene have managers that essentially only do one thing - tell label managers that their artists now only works for fees, advances. I of course understand the need of getting money and surely we all deserve a little piece for what we do, but from a label managers point of view it's a lot different...

    Let's say an artist demands 200 EUR for a remix or a original mix. How many tracks do I need to sell in order to get that money back? Well, let's say that every track costs 2 EUR to buy. Beatport takes their cut, let's say 25%, then the distributor takes their cut which can be everything between 15-35% so let's say they also take 25% of the remaining money. That leaves me with 50% (very common), so what does that mean? I need to sell music for twice as much as I'm paying this artist for, AT LEAST. With this in mind I need to evaluate if this particular artist is worth it. Is it likely that this artist will generate 200+ units sold? If not, is it likely that this artist will give me enough exposure to generate a lot of new followers and good press? Because that's the next thing. Since I know that a lot of artists in our scene won't generate 200+ sales per track, the second best thing is exposure. So, what counts for good exposure? Is he getting played every now and then by some high end DJ's on their radio shows? Will my previous experience of this kind of support tell me that it's worth to pay 200 EUR because he maybe get support from Above & Beyond or Armin Van Buuren? And is that really enough for a manager to start demanding 200 EUR? Because that's really what it feels like. You can get the answer "Due to recent increase in popularity, we've decided to charge 200 EUR for an original mix", which essentially means "My last single received support from a couple of high end DJ's". While that might be true, I already know that the track in question didn't even hit the genre top 100 chart on Beatport, and my previous experience on the matter told me that I didn't get a lot of new followers.

    So, what I'm trying to say is, don't overrate or overvalue yourself as an artist, or as a manger, your artist. Be realistic. And if you're trying to build hype, think twice about that as well.

    As I stated earlier, I'm not saying you don't deserve to get paid for your work in one way or another, but in order for your to get paid, I must pay, and if I'm not going to get my money back or generate a lot of buzz, it won't be worth it. Am I not allowed to make some money for the work I do? Or am I that bad guy for saying this? I guess this is my opinion based on 5 years experience as a label manager. I hope I didn't offend anyone too much.

  9. #9
    More from Macarize's Kristoffer (guy has a lot of good tips for producers!)

    Do you want to release your music on Macarize? Do you want to be included in the Macarize roster? Then keep reading. Here's what you do:

    1.) Write a track. A complete track. Don't e-mail me and say "This is a rough cut, it needs some tweaks here and there".

    2.) Do the best you can! Work on it until you feel like you can't do anything more to make it better, then wait a few days and listen again. Do you still feel the same way? Then maybe you're ready to take the next step.

    3.) Now when you have your track ready, you need to start thinking about how to present yourself to look as attractive as you can as an artist. What do I look for? Personally I want driven artists who actually gives a damn about their appearance online and their careers. Do you have your social medias in order? Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, all very important parts to create a fanbase. Even if you don't have any fans yet, it's important to be prepared and show how engaged you are.

    4.) Finally you got everything set up, you got your brand new track and you look lot more appealing. It's time to send your track to Macarize! Start by uploading your track to SoundCloud in full quality, make it private and e-mail a secret link to demo@macarize.net. Include a short description of yourself without exaggerating together with links to your social medias.

    5.) Wait for my reply. You don't need to remind me anywhere because if you follow these simple steps I will get your e-mail and I will listen to your track. Have some faith!

    I'm not trying to send cocky by any means and even if you don't want to be on Macarize, this is just some good pointers for all of you who want to sign your music to ANY label, not only Macarize. Though I truly hope to hear from you!

  10. #10
    Member Hygro's Avatar
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    how serious is this whole "been up for a few months, only got 100 plays" thing? Because to me that's just a sign that someone made a song and posted it for his friends on facebook, and not like it's some big failure of a track or spread around the internet, now unsellable.

    But I don't run a label
    My production tips thread. On my production philosophy, techniques, and concepts
    http://www.djforums.com/forums/showt...roduction-Tips

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