Building a profile
Unlike Joy, not everyone can be lucky enough to land on a big label with their first release, but there are ways you can manufacture your own profile even without the help of an established outlet. Building up a bit of a reputation before you approach labels is a sure way to make them pay attention, especially in the modern age, where just about anyone can release a track digitally off their own back. Even pressing up your own wax can be a good idea, as it proved for the now Defected-aligned Flashmob who self-released 300 vinyl copies of their early tracks like ‘Brick House’, distributed them themselves and generated a buzz in the process.
“It does help to have some level of profile, even if it’s a remix or two or just one release,” says Griffiths. “Being set up with Facebook artist pages, Twitter and SoundCloud – having that end of things covered makes you a more attractive proposition. Even some bigger people don’t have profiles. In this day and age, when you’re trying to promote the stuff, you can’t even tag them, and that’s important.”
Von Party offers similar advice: “Since eventually your music is going to need to be marketed, try going the distance and putting some work in to crafting an image for yourself. If you get that right, it’s an asset and it helps make a strong impression.”
Dean Muhsin, one half of Bearweasel and co-boss of Never Learnt, is typically candid in his views: “One thing that worries me is signing something from someone who’s up for getting his music out almost anywhere, not just places that fit his sound. It makes you think, ‘Hang on, if I put this out and he appears on some naff little label that isn’t promoting stuff properly in the meantime, his reputation’s basically ruined already’. Focus on the labels you care about. Don’t sell yourself short.”
Muhsin continues on that note: “Looking focussed and dedicated is important. One person we signed had just a select few tracks on SoundCloud; he hadn’t put every demo up, which can be a bit of a turn-off because it means it isn’t special. Anyone and everyone could have heard it. It’s good to know people are serious, that they aren’t just chancers. Our latest signing also had a live set in the works, which shows he isn’t just sat there chancing it, he’s obviously committed. For a small label like us, that’s important.”
Unfortunately, some labels are off limits no matter how big your profile or how committed you show you are. Often these are the imprints who breed producers from their own locale, or who only release music from real-life friends. Hamburg’s Smallville and New York’s hotter-than-hot L.I.E.S. fall into this category, as does My Love Is Underground, run by Parisian Jeremy ‘Underground Paris’ Fichon. For him music is a human thing; he needs to connect with his producers, know them inside out, know their intentions and ideals. Only then is he happy to champion things on his platform. If you’re desperate to release on one of those labels, your options are limited. We guess you could always move to New York, try to make friends with Ron Morelli and then see if you can negotiate a record deal from there…
Some labels are off limits no matter how big your profile.
Keep the faith
At times, it’s easy to believe that there are hurdles in your path at every step of the demo submission process. But you shouldn’t be disheartened. As long as the music’s good, there are plenty of opportunities out there for artists with no profile whatsoever.
Remember that labels are as keen to unearth the next big thing as you are hell-bent on being that next big thing. Consider Turbo, who reckon that most of their roster has been championed from a standing start. Artists like Popof, Proxy, Gesaffelstein, Duke Dumont, JoeFarr and Clouds all came to the label from nowhere. Or look at Hypercolour, which uses its digital offshoot as a breeding and testing ground for new talents.
Sadly, there’s no magic formula for persuading labels to release your music, but a methodical, carefully researched approach with a professional attitude and – of course – great music to back it up will give you the best chance of making a good first impression.