What Makes a Good Demo?

Good quality demo” can have multiple meanings. Some people refer this way to high quality sound, exceptional engineering and perfect mix. Others mean a unique song that has a high potential of becoming a hit. Considering that most musicians record a demo with a purpose of getting a record deal, we must understand what record companies think of this matter.

People in charge of record labels spend around 10% of their working time listening to demos. Sometimes they get CD with very high quality, professional songs. They press play button and hear a crystal sound with worm guitars, fat bass line, and perfect violins. The drums make the heart beat in the rhythm of music and the quality of musicianship and mix are above expectations. Such CDs are often delivered in a fancy package with artwork and superb liner notes.

In other case record company would listen to a cheap cassette with a label handwritten on it. These types of demos usually contain songs with very unprofessional sound recorded in a garage “studio” with noises and muffled tracks. Yet this is possible to find some real pearls in such records. Some songs would impress with emotions and feelings heard in every single sound, in vocalists voice and intonations. Such demos are capturing attention with their unique style and performance manner. These songs are very likely to blossom in a real hit.

The truth is that if the first demo with professional sound does not express any emotions and is not unique in any way, the record label would most likely sign a contract with the second musician, whose music and performance are really captivating. In order to get a record deal you must send a real hit to the label, nothing less.

Record companies are interested in making money. What they really need is a hit and this is possible to predict that they would invest in a poor quality hit song rather than out money into finely engineered and greatly produced demo. Yet, this is also not a secret that record label would prefer to sign a contract with professional musicians who are able to produce a great quality demo.

What to do? If you neither have money for high quality appliance, nor enough professionalism to record a perfect sounding demo, get yourself the best home studio equipment that you can afford and mater your skills as much as possible, paying enough attention to artistic and emotional performing. Even if you spend several thousand dollars on a home studio this is yet better than spending the same amount of money to record couple songs in a real studio. This way your equipment is forever with you. Get familiar with it. Feel comfortable with every single button and learn how to use all of its advantages. However, do not get overwhelmed with using appliances. Save your energy for performance and great music writing. Remember that all you need from this equipment is to produce a quality sound. The greatest resource is your artistic taste and talent.

There is one more important thing to remember here. Even though you might have all appliances to create a multiple track demo, yet this is often not needed. Record label representative must hear how demo can sound if they put more money in it and involve professional engineers to complete the song. Often all you need is a rhythm track and definitely a persuasive emotional vocal. The rest can sometimes spoil the first impression and cut the ways that listener’s ima­gination may take.