How Fancy Does My Song Demo Need To Be?

Greetings, fellow songwriters! 

February was a short – but full – month, and as a result February’s post will be shorter than usual. 

That said, I wanted to address a question that frequently arises: “Just how fancy does my song demo need to be?” I’ve learned that the answer is slightly more complex than I once believed.

So, how fancy does my song demo need to be?

I personally LOVE to hear my song demos done by a full band. It really thrills me to listen to them for the first time at a quality level equal to anything played on the radio. 

I always think, “Man, that sounds like something (Artist X) would release! I can’t wait to pitch it to them!” When I pitch them, artists are very complimentary of them. 

Then, I was privileged to witness Mark “Brink” Brinkman pitch a song demo to a publisher during a break at IBMA a few years ago. “Brink” pulled out his old guitar, walked up to the publisher, and said, “I’ve got a song to run by you if you have a minute?” and he just played and sang it. 

It was masterfully simple – no polish – just clearly communicating a great song and an excellent example of demo music. I don’t recall if “Brink” got a cut from that song or not, but it impressed me how he just put It out there – just him and his guitar.

 “Brink” is a fantastic songwriter and a consummate professional who knows his target audience and is certainly well-known in return. As I learned, that publisher prefers to hear stripped-down demos, especially from established songwriters. 

It seems there are indeed some who prefer to hear new songs and demo music from the perspective of a blank canvas, open for their own interpretation. This topic came up in my recent interview with Stephen Mougin, where I learned that Stephen accepts full-band demos but sometimes remakes them with only his guitar before presenting them to his Dark Shadow artists. 

Customize your song demo for your target market

In Stephen’s words, “If the demo is TOO complete, what can the artist do except simply learn to play the song exactly as the demo? Are you going to pay Sam Bush to learn somebody else’s mandolin break? Or get Sam’s original contribution?”

Face it – we’re not ALL household names in the world of songwriting, nor do we all own successful record labels. 

For the rest of us, we need all the help we can get! That means we may benefit from more comprehensive demo music that grabs artists’ attention. For those artists who prefer the stripped version, I still need help; I don’t have the singing voice to communicate my songs effectively without the benefit of a professional demo. 

Folks like me are tasked with developing close relations with our target artists, so we know how THEY like to hear song demos. We then have to ensure we supply demo music that matches those preferences.

Fortunately, the solutions offered at BDT can be customized to match my target audience. I can specify a full demo as well as a guitar/vocal stem on my order. 

If I’m uploading to the song library, all versions of the song demo will be available for artists looking for material – I don’t even have to do the legwork to find out the individual preferences of every potential target artist! 

I send them the link to my songs in the library and let the artists choose the version of the demo they want to consider. It simplifies the process and even gets my songs considered by artists I haven’t gotten to know yet.

Here are several tips to follow when preparing your song demo:

To recap, the answer to “How fancy does my demo need to be?” depends upon the following:

  1. Know (really know) your target audience for demos and supply them with demo music in a format that matches their preferences.
  2. Do you honestly have the technical skill (vocals, instrumentals, and recording setup) to make your own stripped-down song demo? If there’s any doubt, entrust the demo music to the professionals at BDT. As a single BDT project, request a full demo AND a guitar/vocal stem. Pitch them according to your target’s preferences.
  3. If you don’t have a personal relationship with target artists, direct them to the Song Library in BDT by supplying a link. Let them select the format for your song demo that they prefer. Additionally, they can access charts and other details they need to enable them to give your song demo a fair consideration – or even a “test drive”!

If you don’t know where to begin, check out the services offered at Buy Demo Tracks. We can help start your song demo and put you on the right track.  

Until next time, keep writing!

Jim Grubbs

There’s a disconnect between the way songwriters and performers create music. We’ve spent our entire lives in the music industry and have seen firsthand how difficult it is to pitch that song you’re so proud of AND we’ve seen how hard it can be to find great songs for that upcoming project. So, was created to help change the way we write, create, and record music together forever.

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