What a music demo is?
Recording a music demo is the next step to do after writing a song. First, let’s try to give it a definition.
A demo is a recording of one or more songs in a fixed format (compact disc, digital audio files or links for streaming) used for a private or limited circulation rather than a public release
Why making a demo?
There can be several reasons for making a music demo and are strictly related to its destinations. We have identified some that you can find from the following below.
A demo for yourself
The first destination of a demo is yourself, the author of the song/piece of music. Making a demo for yourself is useful in order to make your project real and start having a self-critical approach. Understanding what might be right or wrong, what it works and what you should get rid of, what is fantastic and what is awful. If it worths to carry on because it’s not just something already heard or, worse, a plagiarism!
It’s basically a process through which you can listen to the song and have your first important considerations about it.
A demo is also useful because it can allow you to study your song; learn the melody and potentially decide to test your new composition during gigs or open mics.
Suggested types of demo: rough demo, private demo
A demo for bandmates
Another destination can be your bandmates. If it’s important making a demo for yourself, it’s definitely more essential for sharing your ideas with other musicians who work or might be involved on the same music project. It might happen that everything (or almost everything) is clear in our head and we assume that other people quickly recognise what we mean. Unfortunately, or fortunately, people don’t live inside our brain, so a demo can clarify many aspects quickly and efficiently, saving a lot of time (and money) during rehearsals.
Suggested types of demo: rough demo, orchestrated pro-demo
A demo for record producers
Record producers can be with no doubts another important destination of your song demo. A record producer is generally a professional paid by the artist for recording a song. Even in case of a brand-new producer, if they own a studio, they might ask you at least to pay recording fees (which generally include expenses for the rent or for repaying their instrumentation) in order to provide their services.
Depending on their popularity, record producers might receive from few to many demos everyday. If a rough demo can be fine for a brand-new producer, a good quality demo should be your choice for a successful most wanted producer.
Suggested types of demo: rough demo, pro-demo, orchestrated pro-demo
A demo for signed artists
Not all songwriters are singers or performers. There are some who prefer giving away one or more songs to other artists. This is the case when a rough demo mightn’t be enough, unless the artist is a close friend.
If the performer is signed to a record label, they are most likely known in the music circuit or, even better, a popular star. Therefore the technical level of your song demo must be high, besides being artistically close to that artist’s style.
The main goal in this case is impressing the performer, trying to inspiring and let them imagine their own voice singing along your song.
For the purpose of this kind of destination, you should provide a professional demo itself and, on request, an additional vocal backing track, allowing the artist to rehearsal the song for a more immediate feedback.
How to send a demo to a signed artist?
The golden rule is contacting the label, not directly the artist for sure. For more information, read the paragraph about record labels below.
Suggested types of demo: pro-demo, orchestrated pro-demo, vocal backing track
A demo for record labels
Making sure that your genre matches those requested from the label.
A&R (Artists and Repertoire) is the department in charge for scouting, but also for the artistic and commercial development of their recording artists.
Before contacting them, check their demo policy. All labels have one and it is generally visible on their official website.
First thing first, be personal and tell them why you have chosen them instead of others. Further, most of them don’t accept big files by email (nor CDs especially nowadays…), but most likely will accept an email including a private link of your song on Soundcloud.
They need also to figure out soon the reason of your message (don’t write poems) and, if after a couple of weeks followed by a gentle reminder they don’t get back to you, it’s highly probable they are not interested in your proposal. That is we suggest to not chase them anymore with the same song (or the same version of it).
Suggested types of demo: pro-demo, orchestrated pro-demo, vocal backing track
How to make a demo on your own?
Rough demo vs good quality demo debate
Some professionals, bloggers and websites refer to a demo like a rough recording of a song or piece of music. The main idea is that a demo shouldn’t be perfect or polished. However, it might happen that the destination of your music (A&R, artist managers, live music event organisers, etc) might have different requirements or expectations.
Why a good quality song demo makes the difference
Delivering a good quality demonstration of your performance would allow your listeners to focus on the song, rather than the limitations of the mean. If you think that certain persons are able to figure out quickly the potential of your music, you are totally right, they are. But maybe there is one aspect you haven’t considered yet: the lack of time for listening carefully to the huge amount of songs they receive everyday.
Therefore, the truth is that the only way for hoping to be listened (not just to be heard) by who counts in the music industry is providing a demo which sounds already good. It has not to be considered finished or necessarily completed, but those guys expect something that is technically (and possibly artistically) more pleasant than the average.
Types of music demo
As we mentioned above, the level of a demo should depend on its target: A&R, Small Labels, Artist Managers, Clubs, your own pleasure and personal satisfaction. Considering these aspects, we have identify four main demo types:
- Rough Demo: an early stage demo in order to study the song or share ideas with other musicians
- Professional Demo: it’s a recorded in a professional studio and is also mixed, which means it sounds good. Ideal for A&R, indie labels and artist managers.
- Orchestrated Professional Demo: a professional demo variant. Depending on the genre, It provides additional instruments which could give the listener a full idea of the final song.
- Private Demo: a rough or pro-demo, eventually orchestrated, provided for your own pleasure or to share with your close friends
DIY demo vs professional demo
If your aim is getting a rough demo for yourself or your bandmates, we suggest to try doing it on your own and save money. We understand that not everybody are confident using softwares and learning the basic of home recording, but if you want to work in the music industry it worths to have a try.
Although we encourage musicians to improve their recording skills, doing everything on your own might not be always the right choice. Maybe you are more confident than other fellas on recording your stuff, but your mixing knowledge lacks and your home studio has a poor treatment.
These are some of the reasons for which you should record your demo with the help of a professional guy in a well treated environment.
Need a professional song demo?
We provide a professional song demo service for songwriters, solo artists and duos in London (UK). Read more visiting our Solo Artist Demo Session Service.