How well-recorded do my
demos need to be?
Great question. We get it all the time. The answer is actually
very simple. For song pitches, the recording can be much less
"produced" than it should be for artist pitches.
Some people believe that a song pitch demo should leave some
room for imagination - let the artist or A&R person develop
some emotional ownership of the song by imagining a tambourine
part or a vocal harmony. For band or artist pitches, you may
want to flesh out more tracks that show the artist's whole
vision. Remember though, A&R people are far more interested
in the song's potential, and the artist's appeal than they
are about the quality of the recording. Nearly every act signed
to a major label will be recording their entire album over
again with a pro engineer and producer. The demo is only a
Home recorded 8-track demos are often sufficient for Film
& TV placements. For examples read TAXI's article Is
Your Sound Quality Good Enough For Film & TV Placements.
Should I record in a professional or home
For song pitches, you can almost always get what you need
from a home studio. Frankly, the same is true for artist and
band demos, but you will need more expertise behind the console
if you are doing a fairly developed demo.
You would really be surprised to hear how many great 4-track
and 8-track demos are played for A&R reps that were recorded
in "home" studios. The equipment is so good today,
that if you've got the engineering skills, you can literally
record a top quality album at home. The converse is also true.
If you place somebody who is pretty clueless behind a million-dollar
Neve console with a killer array of microphones and outboard
gear, the result they get will sound like it was done in a
low-end home studio. Like so many other things in life, it's
not the equipment; it's the skill level of the person using
Should I use a producer?
If it's possible to find somebody with a great reputation
who really knows how to produce, the answer is yes. A highly
skilled, objective ear almost always makes for a much better
On the other hand, there are a lot of unscrupulous people
who claim to be producers, but don't really know what they
are doing. Research your choice carefully. Try one song together
before you commit to doing more work.
Should I sing my own demo?
If it is an artist pitch, absolutely. If it's a song pitch,
try a professional demo singer if you can afford one. An exception
to this rule of thumb is when the writer (meaning you) has
a great voice, or just the right kind of voice for the song.
I've heard demos sung by people who had gravel in their throats,
and couldn't nail a note to save their lives, but somehow
their voice worked. Maybe it was because they conveyed the
meaning of the song better than a stranger could. But please
don't take this idea as an excuse to put a lackluster, crummy,
or inappropriate vocal track on your demo.
Where can I learn to record my own demos?
While we cannot endorse any one recording training facility, we can offer this list from a search engine. And some, like Apple's Steve Jobs, speak highly about recording internships.
One last tip: For a song pitch, many industry
pros try to match the gender, ethnicity (when appropriate),
and key of the person they are pitching to. It makes sense.
Why would you want a white, Country sounding, male vocalist
singing in the key of F, id you were pitching a song to a
female R&B singer who sings most of her songs in A or
B? It's not a racial or sexist thing - it's just a way to
make it more apparent to the artist that the song would be
a "natural" for them to cut.