Industry Insider - Tips for Approaching Labels (Pt1)

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In this series, we will be taking you behind the scenes in areas right across the industry.

This month we will be offering some insight into the beautiful minds of label owners to discover what they’re looking for when picking music for their imprints.

You’ve done the hard work, you’ve spent years perfecting your sound and you’ve finally got some ammo to show the world. But where do you start and what’s good practice when approaching labels

 

Burnski / Instinct  - Constant Sound / Aesthetic / Instinct

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  • What do you look for when signing artists?

It all just boils down to the music for me. I just listen for anything that really grabs my ear.

  • It's a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

Don’t treat it like a competition. I would focus on improving your craft and making your music as good as possible over trying to stand out. Compare your progress to your own, you’ll see it coming on each year and that should give you all the motivation you need.

One way to stand out is to trickle into the gaps of what’s out there at the moment. Usually, people start out emulating what’s hot at the moment. You play that game for a bit but then if you start going the other way to that, dig deeper into the archives of music out there, you probably start making stuff that isn’t the flavour of the month at the moment.

I feel you're more likely to stand out doing that as you're going off on your own away from the crowd. You might then find yourself doing something other people aren’t and people start playing that and all of a sudden you might be at the forefront of it.

I wouldn’t consciously try and do that to stand out though, do it just people you dig the music. You won’t suck all the magic out of it then and get caught in the game of making music to get somewhere.

 

 

 

  • A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

I once asked a pretty known guy for a demo. He sent me 4 tracks and it wasn’t right for the label. I let him know politely and he kicked right off and blocked me. It really took me back and I thought about it a lot after. I didn’t think any less of him but I found it quite fascinating. There’s no point signing music that doesn’t really resonate with you.

On the opposite, I have worked with other guys and finalised an EP after back and forth for 6 months because they go away and want to get their head down and really crack it. Sometimes it takes a while to get the ep over the line. It’s got to feel right and you know when it does.

I don’t want to tell anyone how they should do things but you have a choice which mentality you want to have. Just ask yourself, does it serve you well? Will it get me the best results? Will this make me get better at my craft?

Constant Sound on Soundcloud

 

 

Cinthie - WE_R HOUSE 

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  • What do you look for when signing artists?

Soundwise I’m mostly looking for house music but it can be disco house, 90ies house, deep house, UKG, some raw stuff. But when I’m signing music, it has to work on the dance floor and I’m always telling people to get out of their comfort zone and don’t just send me the generic house track I've already heard 5 million times.

But the tracks can be the best in the world if the artist is an asshole, I don’t sign it. The vibe between us also needs to be right. Also, I love to have fresh artists first and don’t really like to release people who already had 20 releases in 4 months, it's nothing special then for me.

 

 

  • How do you like to be approached when someone submits a demo to you?

I like a friendly little mail with a private Soundcloud link with up to 6 tracks. If I want more, I will ask for more. But more than 5,6 tracks is too much in my humble opinion. Add a few facts about you, maybe name, where you are coming from and if you had any previous releases. That’s how I like it.

What I don’t recommend is to send out mass emails, send me a mail with “hello Frank etc etc “ (that’s not my name ), also I don’t really like to see 2000 plays already for the tracks on Soundcloud.

 

  • Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

Always be friendly and send your best tracks and try to keep them a bit diverse. There seems to be a formula at the moment, that always works but it will get boring after a while, so please always get out of your comfort zone and try not to sound like everyone else. Do a bit of research about the label. Sending a banging Techno EP to a nice house label does not look very professional.

 

  • A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

I usually always test tracks on the dancefloor, then I know if I wanna sight it or not. I also believe that after 24 years in the business I have some kind of experience of what works and what I want. 

So far every artist I signed has only released with me once. I just wanted to support as many friends as possible but I will start now to also have a second release by some artist, just to help them grow and maybe tie them a bit more to me. But I have to see, especially for the more unknown artists, releasing with me is sometimes a good door opener. And as I said in the question above, I don’t really like an artist that does labels - hopping. Because then it's not so special for me anymore and I rather release someone else.

We_R House on Soundcloud

 

 

Yaya - Tamango Records

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  • What do you look for when signing artists?

I immediately know if a track can fit for Tamango or not. I've listened to so many records in my life that I kinda recognise in a few seconds if a track fits with the style of the label, both regarding the overall sound used and the mixdown part. I do basically the same thing that I do when I go digging in the record shop: picking 3 diff parts of the tracks and listen to them for a few seconds. If I like the track I listen to it more carefully to know exactly if it can be signed on the label. The main element that I'm the most interested in is the groove.

 

 

 

  • Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

First of all, I really like it when they send their email to the correct one hahaha! (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). I also like some little introduction about them and about their previous releases. Please do not send me music through Facebook/Instagram. Also, make sure that it's a specific email and not forwarded to 100 contacts.

 

Make you sure that your music features a lot of groove, a good dose of energy and an infectious bassline. I'm a real house music lover in all the diff facets so on the label, despite the inevitable direction that I'm trying to do, I'm open to diff sounds and approaches.

 

 

  • It's a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

Nowadays, an artist needs first to do excellent music. There are a lot of you talents around and the competition is stiff. He should try to create a kind of cool-character, image and needs to work out on the social stuff. This doesn't mean to take tons photos in the studio or doing too much content but simply give a kind, nice and cool image out with some sick videos, memes or anything music and not music-related.

Tamango Records on Soundcloud

 

 

DJ W!LD - Dailycid Music

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  • What do you look for when signing artists?

Good music that fits with the line of one of my labels, nothing more. If it’s for an EP, I am trying to look for a few tracks with a different flavour but fits together in some way. If it is an album, something more personal with a few dancefloor bombs. I also look for artists where I see the good potential and who can fit with the spirit of my labels to make them grow with labels and create a solid crew around it.

 

  • How do you like artists to approach you when submitting demos? 

The best is by email but at the end, I receive them everywhere, Facebook, Instagram Messenger, WhatsApp ….The easiest is maybe with Soundcloud private link.

 

 

 

  • Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

- Try to send the right amount of tracks (I did the mistake a few times to send too much then is really difficult to focus well on each one) 

- Don’t be pushy (at the end the people who want to sign you will get back to you)

- Try to make sure the people you send the tracks received them

- Try to send tracks which fit with the line of the label (otherwise labels will refuse the tracks and have the wrong image of your sound)

- Even if the label says no and gives you some tips. Use them and come back later with more tracks.

 

  • A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

Most of the time I choose artists and tracks that fit already perfectly to my label, but also when needed I explain what I think could be done to fit better on my label. Using my experience in production and working the dancefloor for many years to give the tips and advice I can, to help the artist grow when I see this ability in them.

Dailycid on Soundcloud

 

 

SY - EWax 

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  • What do you look for when signing artists?

As a label, we look for individuality and fresh creativity to the way music is made. For me, this is the key in finding new artists to work with.

 

 

 

  • How do you like artists to approach you when submitting demos?

Keep it simple and tell me about yourself. Add that personal touch. Which artists influenced you and your sound? Add an overview of the music you're presenting so we have an idea if it"s fitting to the label.

  • Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

The main tip I always give is: Be yourself! Express yourself the way you want to be heard. Keep it friendly, courteous & confident. This definitely goes a long way when approaching labels & A&R's.

 

  • It's a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

It is a very competitive industry, yes. There are many artists coming through right now & the standards are incredibly high - the highest I've seen since I made music a full time career some 10 years ago, so I would say first and foremost: Let your sound stand out. If it's good enough that will do the talking for you. Secondly, in these times social media presence is everything, so ensure you're using the social platforms effectively to present and project yourself and your music.

 

 

EWax on Soundcloud

 

 

Dudley Strangeways - Leftback 

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  • What do you look for when signing artists?

The main thing for Leftback is that the music is good and fits with the labels sound but also the artists is someone we want to work with for a long time, this is usually down to if we think the person has something unique sounding to their productions. Most of the artists, but not all have a relationship with the label already mainly through being involved in events or through partying over the years.

 

  • Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

 Read the labels demo submission guidelines as it can differ for each label. Do some research on the label, hopefully, it’s a label you’re into and you already have some of their releases so it can’t hurt to mention a track you’ve been playing or listening to. It can show the label you’re interested in them and you’ve not sent another CC all email. If you create a playlist it can’t harm to create a specific playlist per label with their logo so it’s a little more personal as it may grab their attention, it just leads to shitloads of playlists!

 

 

 

  • A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

It’s good to have a selection of tracks to choose from to make an EP up. It's always hard when you get sent a few bangers and nothing else that fits, not a massive fan having a load of remixes done on one track for a release. This is especially the case for wax as the DJ playing the record is mainly going to play one track from the release and sometimes space can be tight in a record bag.

Those are the records I will leave rather than a 12” that’s got 4 really wicked tracks on, but maybe that’s just me. Sometimes we may ask the artists to change something in the track but this is generally “a would you mind trying this and see if it sounds better”, but the artists will always have the final say if we didn’t like the track there would be no point in sighing it in the first place! We do mix the tracks on occasion if we feel that the music is exciting, but the mix is not 100% up to scratch and the tracks are all mastered in house giving us creative control over those elements, but again with the artist having the final say. Ideally, anything that needs doing to ensure that the release sounds and works as good as possible for what we’re putting out.

 

  • Do you offer feedback to demos submitted?

Not all the time, but if the person who’s submitted the demo has taken the time to send a detailed and personal email with the music something close to what we release I will always try and give feedback. I think this is important as it’s not an easy thing sending demos to labels and can be a fairly daunting process. You’ve put something you’ve created out into the world and don’t get anything back. It can really mess up some people’s confidence, and this is the sole reason Leftback was started as none of the larger labels would respond to demos sent from myself and Michael.

Leftback on Soundcloud

 

 

TC80 - Sequalog 

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  • What do you look for when signing artists?

Usually, it’s music from friends or people I meet. But I’m interested in artists who have their own signature, even if it sounds classic. I don’t really care about the trend, I prefer timeless music.

 

  • Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

I would say don’t focus on the trends but develop your own musical identity. With time and practice, the quality will rise and it will sound outstanding compared to the mass. Even if it’s very special, better to stay true to the sound you like and resonate with. It’s also cool to receive tracks with playful arrangements, which captivate the audience, telling a story and keeping the intensity climax around the end, before the outro.

 

 

 

  • It's a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

I think it can be cool to work on some decent marketing to accompany a release’s artists. Nice artwork, story, music video, etc… But regarding the creative music process, I would recommend to not think about the result. More important to focus on the practice and natural expression, being present, crafting the skills step by step and being bold to sound different. With time all of this leads to quality. Then it’s about getting in touch with people/DJ/label owners resonating with artist’s music. If you can try your tracks in a real club situation, it can be helpful to identify things you might want to tweak or change.

 

  • Anything else you'd like to add?

Being aware of what you feel and going with the flow. Sometimes it can be chill downtempo, sometimes punchy club orientated, most important is to stay true.

To produce club tracks, I would recommend taking the time to listen to other types of music than exclusively dance music or trends.

For example listening to your favourite music from your childhood, adolescence, world-traditional music, etc… If you are deeply resonating with those different sounds/inspirations, it can naturally constitute the sonic palette that you can use to produce outstanding dance music. Ultimately practising to be in a creative state let things happen by themselves, witnessing presence and life itself. In this state, it’s not the self/ego trying to exist through expression anymore but pure flow.

SEQUALOG Soundcloud 

 

 

  

 

 

Words by Jordan Diston & Francesco Quieti