How Record Labels Work

You’re the member of a live band or a solo music artist, you’re getting lots of gigs, and you’ve recorded a demo of your songs in the studio. You’ve got a manager, want to distribute your music to the masses, and are ready to take the next big step; signing with a record label. But where do you start? Where do you take your original music? To a major label, an indie label (also known as a garage label)? What can a label do for you? What does A&R mean? Stay tuned and we’ll answer those questions and more.

New Soul Brigade Live BandMany of today’s record companies are large corporations, parent companies who own a wide variety of subsidiary labels. Most often they’ll be located in Nashville, Los Angeles, or New York. Generally, each parent company will have a CEO, and each of the parent company’s subsidiary record labels will have its own president and departments.

What Does the A&R Department Do?

The A&R department’s job is to discover new talent. A&R stands for “artists and repertoire.” After an artist signs with a label, the A&R department will work closely with that artist, doing everything from selecting producers and choosing songs for the album to deciding where the album will be recorded.

There are many other departments that all have their individual roles to play, including the art department, legal department, business affairs department, marketing department, promotion department, publicity department, sales department, and others.

The artist development department is in charge of planning the careers of the artists they have signed to their label. Promoting and publicizing the artist is one of their most important jobs. Realize that many major labels have done away with this department because they no longer look at artists as artists, but as products.

When shopping for a record company you’ll find that they come in all sizes, from a one or two person company to a large corporation with hundreds or thousands of employees. But whether it’s an independent record company or a major corporation, their job is the same; to discover and sign talent, develop that talent, record, publicize, promote, and sell that talent’s music. Larger corporations separate the many jobs into departments while smaller labels leave everything to a select few individuals.

Can You Get a Major to Listen to Your Demo?

Many artists assume that making it big is as simple as sending a demo to a major record company. They figure that as soon as the A&R department listens to their demo, it’s “fame and fortune here I come.” Unfortunately, the record business doesn’t work that way. Major record labels receive so many unsolicited demos they don’t have time to listen to them. They get more than enough demos to keep them busy from people they know and trust: agents, managers, friends, and other proven sources. This makes it nearly impossible to “get discovered.”

The Benefits of an Indie Label

Independent labels, as a general rule, operate quite differently. They are always on the lookout for exceptional new talent. Before signing a record deal you have to be discovered. And it’s a lot easier to get discovered by an independent company than it is by a major corporation.

An indie record label will provide different things to different artists depending on where they are in the progression of their musical talent. Depending on your stage of progression you may need vocal coaching, performance training, assistance with your songwriting, or other training. It’s all about fine-tuning an artist’s skills until the label feels they’re ready to move forward.

Once an artist’s songs are recorded those songs must be heard, and by as many people as possible. Radio plays an important role in the success of a song, which is why labels and radio stations must work together for a song to succeed. Labels must get their artists’ music to the masses while radio stations are always looking for new music that will keep their listeners tuning in.

Thanks to the internet, indie labels are now able to compete with the big boys. If they have a tough time rounding up retail stores to sell their music products, independent companies can either sell their products online or tap in to the distribution services of the majors.

Toned Records, an independent record label, evaluates every demo submission they receive. Giving artists a fair shot to have their music heard is what it’s all about. With an experienced team of professionals working side-by-side with gifted artists; fine-tuning their talents; recording, publishing, distributing and promoting their music; getting radio play and setting up tours; Toned Records is excited to help music artists achieve their dreams.