How To Get Signed By A Record Label

How To Get Signed By A Record Label

From approaching label reps to negotiating your terms, here’s our guide to getting signed...

Written by Leni - Nov 11, 2019

Did you know Amuse is also a label? We offer artist-friendly licensing deals to independent artists we believe in, helping with everything from financing to playlist pitching and promotion. Check out how we discover, sign and build rising talent here. 

One of the most common questions we get asked by independent artists is how they can get signed. Even in an age where music distribution and streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are democratizing the playing field, there’s still cases where label support can help independent artists take their career to the next level. 

And they’re right; being independent doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. Finding the right partner (and artist-friendly deal, more on that later...) can help accelerate your career — from strategic planning to marketing, financing, branding and PR. Read on for our tips for approaching label reps, pitching your artist project, building relationships and negotiating the contract. 

Define Your Story (And Make It Unique) 

There’s often a tendency for new artists to fall into a mold, whether that’s forcing your project into a niche or category, or emulating another artist you admire. The most successful artists in history are the ones who’ve represented who they really are, been totally unapologetic about it, and defined their own unique story to tell the world. 

“Ultimately, that’s going to be what sets you apart from other artists,” says NOT97’s Matthew Schonfeld. “Try to be truly, authentically yourself and tell your own story with what you’re [pitching], what your sound is like, and what your influences are. Be true to yourself and trust your own instincts.”

When writing your pitch email to a label rep, avoid adding generic details like when you first started making music or links to your social media channels. Sure, if you’ve built up a loyal fanbase on social, that’s a huge plus for a label, but labels want to hear a unique story that will set you apart from everyone else. 

“The reality is most artists come from a musical background and have played the piano or cut their teeth on the local DJ circuit,” says Dan Roy Carter, founder of Above Board Entertainment. “If you’re telling me that [you were] discovered by Dr. Dre because [you] turned up to Nobu whilst Dre was eating and serenaded him with a standing ovation from the whole restaurant, now I’m interested.”  

Find Your Match 

Do your research. Is there a particular A&R or label you want to work with? Do they specialise in artist projects in your niche? Once you’ve hunted down your targets, find out if you know anyone in their social, professional or artist circle. Cold emailing works (if you do it the right way — more next!), but the best route to take is always through a referral. 

Keep Your Pitch Succinct 

Five words: Short. Concise. To the point. Label reps are insanely busy and can receive 500+ email pitches per day. Make their jobs easier and get straight to the point in your email. Grab their attention with a catchy subject line (something clever and personalised to the receiver usually does the trick). Sharpen up your songwriting skills and apply them to your emails as well. 

Key details to include in a record label pitch email: 

  • Name of your artist project

  • Music genre / category (eg. rap artist / house producer) 

  • Your “elevator pitch” backstory (keep it succinct, 2-3 sentences max) 

  • Monthly active listeners on Spotify 

  • Have you collabed with any successful artists? Name drop! 

  • Previous record label / management info 

  • Social media profiles 

  • Links to released music (+ any unreleased tracks via private Soundcloud listings)

Start A Conversation, Build A Relationship

If you’ve got a label’s attention, don’t blow it by spamming them 24/7. Getting a “let's meet!” response from a label is super rare, so if you’ve received any sort of response (even negative feedback), you should be stoked. 

If they want to meet you, or hear more samples of music, be punctual in your response time and send everything clearly listed in an email. If they’ve given negative feedback, you can either take it on and apply it to your artist project, or if you don’t agree, you don’t have to take it on board. Take the feedback in stride, and don’t take it personally. 

Tips for building a relationship with a label:

  • Follow the label rep and label on social media and engage with their content whenever they post

  • Send an email update with new music when it’s ready (keep it to once per month maximum) 

  • Update the label on any key milestones — like selling out a tour, getting playlisted on a huge playlist, or hooking up a feature with a big artist 

Negotiating The Deal 

It’s not uncommon to see new independent artists sign a contract without fully understanding what rights they are giving away. It’s important to understand the terms of the contract, how royalty payments work and what the label can do for you. Amuse offers artist-friendly licensing deals, where we take all the risk by paying for the project upfront. We then split profits 50/50 with our artists. 

Key things to look out for when reviewing a deal/contract: 

Understand the term: How long you are potentially locked into the deal for? How many options does the label have? How long do they have the rights to your music for?

Understand how royalty payments work: There is usually an element of recoupment so you won’t see a royalty straight away. Know what is and isn’t recoupable.

Understand what the label can do for you before you sign: Are they investing in marketing and publicity? What can they do outside their home territory? Is it worth assigning your rights in an age where you can do this independently?

Last tip:

“For me, a great artist is someone who is able to promote themselves and is willing to make an effort when it comes to building their brand” says Theodora Nordqvist, Label Director for Sweden at Amuse.

Want more? Download our free 48-page digital career guide for independent artists here