Making a Demo Work
* Today's article was written by Brian D Hensley
As a band or as a solo artist, eventually you have to start thinking about making a demo CD for A&R reps, producers, production companies, and record labels to help market, fund, and traffic your music.
Getting someone in the music industry to take the time to listen to your demo is not an easy task. Most demos are tossed in the garbage before they are even opened and if they are listened to, even if you only put three songs on the CD, most people in the music industry won't even bother listening to the whole thing. Don't take it personally; it's the music industry.
But if you do have something special and you are ready to put together a demo CD in the attempt to get the attention of the music industry, there are some things you need to know to be successful in this venture.
Put Together a Couple of Great Tracks
First, you have to take some time and decide which songs are your best songs that will grab the attention of someone who might want to invest some time in you. Three to five songs are all you really need.
Special Track Structure for a Demo
To improve your chances of having more than one song listened to you should set your demo CD up like this: take 30 seconds of each song and put those clips as your first three to five tracks. Next, create another three to five tracks of the same songs at their original lengths and put them at the end of the CD. This will help when someone important listens to the CD, they will hear just a little preview of each song and they can quickly move on to the next one. When and if they do hear something they like they can go forward to the track that contains the whole length of the song for more.
Important: Make sure that you label the CD cases with the information that tells the person who will be listening to the CD that the track structure is set up in this special way to avoid confusions.
Also, make sure that all artist names or the band's name are on the CD insert or cover along with each member of the band and their responsibilities.
The ideal of a press kit is to essentially tell whoever picks up your CD to listen to it, who you and or your band are, what your accomplishments are, where you have performed, and any proof of a local, Internet, national and international fan base that you have acquired throughout time under the bands or artist name.
You may also want to have some live performances recorded at a venue you frequent or in the studio where you record. Yes, it would make more of an impact to have a live performance at a venue, but you can still do some really cool stuff in a studio with a camera.
In this press kit you also want to include a bio - make sure to include what ambitions and intent you yourself or your band has along with any other info that can help you or your band standout.
Take some time and network with people who are involved in the music industry - ask questions and make connections. The idea here is to find places you can send your demo CD to that are worth your while. My first demo CD I sent out, I made the mistake of sending it out to every place that was or maybe wasn't excepting demos, and to this day I wonder just how many demos I sent out that never made it out of the package before finding its way to the trash can. I'm going to assume out of probably 150 demos I sent out, only about 2 percent of them made it into a CD player, that's a lot of wasted time.
The best way to avoid wasting your time sending out demos to places or to people who won't listen to it is to make your music solicited. Sounds tough right? It's not, a lot of bigger record companies do not accept non-solicited music, but all you have to do is talk to someone and get them to agree to listen to your music, and then you can send it to the address of which they give you and label it "Attention: corresponding name" and now you're solicited. This will help you and the company or person you send it to. A three-minute phone call will give you an exact address to send your demo to so it won't end up in the wrong hands and then tossed in the garbage.
Get Some Representation
Let's say you have exhausted all of your connections and the Internet is a well ran dry of possibilities. You can always look to hire professionals to help you get your music in the hands of the right people. Yes, it can be expensive, yes it can seem like they're doing nothing more than what you can do, but the difference is that they probably have connections that you would never be able to get your hands on, that's their job. The question you have to ask yourself or your band is "will it be worth the money?"
There will be a risk, let's face it, no one wants to think that they aren't good enough and no one should have to. But in this case, if you or your band still needs more practice and more experience, you should wait on spending the money on professional help until you and or your band can utilize it in the most efficient way.
You have to look at like this, if you are paying someone to help you and they know that you're not ready for this type of move yet, that person you are paying will not tell you because they want your money. Even worse, they will not give you or your band the time and the effort you are paying for, basically, because it won't be in their best interest for their career to promote your music to other professionals when they know it's not ready to be promoted.
But if you feel you are ready and you have an awesome press kit, bio and demo, and you're ready for the big boys but your connection just aren't powerful enough to get your music noticed, this could be money well spent.
Keep in Touch
Let's say you have made some contacts and you have some people who are willing to give your music a listen. There is nothing wrong with a follow-up phone call. Let's say you sent your music and the person or company has received it but has not taken the time to listen to it yet. This phone call could light the fire under someone to open the CD and give it some time, especially if you come off as someone who might just call ever week until someone does listen to it. You may also help yourself by calling if someone has listened to the CD and is on the fence about it. A phone call could show them the ambition that they want to see from an artist, and that might sway them in the right direction about what they want to do about the situation in general.
A Couple Last Things You Can Do
This is not a must, but it will help you look more professional: Get your music copyrighted. This won't only make you look more professional but will also protect your music when you're sending it out to different places.
You can also help yourself and your band by using art work in the form of a label or a symbol that can be associated with the band or you as an artist. Again, this is not a must, but anything that can help market your name is just one more thing to add to your press kit and can help your chances of success.
One last thing that should be noted is that this is a process, making it big overnight will be like hitting the lotto. So unless you're feeling that lucky, get ready for the long hall.