Pitching to Labels: 3 effective approaches you should take

There is no manual to getting a record deal, but there are some fundamentals that can give you a head start. If you want to get signed by a label, you must start thinking like one. You can hear it straight from the big sharks by listening to our podcast with Claire, SVP at Warner Chappell Music. Or, for all you readers, here are a couple of ways to get you started.

THE NUMBERS

Much like pitching for management, the proof is in the pudding. In the case of pitching to labels, this means the quantifiable aspects of your career.

Income generated from music
Artistry is one thing, of course, but remember that labels are a business and businesses need revenue. Above anything else, what labels want to know is the extent of your profitability (or potential for it).  Artists make money from music in a few different ways. In 2020, this boiled down to streaming, online concerts and advertising for other brands, and how much you made from it was directly related to your online popularity.

What’s your reach and presence?
Okay, popularity may sound outdated, but it’s not far from the truth. 

When pitching to labels, keep in mind that how well-known you are in the virtual universe is your best marketing strategy. “Whether you’re trying to get the word out about a new release or people to show up to your performances, social media is still a tool you can use to narrow down who might like your music and to reach out to those people directly.”

In today’s digital world, the internet is essential to the music world. It’s seen an unprecedented evolution, from the way music is presented to the way music is heard, and labels are at the forefront of this trend.

We can’t stress it enough: you have to be on your social media A-game!

What’s the potential ROI for the company?
Nowadays, just having a good quality product isn’t enough to see success through when pitching to labels.

“While pricing, promotion, product quality and brand credibility are important factors for major labels and sub-labels, risk reduction by portfolio management is now one of the key motivations for major labels that manage sub-labels as separate assets.”

Another way to put it is this: music labels benefit from the profitability attached to their selling music to consumers.  So, how do you know that your marketing is working and how do you prove it when pitching to labels?

By following a set of metrics, and presenting the evidence in a clear uniformed way.

“Today, the function of A&Rs at record labels has come under question as artists are signed primarily off the strength of social followers and streaming numbers, where there is already an existing fan base that the record label can take a percentage of.” – Adam Aziz

GREAT MUSIC

You need great music, that’s a given. Signing an artist also has a lot to do with labels being fans of the artist. The music business is a difficult and turbulent one, so it makes sense for labels to work with people they genuinely like.

Keep on top of your Spotify, SoundCloud and other accounts – that’s where their scouting starts.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

It’s not uncommon for record labels to look for a differentiator between you and a similar artist who is already out there. Have you ever wondered why some great musicians don’t get record deals? Musical talent alone has become a commodity and not a defying trait. Labels will spend a lot of investigating your background to find out if what you tell them is true. What makes you unique? What makes you stand out from the crowd?

The answer lies in the story you present.

Case Study 1:

Grandson
Vocal about political and social issues, his songs portray the way US society behaves, criticises war and corrupt politicians (i.e. Donald Trump) and openly talks about drug addiction and what it means.

Case Study 2:

Li3a
Vocal about injustices towards women. Li3a herself has been a victim of virtual harassment. Due to the global pandemic, Li3a, like many other musicians, took her performances online. She got great engagement (up to 200k live viewers per stream!), but with that level of exposure, negative and toxic comments flooded her performances. “Take your shirt off”, “people are not here for your talent, they are here for your boobs”, “just came to see your face to jerk off” … are some of the comments she’d get.

She turned that negativity into a message of empowerment for other women that rely on online interactions to make a living. She is now an advocate of women leadership and is a vocal figure to stop this sort of abuse online.

pitching to labels

Pitching to labels is more than just having a great demo – it requires technical skills in the form of marketing and presentation. What you need, above all is the evidence to back your words. Be prepared to do a lot of legwork. It won’t be easy, but with the right approach, you can at least get a head start. Will it be hard? Yes. Impossible? No!