How Do Rappers Get Signed to a Record Label? [FOR REAL]

So you’ve made some rap music you love, and now you’re hoping to share it with the world. Signing with a big record label is the dream, but it’s not an easy 1-2-3 process. It takes some real hustle and hard work to get noticed by the top dogs. Let this article be your guiding light!

Rappers get signed to a record label by showing they are capable of making the record label money. This is typically done by creating music that connects with people, growing a social media following, consistently creating buzz around new releases, and showing a strong work ethic.

As we explore these things in more detail throughout this article, pay attention to the key tips and tricks we offer on the side. Although there is no one size fits all method of getting signed by a record label, you can greatly increase your likelihood of getting attention from the big players in the industry by following the steps below. Let’s dive right in!

Develop a Business Mindset Around Your Music

If you think all you have to do to get signed to a big record label is sit in your basement and put up some good music on SoundCloud — think again!

Opportunity doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to put in the time and work to get noticed by industry executives.

And remember, the competition is fierce in the music world. Every day, thousands of new artists (including rappers) are posting their singles and albums out for the world to hear. The market is saturated with talented musicians.

You can stand out from the pack by bringing your one-of-a-kind, amazing music to the table and being knowledgeable about the music business with proven entrepreneurial hustle.

Show you can build a dedicated fanbase. Show you can create and maintain a buzz around your music. Show that you have been able to book shows, play shows, sell merch, and network yourself across social media platforms.

In other words, be the complete package. Demonstrate that you can be a reliable and trustworthy business partner.

Think of it this way: You are the fire. A record label is gasoline. If you show them how big and bright you can burn on your own, they’ll want to jump in and help you explode!

Before exploring some ways you can build a business around your music and impress those big record labels, we suggest you check out some of the following resources to get you familiar with the industry.

Video Resources on Signing With a Record Label

  • We think you should always consider your options. You may think you want to go the record label route, but you might actually be better suited for the independent artist path. Both have pros and cons, and the videos below explore them for you!

Watch Here: The Struggles of Being Independent vs. Record Label Pains

Watch Here: Being an Independent Artist vs. Working with a Major Record Label

  • If you’re sure about taking the record label route, you must learn what function they should serve in your career. The videos below break down the anatomy of a record label, and what you can expect them to do for you if you decide to sign with one.

Watch Here: How the Music Industry Works

Watch Here: Record Labels Explained | What Do Record Labels Do?

  • There are a few fundamental things that most record labels are looking for when they want to sign a new artist. The videos below give a good rundown of those things, as well as how to prepare yourself as an artist.

Watch Here: What Record Labels are Looking For

Watch Here: 8 Things Major Labels are Looking for to Sign an Artist

Other Resources on the Music Industry

  • If you’re looking for an up-to-date breakdown of the music industry, All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman is a great starting point for beginners and veterans alike to learn the ins and outs of the biz!
  • It’s all about finding the right players, agents, and business managers when you’re getting into the music industry. Music Business For Dummies, by Loren Weisman, will help get you in the know. It is an invaluable resource to keep on your shelf to refer back to!

Now that you know why it’s important to develop a business brain when it comes to a career in music, let’s take a closer look at some of the ways you can get a record label to pay attention to you — and maybe even sign you!

in this article we give tips for rappers wanting to get signed by record labels.

Build a Ride or Die Fanbase

After you’ve created great rap songs and chosen your unforgettable stage name, the most vital thing you need to do is build a community of fans.

Nowadays, a record label won’t touch you if you don’t have a following attached to your music. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does have to be there.

Why is that?

The main reason is it shows there’s a proven demand for your music. And where there’s a demand, there’s market potential. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, record labels want to sign artists capable of making money. You need to show them you can deliver on this front.

In addition to that, cultivating a fanbase demonstrates that you mean business — that your music isn’t just a fun hobby for you. It’s what you want to do for a living.

Alright, now that we’ve got the why you need to build a fanbase out of the way, let’s jump into how to build one:

  • Get on social media. Seriously, if you’re not on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc. by now — it’s time to take the plunge! It’s a free and easy way to start networking and engaging with people who might be interested in your rap music. It’s also a great way for people to get to know you.
  • Play as many live shows as you can. This is one of the most effective ways for fans to see all of who you are and what you have to offer, from your personality to your performance style to your overall message and mission. The stage often pulls all of these pieces together in a way that connects to people.
  • Collaborate with other artists in your area. And this doesn’t have to be only to do a song together. Trade services or expertise. If you’re great with social media and another local artist is great at making merch — join forces! Not to mention, it’ll open you up to new fanbases, and help you network in the industry. Remember: it’s all who you know in the biz!
  • Start playlist pitching. Most people who listen to music nowadays are listening through an app like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, etc. These platforms all like to promote a playlist-driven experience for their users. The more playlists you can get on, the more people you’ll be exposed to, and the more likely you’ll gain more fans!
  • Try paid advertising. It’s a great way to tap into some key audiences, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Facebook ads, and other social media ads, can help you target specific people who may be interested in your music. For instance, if you’re a lyrical rapper with a similar sound to J. Cole, you can filter for this audience!
  • Keep a starving artist mentality. When you start to attract a following, it might be tempting to press pause on your hustle game. Don’t! You gotta stay hungry and focused. Keep Googling new ways to stay on top, book more shows, and reach out to more people on social media! Keep pushing!

Video Resources on Building a Fanbase

  • Below are two videos that walk you through some key marketing strategies on how to build and grow your following on social media.

Watch Here: How to Build a Fanbase from Scratch

Watch Here: How to Grow a Fanbase

Other Resources on Building a Fanbase

Create and Maintain a Buzz Around Your Music

As you build your fanbase, you’ll need to get into the swing of promoting yourself and your music regularly. You want to be the hot topic!

If you do this successfully and consistently, you’ll have a better chance at a record label taking notice of you. They’ll want to know who’s making all that noise on social media or selling out those local venues!

Here are some great ways you can create some buzz around you and your music:

  • Contact local press and radio stations. Establish relationships with local media. Get their names and contact information. Follow them on social media. Talk to them at shows. That way, when you have an album or single to drop, you know who to contact to get the word out.
  • Get fans involved. Especially on social media! Engage your audience by throwing contests, doing Q & As, or livestreams showing the behind-the-scenes on how you’re making your music. Involve them in every way you can.
  • Play smaller venues that you can sell out. We know this sounds a little counter-intuitive, but sometimes less really is more. If you know that you can bring 100 people to a venue, try booking a venue that only holds 50. Create an exclusive-type atmosphere that people will be desperate to be a part of!

Remember that it’s not selling out to get yourself in front of as many eyeballs as possible. However, always use your judgment. If you don’t feel comfortable with some promotional or marketing avenues, it’s vital you listen to your gut! You should never feel like you’re trading your soul for money.

Be creative when it comes to sales and marketing. There’s not just one way to get the word out about your music and your mission. You can be authentic and still gain lots of traction!

Video Resources on Creating a Buzz

  • Below are two videos that walk you through some key marketing strategies on how to build and grow your following on social media.

Watch Here: How to Build a Fanbase from Scratch

Watch Here: How to Grow a Fanbase

Hit the Pavement and Start Selling

The fact of the matter is this: You need to demonstrate your ability to sell your brand and your music to your fans for a record label to even blink in your direction.

We know. You’re probably thinking, “But isn’t that the job of the record label execs?” And technically, yes. They can help you with those things after you get signed.

But here’s the harsh truth: If given a choice between two equally talented rap artists — one who has proven sales and another who doesn’t — chances are they’re going to sign the one who has sales because they’ve done their homework.

You want to be the artist who has proven sales. You want to be the artist that can demonstrate your strong work ethic. You want to be the artist who sells not only shows and music, but also your brand.

Remember: You are striving to be the complete package, a talented rapper with buzz-worthy music, and a dynamic business partner with an unstoppable work ethic.  

Below we’ve outlined a few ways you can get on top of your sales game.

  • Get your own website. You’ll definitely want to get your own professional website up and running so you can sell stuff. This includes music, tickets to shows, merch, etc. Having a little space that you own on the internet gives you more control. Social media platforms may come and go, but fans will always be able to find you on your website.
  • Sell physical merch. This includes hats, t-shirts, mugs, buttons, stickers, smartphone cases, you name it! Selling merch can create a nice additional income stream. If you play live often or go out on tour, always have plenty of it in stock. You can also sell these goods on your website!
  • Sell digital merch. This includes video lessons, sheet music, lyric albums, and studio stills. Get your stuff out there any way you can! The benefit of digital merch is it can be more cost-effective to make, and you don’t have to keep track of inventory!
  • Sell digital downloads. Although streaming platforms are undoubtedly on the rise as the popular way to consume music nowadays, it is also a good idea to sell your music online through digital retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. We recommend using the digital distributor CD Baby.
  • Offer VIP fan experiences. It’s always nice to go that extra mile for your superfans. Offer a meet-and-greet experience, or VIP seating with drinks included, or a promotional goodie bag for those that want to get more access to you.

Video Resources on Making and Selling Merch

  • If you have absolutely no idea where to start when it comes to designing merch, or how to market it, the videos below will help get you on the right track.

Watch Here: How to Sell & Design Your Own Merchandise Online

Watch Here: Start Selling Merch in 10 Minutes (Easy & Free)

Other Resources on Building Your Website

  • Creating a professional-looking website doesn’t have to be complicated or overly technical. Creating a Website: The Missing Manual is the perfect starting place if you want to build a website to sell products and promote events.
  • Another great book on building a solid website for your music is Building Websites for Dummies. It’s a thorough reference that covers the latest trends and tools, such as mobile site planning for smartphones and tablets, and how to connect with social media platforms. Good for beginners and seasoned artists alike!

Conclusion

And there you have it — our practical guide on how to get signed to a record label as a rapper. A lot more goes into it than artists think, but if you apply the right strategy behind your awesome music, you’ll be all set!

Remember that it is vital to develop a business mindset around your music. Record labels want to partner with artists who have an established fanbase, who know their brand, and who can sell, sell, sell.

Now more than ever, record labels have become extremely picky about who they decide to sign; this is because the music industry has become more and more saturated over the years with talented artists.

Stand out of the crowd by bringing more to the table than just your music. Bring your brand. Bring your business mind. Bring your work ethic. And bring your hustle!

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