In this article, we cover 5 tips on how to get a record deal, based on our observations working with A&Rs at major labels, publishers and subsidiaries.
As independent A&R Consultants, one of the most common questions musicians ask us is how to get a record deal and what labels are looking for in the talent and music they sign.
While there is no single answer to this, and it’s not an exact science, there are indeed certain guidelines that can help you prepare to attract key music industry decision-makers, like the major label contacts we at AVRIALITY™ (pronounced “Our Reality”) and AvrConsultancy™ (“Our Consultancy”) have been enlisted to directly consult for.
To understand how to get a record deal, you will need to know who is making the decisions regarding which musicians and songs get consideration to be signed to the given label, and what they tend to be watching and listening for when considering offering a record deal to an artist, producer or songwriter.
If you’d like, you can get a Free Music Review and discuss your music career with you personally, over a free live A&R consultancy call.
Here are 5 tips to help you prepare, in the meantime.
The first person your music will be heard by is called an A&R Executive. A&R stands for “Artists & Repertoire” — in other words meaning the artists the label signs and the music they release (repertoire means: the artist’s song catalog).
The A&R selects these, and then must report their findings to their superiors within the record company, thereafter. There is immense pressure on every A&R at a label to be uber-selective.
An artist, songwriter or producer who wants to know how to get a record deal should do their research on what a particular label tends to release, prior to aiming to get a deal with that particular company.
It can help to be in contact with others in the business (outside of the given record company) — like the independent A&R consultants at our A&R consultancy firm (for example) — who have direct relationships with major labels, publishers and subsidiaries.
We have at our disposal detailed intel into what each label is looking for and how to approach the A&Rs, and can give you valuable insight into how to get a record deal.
Let us give your music a listen via a free meeting, and discuss a strategy on what labels to pitch it to, which A&Rs we might target and what development your songs and projects may need in order to be “ready for primetime,” so to speak.
Schedule a Free Music Review A&R meeting with us and we can have this discussion, as a starting point.
If your music is not compatible with a label’s existing roster — the list of artist projects the label currently represents — you will be potentially wasting your and their time by submitting your work to them.
That’s not to say all record companies are listening for music that is super close to what they have already put out. On the contrary.
Sounding like a clone of other artists currently represented by a record company you’re planning to send music to is definitely not the secret of how to get a record deal: you should be commercially-viable but also have an edge that makes you different!
It’s a balancing act between that and also, naturally, still being at least somewhat compatible — especially genre-wise — with the existing roster of artists at the given label.
However, many musicians who have no idea how to get a record deal will typically make the mistake of sending music to companies that don’t release music that is in the same general vibe and genre range.
An interesting fact is that each A&R at a given record company specializes in specific genres and subgenres that other A&Rs at the same label may have no interest in.
So, when you’re trying to figure out how to get a record deal, it can also help to research which particular A&Rs tend to handle songs and artist projects that are at least somewhat similar to your material.
If you wanna go the extra mile, develop a connection with an A&R consultant like those at our firm. We can help you understand how to get a record deal, by sharing with you precisely what the labels are telling us they are looking for at any given moment.
We have updated industry insider access to such information regularly sent to us, which is provided by personnel at major labels and subsidiaries in the US who trust our judgment in what music to forward to them.
Get in touch for a Free Music Review over a real time call with one of our A&R consultants, and we’ll go from there.
To learn how to get a record deal, first and foremost, you have to learn to always put your best foot forward. It’s crucial that the A&R you send your work to hears your very best, strongest songs first.
Atlantic Records, a leading subsidiary of Warner Music Group (one of the “Big Three”) — some of whose Senior A&R Directors we have directly consulted by their request — is quite vocal about the importance of having the right song (which comes before all else).
With that said, you only get one chance at a first impression. Perhaps the most crucial thing a musician who is trying to figure out how to get a record deal should focus on is narrowing down a short list of their best songs to potentially submit.
You may have your favorites, but what can really help you, as far as how to get a record deal, is to have an experienced third party (such as our A&R consultants, who help labels screen music) review your material and give you feedback as to which songs are best to send in first.
It is pretty much industry standard to only send in your best 3 songs in the first go. For one, this is because labels are very busy and don’t have time to dig through your album or your Spotify to see what your best songs are.
Speaking of streaming, your best music may not already have your biggest number of plays or streams on various platforms. Perhaps you are trying to figure out how to get a record deal and have a new song you haven’t released, or a song that you just have yet to do any paid marketing on, which is stronger than those that have the most plays.
If you’d like help learning more about how to get a record deal and determining which records or songs of yours have the greatest hit potential, and would like someone who knows what qualities a hit song has, a Free Music Review — in real time over a quick, casual call — is a great place to start.
Our A&R consultants can assist you with selecting your best 3 songs and getting them in the right hands and, more important, from the right sources.
While we’re talking about sources, another super fundamental consideration of how to get a record deal is to recognize the fact that most major labels and their divisions (known as subsidiaries) do not accept unsolicited material.
A huge misstep an artist, producer or songwriter who is less experienced may do — which demonstrates they have little to no grasp on how to get a record deal — is that they will send their music directly to a record company without first checking to see if the label accepts unsolicited material.
Unsolicited material is music they have not requested and/or isn’t from a source with whom they have an existing relationship, like our A&R consultants, who know what the given company’s A&R representatives are specifically looking for currently.
A manager who is very “connected” can be a great liaison to get your music to the right people and help you with tips on how to get a record deal. The biggest managers are hard to get a hold of and are very selective on whom they sign, as well, though.
If you don’t have contacts with anyone connected to decision-makers in the industry — as most unsigned musicians don’t — and are unsure how to get a record deal, we would love to hear your material.
Assuming your music and project meet our criteria for what we tend to forward, we will have a far better chance of getting it heard and discovered than you are likely to have on your own, since we have the relationships with the label and therefore it is not received as being “unsolicited.”
When considering how to get a record deal, it’s worth noting that we also have managers — including those who represent celebrity recording artists, songwriters and producers — who reach out to us on a regular basis to help them get in touch with labels and/or to find the right collaborators for specific projects.
So feel free to have your manager reach out to us, if you have one, or we may do a group call with you and your management. Or if you’re looking for a manager, we may be able to match one up with you, depending.
You can schedule a Free Music Review and speak with one of our A&R consultants.
Universal Music Group — a company with whom we’re connected via some of their senior A&R directors for both the label and their publishing division, UMPG — takes very seriously the power music has to move the hearts and minds of human beings.
Their hyper-awareness of the power of music likely accounts for much of the reason they have dominated as one of the “Big Three” major labels for decades. Something to remember in your strategy of how to get a record deal with a label like Universal.
I have a saying: “Sometimes only the song understands.” How true is that? When a song you hear “gets you,” it can feel like your song. It becomes a part of your experience, part of who you are, part of your memories. Right?
It may seem obvious, but it’s worth indicating that, when putting together a gameplan of how to get a record deal — especially a major label or major subsidiary — your music is going to need to reach a mass audience.
Your material should have mass appeal by resonating with trending and/or timeless topics that make people today really feel something, ideally in a way that hasn’t been done (again, having an edge or signature sound/vibe).
You can begin to identify potential mass appeal — and get closer to mastering the art of how to get a record deal — by seeing what your early fans are into, but also by analyzing what subject matter the biggest hits seem to be touching on.
If you already have some traction — in terms of building a fan base and generating streaming numbers, for example — a label may find this attractive, because it shows you already have an ability to reach at least a niche audience.
However, many labels don’t consider traction a requirement for deals, so it’s not necessarily a “rule” for how to get a record deal. The best A&Rs are brilliant at identifying hit potential before anyone else does. So while you may want to do some of the work yourself first — if you have an incredible project — you may not need to.
But yes, pay attention to who your fans are and what most of them gravitate towards, as far as interests and topics, as well as their main pain and pleasure points. This is key to understanding your “target market,” also known as your “target demographic.”
A potential hit song needs to really “hit a nerve” and reach deep into the souls of as many listeners as possible in a way that makes them feel related-to. And this is also why it’s important, as far as how to get a record deal, that your lyrics are conversational and easy to understand by the average person.
At AvrConsultancy™, our A&R consultants can work with you on proven methodology that will make your songs not only more catchy and memorable, but also teach you specific techniques to ensure your song lyrics and topics are likely to grab a label A&Rs’ attention — and ultimately, the attention of a mass audience of listeners.
We help creatives who may not know exactly how to get a record deal determine whether they are truly ready for a deal — and, if not, what they can do to prepare.
This is done not only via an assessment and of your work — and we can also work with you to assess and develop your music and project ongoing — but also via our SMASHED HITS™ Methodology Masterclasses, which reveal songwriting formulas for both music and lyrics as well as production secrets, which are proven to work in #1 songs and other hits on the recent Billboard® Hot 100 charts.
If you really want to know how to get a record deal, hopefully these tips have given you a general idea — and we can give you more specific insights, if you’d like to get in touch.
Let’s see what level you’re operating at. If we feel you’re ready, we’ll do our best to get your music heard by the right A&Rs. (We do not charge anything to simply listen to music or forward our best selections to our major A&R contacts, by the way.)
In the event we hear possible areas of advancement that can increase your chances at getting a record deal — and you agree that you can advance in this area — we may suggest the possibility to assist you with development, while guiding you regarding how to get a record deal, to help you bring your A-Game and hopefully reach that finish line.
Schedule a Free Music Review now and let us help you Level Up Your Music Game. We look forward to hearing from you.
Optionally, you may prefer to Learn More to become more familiar with us prior to scheduling. We also welcome you to view our FAQ, to answer any commonly-asked questions you may have about our services. Or you may Contact Us directly if your question isn’t listed there, and we’ll be happy to provide further information, as needed.
Either way: There’s nothing to lose and a future in music to gain.
We look forward to hearing from you.
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