Should You Pay to Submit Your Music to Record Labels? Or Should You Do It For Free?
When should you submit your music to record labels for free, and when should you pay for the privilege? Let’s break down when the timing is right for you.
How do I get my music heard by record labels?
First, and let me make this abundantly clear, it is never, ever a good idea to pay anyone to submit your music to a record label. In addition, it is rarely a good idea to submit your music to a record label unsolicited.
Let’s assume you are either a musician wanting to make your music your career or side hustle, or a musician happy to make your music your hobby. In the case of those wanting to keep music their hobby, it is almost never worthwhile signing to a record label. The means of distribution are in your own hands. Take advantage of them.
For those wanting to make their music their career the desire to sign to a record label remains great. Our blog articles on whether to sign to a record label at all (here and here and here) are among our most popular. Assuming you are wanting to be signed for the right reasons, you want to know how to get your music heard by the record labels you are targeting.
The truth is, don’t call them. They’ll call you.
Submit Music to A&R
In the old days, A&R reps for the big record labels would travel the country looking for talent. Their sole job was discovering talent before other labels did and then matching those artists with the right songwriting and producing teams. There’s almost no one left with this title. And less who approach A&R the same way.
Unfortunately, the internet is littered with so-called A&R reps who solicit for demos, often for a fee. Perhaps these people have good intentions. I do know it’s a lot easier to convince people you are selling a service than to actually provide one.
What I can say is this is the easy way. But it’s not even the easy way out. Almost NOBODY, certainly no one I’m familiar with, has begun a successful music career this way.
Free Music Submission Sites
Again, there are no easy ways to get record label attention. You need to do the hard work, backed by talent and charisma, to get their attention.
Free submission sites exist to cater to your desire for an easier way, rather than a REAL way. These sites are almost always scams. Avoid them. Stop looking for corners to cut. You’re doing yourself, and your art, a disservice.
How do you send a demo to a record label
There is one situation in which sending a demo to a record label is appropriate. When the record label contacts you for a demo, you can send them a demo. And depending on the size of the record label, it is sometimes appropriate to do so through an experienced music attorney.
Before you send your demo, find out what it is they are looking to hear. How many songs? What sorts of material? Are they looking for a single-to-be? Or are they looking for more examples of you exploring a particular sound?
Never send the label everything you have. Never send them recordings that sound completely awful. Send them just enough to either pique their curiosity or confirm their interest, whichever stage you’re in.
Do record labels accept demos
The truth is complicated. Nearly all labels claim to accept demos but very few of them actually listen to them. More than anything, your unsolicited demo suffers from not launching above the line of super-credibility. When you are related, in the mind of the listener at the record label, with bad demo after bad demo, your demo suffers from that association.
But when you are referred to a label head? Or they read about you? Or their kid is listening to you non-stop? Now you are being associated with greatness and your demo has an unfair advantage. And if your Spotify and social media numbers are great, you’re undeniable.
Should you submit your music to record labels for free? or at a cost?
Frankly, no. Only upon solicitation.
Never pay for the pleasure of submitting your music to a record label. It’s always a scam.
Never submit your music to a record label unsolicited. It’s almost always a waste of your valuable time. Or worse, a scam.
Do the hard work of building an audience and a network of people who believe in your career. When your audience is big enough and the quality of your music is promising enough a label will want to make money off of it, your network will approach you. Until then, keep working.