How to Prepare Your Demo EP
There are countless ways to get your music heard, especially now that smartphones and websites are giving indie musicians more power and flexibility than ever before. Yet for all the creative tactics new musicians have at their disposal, two of the best and most effective strategies are old, tried-and-true standbys: performing live music, and producing a good demo. Most often this first release is marketed as a bands first EP. In today’s current streaming landscape, the way one leads up to and releases a demo EP follows a pretty standard timeline of releasing a single or two from the EP one at a time, and then the whole EP at a later date, once the singles have drawn attention to the demo and band.
Click here to see: What is an EP?
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A DEBUT EP FOR MUSICIANS?
Every musician knows that well-crafted demos are important — but why? Think back on your own experiences, and you’ll have a big part of the answer.
How many times have you heard a new band on the radio, loved the song, and immediately wanted to hear more? Other people go through the exact same process. When other people listen to your first release, you want to make sure there is somewhere they can go to hear your song again on demand (like Spotify or bandcamp), as well as the rest of the demo EP.
You have their attention — don’t lose it. Consider the track order and make sure your demo starts off strong. With any demo, the hope is always that, at first song, the listener hears something that might just make them fall in love with your music. That is always the ultimate goal.
So how exactly is this done? You know what a demo EP is, but how do you make a successful demo that stands out from the crowd? Musical taste is subjective, and creating the “perfect” demo will always be a tricky endeavor, but this article will help you get started by going over a few essentials to consider when creating and producing a viable first EP. No matter what your band sounds like or what genre you perform, these basic tips should help point you in the right direction.
ESTABLISHING YOUR BAND’S TARGET AUDIENCE
In school, teachers tell students to think about their audience before writing a paper. This lesson applies to music, too. The very first thing you need to do when preparing your demo is to establish who the demo is actually for. Are you producing this demo to give to family and friends, are you going to be selling this tape after the show, or are you planning on giving this tape to a representative at a major record label? The answer to that question impacts the contents of your demo tape.
Think of it this way. If you are giving your demo out exclusively to your friends and family, the quality doesn’t need to be recorded at a top of the line studio for industry professionals. At the same time, your friends and family might pass it on to their peers. Unless you are absolutely certain the demo will never be used in a professional capacity, you should never intentionally slack on quality.
At this point in your band’s life, you are just trying to get your music out there. Obviously you would always prefer to make the best quality demo, but newly established bands may not always have the funds to pay for state-of-the-art equipment, or pay for professional studio time. Do the very best you can with what you can realistically afford. Bankrupting yourself won’t do you any favors. Consider using budgeting software to keep track of expenses.
If you are selling your demo after a show, you should take extra care to ensure the highest possible quality within a reasonable budget range. After all, consider the consumer: fans who liked your music. It should be your highest priority to sell them something of high quality. If they feel like they’ve been ripped off, the experience will leave a bad taste in their mouth and make them think twice before they recommend your music to friends (or purchase any more for themselves). In your area there is usually an affordable local studio that won’t charge you an arm and leg to record three or four songs.
If you are planning on giving your demo to a representative at an established record label, use only the highest quality recording. Keep in mind, these representatives receive hundreds, maybe even thousands of demo tapes in a week. Put simply, these people are busy. Don’t waste their time (or your own time) by submitting a sloppy, hastily-assembled product. You’re up against plenty of competition as it is, so don’t compete against yourself.
SINGLES AND ROLLOUT
Once you choose the three or four songs you want to comprise your demo EP. You need to determine which to songs will be the singles that will help draw attention to the release of the whole thing. Getting CDs and having those at the ready is a good idea in the long run, as well as its own mission with its own tips and set of objectives, you’re going to want the demo EP to live on the internet, and in all the right places.
Here are some steps to going from concept to released demo EP.
1.) Choose the four songs: it’s important to show your band has a little variety between songs, but not enough where it doesn’t feel like one cohesive band. Choose the ones you have most fun playing live, and the one you think the most people would love.
2.) Pick which two will be the singles: of the three or four, you will decide as a band, intuitively, which songs are the best to show people first
3.) Record the four songs: spending time in an affordable local studio is worth way more than going to LA or NYC to have your first demo made. Just drive to the nearest city and find the local pros, even if you have to drive four hours to Kansas City, for example. It’s always worth it to learn close to home.
4.) Have them professionally mixed and mastered, even if by a local: Do not skip the mastering process! We can explain in our article about mastering here.
5.) Sign up with a Distributor: To deliver your demo EP to Spotify, iTunes, and more, you need to pick a distributor such as DistroKid.com or tunecore.com/ and sign up. Trust us, you need to be on these services to have your demo taken seriously today. Its is no longer a world of slipping people CDs.
6.) Put out the first single: The distributor allows you to schedule the release of the singles. Make sure to use social media to your advantage so you get people ready to hear new music. The more people you can have listen to it right when it comes out, the more people who don’t know you will be directed to find your music via algorithm.
7.) Put out the second single: Have the second single set to release a few weeks later, and keep building hype. It should all cascade into one smooth snowball effect
8.) Finally, roll out the demo EP, with a music video: If you can, prepare a video for the first single and release it when the whole demo EP comes out. Even if it’s just a lyric video, having other media content is great for drawing attention and getting writeups. Also, it helps you post across the social media outlets such as Instagram and TikTok with content for their reels.
Make sure you also put it out on bandcamp: bandcamp.com/ is the best way to email and send people your demo EP without sending files. People just want the URL, not a streaming link. Also, they currently provide the best method to sell your digital and physical music directly to your audience, and don’t take most of the money!!!
CHOOSING YOUR ALBUM COVER ART
Now that your band has decided on the intended use of this demo, and how it is going to be produced, the next step your band needs to take is to determine how you are going to appeal to your audience visually. In other words: what type of cover you are going to put on the CD case.
Music is for the ears, but humans are still visual beings. Our first impression of an object comes from sight. Even though you are a musician, and your job is to appeal to an audience through the art of sound, visual appearance is just as important when presenting your demo.
Maybe you’re a heavy metal band, and you want your CD cover to portray the chaos and anarchy that’s reflected in your music. Maybe you play jazz flute, and you want your cover to portray a relaxed environment where people can sit back on a calm night and discuss Miles Davis’s contribution to music. No matter what type of music you create, the cover of your CD gives people the very first impression of your music, and that is something that should always be taken into consideration. Even though we shouldn’t judge books (or CDs) by their covers, that is precisely what most of us wind up doing.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Last but not least, remember that the important thing here is to get better as a band. Recording is its own skill, like learning to play live. Sometimes it takes a band a couple of sessions and attempts at making a demo before everything clicks. The most important thing is the play the songs as well as you can and capture some of the emotion and fun of playing music. Then upload each single one by one, and roll out the demo EP at the right moment, and point everyone to your website and streaming services like Spotify so you can get more spins and spread the songs around the world.
If you’re ready to take your musical career to the next level, the experienced music promoters at Planetary Group may be able to help. To talk about what we can do for your band or solo act, give us a call at (323) 952-5050.