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.
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.