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Q&A: How does demo "shopping" work?
By Duman & Fiero - 07/07/2005 - 05:46 AM EDT

Dear Jon & Gian:

We're a rock band from India looking for representation to approach record labels for a possible Record Deal.

We think we have enough original recorded material for record deal consideration.

Can you please tell us how does demo shopping work? And also, how can we find someone to “shop” us to various labels?

Looking forward to your reply. Thank you.

Sapan Shah




Dear Sapan Shah:

We receive a lot of questions regarding “shopping” from aspiring music artists who are attempting to break into the music industry. We must tell you - immediately - that "Demo Shopping" or "Deal Shopping" is, at best, an uncertain process that is not regulated.

There are established professionals, including music business attorneys, who have cultivated certain key relationships within the music industry, and therefore, enjoy special access to individuals or companies who might be interested in a particular artist or project. These professionals are limited in number. Some will accept submissions from aspiring artists, but most do not solicit this type of inquiry and are usually very selective in choosing who to work with.

Those who do provide this type of service typically do so in exchange for a set percentage (typically between 5% and 12%) of money generated from contracts resulting directly, or indirectly, from their efforts. Some may require a partial payment up front to cover various out-of-pocket expenses (such as travel, postage, press-kit refills, etc.). Others may ask for a "deposit" with the expectation of collecting the remainder upon the execution of a "shopping" agreement - which they should have.

With regard to finding such individuals, you can locate a number of them by consulting various regularly updated music industry directories available online and off, including those complied by the A&R Registry, the Indie Bible, The Recording Industry Sourcebook, and others. Another good source would be Music Connection's annual issue of entertainment attorneys that contains contact information of attorneys who "shop."

Always contact these professionals first to confirm that they still provide their shopping services. Introduce yourself and let them know that you will send your submission. Be prepared for rejection (at least initially), as many of them may accept (for legal and filtering purposes) new clients by referral only, which is something that we can do if we believe that the artist is truly prepared to do business on a professional level.

Remember to proceed cautiously and be selective. For example, those who purport to want to “shop” you in exchange for a non-refundable fee should generally be viewed with suspicion. In other words, if it were really that easy to “buy” a shortcut to a recording contract, we’d be seeing a lot more of them given out. Of course, if you have any questions regarding a particular individual’s qualifications, you should inquire specifically about the person’s past successes and take steps to verify them independently, before entering into any commitments.

Above all else, be realisitic. The most important thing to keep in mind is that what you are paying for, in the best case scenario, a well-connected professional to get your demo into the hands of someone who can help exploit your songs or advance your career.

There simply are no guarantees that you will get any further than that, and no legitimate professional will offer or make such guarantees.


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