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What makes for a good demo?
Old 29th June 2009
  #1
Lives for gear
What makes for a good demo?

I was having a discussion with a couple of guys (three in the morning and whisky flowing) working here and the conversation got around to the making of demos.

Once we'd got through the "When is a demo, a demo?" question, we had boiled it down to the process of a band or artist coming into a studio for one or two days and expecting to walk out with a recording of two or three songs, well recorded, so that they could send that off to venues and others that might be in a position to do them some good.

Every one of us had a different theory on how to make a good demo in such a short time. Rather than load you with what I think or what the others said, I thought it would make a good question to ask here -

What do you do to make a good demo?
Old 29th June 2009
  #2
Lives for gear
 

The demo has to be pointed. Who is it for? What is the purpose of the demo?

Because a songwriter demo is quite different than a demo that is used for shopping for a record deal or producer deal, and that kind of demo is different than the kind of demo used to get work in clubs.

In Nashville, the old cliche is that your songwriter demo only needs to be a guitar and a vocal. But that is a crock of bull. That sparse demo only works if the person who will be judging it has good ears and the talent to tell if it is a good song. And usually, to get that talented person to hear it, the demo first has to pass through his secretary and other non-talented people who couldn't tell a hit song if it bit them on the ass.

So most publishers try to make the demo sound exactly like a finished record and not leave anything to chance. They make the demos as pointed as possible. For example, which singer are you planning to shop this demo to? Because singer X doesn't like steel guitars, so don't put a steel guitar on that demo or he won't like the song. And singer Y doesn't use background singers, so leave off the harmony on his demo. Maybe singer Y likes distorted guitars, so that's what you use on his demo.

The perfect demo will be one that gets the job done. Which is to sell. So know what it is you're selling and who you are trying to sell to.
Old 29th June 2009
  #3
RTR
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RTR's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by deeper View Post
The demo has to be pointed. Who is it for? What is the purpose of the demo?

Because a songwriter demo is quite different than a demo that is used for shopping for a record deal or producer deal, and that kind of demo is different than the kind of demo used to get work in clubs.

In Nashville, the old cliche is that your songwriter demo only needs to be a guitar and a vocal. But that is a crock of bull. That sparse demo only works if the person who will be judging it has good ears and the talent to tell if it is a good song. And usually, to get that talented person to hear it, the demo first has to pass through his secretary and other non-talented people who couldn't tell a hit song if it bit them on the ass.

So most publishers try to make the demo sound exactly like a finished record and not leave anything to chance. They make the demos as pointed as possible. For example, which singer are you planning to shop this demo to? Because singer X doesn't like steel guitars, so don't put a steel guitar on that demo or he won't like the song. And singer Y doesn't use background singers, so leave off the harmony on his demo. Maybe singer Y likes distorted guitars, so that's what you use on his demo.

The perfect demo will be one that gets the job done. Which is to sell. So know what it is you're selling and who you are trying to sell to.
Perfect answer!!
Old 29th June 2009
  #4
Lives for gear
 
baslotto's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by deeper View Post
The demo has to be pointed. Who is it for? What is the purpose of the demo?

Because a songwriter demo is quite different than a demo that is used for shopping for a record deal or producer deal, and that kind of demo is different than the kind of demo used to get work in clubs.

In Nashville, the old cliche is that your songwriter demo only needs to be a guitar and a vocal. But that is a crock of bull. That sparse demo only works if the person who will be judging it has good ears and the talent to tell if it is a good song. And usually, to get that talented person to hear it, the demo first has to pass through his secretary and other non-talented people who couldn't tell a hit song if it bit them on the ass.

So most publishers try to make the demo sound exactly like a finished record and not leave anything to chance. They make the demos as pointed as possible. For example, which singer are you planning to shop this demo to? Because singer X doesn't like steel guitars, so don't put a steel guitar on that demo or he won't like the song. And singer Y doesn't use background singers, so leave off the harmony on his demo. Maybe singer Y likes distorted guitars, so that's what you use on his demo.

The perfect demo will be one that gets the job done. Which is to sell. So know what it is you're selling and who you are trying to sell to.
Great explanation, it changed my view about the subject.
Thank you! =D
Old 29th June 2009
  #5
The best thing you can have for a strong demo is a good song.
Old 29th June 2009
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Harvey Gerst's Avatar
And if it's a demo to get gigs, make a 5 minute demo of the best parts of 5 different songs. Club owners don't have a lot of time to listen to long demos. They wanna know if the group can:

1. play decently
2. sell beer
3. fit the club's image
4. bring in customers
5. work cheap
Old 29th June 2009
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
EqnoixStudios's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by deeper View Post
The demo has to be pointed. Who is it for? What is the purpose of the demo?

Because a songwriter demo is quite different than a demo that is used for shopping for a record deal or producer deal, and that kind of demo is different than the kind of demo used to get work in clubs.

In Nashville, the old cliche is that your songwriter demo only needs to be a guitar and a vocal. But that is a crock of bull. That sparse demo only works if the person who will be judging it has good ears and the talent to tell if it is a good song. And usually, to get that talented person to hear it, the demo first has to pass through his secretary and other non-talented people who couldn't tell a hit song if it bit them on the ass.

So most publishers try to make the demo sound exactly like a finished record and not leave anything to chance. They make the demos as pointed as possible. For example, which singer are you planning to shop this demo to? Because singer X doesn't like steel guitars, so don't put a steel guitar on that demo or he won't like the song. And singer Y doesn't use background singers, so leave off the harmony on his demo. Maybe singer Y likes distorted guitars, so that's what you use on his demo.

The perfect demo will be one that gets the job done. Which is to sell. So know what it is you're selling and who you are trying to sell to.

Very good post. It has come down to writing completed songs now, demo's don't fly unless you are already well established. If you are going to an artist who you already know, you can have a less than stellar production if the song connects to the artist.
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