Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Learning how to get signed to a record label and its unique processes can help you get your foot in the door to advancing your music career. The music industry is all about making connections, and submitting to a major record label can be a viable option.
We’re providing tips and guidance for independent artists to submit their music to Universal Music Group (UMG). While there’s no cookie-cutter way to submit and get accepted, this is what the typical process looks like.
What makes your demo unique?
There is so much talent in the world of independent musicians and bands just waiting to be heard. There are millions of songs on streaming platforms that any listener can choose to put on at any moment. So, what makes your music stand out among the rest?
At least in the eyes of record labels, it’s not all about having the perfect demos with precise timing, soaring vocals, and a rollicking guitar solo. It’s not all about talent — it’s about presence. While indie artists need to be both the artist and the business, record labels are all business. They look at numbers and the likelihood of those numbers increasing if they put their time and money into you as a signed artist.
Record labels will look at your streams, followers, social media, and history of bringing large crowds to your live shows. Your fan base needs to be solid. And as far as specific numbers go, think big — not just getting over the 1,000 song plays on Spotify. These numbers need to be consistent, too. You need to be consistent with how you show up online and book bigger gigs, like festivals and opening for signed acts.
Additionally, you have to network. Get yourself on the scene by attending music industry events, connecting with industry professionals and talent scouts, and using platforms like LinkedIn to get to know who’s who at UMG. You will need to have a connection with UMG A&R in order to submit your album to UMG and get your demo in the right hands (and not marked as an unsolicited email).
What label should I submit to?
Universal Music Group is home to about 15 different record labels. I’ve listed the more popular ones below, as well as what genre each is known for, so you can decide where to set your sights.
Record labels under UMG and genre
- Capitol Records. This label has been around for decades and focuses on several genres of music, including hip hop, pop, rock, and electronic. Well-known artists with Capitol Records include The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, Beck, Halsey, and Norah Jones.
- Def Jam Recordings. Another label that has been around for decades, Def Jam has launched careers for artists such as Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and DMX, and has current big-name artists including Justin Bieber, Alessia Cara, Benny the Butcher, and 2 Chainz.
- Republic Records. Republic Records works with artists of different genres, including pop, alternative, and hip hop. Big names with this label include Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Post Malone, and The Weeknd.
- Island Records. Another label that has signed some legendary artists, Island Records focuses on pop and alternative genres. Their roster includes Bob Marley, Queen, Nick Drake, Steve Winwood, and current artists such as Demi Lovato, Sabrina Carpenter, and Avicii.
- Interscope Geffen A&M. Interscope has a wide range of artists whose genres include pop, rock, hip hop, and electronic. Some well-known artists on this label include Eminem, Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, and U2.
- Polydor Records. This label tends more toward pop, rock, and alternative genres. Some major legendary names here include Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Gloria Gaynor, ABBA, 2Pac, and current artists such as The 1975, Lana Del Rey, and Ellie Goulding.
- Decca Records. This label is for classical musicians who focus on opera and orchestra. Big names such as Luciano Pavarotti and Bing Crosby have been signed to Decca.
- Deutsche Grammophon. Deutsche Grammophon stands as the oldest established record company. It also leans toward classical musicians, including Kian Soltani, Rudolf Buchbinder, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
- Mercury Records. Mercury Records is another label under UMG that leans toward rock, pop, and hip hop genres. Well-known names on this label include Elton John, Amy Winehouse, and David Bowie.
- Verve Label Group. Verve Label Group focuses on the jazz genre, having a roster of some of the greats, such as Ella Fitzgerald, The Velvet Underground, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone. Current artists include Kurt Vile, Diana Krall, and Arooj Aftab.
Guidelines to know before you submit your album to UMG
Now that you know what and who the major record labels of UMG represent, the first step before you submit your demo is to decide which record label would best support your music genre.
Another thing to keep in mind is that UMG will never, ever ask you for money to submit your music. Unfortunately, scammers are out there trying to take advantage of artists and the hope of having their music heard. If someone messages you and asks for an exchange, run the other way (or just delete the email).
Here are a few guidelines to follow for a demo submission:
- Make sure your demo submission is in MP3 format and no larger than 5 MB.
- Include your contact information and the short version of your biography. (Alternatively, you can send your electronic press kit).
- Your demo should only be about 1-3 minutes long.
- Check and double-check that you’ve labeled all files correctly.
- Send your demo as an email attachment, rather than a link. This avoids any confusion or link security issues.
What happens after you submit your demo?
Once you get a confirmation email acknowledging your submission… you wait. Well, you go about your life until you hear back from a label representative. If they like what they hear, they will get in touch with you and discuss the next steps. Hooray!
However, you may not hear anything at all if the label isn’t interested. In some cases, they may send a rejection letter and provide feedback. But keep in mind, this doesn’t mean anything about your music or you as an artist. At the end of the day, labels are looking for something specific to fill a hole in their business. So even if you don’t get the answer you were hoping for, don’t let it stop you from continuing with your music career.
Keep your music in your control
I’d be remiss not to talk about the perks of being an indie artist. While getting signed to a label takes some of the business and marketing portion out of your hands, staying independent keeps you in creative control of your music, your brand, and in some cases, true to who you are as an artist. Plus, you retain 100 percent of your rights and royalties when you’re label-free.
If you’re an independent musician looking for music distribution services, check out The Global Music Distribution Bundle through Disc Makers. We can help you get your music on all streaming platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, and more.
Lauren Davish is a writer, singer/songwriter, yoga instructor, and voice coach. She received her MA in Creative Writing with a focus on creative nonfiction in 2019. Her favorite types of writing include blog posts and song lyrics.