How to Contact Record Labels?
So you've got a great demo, and you want to learn how to contact record labels. This can be an intimidating and challenging part of breaking into the music business, and you have to have a certain measure of pluck and courage to make yourself heard. But it's not impossible by any means, and a bit of knowledge is the best place to start.
The first thing to know (though it may seem obvious) is that, unless the circumstances are extraordinary, you cannot simply find a label's address on its website and send over your demo. Most often, major record labels do not seriously consider unsolicited submissions, so you are swimming against the current if you don't happen to know an agent or producer. Do network; you never know who knows someone who could get you in contact with a label. Keep your antennae up about any contacts or resources that cross your path, even if they seem unlikely.
But let's say you don't have any contacts. The first place to go is a database or directory. Record labels release information about how to contact them onto music contact databases, such as Hit Quarters. These are a valuable resource at this stage; they contain information and services for bringing artists and labels together. Often, going through these database services allows you to submit to labels that do not ordinarily accept unsolicited material. You might need to create a profile on one of these sites in order to see which A & R's are seeking material.
If you find a label that says it accepts unsolicited material, you may send them your package—tailored to their requests for submissions, of course. If they say they are seeking cover letters, send your cover letter. This is a one-page introduction to you and your music that represents you in a fresh and marketable light and makes an A & R representative want to see more from you. If they say they are accepting demos or packages, send your package, and try to find the name of the A & R representative to send it to. This information should be available online or by phone. Your package should include your cover letter, your demo, a band photo, a band bio, and press clippings if available. You may call or email to follow up, but always follow the guidelines in place. Make sure to be both polite and enthusiastic in these encounters. Sell yourself without being pushy.
For independent record labels, the rules are slightly different, as business models vary from label to label. If the label is small enough, you will be able to find a street address and email address on their site, to which you can send questions about if and where they accept demos and submissions. The degree to which indie labels consider unsolicited submissions varies. If the label classifies itself as “open submission,” you may send your materials directly, but make sure you read the submission guidelines if they are available. Indie labels are a great opportunity to develop relationships with A & R representatives, so make sure to email a follow up and keep the flow of communication open.