If you can get signed to a UK record label, it will open up a wealth of opportunities. You get help accessing great gigs and support to record your tracks professionally. But it’s not easy, it’s a competitive industry and you have to be very talented.
Do you want to make it big as a singer? If so, you’ll need top management, representation and a music distributor. Read on to find out what you need to do to give yourself the best possible chance of getting a record deal.
How to get signed to UK record labels
Nobody can guarantee you’ll get signed to a record label. It’s a mixture of luck, perseverance and talent. But there are practical steps you can take to increase your exposure to A&R (artists and repertoire – the talent scouting branch of record labels) and to gain a following – something that will get you noticed by the movers and shakers of the music industry.
Record labels UK – their purpose and function
Record labels are responsible for looking after recording artists. They seek out new talent, choose the ones they like best and ask them to sign a contract/deal. Once they’ve signed a record deal, the record label organises producers, studio time and music videos – amongst other things. Labels have close connections with public relations professionals and take charge of the marketing and physical production of the artist’s music.
Record companies in the UK
The UK is home to many of the best record labels in the world. Here are some of the top ones in this country:
Major record labels UK
- Parlophone Records
- Island Records
- Polydor Records
- Virgin EMI Records
- Relentless Records
- Ministry of Sound
- Syco Music
- Black Butter Records
- XL Recordings
- Lex Records
- Warp Records
- Domino Recording Company
- Rough Trade Records
- Dirty Hit
How to get a record deal
To get a record deal, you need to be unique and original. This isn’t easy and could take some time to develop, but you have to find your own distinct identity with your music and your look. Prove yourself as an exciting recording artist. You’ll need to get some time in the studio and show that you’re capable of laying down a great performance.
Find a producer or engineer to work with and keep improving your skills as a recording artist. Once you have some great tracks, you have the option to send them into the label. Although be aware, it is extremely rare to get picked up by a label in this way.
How to get signed to a label
Perform regularly to improve your chance of being spotted. It will help you improve your musicianship, establish your brand, better your social skills, and help you meet music professionals. Record labels send their talent scouts and A&Rs to popular venues, singing contests and local music festivals to hunt for new talent. Find a way to be exceptional when you are performing and learn as much as you can from other artists.
Get noticed by a record label
Record labels always look for someone striking who is ready to take the world by storm. They want polished, professional acts that can earn them a profit, so be dedicated and professional towards your craft. Practice often and if you can, work with a vocal coach to perfect your sound. A singing teacher can get you to polish your sound and make sure that you are constantly improving.
Take in all the feedback and iron out any issues. Find some time for daily rehearsals until you get every lyric and note memorised. A career with a record label depends on your abilities as a singer, musician and performer.
How to get your music heard by record labels
Studying the music industry can help you gain a better understanding of what it takes to get signed. You could even apply for a work experience position – you’re more likely to get signed by a record label if you are already engaged and active in the industry in some capacity.
Get spotted at a talent contest
One of the best places to get spotted by A&R is in a music competition. You’ll be seen by music industry judges – even if you don’t win. Including some who run their own labels. This can be a relatively swift rise to success and gets you access to contacts that can otherwise take years and years to develop.
Attracting UK music labels with your marketing
Record labels will always have an eye on your social media stats if they are thinking about signing you. Any serious artist must be active on social networking platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud etc. so make sure to create the best impression you can. You should also create your own website and make sure there’s consistency across all of these channels.
Create weekly goals for increasing your fan following and encourage engagement to boost your posts. Keep fans informed about your upcoming shows, and share photos, videos and occasionally, off-topic items that you think they will enjoy.
Think about branding alongside your sound too. Record labels want music that has the power to make them and their artists stand out. So, although you’re free to make the music you want to make, be realistic about the commercial possibilities of it. Strike a balance between your artistic vision and how marketable your music is.
Record labels and YouTube
Tons of famous artists like Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Stormzy got noticed by labels through their YouTube music videos. Talent scouts can cover a lot more ground online than by travelling around venues, and if you live in a remote area, it may be your only means to be seen.
The key is to get lots of views – if you’re in demand from fans, you’ll be in demand by record labels too. So you need to constantly engage with your fan base to maximise your chance of success.
You need a really strong core following. You are going to have to spend as much time on self-promotion as you do on making music. Keep posting quality content regularly to gain more fans across the world.
Collabs are also a great way to attract more views, as you’ll harness the power of each of your fanbases in one hit. And you never know – if your collaborator makes it big, they may recommend you to their label further down the line.
Here are some top tips from Sony’s A&R Layla Manoochehri.
Finally, go to events where A&R scouts, managers and other industry people hang out. This includes industry conferences, masterclasses, showcases, open mic nights and any event related to the label you want to sign for. Strike up conversations and schmooze.
Finding a good manager is also valuable. They handle the business side of things and will help you get signed to a record label. And know that actually, getting a record deal isn’t the be-all and end-all. Many artists achieve fame and fortune before they ever get a deal. Streaming and video platforms have now put success within reach of every talented, committed and passionate singer.
- How should artists approach a record label?
Before you approach a record label you should make sure that you are completely happy with your music and branding. Pick your 3 best songs (original ones ideally) to showcase on a short demo. Make sure the first one is the best, as this is more likely to draw them into listening further.
- What are record labels looking for?
Record labels are constantly trying to find the next big artist to sign that is going to make it in the music market, so you need to make yourself unique and original. Don’t be tempted to simply copy others.
- What is the biggest record label?
Universal Music Group (which includes Polydor Records, Virgin EMI Records and Island Records) is the biggest record. Sony Music Entertainment (which includes Relentless Records, Black Butter Records and Syco Music) is the next biggest. The largest privately-owned record label is Warner Music Group.
Have you tried to get noticed by a record label? Perhaps you have one already? Please comment below to let us know.