Congratulations to you and your band for taking the first steps to fame and fortune in the music world. You've written some songs and started to play together as a band. That's great! But now you want to take it to the next level.
At this point it sounds like you are at the very beginning stages and there are several more levels you must reach before you are even ready for the studio, much less ready to pitch your music to a "label".
The number one thing that you must have in order to be successful as a band - is a large fan base. By successful - I mean actually getting paid to perform. Another level of success would be actually being able to pay some of your bills by getting paid to play music. And of course the pinnacle of success would be to get signed by a major label who would promote your music on the radio, promote the sale of your music on CD's and digital formats, and book you on tours where you would stay on the road going from city to city and playing to large crowds of your fans.
But it all starts with fans. Without fans you go nowhere. With a large enough fan base, you get the attention of the record labels. So how do you begin building a huge fan base?
I would encourage you and your bandmates to start practicing regularly until you have rehearsed enough material for a full live show. Then try to get "booked" to do a show for an audience. Venues that feature live music might hire you if they like your music. But venues such as restaurants, pubs, bars, etc. are looking for the same thing that record labels are looking for - fans! If you can convince a venue that you can draw enough new patrons (your fans) to their venue, you can get booked.
Before you get enough fans to fill up a small venue, you might need to play some free shows. Perhaps a backyard concert at one of the band members house or the house of one of your fans. Invite all your friends and bandmates friends and everyone brings a dish to share.
The reason you want to play for an audience is that there is no better way to get feedback on your music, and to share it with your potential fan base. It also will encourage you to practice with more intention - because you have a goal and a deadline. If your live performances go well, you will be inspired to put more energy into playing together and your new fans will start promoting you through word of mouth.
As you start to gel as a band, and start to build a fan base, you will start writing more material and growing your repertoire. But you also must be pro-active at growing your fan base.
After you start playing live shows regularly, your music will become more polished and you will hone the rough edges and fine tune your songs. Now it's time to start recording some music so you can share it outside of live shows.
So the next step is to set up a YouTube channel for your band. It's the next step because it's FREE! On your channel, you will be able to upload videos of your band performing. You will also be able to post a bio of the band and other helpful information. But the main thing is to create a platform where you can direct potential new fans so they can hear your music. Here is a YouTube Video on how to set up a free YouTube Channel for your band and optimize it for promoting and sharing your music. YouTube - set up a band channel
For the videos - you can start by getting a fan or friend of the band to record some of your live shows. Even a smart phone can make an amazing recording. One tip for recording your live shows is to use multiple camera's (two friends) and record your audio from the sweet spot (find a place in the audience area that the music sounds best). Using free video production software, you can create a professional looking and sounding video by mixing in several angles and using a separate optimized audio track for the audio.
And if you mess up, you can use the good parts of a performance as part of a "demo reel". Put several sections together on one five minute video that consists of the best parts of some of the songs you have on video. Then use a transition tool (fade out, flip, curtains, etc.) to link them together into one video.
Once you have some music on YouTube, you can set up a Facebook Band Page and start posting links to your YouTube videos. Each band member should have a personal FaceBook page where you encourage all of your friends to "like" your band page and encourage them to encourage their friends to "like" your band page. This is how things go "viral". They find you on YouTube through Facebook (or vice versa).
You can also print business cards and print the URL for your YouTube channel and/or a QR code so folks can instantly watch your band on YouTube, even if you run into them at Starbucks and hand them your business card.
So far, your band has played together enough to fine tune your performance, booked some live paid or free gigs to begin building a fan base, set up a YouTube Channel for the Band, set up a Facebook page for the band, and printed some business cards for the band. All of the foregoing can be done for free by the way - including the business cards (Google "free business cards"). So let's look at some other ways to start promoting your music.
In today's world, Social Media has become an excellent way to reach thousands of people in an instant. So once you have a platform (such as YouTube) where your music can be shared, and begin to grow your fan base, you will want to set up a presence on all the major social media platforms. You will want a twitter account, an instagram account, and a Google Plus account to go with your Facebook Band page. All your media platforms need to link to one another to the extent you can.
After you start playing regular live shows - you might want to consider a band website. A good website will allow your potential fans who visit the site to see and hear your music (post YouTube vids), read about your band (a good bio) read about each member of the band, and discover where they can hear you live and support your music (a calendar of upcoming gigs).
Reverbnation may be a great place to help you get started with your website. It's free to set up an account on Reverbnation for your band. They can provide templates for band websites as well as help you promote your music in many ways. Learn more here Reverbnation website
By now you have fine tuned your performance and received feedback from your fans on which of your songs are popular among your fans. So it's time to get in the studio and produce your first "EP".
Through word of mouth among other successful local musicians in your area or through the internet, you should be able to locate a professional recording studio that can produce some of your songs fairly inexpensively. You want a polished production that sounds like it could be on the radio. You don't have to start with an entire album. You probably should start with a three song "EP". Pick your most popular 3 songs and get them professionally recorded and produced.
Now that you have some professionally recorded music - there are several more things you can do that you could not do until now.
First, you can burn some CD's and start handing them out to your fans. Or even better, have some CD's professionally produced on some level. Perhaps you only print a few hundred to start with. Then you can put your music in the hands of your fans at your live shows.
But more importantly, you can now start sharing and selling your music on line.
Check out CD Baby for what they can do to produce CD's and Sleeves, and also what they can do to host other digital platforms for sharing your music. They can help you promote your music on i-Tunes, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Shazam among other distribution platforms. They can also help with music licensing. Here is a link to information about their digital distribution options Digital Music Distribution through CD Baby
Another platform now available for promoting your music online - is BandCamp. BandCamp Artist Page
Also, Reverbnation (see link above) can help you sell or distribute your digital music.
Another free platform that will allow you to share your music with others once you have a digital audio file (such as an mp3) is SoundCloud. Some artists and bands use soundcloud for free 30 second samples of their music which can be purchased through i-tunes or spotify etc. But your job is to build and grow a fan base so you want to share all of your music with as many folks as possible. Here is an example of a Soundcloud artist's site Sound Cloud Andrew Applepie
Depending on what country you live in, you might want to copyright your music at some point and register your band with a performance rights organization to help you collect royalties once other folks start playing your music (either covering it live or streaming the audio). In the USA, the main PRO's are BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.
There are other ways to continue to promote your band (play charity events, get a newspaper to do a feature on the band, conduct an interview on a college radio station, put posters or business cards in your local music store). But the primary goal in promoting the band through all the platforms mentioned above, is to build and grow a large fan base.
Eventually, if you have enough fans (many thousands) you can get the attention of a "label". After all, the record labels are in business for one thing and one thing only - profit. They see fans as dollar signs. Get enough fans where they see enough money and you are on your way.