After over 10 years of handling demo material sent over to my indie label, I ended up with a valuable collection of tips & tricks. I wish to share them with our Music2Deal community. They may be relevant to some, but may be irrelevant to others or most of them are already well known as basic rules in the industry. In any case, I believe that it is worth sharing.
No matter what you are doing in the music industry; a newcomer media composer or singer, a semi-pro musician to break into further horizons or even a long-time-professional, you would be required to send a demo (or show-reel, sound-reel, etc.) to somewhere sometime.
By an incorrect perception, the term „demo“ usually sounds something like „a primitive proof of what you can do“. The correct meaning would be, being an abbreviation of „demonstration“, can also denote some references and past productions of what you have done and those would not necessarily be primitive. This is why those are usually named as “show-reel” or “sound-reel”, as if it is differed from a „demo“ which is thought to sound more degraded;
– recorded vocals over playback with midi sounds
– trial audio file
– web-cam-recorded poor performance
– mobile-phone-recorded acapella vocal
– un-mastered pre-recorded rough material, etc…
Which ever is mentioned, this article is widely related and applicable to both primitive recordings and show-reels or sound-reels, in term of presentation and submission.
I bet, everyone who receives demo materials would agree that a demo can not be and should not be rough. No one can stand for a bad tuned guitar in a poor mix or a vocal with bad intonation over 8 bit general midi sounds in a demo recording and would decide to work with the sending party, although the sleeve of the demo CD remarks ;
„This is an amateur recording and if you give me a chance I can do it
“Of course I will sing better in your high-tech studio”
“I would play this solo much better if you provide me a US made stratocaster”.
Never try these excuses… Do not send a demo, work-out and wait until you find yourself perfect. Check with your younger brother or sister. They would tell you the truth.
A demo material is not only a demonstration of your musical ability or talent, but sometimes more of yourself, your expectations, intentions, your character, carefulness, responsibility, seriousity and ambition that they will want to know, before considering to work with you. So, a demo is a package of many other things as well as your music and/or performance. I guess; no one can claim that a perfect voice with a very badly prepared demo material would always beat the less powerful vocal with an impressive presentation. Spend time with the quality of your demo package and send it to a lesser number of recipient, instead of spreading tens of copies of a lousy CD with bold marker hand written name on it or spamming label emails with copy paste messages with 10 mp3 tracks attached.
So here are some tips & tricks for newcomers who are keen on learning how to send a demo to a label, producer or manager :
1) Basic rule : never send an unsolicited demo ! You will waste your time and money. Remember that hundreds come everyday and go to the waste box, because some labels, producers or managers do not spare time or assign labour power to screen them. Send an e-mail or call their office to find out if they accept demos or want to receive yours. Try to get a contact name to direct your mailing. Do not think that they are working like a „social government organization” or “a public desk for demo acceptance“ who are obliged to accept all demos and give a response in a certain time. They are not. They may choose not to accept any demo.
2) Make a study about the person or company that you are contacting with a demo. Do not mis-spell their names. Be aware of their activities. Do not put yourself into irrelevantly foolish situation. You may loose your chance even before you get heard.
3) What ever you wish to send as demo, be creative and impressive. Try to build an empathy in your mind, with the person who sits there to screen all incoming material, before putting them to a higher level who has a decision. If you impress the first level, then you have more chance to be heard. How to make an impressive demo package ? You must find out this one. Are you really believing that you will impress the audience when you are accepted ? If yes, then start by that person.
Tips & Tricks – Sending A Demo (Part 2) will be published on Friday. Stay tuned to read 8 more great tips!
By Volkan Gücer