Sending off music submissions to record labels might seem simple enough, but in some cases, it can be quite a tricky process as every label has its own ways of accepting and reviewing music. Getting this initial step wrong could potentially jeopardise ever working with this label in future – and you don’t want that, do you?
So, here are a few steps (from an independent label) you can take to make sure you’re doing everything you can to maximise your potential success with your submissions, and not waste your, or their time.
Do your research.
In a world where over 100,000 songs are being uploaded to digital streaming platforms (DSPs) every day releasing music independently has never been more difficult. So it makes sense you’d want to look toward a label for help, but before you even consider uploading your music to SoundCloud, DropBox, or Google Drive, do your research to make sure the label actually releases music similar to yours.
One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen is artists sending music that just doesn’t fit what we as a label are looking for. It’s an insanely easy mistake to make, so it’s not a huge deal breaker, but taking a few minutes to check out past releases will help you understand whether submitting will be worth your time.
Always look at their latest releases, always check DSPs for playlists owned by the label to see if your music fits, and just take a few minutes before firing off that email to see if your music genuinely fits their overall vibe.
Do: Research, check and double-check if your music is the right fit for the label.
Don’t: Blindly submit your music to labels just because they fit your overall genre.
Submit music correctly.
In a similar vein to the above, research how the label you’re looking to work with accepts submissions. Do they have a submission form? Use that. Do they only accept via email? Use that. Do they rely solely on their team of A&Rs to scout talent? Unfortunately, you’re out of luck here, but it doesn’t hurt to begin networking with A&Rs, right?
Don’t Google their website or find their page on social media, scrape their email, and fire off your track in a password-protected RAR file. This is an absolutely surefire way to get your submission ignored.
As well as the process of submitting your music to labels, look at the formats they accept for submissions. Does the label want a private SoundCloud link with downloads enabled, or are Google Drive or DropBox links good enough? Do they want you to attach a 320 kbps MP3? Are they after a fully mastered 44100 Hz WAV file that’s hitting -14dB LUFs?
While the latter might be a bit too far-fetched, the point we’re trying to make is that following their guidelines avoids your submission being rejected, or if it does get accepted, having everything the A&R is looking for already in place avoids any unnecessary headaches.
Do: Ensure you’re submitting your music as the label specifies and in the right format.
Don’t: Send your music via email just because you found it via social media or their website.
Make them feel special.
Let’s be honest, we love being made to feel like the chosen ones, and we’re sure many other label owners and A&Rs can agree that having a submission that appears tailored specifically to us can definitely curry favour.
If you’re sending a private SoundCloud link to a label, make sure it’s a fresh upload that you send solely to that label. There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a submission that was uploaded a month ago has already racked up a bunch of plays. All this tells labels and A&Rs is that this isn’t fresh new music but one you’ve been shopping around for a while.
When submitting your release via email, take the time to send your emails individually to each label and add a somewhat personal message to your pitch. Again, there’s nothing more disappointing than being CC’d in an email with 10-20 other labels.
Alternatively, if you absolutely have to send your pitch to multiple labels at once, utilise the “BCC” field. This prevents recipients from seeing your list of emails in the “To” field – though it does show us that we were BCCd so it’s kinda the same as the above.
Do: Take the time to submit your music individually to each label and tailor the submission to the label directly.
Don’t: Blindly CC 10-15 labels in your email pitch or include an old public (or private) SoundCloud link that’s been listened to multiple times already.
It’s all in the pitch.
If a label’s submission process allows you to, always compose a brief pitch about you and your music. Being able to set the scene before a label or A&R has even heard a single note helps them understand your creative vision.
Talk about your inspirations for this project and what have you managed to achieve with this music. Is there anything unique about your project (like an instrument or sound)? What’s the overall story of the project? Is there a concept, or have you simply made the music to target an overall vibe or feeling?
Sending a brief pitch is also way more impactful than opening a submission that just has a single link with no other information about who you are as an artist – or even your artist name.
If you’re not great at pitching, a simple introduction would suffice, along with links to where labels and A&Rs can find more about you.
Do: Explain a bit about you and the release itself – but keep it brief.
Don’t: Just email a link with no introduction, social links, or even a hello.
Patience is key.
One of the biggest things is to be patient. Labels can receive hundreds of submissions per week so give them a chance to properly review your music before sending the “I’m just following up/circling back” email.
The general rule of thumb is around two weeks. If you haven’t heard back within around two weeks then it’s likely your submission wasn’t successful. Chalk it up to a loss and move on to your next label of choice.
Do: Stay patient and wait for (at least) two weeks before following up. Keep a calendar reminder to help with timing.
Don’t: Pester labels or A&Rs without giving enough time for your music to be listened to.
This brings us to our next point.
Learn from rejection.
Although being rejected can suck, hopefully, your rejection came with feedback or information about why it wasn’t a good fit. Did it not fit the overall vibe of the label? Okay, so you can work on that. Was the production not quite up to scratch? You can work on that, too!
As easy as it is to sit and sulk that the label turned you down, don’t be disheartened and use the feedback to improve yourself as an artist and improve your chances for any future submissions.
This would be a good time to add that if you do get a rejection email, don’t instantly reply to that email with another submission unless specifically asked.
Also, consider this feedback if you do plan to send another submission especially if it’s relating to the type or style of music they accept.
Unless you’re fine with burning bridges, absolutely do not respond to rejection emails criticising or questioning A&R/label feedback, even if you disagree with it. Just take it on the chin and take it as a learning opportunity.
Do: Learn from feedback given by labels and make a note of any submission guidelines you might have missed (like certain styles of music)
Don’t: Reply to feedback with other demos, demand more details on why you were rejected, or question their feedback.
Ultimately, ensuring you’re doing the correct things straight out of the gate per the label’s requests is the best way to ensure your music will get to the right ears and hopefully receive interest from labels and A&Rs.
If you’re interested in working with Kiwi Bear Records, you can check out our release submission guidelines here!