One of the things I hear bands talk about often is getting signed to a record label. Of course, it’s pretty much one of two options as a musician of any kind, to go the independent route (read former Cormorant bass/vox Arthur Von Nagel’s Anatomy of a Record Contract to hear more) or to sign with a label, which has its ups and downs.
IF you have in fact decided to seek out a label to release your material for you, despite there being less signings these days due to the weirdness of the new music industry model, there are still labels that take unsolicited submissions.
Sonicbids.com (a website for finding and booking gigs) has been kind enough to compile a list of ones for metal and hardcore.
Here’s some of what they have to say about it:
While metal and hardcore get a lot of major label support, there are still plenty who’ve remained independent and continue to cultivate their prowess. Among them, there’s just a handful that still accept unsolicited material from bands. Listed below are the cream of the crop, a benevolent bunch still proud to champion deserving up-and-coming acts.
Best for: Metal, hard rock
Why we love it: Though it all technically began in Pasadena in 1998, it wasn’t until 2005, after moving its offices to Brooklyn, that The End found its surest footing. The label inked deals with bands ranging from Badly Drawn Boy and the Lemonheads to Danzig and Anvil to Mindless Self Indulgence. The roster’s always been expansive in terms of styles – it’s even got Fatboy Slim now – but their penchant for heavier sounds remains a priority.
How to submit: There’s a specific email address listed for EPKs and demos on its contact page.
To see the rest of the list and more click here.
Keep in mind, the music industry has changed a great deal in the last 5-10 years, and it’s not the same as it used to be. There are many bands that are able to make enough impact through their own social media, viral marketing, and pounding the pavement to sell records (downloads?) and merch, which allows them to keep 100% of the profits. This is unlike any deal you will get on a label, which gives you a far uglier percentage of your sales. Remember that a label is essentially a bank, that gives you a loan, that needs to be paid back before you get paid.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo are basically the new platform for fans to pre-order music from independent artists. Protest the Hero raised over $300,000 on Indiegogo for their most recent album and were able to record and release it on their own terms. Rather than having to borrow from a label, this model allows you to gauge interest before you even begin recording and then you’ve already sold the albums (or not, if you don’t make your goal, in which case you need to build more) before you make them, so the risk is far lower. Then after the albums are delivered, your obligation ends and you can rinse and repeat.
Now, I won’t discourage you from starting a relationship with a label. They have connections and services that can take you far beyond where you could go on your own. But it is VERY important to sign with a label at the right time in your career, when you have LEVERAGE. A contract can only work if it is mutually beneficial, because a record label is a business and they don’t make money just because you’re good at your instruments or have great songs, they make money from selling stuff to people who aren’t your mom. So you have to be able to (together) sell enough stuff (music, merch, high-fives) to make everyone enough money to make it worth everyone’s time.
Think of it like this – expecting a label to sign you based solely on a demo you send, even a good one, is like expecting someone to marry you based on a photograph you send them. It’s just a first step toward establishing a relationship.
So if your band is pulling heads to shows, you have rabid fans, and already sell a bit of the aforementioned stuff, then the label might come to you. This is the best possible outcome for this path. According to Misha Mansoor of Periphery, a record deal you have to go looking for isn’t one you want. That might be a little exaggerated, only because it’s possible they might just not have heard of you and submitting might tip them off. But make enough noise, and eventually you’ll get some attention, and if the timing is right, an arrangement may come together that benefits both you and the label.
So take a look at the list. Decide if any of them might make a good home for your band, (do you know what the bands on those labels sound like? Do you sound like any of them? Do you like their business model?) make sure your presskit is super tits, and oh yeah, make sure your music doesn’t suck – THEN submit. Send your THREE BEST SONGS. If you already have an album, you don’t need a recording contract, you need distribution. And that’s an article for another day.