“You only get one shot at a first impression”

You have put blood, sweat and tears into your new song and you’re ready to submit it to labels in hopes of landing an official release. As I’m sure you can imagine, label A&R’s receive a lot of demo’s on a daily basis. So how do you make sure they will actually listen to yours and consider signing your music?

Having been in the music business myself for 15 years and being in regular contact with A&R’s from different labels I have gathered some valuable insight into this matter through the years.

And not only that, I have seen my fair share of common mistakes artists tend to make when approaching me to work with them as well.

So I decided to hop on here and share some do’s and don’ts with you when submitting a demo via email.

Show you care

I get it, you want to increase your chances so you’re going to try your luck with multiple labels. However, do not send the same email to all of them!

A label A&R I spoke to recently told me it is very off putting to see other labels in the CC. Also emails with one liners such as ‘hey, I am [name] and I want to work with you, here is my music’ are a definite no go (trust me, I get these in my inbox on a regular basis).

Why is that? If you’ve been following me for a while you know I always talk about the importance of nurturing a personal connection with your fanbase online. The same applies to networking and approaching people you want to work with.

When you send out a mass email, there is nothing personal or nurturing about that. It’s as if you’re saying ‘dear whoever you are, I don’t care who you are, I just need someone to release my music’.

And if you don’t really care about who they are, why would they care about who you are?

Besides the importance of nurturing a personal connection I also always preach that we shouldn’t look at online promotion as a one way street. And again, this also applies here. Don’t make it just about what they can do for you.

So instead of sending out one mass email I recommend the following: do a bit of research into the labels you want to approach. What kind of music do they release, what do they stand for, do they support new talent, what kind of impression do you get from their social media etc. Ask yourself: what do I represent as an artist and which labels do I really resonate with?

Based on this, write down a top 3-5 of labels you would love to work with and why. Then write a separate email for each of those labels. Introduce yourself and briefly express why you would love to work with them specifically and why you think you and the label would be a good fit. The emphasis here is on briefly. You don’t want to write a whole essay, keep it short but sweet.

Don’t forget to make sure you follow those labels on social media and other online portals (think Facebook, Soundcloud, Spotify etc). It’s not a good look if they click your Soundcloud link to listen to your demo and see that you’re not even following them!

Make it easy for them

A&R’s are busy bees. So besides keeping your emails short but sweet, you want to make it easy for them to read your email and listen to your demo.

Most A&R’s prefer to receive your demo on a link where they can listen to it right away without having to download it first! So avoid WeTransfer or those vague free file sharing websites where you have to be careful where to click as it’s full of pop-ups and spammy messages. Instead use a private Soundcloud link or a Dropbox link.

I would also recommend sending them your best (finished!) work only. Most A&R’s won’t even listen to more than one demo! And if they find what they’re hearing promising enough they will get back to you and ask to hear more from you anyways.

If you approach a label in a different country than your own, make sure to write them in English. This may be obvious to many of you but I do sometimes receive emails in other languages than Dutch (I’m from The Netherlands) and English (such as Russian). And trust me, I won’t go out of my way to run such an email through Google Translate. Talking of which. Also avoid using Google Translate to write your emails! If you fear your English isn’t good enough, your best option is to hire someone to translate for you.

Last but definitely not least

Include links to your social media accounts and make sure they look up to date! Of course your music is the most important thing. But having a strong online presence can definitely help to land deals!

That A&R friend I recently spoke with confirmed this for me: if an artist makes great music and it’s obvious they are smashing their online promotion and have a loyal fanbase, then this makes it extra appealing to sign them.

This is just another reason why I so strongly believe artists should not only invest time, money and effort into perfecting their craft but also into improving their online promotion skills!

Unfortunately there are still a lot of artists who either don’t put any effort into their social media presence or, if they do, use strategies that don’t work.

But there’s a huge upside to that as well!

And that is that it gives artists who do invest in improving their online promotion skills and online presence a head start!

This is where you can beat the masses (besides of course the quality and sound of your music) and stand out from artists similar to you who are also submitting their demos to label A&R’s.

If you need help in that department I recommend you check out my free online Fanbase Boost Blueprint training. In this 40mins video training you will learn how to start building a highly engaged fanbase today 🙂

Sign up for the Business Coaching For Artists mailinglist here and you’ll get access to the training for free!


More free resources:

  • Find the BCFA Podcast on your favourite podcast platform here!
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