How to Make an Irresistible Music Demo
Before the multiplatinum albums, before the stadium gigs, the most legendary musicians had to go through one thing: the music demo.
Short for “demonstration,” the demo serves as a showcase of what you can do as a musician. It is your ticket to collaborators, jobs, live gigs, and the almighty recording contract.
There really are no excuses to not create a professional-sounding demo, now that recording and production mediums are as many as they are and reasonably priced. So how do you make a music demo that entices the most stolid producers and A&R executives?
1. Order is important.
A demo is not a full-length artistic statement. It only contains a maximum of three or four songs. Also, the songs must lead with the one that captures the rapt attention of listeners. The one that puts your best foot forward. Blow them away from the get-go; don’t nix your opening salvo with lengthy intros (unless the genre calls for them).
This is one area in life where “save the best for last” doesn’t apply. There is a good chance that the listener would stop the playlist halfway, so place your riskier songs third or fourth.
2. Professional studio is still tops.
An in-this-century approach is to record and produce the demo by yourself. Music honchos appreciate crackerjacks. If you don’t have the chops, enrol in production schools or take some online tutorials. If you’re a DJ, you may record your demo during your live sets. So that your prospects hear the exuberance of the audience over your music.
But the best demos are still made in fully fledged studios, where producers and engineers can use their expertise on your product.
3. Beware of home studios.
It’s true that recording and production equipment have become democratised over the years. But a home studio still has nothing on a full-service studio. A dedicated studio is built to industry standards and well-equipped to sharpen the sound of your music demo. The average home studio, on the other hand, is usually pressed for space.
Too often, a mere basement, bathroom, or closet doubles as a home studio. The acoustics of these facilities fall flat compared to a real studio.
4. Demo forma.
Demos have come a long way from cassette tapes. Today you can save your demo in a lot of formats other than CDR or DVD-R. Your demo can be saved on a flash drive or SD card, for instance. Or you can upload the music to the cloud as streaming clips or zip files. Just inscribe the URL on a flier, postcard, or business card.
5. Make your packaging stand out.
Package your demo in a way that makes it pop out in a heap. Tie it to your branding. For example, if you’re looking to break into tweeny pop, use bedazzlers on your business card. If you’re into country music, maybe tie your press kit with a lasso?
6. But don’t split hairs.
This is not the situation where you worry about the album cover art and jewel case. Those worries are the realm of signed artists. And your prospects could care less about anything other than the music. If anything, too much focus on the packaging detracts from the more important task, which is ensuring your prospects know how to contact you.
If your music demo is in a CD, for example, make sure the contact info is splayed on the disc itself, not on the jacket, as the two can get separated.
7. Assemble a press kit.
Your demo may be part of an overall press kit that also includes a CV and one-sheet, a promotional document that offers an abstract of your achievements so far as a musician. Use the press kit to crow about reputable musicians you have collaborated with. Spice it up with testimonials of industry insiders.
8. Know when to follow-up.
Don’t annoy your prospect by ringing him or her just a few days after you’ve sent the music demo. Remember, yours is not the only demo on the desk. Hold out for around a month before inquiring gently, preferably via email, about their thoughts on your demo.
It’s astounding how one bad choice in a studio, producer or engineer can botch the best songs. To make an evergreen impression on listeners, engage professional recording services. Music bigwigs may only give you one shot, and it is paramount that you don’t miss it with a hideous recording.
Alas, a demo is just one of many things that you can do to further your career prospects in the music industry. On top of securing a demo, you need to network well. Expand your contact until you can request an audience with a record label executive. If you’re after gigs, trawl the local clubs, bars and events to meet potential talent buyers.
Don’t forget the social nets too. Many an act has struck fruitful, lifelong relationships with valuable peers from lyricists to composers.
One good music demo today won’t be a good demo tomorrow. As your experience improves, your demo would mirror your growth and development as an artist. So hone your craft, be professional, and pay extra dues. Soon life would be making sweet music