Tech Tip:Demo M.O.: Tips for Submitting a Good Demo


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Formats / Soundbites / The Press Kit


Are you ready to put your music on the line? It's demo time.


There's no magic formula here. It'd be nice to think that raw talent alone will get you a seat on the Lear jet, where you and Clive dip your shrimp and laugh about international sales. Your talent may get you there someday, but first you have to wrap it up in a smart, sharp package and get the right people to listen. Distributing a demo that presents your music in the best light is your first step.


As the cost of CD burners and blank CD's continues to fall, musicians are releasing their own demos at every turn. Self-manufacturing allows you the flexibility to customize each demo release for your target. Plus, you're not locked into a song list should you come up with a great new tune after having 1000 copies manufactured.


If, on the other hand, you're selling and distributing demos faster than you can burn them, you may want to mass produce complete CD's, or at least have a short run of 500 demos manufactured. CD duplication services are reasonably priced these days, with production available at under $2.00 per CD.


Whether you're knocking out demos one by one at home or considering a larger production run, make sure your demo serves your aspirations. The following points, compiled by feedback from industry execs, will improve your chances of being heard.


You need to submit your demo on compact disc. CD's provide the best audio quality, look the most professional, and allow the listener to skip around your tracks at his/her leisure. Listeners have the most playback options with CD's since they're likely to have a stereo in the office, CD-ROM platters on their desktops and laptops, a CD player in their car, a home stereo, and maybe even a portable player. Industry people with open ears are listening to music all the time. Make it easy for them.


Forget DAT tapes, forget cassettes, forget MiniDiscs. Video tapes or DVD's can be included in your press kit if you have footage, but neither is an adequate substitute for a CD.


Increasingly, people sniffing out new talent are turning to the Web. They' ll download MP3's, listen to samples at band websites, or check what's been uploaded to any number of music sites. While MP3's are great for exposure on Web sites, don't email music files unless they've been requested. Introduce yourself to someone via 20-minute download and you can bet they'll reach for the delete key faster than you can say "Terence Trent D'Arby."


Assume that you have less than ONE minute to capture and hold the listener 's attention. If you have long song intros or a tune goes for three verses before getting to a hook, the listener may never make it to your proudest musical moments.

There are a few smart ways to be seen through this small window of opportunity.


-Point to the demo's strongest selection.
If there are three tunes on the demo, highlight your best shot with larger type, stars, the words "FIRST SINGLE" or anything else that calls attention. Make it the first track, too.


-Create "sampler" tracks.
Each of your songs has its strongest point, whether it's a catchy chorus, an instrumental break, or one verse of rap. Why gamble that the best parts might not be heard? Consider creating "sampler" tracks of excerpts only. You can follow them with the complete songs, but this is a good way to get your best material up front. It teases the listener into delving further, too. Your track list might look like this:



1.Funktified Chickpeas (chorus hook):15
2.You Smell Real Good (outro):35
3.Cabbage Patch Fever (flute solo):12
4.Funktified Chickpeas3:15
5.You Smell Real Good2:58
6.Cabbage Patch Fever3:30


Tip: Never circulate music that isn't copyrighted and marked as such. For information on copyrights, see the U.S. Copyright Office page at .


Tip: Include only 3 to 5 songs on your demo. Full-length demos are not out of bounds, but it's best to leave 'em wanting more.


At the very least your press kit needs to contain these elements:



The crucial piece, of course.


Don't be longwinded. You're lucky if they read it at all. Show some personality and express what differentiates you. List your musical background and musical accomplishments to date. If it's a band demo, name the bandmembers right up top.


Contact Information
Splatter your act's name and contact information everywhere. Put it on the demo cover, the demo's spine, and on the CD itself. Put it on the bio, on images and on the outside of the package. These people's offices are littered with demos and your CD will no doubt be separated from other promo materials, maybe even from the jewel box. If someone falls in love with your music at home and your contact info is back at the office, you are S.O.L.


Other pieces you may want to include in your press kit:
- Photos (especially for label submissions)
- Introductory letter
- Schedule of upcoming gigs
- Press clippings
- Lyric sheets (for songs on demo only)
- Video of live performance


A big fat press kit is not necessarily an effective one. Again, know your target and include the elements that may be of interest to them.