First, there is the matter of solicitation. Solicitation is getting permission from a label to submit material for their consideration. Although some Independent Labels will accept unsolicited (non-requested) materials, most labels will not. The reasoning behind this is a Major Label A&R Rep (Artist and Repertoire: the people at labels responsible for finding and signing new talent, and dealing with that artist afterwards…) listens to all solicited submissions. They have hundreds, even thousands to deal with on a weekly basis. If they accepted unsolicited material, they would be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week just listening to demos. (For many labels, it is also a legal issue: to save themselves from plagiarism suits. If they do not accept your material, they cannot be accused of stealing from it down the road.) Therefore, you must always contact the label first.
But don't expect to be able to just call up a record label and say, "Hey, listen to my tape, its really good man." It is not quite that simple. In fact, the majority of major labels will not accept material, or even talk to you, unless you have representation of some kind (Either management, an agent, promotion firm, publisher or a reputable entertainment lawyer) that is presenting the material to the label for you. There are several other factors in how seriously a Major Label will deal with your submission. Other variables weigh heavily in the equation, such as history of radio, sales, live success, and a substantial draw or following. All are key in any potential record deal.
So, let's say your band has been together for a few years. You have released 2 CDs, maybe some vinyl, by yourselves or through an Independent Label. You have sold a few thousand CDs, opened for national acts when they came to town, and draw a few hundred people consistently. Any label will be much more willing to talk to your band versus a “garage band”, who has never played a show, and are shopping the demo they recorded in the basement (yes, yes, or garage) with 4 track. As with anything, there is a right time and a wrong time to shop your music to labels. You must give yourself and your band a chance to grow and mature as musicians first.Sure you might think, "Oh this demo is great! These new songs are the best we've ever written." Assuredly, six months down the road you will listen to the tapes and think, "Uh, what the hell were we thinking? Man, my guitar tone is crap!" Bands, like wine and cheese, get better with age. If 6 months from now, you still love those songs, maybe, then you should think about shopping.
Of course, all this applies mostly to Major Labels, and bigger so-called "Indies", (who are usually owned and or distributed through some kind of partnership with a major). The true Independent Label is usually a much better place for our friends the “garage band” to get their start. An Independent Label is usually operated out of someone's house. It has a staff of maybe 3 or 4 people, if that. The staff is usually the owner and a few of his unpaid friends. The Independent Label can serve as a stepping-stone to bigger labels or a home for bands with no desire to be on a Major Label. It's really all dependent on your goals and needs as musician (which are good to determine within a band very early on to prevent confusion and misunderstandings later). However, Independent Labels are infinitely more responsive and friendly to the younger bands, ones just getting started. Indies also helps give bands a place to grow, while working towards those bigger goals in a much lower pressured environment.
Arguably, the most important factor in snagging a Major Label deal is success on an Independent Label. Consistently, majors scout sound-scan on independent releases for bands that sell big numbers, or consistently sell in big markets. Major Label A&R Reps look for bands that come as a complete package, the less work for them the better. As a rule of thumb, the best way to get noticed is to make as much noise in your hometown as possible. Vigilant Promotions is here to help show you the steps necessary to do just that!
If you are interested in “Label Solicitation” and would like to be considered for future campaigns please "Contact Us" for details.