When you're eager for the decision-makers at a record label to listen to your demo, the idea of stopping by their office, CD in hand, is tempting. But is it ever a good idea? A resounding NO.
Why Bringing Your Demo to a Record Label Is a Bad Idea
In almost every instance, dropping by a record label office unannounced to give them your demo is going to backfire and here's why:
It's uncomfortable: No one at the label wants to be subjected to listening to your demo in front of you, and they don't want to accept it from you in person either. It's not because of an uppity attitude nor is it a reflection on your music. Rather, everyone at the label understands how much your demo means to you, and the vast majority of the demos any label hears will be turned down. Giving the label the space to judge your demo on their own terms will work in your favor. Putting them on the spot will not.
It might not be an office: This one only applies to small, indie labels, but you might be surprised how many of your favorite music businesses are operating out of someone's bedroom or garage. Turning up at someone's house? Awkward. And a little scary...for both of you!
The receptionist is ready for you: On the other end of the spectrum, major labels have front desk receptionist who has dealt with people bearing demos thousands of times. You're not getting past them. Plus, a vast majority of labels that have receptionists don't accept unsolicited demos.
You'll be remembered for the wrong reasons: It might seem like visiting a record label with your demo shows some spunk and "go get 'em" attitude. It may seem like a great way to make an impression. You might not be forgotten. And you're unlikely to be remembered fondly.
Record Label Demo Policies
Almost every record label has a demo policy clearly listed on their website—follow it to the letter. The demo policy isn't there to discourage you. It exists to establish an efficient method to deal with the demos that pour into even the smallest labels. The label wants to give your demo gets the chance it deserves, or alternatively, to save you from wasting your time approaching a label that can't be of help. Here you'll also find acceptable demo formats (eg, CD, mp3 clips), their mailing address, the name of a specific demo (A&R) rep to whom you should address your package, and the follow-up guidelines indicating whether it's acceptable for you to call or email.
Now, the caveat: Every rule has exceptions. You may happen upon a label that invites drop-in visitors, and there is undoubtedly a musician somewhere, who got a deal by bursting into a label office with a demo. However, your best bet with demos is to stick to the guidelines.