The Unconventional Guide To Getting Signed By A Record Label

DDo you have great music and want to score a record deal? Or have you always wondered how artists got through to big labels and ended up getting signed?

Editor’s note: The following post is an excerpt of an article published by Budi Voogt. He runs an artist management agency and record label, but also writes about music marketing and the industry on his personal blog.

In this post I will teach you my foolproof method for scoring a record label deal.

It’s a little unconventional and it requires hard work, but it sure as hell works. With this approach I have signed tracks of hardly known artists to internationally reputed labels. Even when the artists and me were just freshly starting out in the game.

The Basics

Image credit: humblesound on Flickr

Image credit: humblesound on Flickr

Before you do anything, we have to sort out the basics. These are the things that have to be right before you even attempt getting in touch with a record label. We’re talking about your music and presentation.

This is where it all begins and is the most essential part of the puzzle. You have to make sure that your music is absolutely mind-blowingly awesome. These are steps you should take to guarantee it truly is.

  • Get feedback
    Whenever you reach that point on a track where you think that it’s ready to send it to a record label, you need to pause. That’s when you should start asking for feedback. Send it over to people whose opinion you value, but not your friends or relatives. They will likely be yeah-sayers. You don’t need that. You need hard criticism. Take it all in and work with it. Not everything that others consider wrong with it has to be corrected, but if you get multiple people pointing out the same things, it should start ringing some bells.
  • Polish the sound
    Now that you have ironed out most of the track’s issues, you need to make sure it’s sounding as good as it possibly can. I’m talking about mixing and mastering here. These final touches can make a world of difference…. even if you’re not great at it, a decently mixed and mastered track is going to sound miles and miles better than one that’s not. Now, if you’re a producer, then you probably know how to put down a decent mix and master. If not, then I highly suggest you either send your polished track over to a friend who does know this stuff, get it sent over to an audio engineer or learn how to do this yourself. A great guide on the essentials of mixing & mastering has recently been posted by the engineer of my label – check it out here.

You know the saying ‘First impressions last’? It’s true… and highly relevant when you’re trying to get signed.

When you manage to get a label to listen to your music, chances are that they are going to catch a glimpse of your online appearance. And if they don’t, they will definitely look you up if your music has intrigued them. You want to make sure that the impression you leave is as good as can be.

Here’s the minimum of things that you should have sorted out:

  • Social Media
    Set up accounts under your artist alias on at least Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Soundcloud. Make your specific URLs the same for each platform… so if you’re, you want to try and have too. Then, interlink everything. All your profiles should have links to your profiles on other platforms, your website and email address.
  • Own a domain
    You should have your own .com domain. It just looks more professional. If your band name is TheBestBandEver, try going for You can get .com domains for as little as $10, but with a little trick I’m about to teach you, you could score one for less than $3 a year. First you want to make sure that the domain you’re after is not occupied yet…. do that by going to and executing a domain search. Hopefully, you’ll find a .com that you like. Don’t even bother going for anything else than .com. Now, you want to find a discount coupon for GoDaddy. Go to or and find a code that offers a 80%+ discount on .com domains. Then use this code during the checkout process at GoDaddy. Booya, you’ve just scored yourself a domain. Now all you need is a website on there… you can build one yourself or run with WordPress or Tumblr if you’re not that tech savvy.
  • Artwork
    Everything has to be visually pleasing too. You should have a logo, some decent photographs and possibly artwork for your releases. Make sure these are all set up correctly on your social media sites and website. If you have mediocre designs or did a half assed attempt at crafting something yourself, ditch it. You’re better off with no design than ugly design – it looks cheap. Ideally, you want to find a designer who can specifically cater to your needs and with whom you can develop a long term working relationship. Most good designers are expensive though. Alternatively, there are a few ways you can get good design for a reasonable price; you either find a designer whose willing to work with you for free or cheap, or use design competition websites. For the prior, you can browse EDM producer forums as they often have categories where beginning designers are enthusiastically giving away free designs to practice their trade. Try looking at Then there’s design competition websites – these are sites where you can post a job offering, for example for a logo design, offer a set price, and a bunch of designers in the website’s community will pitch designs to best match your requirements. Once your job posting expires, you get to choose the design you like the most, and that designer gets the money. Neat places for doing this are – and

I can’t stress enough how essential these basic things are. If you have checked and sorted out everything, you should now have built a decent foundation. You’ll look more professional to both a label and your fans.

Think like a label

Image credit: typicalgenius

Image credit: typicalgenius

To increase your odds of getting signed, you have to understand what labels do, want and experience. Because when you do, you can cater their needs way better.

Step into their shoes with me.

  • A label is a business
    First and foremost, a record label is a business. They have operating costs (for distribution, marketing, design etc) and need to generate revenue to cover those costs. Everything in excess is their profit. They generate this revenue by selling music, collecting mechanical royalties (cash they get when people play, buy and stream their tracks), and sometimes through selling merchandise and hosting events. Whether focused on mainstream or underground, they have to make ends meet. With this in mind, think about the type of artists they want to sign – artists that help them make money. The factors that contribute to that are great music, a (big) fanbase, good marketing and dedication. The better you score on these points, the more interesting you are to sign.
  • They are bombarded with demos
    Good labels receive tons of demos. They often have A&R’s (Artist & Repertoire) working for them, whom are the people that scout talent and listen to the demos. Top notch commercial labels such as Dim Mak, Mad Decent and Spinning Records receive over 100 demos DAILY. These pile up so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with. Some bigger labels go through their demos once a month, but I know of a few who have just given up on checking their general demo boxes and mail folders altogether. Instead, they find and sign music through their network. This is a hugely important notion which I’ll treat later in this article.
  • What are they looking for
    Essentially, all labels are looking for a hit. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a ‘mainstream’ hit, but something that’s good enough and unique to catch a lot of attention. Music that has the power to make them and their artists stand out. Next to that, there’s something else that’s becoming increasingly important – independent power. With the rise of all the social networks and other online tools, it’s easier than ever to market yourself independently as an artist. This effect has come at a cost for labels though… they no longer control the only channels through which music is distributed and are thus more dependent on the marketing power of artists themselves. As a result, labels are increasingly looking for artists that would be able to make it ‘big’ by themselves; with big and dedicated fan bases, unique marketing styles and great ways of branding themselves. This is becoming a hugely important part of the equation. They want to pick up the acts that could become ‘viral’ without them.

As an artist looking for a deal, you should be aware of these cornerstones. Great music is rarely all it takes anymore when you’re looking to get signed. That’s just the reality. To illustrate, Deadmau5’s label Mau5trap stated earlier that they no longer sign artists whom are not totally self sufficient, regardless of musical quality.

The more aware you are, the better you can prepare yourself.

Interesting stuff? We hope so. What you’ve just read is only the beginning of a much more extensive guide. To continue reading, hop on over to Budi’s original article here.