How to Prepare Your Demo

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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 stand-bys: performing live music, and producing a good demo.

What is the Purpose of a Demo 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 through process.  When other people listen to your demo, not only do they broaden their musical horizons — they also get personally involved in your band.

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 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 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 demo.  No matter what your band sounds like or what genre you perform, these basic tips should help point you in the right direction.

recording a demo

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 quite as exceptional as it would were the demo intended 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 would not be in your best interest to sell them something of poor 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).

If you are planning on giving your demo to a representative at an established record label, use only the highest quality demo.  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.

concert crowd music festival 2015

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.

Last but not least, remember that the important thing here is to have fun.  Don’t worry about having to drop thousands of dollars to get your hands on top-of-the-line equipment.  The fact of the matter is, you are not going to become famous overnight. Start with friends and family first, then move up from there.

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 in L.A. at (323) 210-3599, or in Boston at (617) 517-4193.