A song demo can be one of the most powerful tools in the songwriter’s arsenal.
Of course, a song demo can also be an enormous waste of money!
Knowing what a demo is and when it is best to invest in one will save you time, money, and frustration.
In this blog post, we’re going to define what a demo is, help you understand whether or not you need one, and what you should be looking for if you decide that you do.
What is a Song Demo?
A song demo is a professionally recorded track that, if done properly, will bring your vision for the song to life so that interested parties hear what you intended for it to sound like.
When it comes to demos, there are a few different schools of thought.
One says that you don’t really need a demo at all. After all, most artists will want to make your song their own anyway, so why would they want to hear someone else’s idea of what it sounds like?
This thinking makes sense — however, it’s not practical unless you are already a well-connected songwriter.
If you have close friends in the industry, have built trust and a reputation already, or for some other reason don’t need to “break into” the market, then perhaps you don’t need a demo.
If you’re in any other situation, you should strongly consider it.
Another school of thought says your demo should be free from interpretation and focus on highlighting the lyrics. This, too, makes logical sense and some of our clients request this specifically.
There are drawbacks to this, though. Even though a clean, simple demo is better than having no demo at all, without an established reputation, it might still be hard to get people excited about your song if the demo is “all business” and free from color.
When I say that, keep in mind I intend no offense to your abilities as a songwriter. The fact is, you are a songwriter. There are professionals whose primary skill is to take what you have done and produce it into something magical.
That’s where the final school of thought comes in — that your demo should be well-produced and precision-crafted to sound like a full studio cut. In full disclosure, this is our view and the way we prefer to work with clients.
Why? For a few reasons:
- A reputation for quality. Many clients choose us specifically because we have high-quality demos that get results. Our demos, especially when paired with high-quality songwriters, are often pitched by publishing companies to top-tier artists.
- The reality of the market. Without a high-quality demo, it would be nearly impossible for a new songwriter to break through in today’s market (more on that in just a bit). By focusing on quality we give songwriters the chance to put their best foot forward.
- The evolution of the industry. Most songs — even those written by top-tier songwriters and produced by fantastic demo studios — don’t make the cut. We think the best opportunity is for songwriters to use these professional demos and create a brand of their own.
The simple reality is that a high-quality demo cut — one that sounds like something you’d hear on the radio — is the best opportunity songwriters have to get noticed and establish a reputation for themselves.
Should I Record My Own Song Demo?
You probably know the answer to this question already (at least you might have a gut feeling about it), but let me give you a few simple guidelines to go by.
First of all, you probably know whether or not you have the musical and technical ability to record a demo track at the level of quality we’ve discussed so far.
If you don’t, then no, you should not record your own song demo. You will be amazed at what a professional demo could do for your song(s).
Let’s say that you do have the musical and technical ability to record your own demo.
In this case, you absolutely could. However, there are a couple of reasons you might not want to do this.
First, you know as well as I do that an outside perspective/interpretation could be helpful. I learn new things every day by being humble enough to let others inform my thinking.
In music, even a very slight change can take a song from mediocre to incredible. You are likely “too close” to the song to make that decision, and having another set of ears on the production might make a big difference.
Another consideration is the people you work with. For example, by the very nature of our work and our business, there are respected industry professionals who will listen to demos we’ve cut just because we’ve cut them.
That is not something we say to gloat, but it is also something we do not take likely. We’re not the only ones in that position, either.
The point is — even if you’ve got the skills, it may still be a wise decision to allow someone else to record your demo. We recommend you send us a worktape and we can evaluate the song from there to see what it needs.
What to Look for in a Song Demo Studio
If you’ve reached this part in the article, then perhaps you are considering working with a company like BuyDemoTracks.com to record a professional demo for you.
That’s great! But to be honest, what we want for you is simply to make the most informed decision. Yes, of course, we’re a little biased and we’re proud of the work we do.
But regardless of whether you ultimately choose to work with us, here are some things you should demand and expect from any quality demo studio.
1. Clear Communication
The cardinal sin of most client services businesses is a lack of communication. We don’t always get it right, and sometimes we have a backlog of projects that puts us a few weeks behind.
What you should expect, though, is clear communication on timelines. You should never have to wonder about the status of your demo. You should always be able to reach out and get an answer from us within 48 business hours.
We know that a lack of communication is confusing and frustrating for you, so we put processes in place to minimize that as much as possible.
2. Attention to Detail
There is no doubt you can get a great song demo cut by thousands of studios across the world. But “great” is something altogether different than exceptional.
Exceptional requires attention to detail and a production value that is almost unbelievable, especially for the financial investment. Our goal is to provide the very best outcome in a demo for you as possible.
One way we achieve this is by radical attention to even the smallest details. Yes, we are perfectionists, but we’re not “recovering” perfectionists. We think this is the way it should be in order for your goals to be met.
3. A Focus on Your Best Interests
Speaking of your goals — a great demo production studio will be “you-focused.” Now I want to make a careful distinction: This does not mean your producers and musicians should be “yes men” who go along with whatever you say.
If that is what you are looking for, you’ve probably not made it this far in the article, because we think that songwriters should write songs and producers should produce songs.
A focus on your best interests will make sure the song has what it needs, you are a satisfied customer, and your expectations are in line with reality. That brings us to the next item:
4. Realistic Expectations
Sadly, the music business writ large is full of snake oil salesmen. Not only do they not have your best interests at heart, they only have their own interests at heart.
This is most evident when you find someone selling you on hopes and dreams. We think studios should invite you to work with them on the basis of what they can do for your songs.
We can’t promise song cuts. Or even song pitches! What we can do is take a good song and make a fantastic demo, that makes the combination into something exceptional that is worthy of airtime.
5. A Plan for Your Success
However, just because you should work with a studio that promotes and discusses realistic expectations does not mean you should work with a studio that has no interest in your success as a writer.
These services are admittedly unique to BuyDemoTracks.com, but we think they are a huge part of working with a studio that not only wants to see you be successful but is doing something to help make it happen for you.
Will a Song Demo Increase My Chances of Getting a Professional Cut?
It’s impossible to give numbers, but the simple answer to the question is, YES! It definitely increases your chances.
Again — by how much is anyone’s guess. But considering that your chances are virtually zero without one (again, realistic expectations), we think planning a song demo for any song you’d like to see do well is a very good idea.
That said — we would like to challenge the idea that the goal is to get a professional cut, if by “professional” we mean an A-list (or even B-plus-list) artist cutting the song.
We’re big fans of doing what we can control. Believe it or not, there is a lot that is within your control. Sure, it takes time and money, but don’t most things?
It all starts with an exceptional demo.
Once you have that, the sky is the limit. We could upload it to Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, etc., promote it on the radio, have a professional musician sing on the track for a fee, etc.
Contact us today to learn more about some of the innovative ways we’re helping songwriters get their music out there.
So, is a Song Demo Worth It?
The answer to this question depends on what your goals are.
But in truth, even if your goals are so modest as a desire to hear an amazing interpretation of your song, yes — we think investing in a song demo is worth it.
As we have high demand and limited capacity, the best way to work with us is to sign up for our Songfuel program, which gets you 50% off every demo you record with us (and a whole lot more).
We’d love to help take your idea and make it into an exceptional song.