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Dos and Don’ts of Demo Submission: How to get your record signed

During my eight-year tenure at Turbo Recordings, I would guess that I’ve received over 50,000 demos, and personally listened to a total of about 200,000 songs, some of them in their entirety. It’s been a rewarding process that has led to some big signings: unsolicited demos are how we discovered great artists like Gesaffelstein, Proxy, Popof, and Clouds, to name a few.

From my experience, I can suggest a few basic dos and don’ts to keep in mind when sending your demo to labels. Let’s start with what NOT to do:

DON’T

  • Send CDs, WAVs, or even MP3 downloads without first sending a stream. Soundcloud is a perfect way for A&Rs to preview your work without having to download-and-delete endlessly.
  • Talk about how your songs are unfinished. It’s ok if the mix isn’t final, but ultimately, an A&R needs to know that you can finish tracks.
  • Send mass emails to labels or share your Soundcloud with loads of labels at once. Think carefully about who would appreciate your music and hit them one by one. Make them feel special, or at least unique in their burden.
  • Apologize for tracks being unmastered. LANDR is perfect for this application.
  • Presume that your sound is a perfect fit for a label. Chances are that an A&R will see your work as imitative.
  • Talk about your age, unless you’re under 20. If it’s not a wow-factor asset, then it’s not going to help you. No one is looking to corner the market on 38-year-old producers.
  • Send more than three tracks at once unless you feel certain you have an album that you want to pitch as a whole. Ideally, send ONE amazing track and then wait for a follow-up.
  • Say too much. Preserve mystery.

DO

  • Contextualize your work briefly. It helps to know how an artist sees their work fitting in and what their aspirations might be.
  • Keep e-mail file size to a minimum.
  • Show signs of creative life when it comes to the visual representation of your work. A mood-board helps build the narrative and makes the listening experience memorable.
  • Having self-made videos can help make your work seem more ‘finished’ as a product, although the quality may make or break the first impression.
  • Use Soundcloud streams. It’s the easiest way to preview material.
  • If you’re not confident in the balance, loudness, or overall quality of your mix, LANDR is an easy and free way to improve the sound quality.
  • Flattery might help if it’s heartfelt. Showing you really know and love what a label is about can’t hurt your chances.
  • If you have had support from big names, or have played at major events, it helps to mention them… as long as the names are credible.
  • This may be obvious, but great artist and track names matter. They’re an important expression of your persona and can create pre-judgments from listeners that may be hard to overcome. So back to the drawing board, ‘Soulstep X-Pressions’…
Posted by Thomas Sontag, Vibe Chief at Turbo Recordings

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