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What does an "artist demo" mean to YOU?
Old 7th April 2003
  #1
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

What does an "artist demo" mean to YOU?

I think the title says it all...

Chris
Old 7th April 2003
  #2
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mac black's Avatar
Lets forget luck for a moment...
A good artist demo depends on who is playing it to the a&r....
Old 7th April 2003
  #3
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Too often it means that somebody wasted a lot of money that should have been spent on publicity and on building themselves a solid local fanbase! It's so unusual for a demo to lead anywhere worthwhile that it's amazing

I have a friend who runs a duplication business. He figures he's duplicated over 50,000 demos and the only one that ever earned anybody a dime was a self-accompanied guitar demo that Huey Lewis got a few covers off from long after had become famous!

Certainly a live video is a great tool for getting bookings today but anything beyond that is probably a waste.
Old 7th April 2003
  #4
Moderator emeritus
 

And keep in mind that if the demo is made for a specific purpose (getting live gigs versus shopping for a publishing deal or a record deal), then the whole approach to the demo may (or possibly should) change.
Old 8th April 2003
  #5
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Curious G's Avatar
 

I demo a lot for a couple local singer-songwriters, mostly so they can hear what they're doing, present the idea to their band or session musicians and develop or arrange the song. The demo often becomes the guide track when production begins in earnest.

Years ago I worked for Diskmakers (when they still pressed records!) and they were just floating the concept of being a vanity press for bands looking for "one stop" short-runs. Now they're the kings of that market.

Bob says that a friend "...figures he's duplicated over 50,000 demos ..." and nobody earned a dime. Well what about his friend? Sounds like he made a fair bit of change! My point is that the "demo" market is a profit center that folks shouldn't overlook. It can be a starting off point for an act who wants to record but aren't settled on a studio yet and wants to test the waters by just cutting a demo.
Old 8th April 2003
  #6
I produce a LOT of "demo/masters" there is a wishfull agenda for the recordings to be taken up by labels and released. I have a high sucess rate in this endevour. While not commissioned by labels, many of my productions get released.

Whats that called?

Old 8th April 2003
  #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jules
I produce a LOT of "demo/masters" there is a wishfull agenda for the recordings to be taken up by labels and released. I have a high sucess rate in this endevour. While not commissioned by labels, many of my productions get released.

Whats that called?
Howabout "Music Equity Speculative Production Investment" ... "MESPI"!!

I do a lot of work like this too, where there's hopefully some piece of upfront cash available (to stay alive), and/or I do the project for points, and various recoupment/ongoing income devices including slivers of publishing, percentages of independent sales, licenses, bonuses, etc. to get paid what I would have wanted up-front, plus a smaller, ongoing royalty, etc.. for having ventured.

Also known as "will work for contracts"... ... an optimist's life.

I'm heartened to hear you have success with it.

-dave
Old 8th April 2003
  #8
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alphajerk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Curious G
I demo a lot for a couple local singer-songwriters, mostly so they can hear what they're doing, present the idea to their band or session musicians and develop or arrange the song. The demo often becomes the guide track when production begins in earnest.
to me, this is EXACTLY what an artist demo is.... which is different than recording an album [self financed] which a decent amount of money has been made from... my last band we did a "demo" and kept selling out 100 runs [that i burned MYSELF, on 2x CDR... did all the graphics, which were printed on a laser printer on card stock. the CD's were even all hand drawn on by all four of us so each one was unique because the screen i planned on screening the CDRs with got clogged after the ink melted the top layer of the first one i put through] we made a good bit of money from those and they actually "travelled" quite far considering they were only hand sold... we probably sold 1k of them [not bad for selling them by hand and making them by hand] and made about $6k off them.
Old 8th April 2003
  #9
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Last summer a band whose CD I'd recorded the previous year came back to do a 3 song CD to sell at shows. They wanted it to be down and dirty 'cause they had a very limited budget. They stressed that they needed something to sell at a $5 price point at gigs. They sell the full 13 song CD for $15 I think but the shorter/cheaper CD's always seem to sell out at shows... hey, it's only a little more than a drink! It's a DIY dupe job @ Alpha and it's a serious addition to the low pay available to gigging original acts in my region.
Old 8th April 2003
  #10
Here for the gear
 

I'm a little confused - someone here thinks that artist demos are a waste of time. I make demo's for bands , and artists to shop to labels all the time ( it is the record biz - they do want a demonstration) Unless I want to send my acts to play live for every manager/label/publisher, and agent, i'ts the only way. I've also got hundreds of demos from bands that would like me to produce them,or songwriters pitching songs.- I'm kinda glad I did'nt have to have all these people come to my studio - it would have gotten very crowded.
cheers - dave darling
Old 9th April 2003
  #11
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Just to be clear, what I meant by a "demo" is a recording intended only to be sent around to arouse interest inside the industry.

A recording that's intended to be sold to fans or as a master to a label is not a demo, it's real "product." The difference is in the intention and expectations.
Old 9th April 2003
  #12
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chessparov's Avatar
 

Is "Nashville" really easier going on artist demos and songwriting
demos than most of the other genres?
This includes less emphasis on looks vs. talent, although
Country/Pop ala Faith, Shania, et al, that would be more expected.

I can imagine a demo of singer/acoustic guitar or singer/piano
having a better chance of being "heard".

Chris
Old 9th April 2003
  #13
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davemc's Avatar
 

Well I agree with Chris, I think a demo of a song for a lot of styles should be that. A nice vocal and guitar/or piano. Gives the song the focus instead of cheap producing.

A demo for a live band should be then just playing no overdubs so you can see what the bands vibe is.

A lot of bands I get in to do demo's to get pub gigs then try to polish it quickly. So it comes out as a badly polished demo trying to be something it is not. Adding backing vocals or a second guitar line on the spot.
Although the amount of bands I have come in that can play there songs from start to end without big mistakes are less and less.

Although I know bands that deliver a release quality recording as they are seasoned and know enough to do this quite well and quickly.

So I do not know the answer, I know when I did a compilation CD lat year, I got a lot of home demos of bands with all these overdubs that was badly mixed and you could not heard anything really. So these were just hard to listen to and I left a few of them because of this.
Old 9th April 2003
  #14
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dave-G's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Olhsson
Just to be clear, what I meant by a "demo" is a recording intended only to be sent around to arouse interest inside the industry.

A recording that's intended to be sold to fans or as a master to a label is not a demo, it's real "product." The difference is in the intention and expectations.
By those definitions, is there a difference in what goes into a "demo" vs a "product"? It's a rare client who sees a distinction between what these two could/should sound like, or a client who's willing to have the "demo" sound or appear like anything less than a "product".

I also don't imagine there are many people inside the business-end of the industry who have the ability to imagine what a full "production" of a song or an artist would sound like, based on a simpler demo. Perhaps people in publishing looking for songs would, but to arouse label interest in an artist? I dunno anymore.

-dave
Old 9th April 2003
  #15
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alphajerk's Avatar
 

i think "demos" are more for artists hearing what they sound like back at them [sometimes for the first time] and to send to clubs for shows [does that count as inside the industry?]
Old 9th April 2003
  #16
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jules
I produce a LOT of "demo/masters" there is a wishfull agenda for the recordings to be taken up by labels and released. I have a high sucess rate in this endevour. While not commissioned by labels, many of my productions get released.

Whats that called?

I call it pretty cool myself. It means less 'interaction' with label big-whigs and more artist control/creative input.
Didn't Lenny Kravits's Let Love Rule come out in a similar fashion, or is that an urban legend?
Old 9th April 2003
  #17
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cram's Avatar
 

Around here, it's to get gigs.
Old 10th April 2003
  #18
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

What people in the industry invariably want to know is "Do they draw an audience?" rather than "Can they make a great recording?"

A demo doesn't tell you anything about draw and the truth is that you can go out and hire somebody to make a great recording of just about anybody. The only demo that accomplishes anything is the one that gets people out to a gig where they'll be knocked out by both the performance and the effect of the performance on the audience.

As for Nashville, my impression is that it is really no different than anyplace else. The quality of song demos required is, if anything, higher than most places.
Old 10th April 2003
  #19
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Curious G's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Olhsson
What people in the industry invariably want to know is "Do they draw an audience?" ...
There you go! Nicely stated Bob.
Old 10th April 2003
  #20
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chessparov's Avatar
 

I'm sure your right Bob about Nashville, however, my prior impression
was that those in the industry there may have more "imagination" on
how a simple demo could be better arranged as eventual product.
Better generally than say "the L.A. scene" would on a rock or R&B song,
for example.

Chris
Old 10th April 2003
  #21
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by chessparov
I'm sure your right Bob about Nashville, however, my prior impression
was that those in the industry there may have more "imagination" on
how a simple demo could be better arranged as eventual product.

Chris
As much as I'd like to say that this is true, most of the records coming out of Nashville for the last couple of years are really re-recordings of the demos - hooks, background vocals and all. Of course, the guys who came up with the hooks on the demo sessions don't get much credit for it, but when they hear the song on the radio, they can have at least that bit of satisfaction...

What Nashville needs is a new batch of producers doing major label work...
Old 10th April 2003
  #22
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mdbeh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Olhsson
What people in the industry invariably want to know is "Do they draw an audience?" rather than "Can they make a great recording?"

A demo doesn't tell you anything about draw and the truth is that you can go out and hire somebody to make a great recording of just about anybody. The only demo that accomplishes anything is the one that gets people out to a gig where they'll be knocked out by both the performance and the effect of the performance on the audience.

As for Nashville, my impression is that it is really no different than anyplace else. The quality of song demos required is, if anything, higher than most places.
I think it's worth pointing out that all of this applies to low-level indies as well, though perhaps for slightly different reasons.

A few years ago, a band I was in was trying to get signed (we eventually got signed to a decent-sized indie.) What we heard over and over again from label people was:
-You must be willing to tour (or already touring) more or less constantly.
-Any recordings you already had should be, if at all possible, release-quality, as that made you considerably more attractive to the typical cash-strapped indie.

A&R guys at any level will tell you that unsolicited, semi-professional demos are pretty much destined to be thrown away or used as drink coasters. It's a bit depressing, but it's reality.
Old 10th April 2003
  #23
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chessparov's Avatar
 

Not that this will change anything, it's just that some of those
"coasters" could have been profitable for the label and/or
publisher. A sharp way for an owner of either business would
be to hit this niche market. There will always be talented artists
capable of creating profitable material, who for one reason or
another, don't send in a polished master-oops I meant demo.
Look at all the other businesses that cater to DIY's.

If we're seeing more releases out of Nashville that are 95%+
based on the demo, isn't it logical to assume that we'll also
eventually see more "break out" artists compared to the past?
Because if the singer and song on that demo are that strong,
why don't they just release it themselves and eliminate the middleman?
This is rhetorical-understandable that some songs are placed with
bankable established artists than "unknowns", etc.

Chris
Old 11th April 2003
  #24
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by chessparov
Not that this will change anything, it's just that some of those
"coasters" could have been profitable for the label and/or
publisher...


If we're seeing more releases out of Nashville that are 95%+
based on the demo, isn't it logical to assume that we'll also
eventually see more "break out" artists compared to the past?...
The facts of life are that it would cost more to check out all the demos they receive than a company could possibly earn from the good ones. Labels aren't looking for good music, they are looking for artists who fit what their team thinks they can market. Most referrals come from local sales and promotion people. The kid behind the counter at Tower Records is probably a far more valuable connection to have than a top A&R person!

As for Nashville, Dave's talking about music publishing demos. Artists typically go through several thousand looking for a song that fits what they need.

The amazing thing is that it isn't all that hard to get something happening if you really work on building an audience beginning at the grass-roots level and just let the labels come to you.
Old 11th April 2003
  #25
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mdbeh's Avatar
 

Yeah. It makes so much more sense to just get out and play instead of waiting for Deus Ex Machina from a label. If you can demonstrate you have a following, you have much more leverage than if you're just one of 1,000,000,000 CDRs.
Old 11th April 2003
  #26
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Interesting thread...I like Jules' approach (especially since he harangued me into adopting that very same approach last year).

At the ASCAP headquarters in NYC recently, they had a seminar dedicated to song demos. The panel included major songwriters, producers, and the head of urban A&R for Universal. The panelists were unanimous in agreement with this mantra: "There is no such thing as a 'demo' anymore." The point being: Any recording that DOES NOT sound like finished product is useless.

The most important function a demo can serve, it seems to me, is to communicate the existence of a hit song. The industry needs hits. Only something that sounds like a hit will catch the industry's attention.

Building a huge following doesn't necessarily equate to that goal, and I've seen some somber examples of that. One was a Philly band called Greenhouse that built up a huge regional following some years ago, and then rode a corporate-sponsored "battle-of-the-bands" contest all the way through the national finals, eventually bagging the world championship in Tokyo.

Coming back to the states, they held a SRO showcase at the Cat Club in NYC which was attended by every major A&R director. Greenhouse rocked the house to adoring screams and cheers, but the label folks walked out without approaching the band with an offer. Zero, zilch, nada. Why? There were no memorable hits in the set, and I know because I'd seen them play and felt the same way. They pleased the crowd, but I could not remember ONE SONG 5 minutes after their set was over. No deal for Greenhouse, and they were forced to change the name of the band to Isle Of Q and start all over.

Bear in mind I'm not saying don't gig. When I'm looking for singer/lyricists to collaborate with, I'll choose the one who's out gigging regularly. But we agree from the get-go to that we're NOT making "demos," but producing radio-ready tracks, and that is a whole artform in itself. Successfully done, it can reap rewards in ways other than the artist "getting signed."
Old 11th April 2003
  #27
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So...
The best way to get major label backing is to show them you don't need it! (like the old loan cliche)

Seriously, much of what's being said here confirmed my suspicions
on the reality of what today's performers and/or songwriters face.

Chris
Old 11th April 2003
  #28
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Um, Eric, I disagree, artist demos do still exist. If you don't have great representation (lawyer and manager), then maybe it's a different story.

And songwriting demos exist to a higher extent. I understand your point, but I don't think it's that black and white.

However, like mentioned, there are a lot more indie labels and smaller labels under a big 6 umbrella looking for the ready to print project. I think a lot of this is timing as much as budget.
Old 11th April 2003
  #29
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"So...
The best way to get major label backing is to show them you don't need it! (like the old loan cliche)

Seriously, much of what's being said here confirmed my suspicions
on the reality of what today's performers and/or songwriters face.

Chris"

Indeed, and if you don't need it, why tie your hands with a that notoriously exploitative bunch? They are much more likely to bury you than promote your work well, and even then, you are likely to be deep in debt for the rest of your life.

So what would the point be, anyhow?

I'm thinking an artist demo is about having a calling card to get gigs. And it seems that a "professional" seeming CD does a lot to establish credibility.

No doubt that a live and kicking audience is the only thing that matters.
Old 11th April 2003
  #30
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by chessparov
So...
The best way to get major label backing is to show them you don't need it!...
Exactly. No bank is ever going to loan you money just because you make better hamburgers than McDonalds.

The industry has worked exactly this way since I started out at Motown in 1965.
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