For new, undiscovered bands, there’s nothing more exciting than releasing new music and truly believing in its potential. Every great, insanely successful artist has been in the position of taking the time, money, and emotional investment of making music without ever knowing if anyone in the world would bother to listen to it. But as nice as the idea of getting the attention of record labels with unsolicited songs is, it just doesn’t work for the massive majority of artists who bother to. Here’s why:
Most labels are inundated with music submissions
Your band could be making the best music in the world, but that won’t mean much to a label’s busy A&R scout. Even small, lesser-known labels get thousands of physical and email music submissions every day. This means that the chance of a label taking the time to really listen to your music is almost impossible. While some labels claim they take the time to listen thoroughly to each and every submission, most now include policies on their websites that clearly state that all unsolicited music will not be listened to and that CDs will be thrown away unheard. These policies sound sort of harsh at first, but they’re put in place to save both labels and artists time, money, and frustration. There are, of course, plenty of labels with open or ambiguous submission policies, but is it really worth your precious time for you to send your music to them? In almost every case, no.
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Labels want to discover artists, not be pitched to by them
Rather than describing your sound, musical successes, and unique identity as an artist to labels, most of them want to learn about your music on their own terms. Herein lies the frustration for so many musicians who believe they could really “make it” if they just had more financial support or industry connections. Labels, especially in 2018’s tumultuous music industry climate, aren’t looking for completely unknown artists with great potential to bestow money and notoriety to. They’re interested in investing in bands who have already proven some amount of commercial success, acclaim and agency within the industry. Yes, we often hear stories of completely unknown artists getting discovered and developed with the help of a label, but those days are mostly over now. Labels don’t have the stomach or capitol to throw their money behind unproven artists, and who can blame them? Artists sometimes fail to put themselves in the shoes of people in the music industry whose ability to pay bills and put food on the table entirely depends on whether the artists they work with are financially successful or not. Like it or not, money is a big part of the music industry, and most labels don’t see the act of listening to music submissions as something that’s worth their time.
What to do instead
So, what should you be doing to get the attention of labels?
If you take your professional musical identity as seriously as you take your music, you might get the attention of a label some day. This means releasing great music and touring often, learning to effectively promote yourself, and building fruitful music connections.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.
M. - March 16, 2018
I just thought about something else. If the following is really the truth:
“musicians who believe they could really “make it” if they just had more financial support or industry connections [but that] Labels, especially in 2018’s musicians who believe they could really “make it” if they just had more financial support or industry connections. Labels, especially in 2018’s tumultuous music industry climate, aren’t looking for completely unknown artists with great potential to bestow money and notoriety to. They’re interested in investing in bands who have already proven some amount of commercial success, acclaim and agency within the industry.
I have a question then for the ReverbNation staff. Why then do you send members who have paid for the Basic and Premium memberships “opportunities” to submit their material to record labels? I mean, doesn’t that kind of contradict what has been stated in this article? Somehow, it doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t ReverbNation make a statement about this in the on their website and specifically in the section where one pays for either the Basic or Premium membership? Shouldn’t ReverbNation be vetting artists and bands before they even sign up for such services? To see if these potential members (artists and bands) meet the record labels requirements for signing an artist or band? This information would be helpful for many artists and bands.
Posting some points like this would be helpful:
1. “Due to the current tumultuous music industry climate, records labels aren’t looking for completely unknown artists with great potential to bestow money and notoriety to. They’re interested in investing in bands who have already proven some amount of commercial success, acclaim and agency within the industry.”
2. This also means if you are an artist or band that has been around for a while or just starting out and do not have the financial means to achieve a certain amount of success on your own, and do not have a fans base a record label deems sufficient, and do not have an idea how to promote yourself properly, then you need not apply to record labels. Record labels in the current music industry also only want to deal with artists and bands that have their own capital to invest, can do almost all of their own promotion etc. Record labels no longer see talent as the only requirement an artist or band needs. They want to see how much you have in your bank account.
3. Record labels are no longer in a position and are no longer willing to sign/invest in unknown artists and bands to help them get their careers started. This means they no longer front the costs of recording, touring, Artist Development etc. to artists and bands that have great talent and potential but unfortunately no money of their own to invest.
4. Money is the key for artists and bands today if they want to make it in the industry. If you as an artist or band do not have a substantial amount of money to finance your way into music industry, then do not even try. You will only be ignored. Today you need money to buy your career in the music industry. This may all seem harsh but it is reality and the truth.
Another thing I was wondering. If RevebNation really knows all this then as I stated before, they should be vetting potential paying customers. No need in taking money from artists and bands that do not have adequate capital to fund their careers. ReverbNation could also save themselves time sending record label opportunities to artists and bands that do not meet the aforementioned criteria. ReverbNation could also save themselves website server space that the paying customers get as part of the Premium membership. They could have more space for the paying customers that do meet the aforementioned criteria.
Or is it all about the money for ReverbNation? You know, tell artists and bands that if they pay for a Basic or Premium membership that they will have all these opportunities available to them just so the ReverbNation can make some money? Then casually drop the hint about how the industry really works after artists and bands have already paid for one of the aforementioned membership services. I don’t know but one could interpret it that way. I am not saying that ReverbNation is doing this. I am merely stating that is how it could come across to some people.