How to Send a Demo to Def Jam Recordings

The music industry is changing every day, and despite people questioning, if record labels are dying,, the fact remains that signing with reputable labels like Def Jam, responsible for the success of MANY icons, is still a goal and dream for many!

You've built up a buzz, you're getting insane views on your music videos, and now you want to get your music out there even more.

You've got your eye on Def Jam Recording, a Universal Music Group company responsible for some of the most successful hip-hop and R&B artists of the 1980s and 1990s, including LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Mariah Carey.

And, still highly relevant today, Def Jam is home to many chart-topping artists, including Rihanna, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber.

So how do you do it? Let's explore the two main methods of how to send a demo to Def Jam and a couple of rules that you need to follow...

How to Send a Demo to Def Jam Recordings

The Two Main Ways to Send Def Jam a Demo

There are generally two main methods to getting your demo into the ears of the Def Jam team, as well as any of the other Universal Music Group labels. These methods differentiate between how involved in the wider music industry you are and who you're already connected with. 

Method 1

The most typical and arguably easiest way to get your demo into the hands of the Def Jam A&R team would be to have it handed off to them.

This would be through someone like a manager, agent, producer, radio DJ, or some other kind of industry professional. (Universal Music Group

The reason that this is one of the easiest ways to get your demo to this label is that Universal Music Group, and all of its record labels, refuse to take or listen to any unsolicited media.

They do this because of the sheer amount of music that they receive. If you send it through the proper channels, though, the odds of them checking it out are much higher.

Method 2

If you're an independent or otherwise unsigned musician, you do have another option. Universal Music has a platform called Spinnup that provides services like digital distribution and access to a whole network of talent scouts who have relationships with a variety of labels in the group, including Def Jam. (Universal Music Group

There are a few other kinds of platforms that you can find that provide similar services, but because of the nature and relationship that Spinnup has with Universal Music, this one is a great choice for attempting to get involved with Def Jam.

What to Know BEFORE Submitting a Demo To Def Jam

Once you figure out how you plan to get your demo to the Def Jam A&R department, you'll want to make sure you do these key things to increase your chances of getting in the doors:

1. Make Sure that Your Music Is of The Highest Quality Possible

This means,

  • professional production values
  • strong songwriting, and,
  • catchy hooks!

If your demo sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom on a laptop, it's not going to make a good impression. Likewise, you might have a certain, marketable look – but if the music is trash, it won't be enough.

2. Do Deeper Research on The Label and Its Roster to Make Sure that Your Music Is a Good Fit.

Def Jam has a specific sound and style that they're known for, so if your music is drastically different, it's not likely to get their attention.

Make sure you're familiar with the kind of music they typically distribute before submitting your demo.

3. Your Demo Needs to Be in The Right Format.

It depends on who you're working with, but having your music in the correct format makes it easier for them to check out.

If you're working with a manager or industry professional as a midpoint, they'll probably tell you what you need, but usually, it will be something like a link, mp3, or CD. 

4. Prepare Your EPK

The next thing you're going to want to do is have some information about you as an artist to go with your demo.

The best option for that would be an EPK, otherwise known as an electronic press kit. These are collections of photos, career highlights, demo information, and also a biography about who you are.

This gives them a chance to see who you are outside of the music and helps to personalize the whole experience. 

5. Be Persistent but Not Annoying.

It can take months or even years to hear back from a major label after submitting a demo. The best thing you can do is keep writing and recording new music and keep showing up, trying to get your name out there.

If you haven't already seen the Kanye West documentary, ‘Jeen-Yuhs’, you should watch that, ASAP!

It shows you how relentless Ye was in pursuing getting his deal and getting the respect his music deserved despite being shut down and not taken seriously.

It was frustrating, but he never gave up and he believed in himself in a way that most people cannot even fathom – you need to have that relentless belief and keep going… if you are good enough, they will take notice of you eventually!

You just have to make them (but don't be annoying, though…)

What Next?

Of course, the last thing you want to do is make sure that you're not sending unsolicited material or anything that infringes on copyright. From there, if you do what is asked of you while sending out a demo, you should really be good to go. 

At the end of the day, record labels like Def Jam receive hundreds of demos. It takes a lot of both skill and luck to get chosen to sign with them. That doesn't mean you should ever give up on sending out your demos. It just takes time and determination to find a record label that fits best with you. 

You also want to get clued up on the different types of record deals out there and be prepared to consult with an entertainment lawyer.

About Author

Arielle P

Arielle P

Songwriter | Music Producer | Engineer.

With a background in music production and a strong passion for education, Arielle is dedicated to helping emerging artists navigate the music industry. She has worked with a diverse range of artists, from indie rock bands to well-known hip-hop and grime artists. Arielle's unique approach to teaching focuses on empowering artists to take control of their brand, ensuring they retain creative ownership throughout their journey. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with new sounds in her home studio and sharing her insights through music production tutorials and workshops.

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