Tag Archive for: getting signed to labels

Are Albums Still Relevant?

Are albums still relevant? Ok, that’s kind of a loaded question, because yes, I think they still are. There’s been a trend in the last four years, where people are saying that “the concept of the album is dead, no one listens to albums, blah blah blah blah blah.” I hear this all a lot. If you look at the current trends, it makes sense: you look on Spotify and a lot of people release EPs and singles because it’s the surest way to game the algorithm to get plays.

However, the concept of singles and EPs bores me to death. Like, I hate it. When I see a song, I’m like, “Oh, I want to hear the album it’s coming from.” So I go and check and quite often, it’s a single. This turns me off so much that sometimes I get angry. It’s like the artists have lost their balls, for lack of a better term. It’s like they’re being dictated by the capitalist system that says that putting out singles is the most efficient way to market their art. I think that’s a problem because artistry and capitalism rarely go hand in hand. When I see a single, all I can think is, “Where’s your artistry? Where is your vision? Where’s your soul? Is that all you have to say?”

To me, I find that albums are narrative. When I go watch a movie like Doom, or Star Wars, it pisses me off a little bit because there is no climax, instead, they hold you in suspense for years waiting for the next flick. Personally, I would rather see a movie that is five hours long instead of three movies. This is why I love series where they release all the episodes at once, like on Netflix. I know that it’s long enough that I’m going to become invested in the characters, and by the end of it, I will feel like I lost friends, and have experienced something.

To me an album, especially long albums that are an hour long at least, I find that it’s like a window to the artist’s studio. I feel like I’m peeking into the studio and I’m hearing the music he’s been working on in the last six months or year. Sometimes you listen to the songs and you feel like the artists went through different life-changing experiences, or experienced inspiration from a certain artist, and then they came up with an artistic response to their influences like they’re trying to make a statement within a specific culture.

I find that as artists and musicians nowadays we need to step up, and we need to be assertive in the way we expose ourselves in the music. If that means that we’re going to have an album with only two solid songs, where the other ones are experiments, then so be it. There’s a certain romanticism with an album where you’re relieving the artist of the pressure of coming out with the best side of himself for singles every time.

Additionally, with albums, I like the fact that you can sit with an album and you can listen to it on shuffle and have a different story each time. Sometimes I’ll do this for a week straight and marinate in someone’s creative potential. 

Another thing that I love is when an artist has multiple albums, and sometimes you listen to one and you’re like, “Wow, this sounds completely different, but I see a relation to the previous one.” It’s nice to see the evolution between the two. 

I like listening to albums, because I want to hear the music you did in December, for instance, even if it’s not perfect. I love that. That’s why when I make an album I typically make it in a day or two, in order to collect the thoughts that I was having at that moment and time. 

Typically, I never spend more than an hour and a half on a song, which a lot of people think is crazy. When people ask how I write an album so fast, my response is pretty straightforward – I have an efficient workflow. Now, that doesn’t mean that I only work on music for hour and a half increments. The work goes in beforehand, making sure that I have all the elements that I need to create an effective mood board.

Since I spend time getting all my samples and sounds in order when I make a song, I know exactly what I want, and I add the stuff around it from my template. And then I continue what I did in the previous one, and once I’ve finished that one, I open the third one, and so on and so forth. Then by the end of the day, I have a ton of new songs.

Some people will ask me, “How do you jam if you don’t have a bunch of gear – it’s a pain to MIDI map everything every time.” Well, if you’re using Ableton, it’s called Ableton Live for a reason. Use the session view, and start clicking clips you have loaded – you don’t need anything fancy.

I also have another student who just sings into an audio clip and then converts that into MIDI using the option in Ableton. It wouldn’t translate perfectly, but that was part of the fun of it all – it created restrictions.

Also remember, you don’t have to finish a song in one go – you can work on multiple songs at the same time. When you’re feeling stuck on one, just start another one, or open a previous project from that thought.

Another key to making albums quickly is to make it a habit. Prince was recording a few tracks a day, and now there’s a library of music in his vault. Ricardo Villalobos is the same way – he typically doesn’t spend more than a day on his songs. He just jams. A big part of this motivation comes from success, however, in order to be successful in this day and age you have to break through the noise, and releasing a ton of stuff is a good way to do that. Success, just like output is a grind, never forget that, but with it comes a lot of personal satisfaction.

The Paradox Of Releasing Original Music

Releasing original music can be hard if the artist is truly original. Recently, the techno producer and label owner Ramon Tapia lamented that after spending the day listening to demos that, “Young aspiring producers create pretty much identical tracks.” However, when you listen to his label, Say What? Recordings, you realize that all of his tracks kind of sound the same. 

So you have this well known producer insisting that everything he gets sounds the same, but then when you listen to the stuff he releases on Say What?, it all kind of sounds the same. Therefore, naturally, after people listen to his label, they’re going to send him a pretty accurate representation of what they believe fits on the label, and thus everything he gets will sound, more or less, the same. This, my friends, is what you call a paradox. However, he is not alone in this. This is just how the industry is.


Categorization = Homogenization 

A problem that many artists have is squaring their artistic integrity with being able to get their music heard. And just like artists have this conundrum, so do the labels that sign them. Many labels wish they could allow artistic integrity to shine, but ultimately they have to make sales, and truthfully, most people, even music hipsters, are pretty closed minded to new sounds. 

Additionally, for better or worse, we live in an era where sound has become homogenized into a bunch of genres and subgenres, and where time has essentially collapsed (nostalgia is strong in 2021). It seems like this was originally meant to make it easier to create a taxonomy of music, and thus open up more possibilities for artists to create more unique sounds, but in a lot of ways, it has done the opposite. 

While everything back in the day used to be “rave music”, now everything has its own neat little home, and anything that strays outside this becomes too different to stratify, or simply gets earmarked with the ubiquitous “experimental” label, which is often a red flag for “inaccessible.” That’s why releasing original music can be hard. 

How This Has Made It Hard To Release Unique Music

This has made it difficult for people who create art focused music to find a home. Sure, there are labels that are more open minded than others, but those are far and few in between. Most labels have a sound and they stick to it, because they know that it will sell to their market. 

However, every once in a blue moon you see one of the label curators, like Ramon, stating that all the songs that they get sent all sound the same, not realizing that they caused their own conundrum by “curating a sound.” 

Archipel (my label), while we curate a sound, does things a little differently. That’s why, in this blog post, I wanted to touch on how we balance originality with marketability. 

How Music Is Sold And Consumed

First, let’s talk about how much is listened to and sold. There are three spheres – people who make music, people who listen to music, and the bridge that connect people between the two. This bridge is either labels, or channels such as blogs, YouTube channels, and Spotify playlists. 

However, because of the algorithmic era that we live in, in order for many of these channels to grow, they have to keep listeners engaged, and the unfortunate fact is that most listeners aren’t that interested in hearing new music. Sure, they may be into new music in a respective genre, but anything that challenges that genre may result in a user skip. And every time you get a skip, you get devalued in the algorithm. And content curators know this. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to keep things predictable, and to be wary of anyone releasing original music. 

a picture of how culture matters while releasing original music

Your Culture Matters

Another part of how people consume music is the culture that they live in. If it encourages people to be open minded to new sounds, then they may check out new sounds. 

A good example of this is Montreal, where I’m from. We have a ton of unique, forward thinking musicians that don’t sound like anyone else, releasing original music. Good examples of this are Tim Hecker, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Arcade Fire, Grimes, Kaytranada, and Leonard Cohen. 

Sure, there are a dime a dozen Arcade Fire and Leonard Cohen sounding musicians, but at the time they were first releasing original music, these sounds were fresh, and exhilarating. And this innovation was only possible due to the culture they existed in. Unfortunately, most places aren’t like Montreal though. 

Don’t Disregard Small Cultures

Speaking of culture, even if you don’t live somewhere as open minded as Montreal, there are most likely small circles where you can get away with releasing original music, and performing it to a receptive crowd. There is this perception that in order to enjoy music, you somehow have to be part of the mainstream crowd that represents it. This is usually unrealistic for most people, so I always recommend finding five or so people who can become advocates for your sound. They’ll tell others about it, and you never know what opportunities that will open up, or what other subcultures they belong to that your sound fits into.

a photo of a guy preparing for releasing original music

The Label’s Culture Matters When Releasing Original Music

I’ve written about this a lot, but another thing about Archipel is that just because your sound might fit, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be signed. That’s because just as much as a label is about creating a sonic portrait, it’s also about cultural fit, just like most other businesses. 

Think about it, you’re a software developer who applies for a job. You have all the credentials, and can write clean code with the best of them. However, so can everyone else who is in the same round of interview you are in. So what separates you from them? Your personality. That’s why we generally only sign people who we have a personal relationship with, or someone who presents themselves to be culturally relevant. 

Therefore, before you try to get signed with Archipel, it’s best to talk to us for a bit. Maybe get some mixing and mastering done. Interact with our posts. Talk to our artists. But if you don’t want to do all of this, then, for God’s sake, don’t just cold email a link. This has been happening constantly over the last 10 years, and it’s a waste of time. Instead, write something about how you would be a good fit and show that you have done your homework, just like any job interview. This attitude will result in a higher acceptance rate to other labels as well, even if your sound may or may not fit.  

Good Labels Release Original Music As Part Of A Narrative

A good example of this is a while ago I was mastering this artist’s release, and I thought that it would fit the label. So I reached out to him asking if he wanted it to be signed. His response was somewhere between flattery and shock. He was flattered that I thought it should be on the label, but at the same time didn’t think it would fit. That’s because with Archipel, I approach the label like an album, or a DJ mix, where the next release is a song that acts as a bridge to the next. 

I see the whole thing as a narrative, in a way. And that means that even if a song would have worked in the past on the label, at this particular moment, it didn’t, because of the curated story. 

However, this guy’s release, while it might have not made sense in the past, made perfect sense here. 

The moral of this story is that if you really want to be on a label, and that label curates many different genres, don’t worry if it will fit or not – just send it over. You never really know the intentions of the A&R. However, if you want to send music to a label like Say What? Recordings that almost exclusively releases 130+ BPM peak techno, then it’s probably not wise to send them your leftfield ambient track.

In Conclusion

Labels are a tricky thing if you plan on releasing original music. If it’s too similar to everything else, it will get ignored. If it’s too different than everything else, it will get ignored. Even if you find a sweet spot in the middle of that, chances are it will get ignored too, since you don’t have a relationship with the label. Therefore, it’s best to cultivate relationships, and join a culture that will accept you for who you are. Remember, at one point, all genres were truly original. It just took a curator to have the the confidence in order to release it on the market. Maybe it’s time for curators to have more confidence?


Difference Between Art Music And Commercial Music

I often get asked what the difference between art music and commercial music is. And while there is a lot of subjectivity in music, I think I have a pretty good answer for it. 

Before I get into it, I would like to note that all musicians are artists. However, there is a difference between art music, and commercial music.

People have different reasons for why they make music. Some do it because they want fame, or at least relative fame within their niche or region. Other people do it because they have an insatiable desire to innovate. And when they innovate, they often take risks.  And it’s this risk that separates the two.

I would hypothesize that the majority do it for somewhere in the middle, where they desire to be noticed, but at the same time have an innate desire to create something groundbreaking. Then from that middle, it skews to either side, depending on the individual. 

While it is possible to be artistic and commercially successful at the same time, often one has to make concessions depending on what their motives are.

First, let’s define what I mean by both.


Commercial Music

In my mind, commercial music doesn’t necessarily mean Top 40. There is tons of commercial music that you will never hear on pop radio. But you may hear it on a genre specific radio station. And to get on these stations, typically songs have been focus grouped to hell; where consultants, and market research have determined what the winning formula is for a song. This could be length, song structure, instrumentation, and lyrical content, among other factors. 

In other words, it’s template, or formula based music.

Since this is primarily a dance music blog, let’s concentrate on techno. If you look at the Beatport Top 100 Peak Time Techno songs, the prevailing techno sound nowadays is 130 BPM +/-3 BPM. 

They all have some sort of “DJ intro” for easy mixing, usually a kick drum, or repetitive synth line. Additionally, their breakdowns happen at roughly the same times – 2 or 3 shorter breakdowns in the first half of the song, followed by an extended buildup and breakdown somewhere in the final third of the song. 

There isn’t much variation in the composition, because it’s music designed to be mixed by DJs, and the second you change up the composition, it becomes harder for a DJ to mix.

Basically, this sort of music, no matter what the genre, is designed for people to understand quickly. 

a wav file illustrating the difference between art music and commercial music on beatport. a wav file showing how underground music can still be commercial music on beatport. a wav file illustrating the difference between art music and commercial music on beatport.

Music Can Still Be Commercial, Even If It’s Underground

So you made a Rominimal track, which is undoubtedly an underground genre. However, underground doesn’t mean it’s not commercial. If it’s a Rominimal track that follows the same formula as what came before it, borrowing sounds and structures from groundbreakers like Raresh, Petre Inspiresu and Rhadoo, then chances are it exists to be sold to other Rominimal DJs, rather than the art. A producer who is taking an artistic approach would take the Rominimal framework and turn it on its head, just like those three pioneers did when they reimagined Minimal.  


Art Music

Art music is music that doesn’t try to be anything else, more or less. It’s music that comes from a place of authenticity, rather than a desire to be heard, or understood.  It involves unconventional song structures, reimaged timbres, like a trash can lid for a snare, stream of conscious lyrics, odd time signatures, key changes, etc. In other words, art music takes risks.

The Balance Between Art and Commercial

One thing to note is that art music can also be commercially successful, and even sound popular. There are plenty of uber successful artists whose music is artsy. Classic examples include The Clash, The Talking Heads and Pink Floyd. More modern examples include Radiohead and Billie Eilish.

So, what makes these musicians art focused, rather than commercial?  While they have their commercial hits, these aren’t what define their entire catalog.

Classic Examples

Pink Floyd, with their hit “Money” is in ⅞ and uses extensive folly sounds. However, this song is probably played thousands of times a day and has been for almost 50 years. It’s this time signature, and use of sound that is the difference between art music and commercial music.

A photo of losing my religion's artwork. It's a stellar example in how the difference between art music and commercial music can be thin. An image of Money's artwork.

Another good example of this is “Losing My Religion” by REM. There is no discernable chorus in this song. It’s only verses, with a repeating melody. It also heavily features a mandolin. However, this is still one of their most popular songs, despite it kicking convention in the face. When evaluating the difference between art music and commercial music, looking at the structure is a good place to start.

Modern Examples

An example of a modern art pop song is Blood Orange’s “Uncle Ace.” What’s interesting about this song is that it sounds like something that would be written by Prince. It also has parts that sound like a chorus, but in reality, it has no chorus. 

The song structure instead goes intro>verse>bridge>verse 2>bridge/hook>pre-outro>outro, with no part being discernible similar to each other besides maybe the verses. Once again, it’s this structure that empathizes the difference between art music and commercial music.

Screenshot from the music video for Billie Eilish's Bury A Friend. Album art for Blood Orange's Uncle Ace.

Another contemporary artist that does artistic commercial music is Billie Eilish. Her hit, “Bury A Friend” is a shuffled, syncopated song that samples a dental drill, Easy Bake oven, glass and a staple gun. Its song structure is equally as odd. It goes hook>verse>pre-chorus>drop>hook>verse 2>alternate verse 2>bridge>pre-chorus>drop>hook. Most modern songs with that level of fame are verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. 

In electronic music, art music becomes a little more apparent than most. Good examples are Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Arca, SOPHIE, and Burial. However, they are all successful, and this is often by design. 


What Makes Art Music Successful?


Popular Themes and/or Lyrics

The late SOPHIE is a great example of this. One of her most popular songs, “Immaterial,” is almost an off kilter tropical house and reggaeton song. However, it’s peppered with atonal sounds, and vocal yodels. Ultimately it’s a pretty jarring song. However, the song repeats the same simple lyrics over and over again, and those lyrics are about materialism, something we can relate to. Additionally, it uses R&B, auto tuned vocalizations that are common in contemporary pop music. 

Same can be said for artists like Arca. While most of their music sounds like an ambient, distorted dystopia, the beats are largely hip hop beats. That’s why they have worked with mainstream artists such as Kanye West.

Standout Marketing

Good examples here are Boards of Canada and Burial. Both have cultivated a sort of mystery around their work. Neither perform live, and while their identities are known, they are shrouded in mystery. Take Burial for example. Even when he was up for a Mercury Prize, his identity was still speculated. However, despite being up for one of Britain’s most prestigious cultural awards, his music was hardly pop. It was lo-fi, future-garage made from samples from YouTube videos and video games. Placed up against songs at the time, it sounded thin. But that didn’t matter, because of the questions around his identity.

Boards of Canada are all about mystery as well. When they released their latest album, Tomorrow’s Harvest, they built a cipher for fans to figure out, slowly revealing details and further ciphers until fans realized it was a new album. 

Having Commercial Success And Then Doing A 180

The best example of this is Radiohead. They blew up with their post-grunge, Brit-Pop single “Creep”, which followed traditional song structure. They then followed that up with their album, The Bends, which featured the similarly Brit-Pop-esque song “High And Dry.” Then they started to get bored. 

Their next album, Ok Computer, still had its rock oriented structure, but started to rely more on timbre, and texture instead of traditional rock sounds. They introduced more pedals into their array, and concentrated on using the studio as an instrument, taking cues from early British artists like The Beatles. They even had experimental vignettes such as “Fitter Happier,” a jarring, Speak-And-Spell driven, ambient hellscape of a track that criticizes the numbing of society by commodities and pharmaceuticals. 

While Ok Computer had one foot in commercialism, one foot in experimentation, it was with Kid A that they went a full 180, replacing guitars with synthesizers, drum kits with drum machines. Their songs started to have less of a discernable structure, concentrating more on themes, and timbre. However, Thom Yorke’s voice still remained a constant, allowing their previous fans to find grounding in their new, forward thinking sound. Sure, it alienated some fans, but Radiohead still continues to release albums, and sell out stadium tours. If you want a good example of a song off this that sounds like one of their more commercially viable rock songs but in reality has a complex, and unique arrangement, check out this video about the arrangement of “How To Disappear Completely.”

Intention Matters In The Difference Between ARt Music And Commercial Music

Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to create; it’s all about your intention. If you want to make music that’s easy for people to understand, so that it gets wider acceptance, then you should absolutely do that. This is probably the most surefire way to make money as a musician, and you will ultimately have more people listen to, and appreciate your music. You may even find some fame.

If you want to make abstract, ambient, noise music, go for it as well! There is no shame in that at all. You are making art for art’s sake, and nothing else. You are being true to you, and nobody else. While you may not find fame and fortune in it, you may at least feel creativity fulfilled.

Just keep in mind, while it can be done, it’s hard to square the two. So when creating, it’s all about your intention.

Find A Record Label Looking For Talent

So, you’re looking for a record label looking for talent? We’ve been talking about collecting references for your mixes in previous posts quite a lot. By using software to help you match the tone of a track you like, with some analysis, you can now reverse engineer your favorite tracks to eventually make something similar. With this approach, eventually you’ll end up having music that you want heard and eventually published on a record label looking for talent.

There are many advantages of being on a record label. I covered this in previous articles. However, the crux of it is that being on these labels gives you access to a community of artists that you enjoy, provides social recognition by peers, and can provide accolades that artists can leverage for more gigs. Being on a credible label also allows artists to move up the ladder to larger labels, just as having a job on your resume allows people to move onto bigger, and better jobs. 


Independent Record Labels Vs. Major Record Labels

Finding a record label looking for talent like yours comes down to having a song that fits the aesthetic of the label. You wouldn’t release a Dubstep song on a boutique Minimal Techno label, just like you wouldn’t release a Minimal Techno song on a boutique Dubstep label. While they are both electronic music, the contacts that said label would send the song to are inherently different, since Dubstep DJ’s not usually spin Minimal, and vice versa. This is especially true for independent record labels looking for talent. 

Major record labels might have a broader approach to what genres they accept, and might sign a minimal techno track, and a Dubstep track since they have more resources to handle a diverse sound, since these genres have a place in their business model. However, to get noticed by these labels, you need marketability that a lot of smaller artists don’t have. You need a solid fan base already, a brand, and professional tunes.

Sometimes it is possible to get lucky with talent alone, and being in the right place at the right time, but this is not the norm. So if you decide to go the Atlantic Records demo submission route, and don’t have a credible foundation, then it’s really like winning the lottery. Sure, major record labels looking for new talent is a thing, but it’s a special circumstance if they get selected.


How Do You Find A Record Label Looking For Talent?

There are many approaches to this. A solid way is if you made a song based on a reference track, see what label they signed to. If you have a similar stature as the artist referenced, then chances are that you may be a good fit. If you aren’t on a similar tier as this artist, that doesn’t mean that they were always at this level. Go back into their catalog, and see what labels their earlier releases were on. Next, make sure they are accepting demos. They will usually say on their site, or social media if they are. Make sure they are recent posts, and releases as well. Small labels don’t last forever, just like small businesses, and the information may not be up to date, especially if they don’t exist anymore. 

Next, see if they still are curating the sound that you have produced. Labels evolve. Just because they were into Minimal in 2007, doesn’t mean that they are into Minimal in 2020. They could be into hard techno now, since that’s what sells. 

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of popular labels have smaller sub-labels that cater to up and coming artists. Make sure to pay attention to what those are. For instance, Get Physical has Poesie Musik, which caters to a melodic sound, and signs small artists.

If you’re part of a scene, and your colleagues have signed to a label that fits your sound, ask for an introduction. That is the most surefire way to get on any label. 


How Should You Approach A Record Label Looking for Talent

Keeping the aesthetic of a label in mind, it begs the question – should you make music with a label in mind, or find a label based on the music you make?

It’s something difficult to answer and there’s not a right answer either. It’s the chicken or the egg question. There are different options and perhaps one will suit you best. But let’s look into the different types of feedback they can provide as they could be giving you an insight on what is happening. This is where many people get confused.

In the most common scenario, people come to me for mixing and mastering with the idea of having music done. Once it is, the question that always comes is “now what?” Sometimes it happens I just did mastering of similar music and will suggest some clients of mine or in other cases, it reminds me of someone I know, so after looking up Discogs, I share a hint or 2. This is the “finding a label looking for talent that fits something already made” approach. 

The second option is to find a label that you want to be on, and design music to fit that label. You analyze the songs BPM, you take reference of its genre, you incorporate the timbre and instrumentation that you hear in the records. You make sure that your mix and master have a similar color to the ones on the label.

However, sometimes you can do all of this, and the work can come off as being derivative, because what you made has been sterilized down to elements. Not even labels with a specific sound want work to be derivative, they want it to be complementary. This is a skill that takes lots of dedication and practice to hone. The process of making something contextual, yet with its own signature is one of the hardest things that any artist can accomplish, no matter what the medium. So, if you’re going to take the “finding a record label by producing to fit the label” approach, then you have to be confident in your skills. By taking this approach, you are also diluting your potential to submit it to other labels if it’s rejected. 

Record label looking for talent

Credit: Tim Marshall


Key Factors When Approaching A Record Label Looking FOr talent

However, sometimes your music fits perfectly, and you have invested a lot of work into it, but the label rejects it. What does it say exactly? What it says is that you probably didn’t have one of these factors:


The most important thing you can do to get signed to a label is to have dedication. Artists need to dedicate themselves to being the best at their art that they can possibly be. They need to dedicate  themselves to learning the best practices to succeed as a musician, whether that’s reading blog posts like this, or talking to successful peers. Remember, artists are going to fail at what they try to do, often. That’s just a fact of life. It’s what they do after they fail that defines them. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”


Credit: Jorik Kleen

The next thing you want to do is make sure you’re marketable. Yes, just like major labels, more boutique labels want to make sure that artists have a brand. Branding can sometimes be seen as the antithesis of creativity, but it’s always been a necessity in music. Name one moderately successful musician that doesn’t have an image? Artists need to make sure their social media is in order, have an Electronic Press Kit, have a website, take some press photos, and just overall look like they care. 

Depending on the size of the record label looking for talent, artists should expect to have a fan base that is relative to said label’s stature. If an artist only has a couple releases, and a few hundred fans on Facebook, it might not be wise to go after a label like Toolroom Records, or Kompakt. Most likely their demo will just get lost in the mix, so to speak.  

Submitting Your Best Work

This next thing should be obvious, but it’s worth mentioning anyways. Artists should make sure to present their absolute best work to labels looking for demos. Make sure everything is mixed properly, and even better, it’s mastered. I can provide those services at a reasonable price, and it will go a long way to showing the labels that the music is serious. 

Having A Solid Network

Another factor that is important in getting signed to competitive labels looking for talent is networking. Artists should make sure not only to nurture themselves, but nurture everyone around them. Reciprocity goes a long way as a human being, so be helpful. Burning bridges don’t always light the way. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, this is the most surefire way of getting signed to a label of your choice. 


Finally, when approaching a label, make sure to add a personal touch to your approach. If you can find the name of the A&R, that’s helpful. If you know someone who works for them, or is connected, get a referral in, or drop their name. Maybe mention why you think your sound fits well with the label. The more you can personalize, the better chance you have to get heard, because it shows that you’re dedicated.


Final Thoughts On Finding A Record Label Looking For Talent

If you follow these approaches, then you have a much higher probability of getting signed to a label. Nobody said that it would be easy though. There is a reason why many people laugh off art as being a career path. However, if you are willing to have dedication, network, and be vigilant in your craft, it can be a long, rewarding job that can jetset you around the world, and introduce you to some incredibly interesting, and talented individuals. Remember, without art, there isn’t culture, without culture there isn’t society. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you do doesn’t matter. It’s just to matter, you have to work hard. There are no shortcuts (unless you have a trust fund, and a connected family).

Tips for getting your music heard

After the reactions to my compilation of tips for music production, I’ve been asked to provide some advice on getting your music heard, and potentially getting it signed to a label. When you make music, one of the first things you crave is for the whole world to hear your work, to connect with others through your creation and also implicitly as a need for validation. Many times people feel the urge to share their music (eh, I do too!), especially if the session was good. But if you sit on your work and wait, you’ll understand that this desire can be addressed differently.

Let’s approach your desire to get traction for your work by handling two things: your need for validation, and understanding how listeners pick their music. You need to understand both to be able to have a strategy going forward.

Firstly, let’s cover the validation aspect of your work.

Let it age

My first rule when I’m 90% done with a song, is to let it age for a few weeks. This is extremely important to make sure you haven’t fallen in what I call, a disconnected bubble of love with your song. When you fall in love with one of your songs, you have no distance or second perspective of it. You have some sort of unconditional love for your own work, meaning that your analytic self has been turned off and may not be able to spot technical flaws or irrelevant aspects of the song itself. Letting a song age for a few weeks will really disconnect you from that bubble and provide you with enough distance to approach it analytically. Ideally, you want to wait until a point where you forgot about the particular song in question.

My tip is to bounce the track and put it in a folder that has a date on it. I will also give myself a reminder on my phone to listen to in the future. I also will listen to it in a different context of my studio—a car ride could be excellent—or if possible, listening to it in presence of someone else can really help. You’ll want to observe that person’s reaction, not his or her feedback. You have no idea how listening to something in presence of a friend can really make you see things differently.

Consider validation from your circle of trusted friends

Do you have a circle of connections yet? This took me quite a while to establish, but once I had one, it was a great alternative for validation as opposed to posting my music publicly online (and avoid shaming myself!). Basically, your circle should be a mixture of friends, DJs, producers, “fans”, and music lovers. You don’t need the best DJs out there, just people who play often because they have the ear for what they love, what works, what and what doesn’t; they will tell you if your track fits with what’s going on. The producers will give you feedback on technical details while fans/music lovers will simply let you know if they love it or not. Fans and music lovers are probably the least useful in terms of critical feedback, but they’re actually very importan to test the “love at first listen” aspect of your work. My circle has about five people and one of my main criteria in deciding who should be in my circle was to find reliable people who can be honest, but who are also very responsive. I can’t be sending music to people who won’t respond if they don’t like it or just disappear.

I usually start sending my music to the circle once I’ve listened to it again after some time off and feel that the song has aged well. But sometimes what’s interesting is that music you end up doubting can be really appreciated from people who listen to it for the first time. This could mean your track is a keeper.

Unveiling your music publicly

One of the the most desired results producers seek for their music is to be heard, and get a lot of listens and likes online. Sadly there’s so much stuff happening in music-making that you can get lost in that desire. “But no one seems to care or will listen to my song!”, I often read/hear.

The real question is, “why would they?”

I know it seems harsh to be so blunt, but this is an important point that if you can answer, then you’ll get precise feedback regarding what you do wrong. Most of the time, what’s wrong is to build up your expectations, thinking that because you have a song that is great and maybe sounds like popular songs out there, that people should be all over it. Sadly, no, this is not the case. Maybe people are hearing your work as a cheap copy? Maybe they’re craving something else entirely?

Secondly, it’s important to be aware of how people are selecting their music. Listeners usually face different challenges in browsing for new music or for anything new in general. They usually want a bit of the “same old, same old”, as well new ideas. Generally, in looking for new music:

1- They’re looking for an emotional connection. If you need some pep for cleaning, or supporting music for coding, for example, chances are they’ll most probably dig into something they’ve already saved.

2- They’ll follow people they trust. We all have one friend who can make good recommendations. These people invest a considerable amount of time getting out of their usual routine to find new music, will read blogs and magazines to hear about trends, and will check out recommendations on Spotify (or an equivalent service). These are the people you want to reach first with your own music.

So, how do you reach out exactly?
The answer is simple: by being present.

As I’ve explained before, here are some important tips that will make a huge difference in poking through the noise.

1- Pick the moment when you’ll post your music. There are moments where people might be more suitable to discover music. Usually people do that on their downtime, meaning that releasing it in the end of the afternoon could be a good spot otherwise, in the evening.

2- Share a snippet to start with. Don’t share it all, especially if you want it to get signed. Labels hate music that has been spoiled.

3- Add pleasant looking artwork. Many people overlook this, but having artwork can influence people to click and listen.

4- Be extremely active on Soundcloud by leaving comments on similar music. Each time you leave a comment, people see you being active and if you’re pretty busy, they might want to check your profile. Don’t be a beggar asking for attention, be active and generous in your feedback. Your followers will see that and appreciate plus new artists might want to have you as a follower.

5- Always observe the golden rule: never ask anyone to leave feedback.

6- Observe people that often leave comments on music you like, then contact them in private. You can befriend anyone who often re-posts music or leaves comments. They’re the ones who are followed and will make your song look like it got listened to.

7- Anytime you contact someone, be personal in your message and simply invite the person to have a listen, but never ask for anything in return. Contacting people by private message is a great way to get traction. But be polite, courteous, and make sure it doesn’t look like you used a template. Don’t ask anything as people already know the drill.

8- Try to have some of your circle listen and have feedback. Hopefully your friends like it and will support it.

9- Promote other people’s music. Again, this is important. Why would people support you if you don’t support anyone it in the first place?

10- Use tags. Don’t be afraid to use them, because they’re important for anyone looking for music.

SEE ALSO : Reverb tips and tricks

Resisting the lust to be famous

While music fame and the desire to “get famous” might seem comical to some, I’m sure that if it doesn’t apply to you, perhaps there are some people in your network who have expectations to build a career in music production. It’s one thing to leave your mark, but it’s another when you have a very strong expectation to be famous. Why do I address this? Mainly because working with people I’ve noticed that many have this cyclical pattern of ups and downs, all based on how productive or successful they’ve been. The thing is, when you’re up, things are great of course, but the issue is how to deal with the lows.

In my career, I’ve learned a few things regarding how to deal with the lows. It comes down to perception mostly, but also to how you approach things. The thing is, no matter if you’re riding a high or a low, you are exactly the same. External factors can trigger frustrations but they’re not responsible of your emotions. While it is known that physically, making music can release some internal hormones that give pleasure just as a drug, on the flip side not being able to do music can also be hurtful.

Let’s debunk a few things that can help you surf more positive waves.

If you’re in music production to chase success, you’re in for a nightmare.

What is a successful release?

This is a good question; the definition of success can be based on multiple factors:

  • Sales. As you know, what might seem like a catastrophic release for one market could be a crazy success for another, with the same numbers. I can tell you that I had a time where 200 vinyl sales was a moment to open up a champagne bottle.
  • Reach. It’s so strange how some releases will have all the same amount of effort in marketing but one will pop on social medias and charts. It’s basically impossible to predict what will work and how much it will spread out. But sometimes, something that reaches out more than usual, might have next to no sales.
  • Media feedback. So you know, if you pay for PR, it will be between 150 to 1000 euros or more for a company to pass the music to medias, DJs, blogs and journalists. It doesn’t guarantee anything at all. But one thing you want is the music to gain momentum and if you start seeing comebacks here and there, that can be seen as a form of success.
  • Other artists’ appreciation. Charts, thumbs up, DJs dropping music in an event are all a form of success.

The thing is, these factors are all linked as you can see, in one way or the other. As a label owner, sometimes it becomes pretty frustrating to deal with artists who complain that you didn’t push hard enough because the previous release did better. Explaining it like a lottery might be the best way to put it out. The strangest thing is, sometimes some of the most talented artists I know make music that is exceptionally beautiful but it just doesn’t sell, reach or get any feedback; it’s as if people completely missed it. I’ve seen some releases on Archipel pop 7 years later because a known DJ played a track in an event, randomly. Thank you Shazam!

In the end, you are the one that can define your own success. Using numbers will help you greatly. “Being famous or known” can’t be measured, but selling 200 vinyls can. And since sometimes things move really slowly; sometimes patience can make a difference.

Over 20+ years of releasing music, I’ve come up with my own set of success measurements. One of them is based on a very tight circle of friends I share my music with once I’m done with a new song. If they all like it, then I know I have something I’ll be happy with down the road. Because one of the main issues with music making is to know if you’ll love your music later on. While you’re in it, you often lose perspective of its true potential

So what does success come down to?

1 – Create personal projects that matter: This is something really important here. Make music, finish your songs, make albums and share them with your friends. Hire someone to make a kickass artwork, make sure it sounds top notch and have something that makes you proud, even years later. Why? Because that is success, honestly. To have your own collection of homemade music is something that creates a portfolio and later on, if anyone looks back at your past work, they can see the dedication and work you put into it.

2- The 1/20 ratio: Keep in mind that one song out of 20 might get attention. Perhaps less. Keeping that ratio in mind, it really brings you down to earth and keeps you humble. Is it worth making music? Hell yes. Make tons of it. Don’t spend forever on that one song you believe will make you famous. Make tons of them, record daily at least one thing, one sound design, one loop… keep yourself engaged in what you love, because you love it, not because it will lead you anywhere.

3- Create your circle of validation: This will take time and patience but if you can find a circle of 5 people you love and that you know have similar tastes to you, then you can broadly share with them. Expect to be frustrated at times but be there to validate their work as well, and remain honest, diplomatic and constructive in any feedback. Make sure that some people of that circle are DJs that often play out so they can test your music in context, if that’s you’re goal. Bonus points if one of those DJs is a social media magician; he might refer you around. I also like to have someone that is very knowledgeable so I can bounce ideas of him/her regarding labels to send my music to.

And have fun!

Starting a label for the right reasons (Part 1)

Every now and then, someone comes to me for mixing or mastering and will ask if I can introduce them to a label. In some cases, I do, but I can’t guarantee it will lead to anything in the end; sometimes it works and when it doesn’t. I often hear that in a reaction to this sort of rejection, people want to start a label. While I’m all for new labels, in this particular case starting a label might not be the right thing to do. Let me explain in a bit more detail:

Before we begin, let’s clarify two things:

  1. The main purpose of running a label is about commercializing your music because there’s a demand.
  2. An active label’s goal is to provide an aesthetic that has a correlation to the direction of the label, and to reach a target market.

Now, the main misconception people have about labels, which is reinforced by the fact that they are so easy to start nowadays, is that if you work with a label you’ll finally have the exposure you were hoping for. However, often times this is not what happens. “Yeah but it’s good music!”, I hear you say. Sure, it might be, but how will people know you exist?

“OK then, so how about I release on a respected label?”

Yes, you can try to do this, but you need to understand the effort required from the label to work on promoting you so you sell. Labels with reputations don’t jump on unknown artists that easily. It’s not a coincidence you see labels paying a fortune for PR to make sure the track is played by DJs so they say: “Supported by …”.

Often artists feel entitled and that their music should be known, and even popularized because they made a great song. Sadly though, when it comes to “music marketing” having a great song doesn’t even accomplish anything. You can compare it to a guy/girl who makes amazing food at home, then decides to open a restaurant. In both cases, the artist is in for quite a reality check.

That said, I know I sound perhaps negative here, but this is the kind of discussion I have on a weekly basis with people who start labels that end up resulting in a substantial loss of money, or artists that are focused on building one without having any network whatsoever.

Let’s reconsider the situation from a different angle. Let’s say you produce music, have a network of people liking it, playing it (eg. podcast, DJ sets) and talking about it. If you have a bit of capital to invest, you might be interested in commercializing yourself. But before starting a label, I would highly recommend doing something many start-ups do, which they call “guerilla marketing.”

guerilla marketing, musicGuerilla Marketing can be defined as a “low cost and sometimes disruptive marketing strategy to see the viability of an idea.” But mainly, it’s about doing something unusual to get attention. The best example I can share from my own experience would be one marketing blast I was part of in the early 2000s when Netlabels emerged, giving away music for free online and through any other possible channels. Giving away quality music was disruptive but also in tune with people who, back then, were also interested in getting music for free (note: it was in the golden age of music piracy and illegal downloads). In Montreal, in 2017, when it was said cannabis was going to be legalized, there was a guy who illegally opened four stores to sell it. He knew it was illegal and once it was shut down, everyone understood it was a publicity stunt for when it would be legal.

So then, how should you act?

Think of making your music a personal project

Don’t think about starting a label until you’re 100% sure you can get sales. In the meantime, what you can do is make a personal project that you can then promote with the technique I explained. One thing people often do is print themselves 100 copies where they give away most of them to all DJs they can get in touch with and sell some via a Bandcamp page, where you can sell your merchandise. I know some people that also use Discogs to sell.

Make sure that:

  • Your product sounds good with a quality mix and mastering.
  • Your project looks appealing. Although some people love going low key, using white label records for minimal costs and stamp them manually. You may ask a bunch of friends to help spray pain them with a template.

Find a channel of disruption

Where will you try to cause a stir of attention? There are a few options on the table:

  • Soundcloud: If you’re mainly digital, test the market by sharing your music with DJs. I regularly have some guys that send me music to play. No questions asked, they just want me to enjoy their music and I like that. Personally I think this rocks. This guy Loxique is extremely prolific and sends me music as well to other DJs and then posts videos of them when they play his tracks. He’s building his presence out there without even asking for a release because he knows eventually it will simply come to him, in due time. The logic is, if DJs play it and people see that, more people will ask to play it, creating a demand.
  • Social Media: the “me! me! look at me!” approach has become so overdone that it just annoys the hell out of everyone. This will sound weird but the best way to promote yourself is by promoting… others! Creating waves of support attracts people’s attention to what you do, without you having to talk about it. Let your music speak for yourself while you talk about others.
  • Festivals: Go to a festival with the idea you’re going to a golf course for business meetings. Stay sober and try to meet people without being aggressive. Be yourself, passionate and interested in others. When people ask about you, show your records you made or USB keys you prepared. Watch them be interested in return. That can establish contacts.
  • Stores: A bit like festivals, you can go and bring some records to the store. Some will agree to take them to sell them. But mostly, try to go when it’s busy and and to show that you have your own records; you’ll be surrounded by DJs. There might be a few in there interested in listening and who knows, maybe even asking you for a copy.

Have a backup voice

When we had the netlabels, we had a label managers that would be in charge of the website and online promotion channels. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Some people are really excited to be part of the adventure, and interested in doing something you don’t want to. It can be someone who is more gifted at communications, marketing, or social media. Teaming up now is sort of a rehearsal for when you might turn your project into a label (which will be covered in Part 2). But honestly, any successful labels have always been something of a few minds all together and not just a single one.

The reason why you want a second person to help you is simple: it’s easier to sell yourself if someone else does it for you. Find that person or find a few people who can do it for you. That will really be useful for your project.

In the next article, I’ll explain the steps to turn your project into a label. I will also explain how I started a label dedicated to help my clients.

The 2-minute Soundcloud preview method

The 2-minute Soundcloud preview method, as I call it, is about creating tracks previews that are 2 minutes long. Why that length?

If you look at most track previews labels and artists are sharing online, they’re about 2 minutes in length. This unofficial standard got popular during the early days of Soundcloud when a little problem was discovered involving people being able to download full tracks from the website; not the full resolution file, but the streaming version, which is very low quality. Many tracks leaked this way and it’s crazy to think some people used those versions to play in podcasts or even in clubs!

So then, why post 2-minute tracks?

Many labels look for artists by browsing their Soundcloud page and it doesn’t look good if the page is empty. As a result, some artists started creating “fake” songs, as 2-minute tracks, often with artwork created by an online app. The crazy outcome of this behaviour was that some people/labels started asking artists to release some of those two-minute tracks, which forced the artists to finish them.

The pros of uploading 2-minute mini-tracks is that if someone connects with you about one, you’ll know what’s working best from all the tracks you have online. This particularly useful if you have a large number of sketches and wonder which ones have the most potential. The cons of this approach, if done poorly, is that it can really backfire at you, and make you look (very) unprofessional.

That said, if your goal is to get some traction online, this method can really be effective. Some people also need motivation and direction to get things done so this approach might be good for you if you’re one of those artists. Here are some tips on how to approach this effectively, to get most out of it:

Use tracks that are in progress to avoid getting caught with unexpected requests. The more advanced you are in the arrangements, the better. You can actually use a complex 2-minute base as a way to find the final ideas of your track. Uploading a very simple loop is not a good idea as it might sound completely empty.

Make sure it is mixed properly. This might be the most difficult part of it, but make sure the mixdown is solid. Use some compression and have a limiter on the master to glue it together.

Make sure the main idea of the track is exposed in the preview. What I mean here is, be sure that if someone listens to your preview, they will have an idea of what the song is about. If you need a better idea, go to decks.de and listen to previews of records to see what I mean.

Have something strong to say. Make sure your loop is exciting, has something special in it and has a memorable element that might make people want to hear more. This is the most critical aspect of your 2-minute track.

Try to have very different song ideas from one to another. If you have too many previews that all sound exactly the same, it’s sort of like having a colour palette with a multitude of beige variations; have different colors but keep an aesthetic that is in tune with your style.

Make sure the mixdown is solid, then normalize. If you don’t use a limiter, export it normalized, this will create a louder version.

Limit the total number of tracks on your Soundcloud page. Try to pick a number between 10 and 15 then never have more. Why? Because you don’t want to be that artist that has zillions of unsigned tracks either. Remove older ones and remove ones that have no comments or likes. This is not good for momentum (see my previous post).

Indicate if the track is unsigned. Let people know the track isn’t signed or mastered; this helps clarify to people who listen to it.

So then, when do you finally finish one of these 2-minute tracks? You should decide to finish it when it generates some sort of buzz. If you get a DJ asking for a copy of a track for a podcast, this can be as important as if a label would like to sign it. If someone interested in your track, don’t sleep on it; let me know of your results!


SEE ALSOIntuition for decisions in music production   

Besides music, labels are searching for these traits

If your productions are tight and ready to go, and you have been looking for ways to get labels to sign your tracks, the natural next step would be to send out a ton of demos to labels and wait for them to call you back with a deal. It’s time to start living the dream right? You’ve done all your homework and followed the advice you’ve read online about how to get the attention of label reps. The thing is, and I hate to break it to you, there is another bit of info you probably don’t want to hear, but it’s important that you know.

Labels don’t want you to contact them. 

Many labels won’t come out and actually say, stay away don’t bother, but before you throw in the towel let me try to explain what this means in the most helpful, and constructive way. I’m also speaking from experience here, so please don’t assume this is standard for every label.

artist, electronic music, demos, label

Photo credit John Hult.

With the enormous and ever increasing stage called social media, a never-ending flood of new artists emerging daily, all wanting the same thing – your attention. With free and new tools available to make marketing and promotion easier by the day, the credibility of the ‘artist’ has become diluted from the perspective of the consumer.
Whether you believe this is good or bad, a new impression has been created which is:

  • Everyone is a producer, and,
  • They all seek some level of attention because they’re not getting in touch. Ironically, people want to listen to music more than ever, but the vast flood of new music leaves many listeners overwhelmed by it all. It’s the same experience for labels.

After such an onslaught of new artists sending in demos many labels become numb to the possibility of finding something great. This makes it harder for those who are truly deserving of attention and recognition.

Does this all mean to give up and stop sending in demos? I would say not necessarily. I’ve covered this topic in previous posts, but I’ll cover this point a more in depth here.

There is one important statement I’d like to point make out about our industry though: The whole concept of promotion has become obsolete and alienated. I’m talking specifically about the promotion from artists to label, artists to fans, artists to promoters as well as labels to DJs and labels to fans.

But still, labels will always find quality music and prefer if they find you. This is a fact. Think of Perlon for instance, they largely release music from their circle of friends and the track to be released will need to be tested by the core of the label (Zip mainly, but Ricardo too) in multiple contexts to see how well it’s received by the crowd. Serious label owners have a very particular vision of their sound platform, and your music will (in many cases) need to follow their established sound to get signed.

In my honest opinion: if you want to be on a label’s radar, you will get better results by getting played by DJs. 

Besides music, labels are searching for these traits in you:

Patience. this is perhaps the most prized trait a label will appreciate from you. In this fast paced world, patience is not only rare but it is also a quality that we all need to work on. It’s about having trust that things will work out in the end and that one’s results will be something that happens in some distant future. Parallel to patience, this goes hand in hand with trust. One goes with the other. It means to be able to have a bigger picture of things, that perhaps somewhere down the road, something great will be happening. Maybe not… but to not lose patience over delays is critical as these are common in the music industry.

Get organized. Being organized is super important and will make everything easier. An organized artist should have a solid promo kit on hand – professional photos, your music project and files in order, ready to be retouched or fixed in case of a problem. There’s nothing more annoying than having to go back to fix a sound, but if you’re all over the place, you might cause delays which then moves the entire schedule, or can even destroy your opportunity for exposure. It’s helpful to start off your productions right, follow these mixing and production tips and save yourself headaches later.

Reactivity. Fast replies to emails, answering promptly, precision with your communication will make you pretty awesome to work with. Busy people appreciate this, and it goes a long way.

Flexibility. This is the opposite of being finicky. Things will never be perfect so let’s try to make the best of it.

In the end, it’s up to you to put in the work, which can be made easier when you step back and look at the big picture. What are your goals? Work backward and determine what action needs to be taken in order to achieve your goals. Take a minute and check out my guide to shameless self-promotion here. Add in a little good luck, some magic here and there, and consistent focused daily efforts. Best of luck to you ~


SEE ALSO :    Are online communities replacing labels? 

What Is A Mature Sounding Track?

Recently, a video artist friend of mine was critical of a clip we were watching, and I was commenting about the audio portion of the video. We were both interested in each other’s point of view to better understand what a professional in different fields felt the video could improve on.

In any domain you’ll eventually find the connoisseur, this is someone with a great depth of knowledge in his/her field, and is always searching for the best within his area of expertise. We can think of wine, poetry, painting, fields where true excellence is sought after. In any area of interest the more you are part of that which you love, the more you’ll be able to distinguish the highest quality.

People with years of experience in any field will have a much deeper understanding and perspective than those fresh to the scene. Without question, an experienced ear will recognize fine details and maturity in the music and can quickly tell if the producer has been around for a little while. This brings up the question –

What is a mature sounding track?

Sometimes I hear sarcastic questions such as “how can dance music be mature”? Different people will always have different standards, yet in this post, I thought I’d share how I perceive a song, both from my engineering point of view but also from the perspective of a label owner.

Firstly, I believe song maturity goes beyond if “it’s good (or not).”  I’ve talked about if a song is good or not before but I’ll comment again because many people confuse maturity with if the track sounds good or not. I believe it has nothing to do with that. If we compare it to food or art, highly acclaimed works are often not accessible from the general public opinion. In music, the more you discover and expose yourself to, the more you recognize patterns, ideas, clichés. To sum up a song by “this is good” has no resemblance to what the track/song may have been intended to do. You’re likely judging based on your preferences, which is biased by how you feel or what trends you are following.

The song brings to light it’s initial intention. An experienced producer will have a particular idea in mind that will be made fairly clear when he makes his song. In some cases, he may have a second purpose working within that track. What I mean here is, what the listener decodes from the song might not be what it is initially suggested, as there might be a second, hidden message behind what is going on sound wise. This depth of songwriting can play a huge factor in demonstrating the craftsmanship of the producer.

The song has a clear voice and something to say. Hence the “aha” moment or the “wow” you might have after listening to just a few seconds of a song. Sometimes the light bulb moment may come only after an exhaustive and focused listening session, or after listening to the full song several times. What’s unique about electronic music is that very often there are no lyrics, yet through the use of sound textures, melodies, tensions, and releases, a producer can communicate a state of mind and emotion that words may not be able to express. Just like the word Saudade which comes from the Portuguese from Brazil only, describes a definite feeling that other languages can’t clearly relate to. The use of certain frequencies can suggest specific feelings, and moods, quite powerfully.  I’ve always felt the title of a song is critical and provides context for the music. As artists, we have the power to shape information to make a statement, which can be very powerful when presented right.

It’s not a matter of complexity or simplicity. I’ve had someone who felt that complexity was a sign of maturity. All the crazy tricks and effects up front,  yet the thing is, with experience, you realize that sometimes doing less will often have more impact than overdoing it. Like I said above, creating a wow effect on people is something, but to capture their attention over the whole duration of a song is often a wow effect in a more subtle way.

Time invested in the song doesn’t make it mature. If you spend 5 hours in a row working on a song, you might bring maturity to the song yet perhaps you’ll dilute the original essence of what you originally heard. Over the years, I’ve noticed the significant benefits of letting a project in early development sleep and settle for a time before returning to develop it further.

Timelessness is one of the central points. Songs that don’t age and those that seem to haunt you are often the results of something very well planned or completely improvised. But in one way, this is the often the result of well-paired elements coming together in the right way. There’s part knowledge, culture, innovation, exploration, risk and good taste. The thing that is magical is when someone, no matter how experienced, gets inspired by a moment of grace and comes up with something even himself, cannot explain. That part, which is often pure intuition, is what fascinates me. It is in those moments that you get the best out of yourself.

The Changing Dos and Don’ts of Contacting Record Labels

It’s understandable that producers can let their eagerness get the best of them when contacting record labels. They might make one or a few tracks, and then immediately start to hunt for a label to release them. This is not the most effective strategy though, for a few reasons.

vinyl records, store, shoppingTry to think of it from the labels’ point of view. You get a generic email where someone you know nothing about tells you they “love your label,” and straight away asks you to listen to their music. It kind of looks like a phishing scam…

How do they know you love their label? How do they know you’ve been following their recent releases and aren’t referencing something they put out 5 or 10 years ago?

It’s true that in an ideal world, the music would speak for itself. But in a world where label managers are stretched thin and flooded by email requests from hundreds or thousands of aspiring artists like you, they have to filter their messages. The few emails that catch their attention are the ones that look professional and make a real connection. Remember, they have their own roster of artists do keep up with as well.

It requires a lot of hard work, persistence, and patience. To give you an idea of how difficult it is: since I founded Archipel almost 12 years ago, only 4 (yes, 4!) of our releases began with email outreach. It took all of the producers multiple email attempts to reach me, and we had many conversations before they led to anything concrete.

The problem is that many producers have been formatted into an old approach that’s become obsolete. Gone are the days of label-hunting as a transaction — you send a demo, they like it, bam, you get signed. There are just too many producers and too few labels out there for it to work like that anymore.

Today it’s all about building up trust and establishing a relationship, to eventually get to the point where the label feels comfortable investing in your success.

In short, finding your label match is a process with many steps, and every step — especially that first contact — is equally important. You can’t just skip ahead to the finish line.

The good news is that the first step is the hardest part, which is just getting a reply. You should always do your homework to know who you’re dealing with and what the label’s been up to most recently. Then you can try to get your toe in the door by engaging a conversation, but keeping it brief.

A good strategy is to ask short questions that are quick and easy for them to answer, and that show you’re genuinely interested in their work.

For example, does the label have room in their calendar for new releases? What direction are they pursuing in the next few months?

Our approach to contacting record labels needs to evolve to adapt to new realities.These exploratory questions are useful for you too. They’ll save you time and help you decide if it could be a good match. Try to think of it as a job hunt. Be friendly and courteous, and most importantly, don’t make it all about you. What they really want to know is what you’ll bring to the label, and whether there’s the potential for a fruitful collaboration over time. It has to work for both of you.

Just as resumes are being increasingly overshadowed by LinkedIn in the job market, networking and relationship-building are changing the way artists and labels connect. The game has changed, and we need to change our approach to adapt.

At the end of the day, the winners will be the ones who are invested, persistent and consistent over time, so that they’re well-positioned when the right moment arrives.


  SEE ALSO :   How To Define Your Label’s Identity With Your Sound Engineer  


Hacking the Self-Release Option

Self-releasing an album or EP has become a growing trend for producers who want to get their music out. It’s not hard to see why: with the proliferation of producers, finding a label to release your music has become increasingly competitive. Especially if your goal is to release on vinyl, you can have a long road ahead of you. Everyone wants a vinyl release, but the pressing plants have limited capacity and waiting lists are very long. This can lead many to give up on finding a label and try to go it alone.

searching label, label hunting, demo submission, self-publish, entrepreneurTempting as it can seem though, the self-release option can also be a trap. The last thing you want to do is make a rash decision based mostly on your frustrations, because you can end up regretting it for a long time to come.

The self-release option can make sense for some people, but the decision should be made for the right reasons, and taken only after careful consideration.

As artists, we believe in our own music. It’s our baby, and this self-confidence is what motivates us to keep going. The downside of this is that it makes it extremely difficult to find constructive lessons in failure, or to interpret rejection as anything other than a personal blow.

It’s not personal. The truth is that if you’ve knocked at tons of doors and no one has answered, there could be a reason. This is definitely not the time to go for vinyl! It’s important to heed the red flags, and to learn from them. It could be that the music isn’t there yet, that the label match is wrong, or that the timing is wrong for the genre/style you’re aiming for. Sometimes, ideas can be outdated… but what’s “passé” one day can make a comeback tomorrow, so it’s important to get feedback from active DJs too.

The fact is that timing is crucial. It’s been said that a hit happens when the right artist arrives with the right song, at the right moment. Today, pretty much everyone would agree that Michael Jackson’s Thriller is a classic, but at some point, the record label had to make a tough call about whether the album would resonate with people. Of course, it’s more of an art than a science to try to gauge if a song might break through. But this is what labels do.

With this being said, there are times when self-releasing could pay. But in addition to having the right reasons, you also need to be smart and strategic in how you pursue it. Here are some tips for making the self-release option work for you:

Release on Soundcloud with a free download. There are pros and cons to taking this route. On the plus side, it allows you to consolidate and build up your fan base. But be careful: if you’re letting your eagerness get the best of you, you could also be wasting an opportunity. Just imagine — you’ve given your EP away on Soundcloud, only to get an email a few months later from that sick label you thought had passed you up. Labels can take time to get back to you — a lot of time. Don’t let your lack of patience get in the way of sound judgment.

Release on Bandcamp. Bandcamp has been positioning themselves as the best new way to reach the masses, providing artists with a great platform to gain new followers while getting  paid for their music. You can stream your music, sell it in any format, and set your price, with a pay-what-you-can option that lets you set the minimum amount. If you do go with Bandcamp, be sure to link your page to your Soundcloud profile to get the most from it.

Pursue undercover releases. Finding a middleman to release your music can be a very smart move for your career. Having your music vouched for by someone with reach or influence lends it credibility, and lets you tap into established networks that can carry your music to eager ears. There are a couple different routes you can try here:

  1. This might sound controversial, but try reaching out to music blogs and pirate sites personally, sending your music to them and seeing if they’d be interested in sharing it. If you offer it to them as an exclusive scoop, they’ll be more likely to boost it. (So go site by site, giving them a week or two to respond before moving down your list). We have to think of any outlet with a big following as today’s answer to traditional broadcasters. If a huge number of people are listening to what a site pumps out, then why not try to become their ally? Plus, these sites are usually very knowledgeable about what people want to hear, so they might be able to give you some useful feedback.
  2. Give it to DJs personally by contacting them one on one, especially if they have a podcast. Here too, they’ll be more likely to bite if you offer it to them in exclusivity. Even better is if the DJ does a podcast for an awesome label. If they pick it up, your music will be touched by the label’s soft blessing in a way, and you’ll be killing two birds with one stone by riding the label’s coattails and boosting your exposure even more.

Whichever way you go, always, always be sure to target your outreach carefully, thinking strategically about how to connect with your audience. Whether we’re talking about publications, blogs, DJs or labels, the way to grab their attention is always by making a human connection. It’s hard work, but you can’t cut corners with this. The more time and energy you invest in finding the right people and personalizing your messages, the greater chance you’ll have of piercing through the noise and getting noticed.

Good luck, I’m also here to help, as always.


SEE ALSO :   Strategic Guide To Releases Planning And Production

Make Your Music Bucket List Happen

We all have a bucket list of things we want to accomplish. In a recent music production webinar of mine, I was asked:

What does an artist with 20 years of work have on his bucket list?

listIs there ever an end to new ambitions? I’d say that your bucket list changes a lot through time. I’ll discuss this a bit later. But first, I’ll try to give you some resources to help you achieve your goals (for 2017?).

What are the most common bucket list items I hear about? From the people on my coaching list, they are:

  • Finish a track/EP/Album.
  • Get signed to a label. Release on any medium (digital or analog)
  • Release on vinyl (my track, my EP, my album)
  • Get more gigs. Play abroad.
  • Play my first live set.
  • Collaborate with certain artists I love.
  • Start my own label.

You see, I’ve been there. These were all in my list of things I wanted to accomplish at the beginning too, though not necessarily in the same order. I started playing live before I thought I’d release on vinyl, but it happened. Then I wanted to do a solo EP, and then an album. At the time, they were released on CD (which was as big a deal as vinyl back then). The thing is that when you do one, you often want to do another soon after, to improve on the first. At some point, the “make it better” drive can become a bit more technical in nature, and you might want to approach your next release from a different perspective.

The direction you choose can lead you to aim for a specific label. I’ve tried to do an album for Kompakt, for example, but it led nowhere. The same for Force Inc. Basically, releasing on a specific label opens up a new network of contacts, a new pool of followers, a new territory. If you think strategically, picking a label properly can be extremely valuable for your career.

Now, let’s pinpoint some ideas on how to accomplish your goals. I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m happy to share my own experiences.

synthFinish a track/EP/album. This is the beginning, and it might be the most massive undertaking you’ll tackle. It’s easier for some, more complicated for others. And it won’t get any easier because you’ve finished one. Finishing a project can be a bit of an esoteric puzzle, as it’s evolving constantly as you go. That’s why I’ve published quite a few blog posts on the subject to help you. I’ve also posted a few videos on YouTube on how to start a track,  and it’s mostly the same approach for finishing it. If you’re feeling desperate, I can always coach you personally too. For now though, I’ll just stress the importance of setting yourself a deadline. Asking friends to help you is another thing to consider. But above all, the most useful tip I could give you is to work with a reference track to find inspiration for your tracks’ structure. I’ve written this post about it to get you started.

Get signed to a label. Aside from making music, getting signed might be one of the greatest challenges faced by producers today. There are so many producers and so many labels that it can be overwhelming, and often discouraging. Matchmaking between you and a label can be a bit of a lottery, though I’ve tried to demystify the process for you in this post. As a label owner and manager myself, one of the things I notice the most is that people just don’t know how to sell themselves or how to approach labels to get their attention. You have to see this as job hunting: be professional, try to create a real bond, build friendships, and commit to making it happen. I emphasize the commitment part, because too often people try to reach out in all directions instead of focusing on the right ones. That is a no-no. You have to spend time searching for a label, because getting the fit wrong is a huge deal-breaker.

Release on vinyl. Focus on getting signed first. After, if you can find a label that releases vinyl, this can become possible. I say this because you need to keep a few things in mind: labels don’t release you for fun, and they especially don’t want to lose money. Some distributors will refuse to carry certain releases if the artist has no profile. So if you can release digital first, create a buzz and expand your online presence, this will become more appealing for vinyl labels and distributors. Making music that’s DJ-friendly will also make it easier to get attention.

Get more gigs. This one is difficult, but following this logic could help. Clubs will book you if you bring people in, and therefore sales. If you go out a lot and have a network of people who party with you, this is a good start. Having a great Soundcloud profile isn’t enough to get you a booking. You might be great technically, but it doesn’t mean that people will show up. You need a certain buzz or some releases. Invest yourself in playing a lot, even the boring gigs, and make sure to make tons of contacts. Every extra contact has the potential to lead somewhere. I remember once I was super nice to a guy who came to say hi after one of my gigs, and it made him so happy. Months later, he contacted me for a really great gig… karma!

Play my first live set. This will happen once you understand how to finish tracks. You can then convert your tracks to a live set. If you can learn to jam, this is the best way to get started. I plan to cover this topic in another post soon. Stay tuned.

beach partyCollaborate with certain artists I love. This will sound too good to be true, but there’s nothing like trying to meet artists in person first. It’s true that with much persistence, you could make a lot of online connections through Facebook or Soundcloud. But meeting in person is the only way to know if you might really have an affinity with him/her. Imagine that your hero turns out to be a dick, for example. That’s not a great investment of your time and energies.

Start my own label. This has become easier than ever, which is why there are so many labels out there. If you dig a little, you’ll find all the details on how to get started. But here’s an important tip: don’t start a label because your music doesn’t get attention. If it doesn’t, there might be a good reason for it (ex. badly mixed or weak content). Also, don’t start a label alone. Get help at the beginning.

So, to end where we started, what does my bucket list look like?

dj outside partyActually, it’s pretty empty. I have ongoing needs and desires like anyone, but not really professional goals anymore. The things on my list are mostly related to my friends. Basically, I’m more excited to finish music and share it with my friends than to see it on vinyl or on sale. It’s weird to explain, but I feel more accomplished knowing that certain close DJ friends of mine will play it than by trying to conquer a market. It just involves so much hassle. It can take months or years for music to get out.

I still want to release music, but I’m mainly focused these days on the desire and need to share something, a story. Strategic releases still happen. But I’m more interested in working with friends. Collaborations are one of the biggest driving forces for me now. It’s this kind of special experience that takes me to the next level.


SEE ALSO : Strategic Guide To Releases Planning And Production


Photo by Gavin Whitner

Getting signed to a label

One of the things I notice most from the artists I hang out with is how obsessed they can be about getting signed to a label.

But one of the main reasons people fail is that they’re doing it wrong.

You probably already know how to send in a demo, but do you know how to pick a label? Just like when picking a reference track, you need to find all possible references of the label you want to work with. You need to do your homework.

Don’t get me wrong. Even when I make a new track, there’s always that little voice at the back of my head saying, “Oh, this might fit this or that label.” And if I’ve been contacted recently, then I might if you're having trouble getting signed to a label, you could be targeting the wrong peoplealready have a lead, which makes it easier. Admittedly, at my stage I have a lot of contacts and receive a lot requests, plus I run my own record label, so the question of where to publish my music isn’t as much of an issue. But still, sometimes it is.

If your approach isn’t succeeding in getting you signed, it could be that you’re poorly targeting the labels you’re submitting to. In other words, labels don’t always sign artists for their music only.

They make decisions based on a number of considerations.

Does your approach match how they think? Getting to an A&R (the “artists and repertoire” division of labels) is not easy. You need to find who picks the label’s music so you can submit your music to them. Forget writing to random email addresses or messaging Soundcloud profiles. Trust me, it doesn’t work this way. Instead, try reaching out to an artist who’s already on board to find the right contact. If you can meet them in person, it’s always the best thing to do.

Do you share the same networks? Are you friends with artists on the label? Are you following the same artists on Soundcloud? Is the A&R friends with some of your friends on Facebook? Being socially close to them can really help.

Does your profile answer a need? This one is crucial. Each label has its own ways of doing things and is carefully building up its catalogue just like a DJ prepares their set for a gig. If you’re a DJ, you know that you want certain tracks in your set. You’re avidly searching for a specific sound or rhythm, or a particular song structure, mood, or tone. A label owner has musical needs too. They usually follow trends partly, but they also flow from past influences. It helps to refer to the label’s past releases, but it’s even better if you’re up on what they’re into now. This can be a game-changer.


One of the biggest challenges is to find the perfect match between an artist and a record label The biggest challenge nowadays is to find the perfect match between a label and an artist. Exactly like love, there’s a perfect match for you out there, but how to find it is something that technology has yet to achieve. So, how do you find your label?

Well, first let’s examine a little scenario to give us some context. Let’s say you finished a track based on a reference track by X artist. That reference track is your biggest lead for whom to send it to. But if you’re not yet well known or have very few releases to your name, then sending it to the best or biggest label out there — even if your reference track is released with them — is a very bad idea. Not only are huge labels swamped with demo submissions, but they’re also super picky. The fact is that your reference track likely had to follow a winding road to get that label. So let’s investigate.


Finding your label match takes time, patience, and lots of research. Here are a few cues of where to start.

Soundcloud. The holy grail of every possible kind of music, from unreleased to released, and featuring every possible label out there. Have a close look at your potential labels, and check out who they follow and who follows them. Dig, dig, and keep on digging. Give attention to who leaves comments. Those guys can be really useful because they might like various labels/artists you’re investigating.

DJ sets. Listen to DJ sets to find who plays music like yours. Get the track lists to find out what they play, find what other tracks DJs like to mix those with, and then investigate the artists similar to you and see what labels they’re on. Mixcloud also provides tracklists for DJ sets.

Beatport is a great tool for researching music and labels


Charts. Once you have a track list, go on Beatport to find charts and recommendations. You can find a bunch of labels there, so check out their back catalogues and investigate some more.




Discogs. Browse the discographies and look at past releases. When you select one, Discogs will offer you album suggestions, which in turn can point you to more labels. You can really dig deep that way.

Discogs is another way to discover new music and record labels

Spotify also offers new music recommendations, which will help you find new labels to submit toSpotify. This is another way to find new music. When you select an artist, it will give you suggestions. Note how whenever you swap from one to another, the algorithms will formulate new recommendations.


Think away, do your homework, and plan carefully before submitting your demos. Our label gets so many demos that we can allow ourselves to be very picky, and it’s the same for many of them out there. It’s about much more than presentation at this point — it’s about being spot on with who you target, and then selling yourself with a push from someone they know and respect. You’ll have a much harder time if you try to go it alone.

SEE ALSO : Besides music, labels are searching for these traits 

How Will A Music Label Find Me?

This blog post will focus on one of the anxieties that every new music producer gets in this turbulent and busy world, which is: how to reach a music label aside from sending in demos.

Can your music make it to the ears of a label owner?

Following one of my most popular posts on how to send demos, this post will focus on the opposite approach, which is to slowly get labels to come to you instead of hunting them down. Call it reverse psychology if you want, but it could also be called the art of letting go. As Einstein said,

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

To understand how a label works and to help you prepare your strategy, perhaps I can share my own experience first. Here are some pointers:

Being a label owner is a bit like being a talent scout in sports. You have a routine of listening to music from within your own circle and of checking your preferred sources like charts and podcasts, as well as finding music through friends of label artists. Then there are moments where you’re a bit freer or more curious, and you’ll dig through SoundCloud for a few hours. I found some pretty incredible artists on SoundCloud and I find that it’s easier than ever to find unknown artists — raw talent. But while it’s easier and more exciting than ever to find unsigned artists, it’s also overwhelming.

The label owner and yourself face the same issue: how can you connect to each other to form a perfect match?

Maybe you don’t realize this, but you might not yet know which label will be your main career companion. It’s a bit like finding true love; it’s out there, but it needs the right timing to happen.

As the label grows, the owner tends to want to sign friends of the label’s artists and artists related to those that have already been signed.


Mainly because, in my case, I want to deal with people I feel are great to work with. Also, because while the music label is defining its sound, I want to keep some sort of logical progression from release to release. I won’t sign in a rush, or sign a track that sounds crazy good without knowing who I will be dealing with. Difficult and finicky personas are my pet peeve, and I will try to stay far away from them.

Running multiple projects can become messy with difficult people.

Dealing with contracts and such is so annoying, and I’d As an electronic music producer, networks and networking are extremely important for helping a record label labels find YOUprefer doing it with someone who clicks with me. I trust my friends more than Facebook or a polite exchange over email.

So what does that tell you? How do music labels get to you if they want to sign you?

Stop worrying about labels, and instead work on your network. Spend more time connecting with artists who inspire you. Befriend newer artists who also struggle. That struggling artist or that other dude you met can eventually be helpful at some point.

Some inspiration to meet people:

  • Soundcloud: Follow artists that inspire you. Comment on their tracks and go listen to people who also love the tracks.
  • Soundcloud groups: There are nice communities out there that you can join and where you can post your new ideas. Some music label owners are also there sometimes.
  • Facebook groups: If you search a bit, you’ll find many groups you can join. People will discuss topics or share a new find. There’s always something to read.
  • Google Hangouts: A bit like Facebook but one great feature is to have group video calls. Then you can talk all together. Quite fun.

The music label that needs to work with you will find you at the right moment, when they need to. It demands a certain faith in the process, but while waiting, go back to learning sound design and making new friends.