How to Get Meetings with Record Labels

By Tiara Ogabang

This article will explain how to get meetings with record labels in two ways, so you can both secure a meeting and position yourself for it.

A lot of people can't get a meeting with a record label, and that's a shame. After all, record labels are among the most powerful organizations in the music business. You've spent years thinking of how to enter the industry – you know what you want, and how you want to get it.

What's more, record labels are a great source of advice – someone who actually gets the music business. They don't have time to meet every celebrity they think will get you the deal.

For some, it's simply a case of showing them your track – you've spent countless hours working on it, why not tell them why? But for many others, they're after more serious advice on what they're doing right and where they might be going wrong.

These are the people who can guide you towards the future, and give you the direction to get you there.

You're going to need to prove that you've got the right attitude and make sure your track is fully recorded. If you have an awesome demo, they'll want to see it, and you might be able to use their artist's email to get them to listen. Or they might have your track as part of their artist's management catalog.

When in doubt, call the company

When in doubt, call the company

Email is generally more approachable. A phone call can be intimidating to anyone – especially if they're busy. So, when I talk to someone about a meeting, the first thing I'll ask them is 'do you want to talk to someone about a deal?'

The ideal outcome of a meeting is to secure a deal. But let's not get too over-complicated about it. Getting a meeting with a record label isn't a multi-step process that's only ever successful if you get the 'perfect' answer, because they may just not be looking for it. But, if they're interested, you can find common ground and start to create some options.

Emailing a record label is often a good start. What I'd do if emailing an executive at a record label is take the meeting by telephone, since I doubt they have the bandwidth to chat to hundreds of people at the same time. This won't work for everyone, but it does work for me, and it also means you're talking to someone who has the flexibility to respond in under 60 seconds.

Get a meeting for your track

Get a meeting for your track

Emailing an executive at a record label is usually the best way to get a meeting, but what if you want a personal meeting?

If you have an awesome demo, they'll want to see it. But you need to be realistic about how much of it they'll be able to listen to. Even if they say they love your track, they're also worried about the time and effort it'll take to make it the best it can be.

What they'll be looking for is a complete demo, which needs to show that your music works. They're not going to pay for the music, but they're going to want to hear it. If you're honest, and tell them you've got half an hour to prove that you're going to give them a good demo, and that you'll give them another update when you've got 10 minutes, they'll probably say they'll come along to watch it.

So, where do I send that demo?

You may think that paying someone to produce a demo is a waste of time. But it's not. I don't know any full-time songwriters who write their own music for a living who aren't involved in a production company – they're doing it as part of their job. And when you need to find an industry demo company, ask a friend or a colleague to recommend a company they're happy with.

You'll also need to figure out who's going to write it. This is probably one of the most important parts of your job – so don't leave this until the last minute. Find out about their facilities, how long it takes them to get a demo ready, and whether they're looking for freelance songwriters or artists.

Recruit a demo songwriter

Recruit a demo songwriter

Another way to get a demo song is to recruit someone to produce it. But the price can be much higher than it would be to get someone to write it in-house, so make sure you know what to ask for.

How long will it take? This varies according to how experienced a producer you want. If you want something to play for you and your A&R guy over lunch, they might be happy to knock it together in a day. But a more in-depth demo is more complex, so will take much longer.

If you're interested in hiring a live session drummer to play on the track, you need to ask for some sample takes first. Don't expect them to play their heart out, but at least have some audio to show you what they'll be expected to do.

When you do get a demo to your A&R guy, you're now starting to build a deal. The A&R guy can come along to your gig, and listen to your track with an open mind, and try to help you make a more interesting demo.

If they really like it, they might even want to get involved in making the track more interesting for you. But, you can be certain they'll want to hear the finished demo before they sign it.

It can be tempting to throw together a demo in a couple of days. But, this isn't the best way to do it. Most of the time, if you spend more time on a demo, you end up with something that's better. Don't rush a demo, or it'll be a shoddy mess.

Come up with a songwriting formula

We're not going to get deep into songwriting with our advice, but we will suggest one thing you can do to make your demo stand out. It might seem like common sense, but writing a song using the same sort of style you'd use to write for friends and family, is a formula for disaster.

Whenever you write a song for someone, it doesn't feel genuine. But if you apply the rule of "Let's take my influences and make it sound like them" and take your inspiration from the music that you listen to – you can create a track that feels original.