Demos: A guide to submissions

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So we’ve all been there – we have a track in our hands and we just know that *someone* will love it and want to sign it for their label. Truthfully, you’re probably right – there are now thousands of labels that cover every genre conceived. The odds are with you. But how do we do this? What’s the procedure? What’s the best way to get it out there?

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In a world of possibilities, there are some do’s and don’ts. As a label manager for an imprint that works with a lot of new artists, I get hundreds of unsolicited submissions a month. This is important to realize – there’s a lot of competition out there, and that means your job when submitting is to make your content as easy as possible to access, and that it stands out from the rest.

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With that in mind, here are 10 tips to put in practice:

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1. Always include a downloadable mp3 – not everyone uses soundcloud or will want to be streaming your track when they listen to it. Having this as an option is wonderful, but *always* include an option to download.

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2. Embed your contact information in your track – emails get lost all the time. Every mp3 file has what’s called an ID3 tag – simply type in your email there and it will always be clear how to contact you. Including a website or other page where more music can be listened to is a good idea as well – can get you more than one track signed if the label likes your stuff.

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3. Keep it simple – including bio information or track info is fine, but more than a sentence (*maybe* two) is more than enough. Let your music do the talking, that’s the only thing that’s going to get you on the label anyway.

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4. Do your research – can’t tell you how important this is. 90% of the submissions to the label I manage are trashed after 5 seconds because they’re simply not appropriate for what we release. Look at their discography, listen to the types of music that they release – if your music doesn’t fit, then don’t send it to that label. Will save a lot of effort in the end. On the other side, if they do release music like yours, mention some of those tracks in your message, it’s guaranteed to catch A&R’s attention.

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5. Do NOT send mass submissions – or at the very least, hide it when you do. This goes for soundcloud as well people. It is not sharing a track “privately” when 1400 other people are on that list. There’s nothing that’s more annoying than having to scroll through several hundred email addresses to get to the body of a submission. It’s inconvenient and it’s outright disrespectful. It shows us you have no focus or research.

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6. Follow up, but be patient – you’re not going to hear from most labels, especially quickly. This is merely a symptom of the volume of submissions that labels constantly receive. A follow-up email or call is perfectly appropriate after a week or two and actually has a much higher chance of getting your track listened and responded to.  If you still don’t hear back, it simply means that they’ve passed on your material or currently have a full release schedule.

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7. Stay consistent with your target labels – so you’ve done your research and identified the labels that are perfect for your music, but you submit to them and never hear back. Don’t quit now! Stick with them, keep sending them your stuff – once they’ve seen your name enough times, they’ll start to remember and recognize your work. That’s a huge step towards getting signed. Persistence *always* pays dividends.

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8. Trim the fat – make sure that your track is tight and sounds hot when played from any section. Remember that these labels receive hundreds of tracks at a time. When going over the first pass of your track, they’re going to be skipping through, listening to a few seconds at a time to see where the track goes. It’s important to make sure that the story is told without excess time or phrases, otherwise your track will sound boring and flat, even if that’s not the case.

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9. Send full-length, release-ready material – A&R label heads have very little imagination, they don’t have time for it. Only send your track when it’s finished, mastered, and ready to release. Yes, most labels will ask for a pre-mastered version after signing it so they can take that to their own people, but they still have to hear a submission as what it *should* sound like. And don’t send clips – once you’ve made it past the that first pass, they’re going to need to hear the track from beginning to end. Usually more than once. The only way they can take your track and hold it up against what else they release is to hear the whole thing in all its glory.

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10. Refine your skills – being a good, marketable, recognizable producer takes *alot* of work. Just because it’s easy now to make a sick drum loop, or write a cool synth line doesn’t mean it’s easy to write a track that will sell. As a Label Manager, I’m always considering what will sell, but this means nothing to a producer. Your only concern must be original songwriting and flawless execution. Listen to the artists who inspire you, compare your music side-by-side with theirs. Read, watch, listen and learn everything you can, then take it into the studio and practice. Everyone’s looking for that track that will blow the roof off, and there are many ways to accomplish that. If you can master even one of them, your track IS marketable.

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It’s certainly a brave new world we live in – anyone can be a producer. It’s a time of unprecedented amateur participation which means unprecedented opportunity. So get back to your studio and finish that track! When you’re finished with it and it’s HOT, come back here and read this again. It will help you get it out there in the right hands to get noticed and signed.

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I’ll leave you today with a quote from one of our good friends, the incredibly talented and accomplished Charlie May, one half of the group Spooky: “It’s the last 20% of the work that takes 80% of the time.”

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That 20% is more important than all of the other 80% that came before it – it’s important to pay attention to it 😉