We often question ourselves about what labels are really looking for in a song, but it’s hard to directly ask them this for several reasons. Therefore, I asked some A&Rs, and here are a couple of thoughts on what they are actually looking for. You’ll see that there is a clear trend in their responses!
4 THOUGHTS FROM ME
1. Do NOT copy the sound of a famous producer. I see and hear this so often… We get tons of demos in where someone is clearly copying someone else’s sound. It can often be innocently done, because the producer is just a big fan and very inspired by a certain artist. However, unless your production is actually better than your inspiration, it is extremely unlikely to get signed if it sounds so similar. Spend the extra time to carve out your own unique style
Greg Newman, A&R at Sekora Music
2. Before sending demos to record labels, make sure that your style is sonically relevant to their direction. Most labels now have a ‘Latest Releases’ playlist on DSPs (Spotify, Apple, etc.) where you can check their recent catalog; labels evolve quickly to constantly move forwards, and staying up to date with their current output is vital to ensuring your music fits. You can also utilize these playlists to find reference tracks for your productions to align more directly with a label sound, but be careful not to take too much inspiration as you want to maintain an originality in your music.
Lewis Partington, A&R at Colorize / Enhanced Music
3. If you buy a certain sample pack/preset pack such as “Sound like Artist XYZ”, do NOT use all of the sounds from that pack in one song. Again, this is a surefire way to sound like you have copied another artist’s style. I know it can be tempting but it is so obvious to any label/A&R. Use one or two sounds/samples and then combine them with some of your own sounds to help create that unique style.
Greg Newman, A&R at Sekora Music
4. Regardless of anything, think about how you can make your music stand out, but not too much.. If you look at all the major touring acts in the world, all of these artists released something that at their time was unique and fresh for the moment they were signed. But, making something unique is not only making something that is completely different from what is out there, something we’ve mentioned in our previous post about why artists are not standing out. You have to make something that is different enough to be seen as new, but also that is digestible within a major trend or genre. For example, let’s think about Ben Böhmer. Ben made something that in 2018 was really new, which is a sound that was really organic for Anjunadeep, but also still digestible enough to be within their catalog. Therefore, next time you’re producing, think about how you can make your music a bit more different than what is out there, but also not so different that others won’t relate to it as the same genre.
Paraphrasing Adrian Alexander, A&R at Anjunabeats, from his interview with EDMTIPS
1 QUESTION FOR YOU
It seems clear what labels are asking you to do. Be unique. Do not copy other artists. But, what else can we take from this?
1. Use reference tracks to not sound so different than others. You must fit within a genre, but not so much away from it.
2. Expand your sources. Instead of using one reference, use 3-4. Instead of using just one sample pack, use multiple packs to avoid sounding too much like a brand.
3. Avoid comparing your current self to someone’s release. A song being released today was signed 5-6 months ago, so you must try to be ahead of the curve when looking for new things to do.