As a music lawyer, one of the most frequent services that artists contact me about is for demo shopping -and for obvious reasons. Nothing can help an artist better than a co-sign from someone in the industry. Ideally it should come from a top, prominent artist or producer in the industry, but if you haven't been able to finagle that, then perhaps seeking a music lawyer to help make the right intros for you and shop your demo could be the next best thing.
That said, most music lawyers (myself included), won't shop just "any" demo that comes their way no matter how much money you shove in their face. If its a crappy demo and the lawyer shops it to their contacts for "x" amount of dollars, then the lawyer's credibility and respect from industry peers is going to be shattered. To be honest, i've only actually shopped a small handful of select demos, and it was only because I really, truly believed in them. While every lawyer who demo shops may have their own approach to shopping and sorting through demos, below are 10 reasons why I wouldn't shop an artists music:
1- You didn't find a mutual contact for an introduction - There's nothing wrong at all with sending a cold letter/email or making a cold call to an entertainment lawyer's office for help with demo shopping service, but if you can find some sort of a mutual contact to make an intro for you to them, it helps by leaps and bounds. I get tons of demo submissions and to make sure your submission rises to the top of my attention, getting a mutual contact to give a heads up always significantly helps.
2- You sent them music without establishing a rapport with them first - As I mentioned above, there's absolutely nothing wrong with sending a cold letter/email or making a cold call to a music lawyer for demo shopping. However, i've actually pretty frequently received random one line emails in all caps which read "YO I GOT THE HOTTEST BEATS MY MUSIC SOUNDS LIKE NOTHING ELSE OUT THERE I NEED A LAWYER TO SHOP MY MUSIC"...and sometimes with or without the music they're referring to in the email! My point: if you're going to send a cold email, introduce yourself first and engage a brief conversation about what you're doing, and what you're hoping to find with a music lawyer on your team for shopping. Be tactful.
3- You didn't fully produce the track. - You might have an amazing rough track in the works that you only did an acapella version of, or that you produced with a simple arrangement, but unless its a cosmically out-of-this world vocal/songwriting example of your work, a track that has not been fully produced and arranged will be a tough sell for a lawyer to pitch to their colleagues. What we're really dealing with today is a surplus of music - which is good for the consumer, but quite challenging for the artists. There's way too much music out and available (largely for free) to listen to, so if your demo music isn't ready to go in finished form, then its going to be difficult for your lawyer to pitch it to other folks in the business who are already backlogged in music they should be listening to.
4- You fully produced the track, but you sent them unmastered - Even if you have a fully produced track, it really needs to be mastered properly. Artists are incredibly eager and enthusiastic about finding music licensing synch placements in film/tv/ads, but particularly for those type of placements, your music needs to be refined as much as possible with proper mastering. I personally think its a bad idea to have your producer do the mastering. I liken it to having the writer of a novel also be an editor to a novel. A good mastering engineer will be able to bring out and develop elements of the track that you may have overlooked or under appreciated. It's really quite magical to listen to a well mastered track before and after the mastering process. Pay the money, and get the mastering. Its well worth it.
5- Your genres are all over the place - Yes, variety is the spice of life, and its good to know if an artist has a range, but its also can leave your lawyer unsure of how to present you if you're all over the place and don't have a style/sound that is consistent. For example: while it might make sense for an artist to share several demo tracks that are pop music oriented along with 2 that just happen to be more electronic in style, its a whole other story to send a lawyer a collection of music that consists of country music/bluegrass ballads, deep house tracks, and indie-rock tracks. For songwriters this can be helpful, but if you're trying to become a performing artist, too many genres can be too confusing at a times.
6- You have obvious uncleared samples - If your music sounds good, but you have too many obvious uncleared samples, then you're essentially asking the lawyer to shop a legal issue to their contacts. Uncleared samples will endanger potential labels, publishers, and music licensing companies of getting a copyright infringement lawsuit. So if you're planning to sample, be sure to clear the usage on them with a license first before pitching to other people.
7- You have zero to little web presence - It's shocking to think that in 2014, there are some artists who don't even have a twitter page, much less a website, Facebook page, or defunct myspace page. In a rapidly increasing digital world, its essential for you to create a presence for yourself online. If you're an artist, you should at the very least have (1) a website (2) a Facebook page (3) a twitter page, and (4) at least one youtube. You'd be surprised to know how many demo submissions I've received over the years from artists who have none of the above listed.
8.- You sent mp3's instead of streams - If this sounds a little finicky, it probably it is, but there is good reason behind it. As a music lawyer who gets frequent submissions of demos, the computer space needed to download mp3 attachments can be pretty burdensome to my computer desktop as well as time consuming to download. I have a personal policy of only listening to submissions sent via streams to prevent this, and its a policy that many industry professionals also use. I also like listening to streams because it enables me to quickly jump back and forth around a track to re-listen to parts I might like or have questions about. If you're over-worried about prematurely exposing your music, websites such as Soundcloud enable you to stream your music via private links.
9. You're not willing to fix any of the issues - if you happen to work with a music lawyer for demo shopping and the lawyer is open to shopping your demo only if certain things are fixed, then its up to you to make sure that they get taken care of, and ideally quickly. Of course, you can look elsewhere for help, but if you want to work with the person you started with, be sure to follow through on the things they need so that they can help you.
10. They didn't personally like it. - Last but not least, there are unfortunately some instances when you pitch your music to a music lawyer; you used a common contact for an intro; you had fully produced/arranged/mastered tracks; you communicated professionally your needs; you didn't have any uncleared sample issues; and you have a great online presence. But even if this happens, sadly, sometimes the lawyer just personally doesn't like your music, or feel that they can enhance your project. It just happens sometimes, but if it happens to you, don't let it get you down. In instances like this, there's likely nothing wrong with your music at all - its just that the particular lawyer you are working with isn't the right one to help you.
Just remember: Your music career is always in your hands, and if you want to succeed bad enough, nothing and no one will ever stop you. It might be overly optimistic for me to say so in this crazy industry we work in, but I do believe that good talent will eventually rise to the top - its often just a matter of when.
Thanks for reading, and I hope these musings helped. Be sure to contact me at email@example.com if you're interested in learning about ways that I can help you with demo shopping or other music industry services which you can find here.
-Mita Carriman Esq, Carriman Law Group PLLC.