30 reasons why labels IGNORE your demo
Based on real experience

An independent musical career isn’t a fiction anymore, however your success, fame, sales, tours and performances are still tightly connected with music labels. That’s why it’s important to know how to deal with them (in terms of releases as well). And if you’re new to this topic, we  definitely recommend you to follow the points outlined below.


1. At the moment when your music is done and it is supposed to conquer the world, make a pause for a while. It is a good time to collect opinions about your upcoming hit. Share your demos with people whose words are authoritative to  you, ask them for their critique and analyze the answers. It isn’t necessary to apply all the corrections they would advise, but if several people point out the same issue, it is a good idea to pay attention to it.

2. Do not send your demos to relatives or mates. They tend to praise your work without any information that may actually help you. You’re better off giving them a final CD when it is done.

3. The #1 reason why labels refuse the release is the music itself. It is important to share only your best work and make sure that it would match the label’s overall sound and style.

4. Make a list of labels that are admittedly good places for your material. Also, find some labels, where your favorite artists are residents.

5. Each track should sound as good as possible. You only have one chance to make the first impression.

6. Your records and accompanying letter should  stand out of other demos in a company’s mailbox. They always have a bunch of mainstream stuff and top-chart clones. Try to be creative, give the industry something unique. Remember that top artists became  successful with the actual material in the right time and place.

«It is sad to admit, but nowadays great music is not the only (main) factor helping you to release it.»


7. If you want your demos, at least, to be listened to, you have to introduce yourself correctly and peek a manager’s interest before he clicks a link with the files.

8. Set your project’s social network accounts properly. If possible, all the URLs should coincide. Make cross-links between your resources. A personal website is a nice idea, but use only .com and nothing else.

9. Pay attention to the design of the pages - this reflects your taste.

10. Give all the information about yourself as a musician: previous releases, artists you are supported by, radio stations or DJs that are always glad to have your new tracks. All these points work really well - a label may take it as additional source of spreading its name, thus raising the sales.

11. Describe your demo in short: genre, style, influences, what it sounds like. However, a big mistake is to say how good your records are.

12. Don’t flatter a label by adding kind words about their sound, taste, style and so on - they surely know it without you.

13. You have to understand that a label (in most cases) is a business. It has its own expenses, desire to cover them and, of course, gain some profit. Thus, a signed artist is likely to earn money for a company. Factors that stimulate the sales are big fan-base, good marketing, constant performances and so on. The more points you have in these things, the more appealing you are to a label. It is sad to admit, but nowadays great music is not the only (main) factor helping you to release it.

Columbia records head office


14. Most websites, as a rule, have a special page called «demo policy», where an email address and  all the «rules» are given. Some labels state that they do not approve any demos.

15. Use an individual approach in every letter - everybody wants to be special. Do not copy/paste a single message to the whole world. A manager should be confident, that he is the only one you are waiting an answer from.

16. Due to the huge amount of demos a manager is typically unable to send a refusal letterto everybody. But if he likes your music, you’ll get a massage for sure. Never send reminders like «Did you listen to my tracks» or «Did you like it».

17. The average time of response is between 7 days and 3 months. It depends on the label’s scale and the amount of staff responsible for demos.

18. Send 1-3 tracks only. If they are proper, you’ll be asked to show more. It should the best tracks you have. If you send a whole pack of 10 tracks, this reduces the chances that a manager will click the best ones.

19. Try to join a label’s network, make a contact with staff or an artist. If you are able to share your music directly with them, this will increase your chances.

20. If the office is located in your town, try to get a personal interview. A real-life contact is much more likely to lead to success, than another letter in mailbox. Moreover, you’ll get more attention to your project and receive some feedback.

21. Serious labels like Dim Mak, Mad Decent, Spinning Records get up to 100 demos daily; Virgin, Interscope, Capital, Geffen up to 1000! It’s impossible to pay attention to each proposal. Don’t be surprised that your message was never read - you should know to expect this when sending a demo to a major label.

«It is important to keep in mind that each label is unique and it works in its own way.»


22. Send the final tracks only, not «unmixed», «half done» and so on. They shouldn’t have public access.

23. Avoid using samples without license. Clearing rights demands time and money, a label doesn’t want it (unless you are a top-artist).

24. Files must have artist name, titles and mail address, thus it is easy to find you if the music is proper.

25. Use mp3/320 for demos - it is a standard.

26. Do not use WAV - their download demands more time.

27. Do not attach files to the letter, this may affect the work of the mail-client badly. Some managers delete letters immediately if they see any attachments inside. Use a link to a file hosting service with your demos.

28. If there are many links inside a letter, it may be automatically to into  spam folder.

29. A nice idea - SoundCloud link, as it gives the quickest access to your music. Obviously, the link should be private. One more advantage to SoundCloud (if you have a Pro Plan) is an opportunity to view statistics: who and how many times played your records. Thus, if label X is listed in your listeners and it doesn’t respond your mail, this means they didn’t like the music. You may pass on to another label.

30. Another popular service is Wetransfer. Its main advantage is that you get a notice by email which says that your files were downloaded. 

It is important to keep in mind that each label is unique and it works in its own way. Some things may produce a necessary result in one place, and won’t work in another. However, if you follow the points described above, you tend to get closer to the success. Moreover, the article assumes by default that your music is perfect. We didn’t talk about music here, so it is fully your responsibility.

Use these pieces of advice and never give up. If you have something to add to this article, feel free to share your experience - we are always glad to get the comments.

Also, each of you may offer new topics for the articles you are interested in. Share your ideas by email: hi@backstage-secrets.com

Text: Anton Anru (Backstage Secrets)

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