April 7, 2015
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? (more…)