Check out The Best DJ Controllers of 2022.

Does A Music Producer Get Signed to A Record Label?

Music production has become a very popular career choice in recent years. With so many people creating and distributing their music, it takes a lot of work for music producers to get signed to a record label. However, can a music producer get signed to a record label?

Unfortunately, not knowing how to get signed to a record label can lead to a lack of exposure.

Image of a music producer while recording music inside a studio. Source: antoni shkraba production, pexels
Image of a music producer while recording music inside a studio. Source: Antoni Shkraba Production, Pexels

This article covers what a record label is, offers tips for how music producers can get signed to a record label, and explores the pros and cons of being signed to a record label. So if you’re looking for a way to get your music out there or just want some advice on the process, this post is for you!

Can a music producer get signed to a record label? It’s more complex for music producers to be signed to labels than for musicians. To make music that is popular and makes money, the producer often needs creativity and experience. Before giving a music producer a record contract, a label would look at several things, such as their profile, popularity, and fan base. A music producer with the chops to get the job done might be signed quickly by record companies catering primarily to producers.

What is a record label?

A “record label” is a company that promotes and sells albums and other music-related media. A&R, which stands for “artists and repertoire,” is in charge of finding and developing new talent, while other people in the business focus on publishing and protecting intellectual property.

The success of a record company depends on the popularity of its musicians and the label’s name, making marketing a top priority.

What are the different types of record labels?

Let’s take a look at the various record labels and agreements that exist. Most producers who seek my label’s guidance do so out of concern that it will influence them too much. It’s a valid worry, but things rarely turn out this way.

Knowing how record deals and labels work in different parts of the world will help you understand what’s happening.

Major labels

Sony, EMI, Warner, and Universal are the “big four” of the music business. These labels typically engage in 360-degree deals (we’ll get to this in a bit) and exert considerable influence over the artist’s career. While it’s every musician’s dream to get signed to a major label, doing so often means giving up significant creative freedom.

Over the past few years, record labels, especially those specializing in electronic music, have been using their subsidiaries as a primary means of expunging any negative publicity associated with their artists. Nevertheless, major labels are still very influential in the pop music industry.

Major label subsidiary

Several record labels appear independent (and perhaps once were) but are branches of the four major labels. Before signing with a label, it’s important to do your research because even labels started by artists can be bought by the Big 4.

Having said that, subsidiaries strike a fine balance between marketing savvy and reluctance to sell out. As a result, the parent company typically has less hands-on involvement as long as the subsidiary generates revenue.

Large independent labels

Although the vast majority of indie labels are quite modest in size, there are a few exceptions. These record labels are unusual since the majors often acquire them as they emerge. In addition, large independent record companies care more about their artists than the majors and their subsidiaries and have a greater marketing budget to promote their releases.

Small independent labels

Most electronic music is released on tiny, independent labels, often managed by the musicians who create the music. Even though they don’t have as many resources as big companies, independent labels may be able to help you promote your music.

At the beginning of your career as an artist, unless you plan on self-releasing, you will likely be working with smaller independent labels. Without a preexisting fan base, it’s tough to be signed by a big label or one of its subsidiaries, and the majors are notoriously picky.

But don’t let that discourage you; tiny labels may be fantastic to work with (depending on who you’re dealing with) and a tremendous learning experience. In addition, hundreds of thousands of labels to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that works for you if you put in the time. However, this is contingent upon the details of your record agreement.

How can music producers get signed to a record label?

A producer’s chances of getting signed by a label depending on how well they have done on their own, with a small group of artists they produce, in developing a unique musical style, or in creating a marketable brand identity and larger-than-life persona.

However, getting hired by a label depends on factors like personal connections, general fame, and professional prowess. Indeed, labels frequently hire producers for various projects, so it’s reasonable to assume this is a more practical option.

Work on your skills

Learn to maximize your output. Read extensively. Try everything out. Collaborate with a wide range of musicians. Experiment with various processes, tools, and sets to see what works best. Then, you should be ready to work on certain tasks for free.

There is always something new to learn if your mixes are already on par with the top 40 productions. Therefore, avoid trying to rush it. Those who can create successfully do so through hard work and dedication.

Develop your signature sound

Establish yourself as the go-to producer for a certain sound, style, or genre. The next piece of advice may seem at odds with the preceding one, which encouraged listening to a wide range of artists and musical genres to push oneself, but hear me out:

First, no matter you are preferred aesthetic, you can always get valuable experience by working on various projects. As a second point, it will likely take a lot of research and trial-and-error to establish your unique sound. It will require time and effort, no matter how you view it. You can only decide to become a producer now and have everything you want magically appear in your lap tomorrow.

Yet if you can develop a distinctive style that resonates with the masses, you may position yourself as the industry standard. Some of the obstacles to signing as a producer (as opposed to a performer) have previously been discussed.

Record labels are only interested in signing performers with a marketable image. They usually have a fan base and a history of success before releasing an album. Therefore, signing will be easier if you focus on your image and brand. Ask yourself: what do you want your identity to be? Whose accomplishments may you want to copy and use as a guide? What kind of person would it take to be a “no-brainer” for a record company to sign them?

Those are very serious issues to ponder since the answers to these will determine how successful a musician you will be. Of course, creating at a high level is essential for signing, but the work presented is just as crucial.

Again, it may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re looking for people to emulate, remember to bring your unique perspective to the table. That information could be the deciding factor in your future success.

Find your collaborators

Most media sources would have you think that everyone who has achieved success has done it on their own. Yet, a group of equally impressive people is almost always working behind the scenes on each major achievement. This is information they’d rather keep hidden from you.

Building an “inner circle” of like-minded musicians, collaborators, and team members can help you advance in the business.

You may model your practices after those of a big record label and put out two albums every year, including the work of each of your artists. One option is to launch a smaller label to sell it to a larger one. If you’re willing to be creative, you can find many routes to your goal.

However, even those who claim otherwise are not self-made. They needed help from a magazine article, book, course, mentor, agency, or some other source at some point. They had to find the inner strength to keep going when it felt like nothing was happening in their professional lives. Build a strong team, and you can increase output to previously unimaginable heights.

Remember the business side of music.

Producers, like artists, are passionate about their work. Consequently, they take pleasure in deliberating over such production minutiae as mic placement, vintage EQs, etc.

But there’s a brutal fact that few musicians are prepared to face: improving at your craft isn’t how the music industry works (i.e., learning more about music production). Marketing oneself is the bedrock of success in the music industry. To be sure, negotiations, contracts, legalities, and other bureaucratic fine points are still crucial. Maintain an air of professionalism.

Moreover, if you want your projects to be seen by a wide audience, you can only depend on the artists you collaborate with to spread the word. Therefore, educating yourself on basic advertising and marketing techniques would be helpful.

Unfortunately, the artists’ and the producers’ fatal blunder is the same: they believe they can delegate the marketing of their work to an outsider or agency. However, no one can promote you as effectively as you can, so you should make the most of your time and money by studying as much as you can about marketing.

Remember that working together will help you achieve your goals more quickly. Your success may be hampered if you rely on musicians to promote their albums. You must also be prepared to exert effort. Furthermore, if you are skilled in marketing, you can include this in your talks. Learning about the music industry almost certainly won’t hurt you.

The advantages and disadvantages of being signed to a record label

Pros

Now we may discuss the benefits of these record labels, the most notable of which is publicity.

Exposure

Signing with a major label means increased exposure since the label is already established, has more resources, and can potentially reach more people worldwide.

If you sign with an indie label, you will still gain publicity, but it will generally be directed to a smaller, more specific audience. For example, if you were a heavy metal band signed to Napalm Records, your music would mostly reach fellow metal enthusiasts, not those who listen to other genres. Getting your music heard by more people is essential if you want to gain a larger fan base and make more money as a musician.

Paid for and advance payments

The second major benefit of getting signed to a record company is that the label will cover the costs of recording sessions, album production, and marketing. This is a major plus since many unsigned musicians struggle to cover the high costs of studio time, production services, and marketing.

Home recording is now an extremely viable alternative, and learning to make your music is a smart move to save costs on outside production services.

If you’re interested in developing your music production skills and business knowledge, we offer a foundation degree in music production and business here at CM. You can learn more about our courses by visiting our dedicated website. When signing a record contract, most musicians get a cash advance, which is eventually recouped via royalties.

Image of a music producer in a recording studio. Source: rodnae productions, pexels
Image of a music producer in a recording studio. Source: Rodnae Productions, Pexels

Cons

Less creative freedom

This is one of the major drawbacks of being a member of a record company. Most artists exhibit originality and individuality in their music and image, with the opportunity of changing things up a little from time to time. As a result, many creative people agree with you. Some of the larger record companies have whole departments devoted to molding and sculpting musicians into something that will sell.

But, of course, it’s not so much of a scam if you’re an artist who’s just interested in the money and is okay with the A&R departments assuming creative control. Remember that even if independent companies may provide their artists with greater freedom to express their artistic vision, they still rely on your music for financial success.

Income percentages

Signing with a record label and having a cut of the profits from your music is another drawback.

Artists typically get 20% of earnings from significant record agreements, with the record company keeping the remaining 80%. The exposure and advance payments mentioned above are the only silver linings to these deals. While the major labels typically pay out in advance, some independent labels will agree to a split of up to 50%. When an artist signs with a small label, they may get less publicity than when they sign with a major.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “How To Get Signed To A Major Record Label” from the Damian Keyes YouTube channel.

A video called “How To Get Signed To A Major Record Label” from the Damian Keyes YouTube channel.
Advertisements

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about if music producers can get signed to a record label.

How do producers get signed to record labels?

Sending demos to a record label is recommended. To submit a demo, you often send it to a designated email address or drop it off at a physical location. Then, if the label’s A&R team likes your song, they may contact you to sign you.

Do music producers have labels?

Although only some music producers will launch their own record labels, those with an entrepreneurial spirit will treat their labels as an extension of their creative process. When a record label starts up, finding and signing the best music to release is important. Following your heart when it comes to music is crucial.

Do labels pay producers?

The record company may pay producers an advance, a flat fee under a work-for-hire contract, or a percentage of the label’s profits, known as master royalty points. Payment of royalties to producers typically begins once the initial recording costs have been recovered.

How do record producers get noticed?

Invest serious money into creating a high-quality demo that will impress potential backers. The higher the quality of your music, the more attention you will get from record companies. A professional production will not only make the music better for everyone to listen to but also show a record label that you want to succeed on your own merits.

Conclusion

While the process for a music producer to get signed can be long and frustrating, it’s all about finding someone capable of creating a great product. Intelligence, creativity, and passion are some traits that will put you on top.

However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great music producer by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.

This article covered a record label, the types of record labels, and how a music producer can get signed to a record label. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • The term “record label” refers to the businesses that promote and sell albums and related media.
  • Take a look at the various record labels and agreements that exist.
  • A producer’s chances of getting signed by a label depend on their demonstrated ability to either establish a successful solo career, rapidly advance the careers of a small group of artists they produce, develop a distinctive musical style, or create a marketable brand identity and larger-than-life persona.
  • Extra tips:
  • Getting signed by a big record label is the pinnacle of success for every aspiring singer, rapper, songwriter, producer, musician, or band.
  • You should know that you may be given a little advance, so you may consider signing the contract or recording the deal again.
  • In the realm of electronic dance music, the majority of agreements are typically run-of-the-mill royalty deals or licensing agreements.

So, do you like your music to get signed on recording labels? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

Helpful resources

Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

Leave a Comment