Expo Records on how to approach a music label
One of the most exciting things about running Expo Records has to be the track submissions I receive daily, and the potential that with each mail, I may just find something I like and be able to release.
The idea of discovering newly penned music and building a relationship with some kick-ass producer who is in it for the same reason I am, is what often drives indie labels.
Over the past 4 years I have received tons of demo submissions from artists from around the world.
Some have been good, others terrible and well let’s just say Expo records DOES NOT RELEASE EDM, Drum ‘n Bass or Big Room House. I get a couple of these “false” submissions a week.
Some artists even proclaim to know Expo records and our music, and start their emails with lines like “I recently discovered your label and dig that you’re a local label for EDM” and “I have produced a big electro track that I have no doubt will interest you”.
I started responding to these submissions with some hate mail, and then realized I could maybe help some producers and steer them in the right direction with some info and tips on how best to approach labels and how to target the CORRECT labels.
Below is my list of my do’s and don’ts on the best way to approach labels with your music.
Do your research
Research the label/s you are sending your demo off to.
You can do this through many avenues.
Checking out labels on Beatport and Soundcloud pages is a good start. Don’t just look at the genre tag on certain clips (on Soundcloud), listen to the actual music.
Check out their artists and who support them. See what style/genre/subgenre they are releasing. Don’t send an EDM track to a psytrance label, unless you want some hate mail in return or to simply be ignored.
Personalize your submission (Address the label)
When sending to different labels, always personalize the message, be it the addressing of the label, or mentioning certain releases of theirs you enjoyed etc.
So many new artists send bulk emails to large databases of labels concentrating on different genres of music; this is your second mistake. I personally take more notice of emails that are personalized and correctly address myself or Expo records.
Tell them about yourself
When drafting your mail/message let a label know a bit more about yourself, where you are from, how long you have been producing, whether you have released before or any other music info.
Do this in a light manor, we don’t want an essay on your favourite artist, the huge crowd you played to last week or the ward room you were born in.
A good couple of lines is sufficient.
Send download links
NEVER send Soundcloud links, always try send download links, and preferably in Wav format.
Dropbox, Wetransfer, Mega, Googledrive are usually the preferred platforms.
No label wants to have to sign up on some obscure download website just to download the demo.
Send Finished Tracks
ALWAYS send finished tracks. no label wants to hear half done work.
They want to know that you can finish your music.
Many labels may ask you to change things and tweaks aspects but that is part of the journey and it is to be expected, especially if you are a new artist who has room for growth and learning.
Always send them your best work, and NO WORK IN PROGRESS tracks.
Don’t take feedback personally
Feedback and criticism must be taken constructively.
If a label is nice enough to take the time to provide you with some feedback, use that feedback and better your music.
Often when labels respond and provide feedback they are showing some form of interest- channel that positively and see if you can match the challenge and better or change your work.
I still provide feedback and notes to some of my most established live acts, and will not be stopping this if I believe a track can be made better.
Send links to your social media pages (if they are active)
Make sure all your social media is in check, and put the links at the bottom of your mail.
It is nice to see that someone has drive and that they can do more than just make music.
If you do use Soundcloud for feedback, make sure your best work is on there.
Sometimes an artist will send me their latest work which is promising and then when doing some research, their Soundcloud has 20 uploads, some dating back a couple years and is not a true reflection of their current state of production.
Don’t be too quick to show off your music, wait until it’s ready.
One of the biggest mistakes producers and artists make is being in a hurry to show off their latest kick and bass, when really it can be better, or further along in the production process.
Get out there
Build and use your contacts, attend events that record label reps may be at and show interest.
It is not only about your music. It is also about the person you are, your vibe and your drive- There is no room for bad attitudes and arrogance in this music business. Show that you want to work to get somewhere. Not everyone was signed overnight. With so much music out there, it takes a special doing to get noticed.
Lastly, labels are inundated with tons of demos and music.
I get 10 or 20 a day at times.
It can take weeks before you get a reply.
If your music is good, you will get a reply. There is no rush, especially as a new artist; make more music and wait for the right label.
Don’t just sign to any label because it is a means of getting your music out there. Set goals and try and achieve them.
About the author
Grant Pleming is the owner of Expo Records, a South African psytrance label founded in 2013. With a consistent release schedule Expo Records has established itself as a leading imprint for driving psychedelic full-on. Grant also produces music and DJs under the moniker, Dynamic Range.