Submitting a demo – Tip 3

I was recently asked the question; “Why did you reject my music demo?” After answering the question, it got me thinking that many people who submit a demo really don’t understand the nature of the music business, or indeed, what is required of  a demo if it is to stand any chance of receiving a positive listen that might result in the album and/or the artist being “signed up”. Even more painful is the occasional ‘bad response’ and reaction to having a demo rejected which can put smaller labels off the artist completely, irrespective of what they might submit at a later date.

So, tip 3 is, once again, general information. This time it’s about what a label might be looking for and why your electronic music or instrumental music demo may be rejected and how you might keep the label interested, even if they do reject your creation the first time round. Remember, this is how we at AD Music deal with demos. In my experience, other labels may have similar views, but I don’t presume that they all do and neither should you, so treat my comments as a commonsense guide.

In previous blogs I said that you should ensure that your instrumental music demo is accompanied by a good one sheet with as professional a photograph that you can provide, and that you should check in what format the music should be sent. Also make sure the label deals with your style of music.

Another tip is to have a good listen to the quality of music on the website of the label you’re submitting the demo to.

You see, I find that there are several misconceptions; Firstly, that sending poorly recorded musical ideas, or even just an “okay” demo (straight off a mid priced work station) is acceptable because; “The record label will be more interested in the music than in its presentation”. This is, sadly, rarely if ever true! In todays market, labels are looking for a good standard of musical ideas and production, because that IS achievable in inexpensive home studios. Unfortunately, sending in a demo of your tunes recorded on very basic gear with little or no processing or mastering simply isn’t going to cut it with most labels. Why? Because there are tens of thousands of home musicians who can and DO send in high quality demos of good, well recorded music. Your creation may sound great to you, and your mom may say it’s wonderful, but the affordability of good gear for home studios means that demos can and should at least meet a minimum standard. Very few labels are geared up now to providing musicians with cash to record their creations in a studio, particularly in the instrumental music genre. The music business has changed dramatically and those days are long gone.

Okay then, so: “How do I know if my demo meets that minimum standard?” I hear you ask. Well, as I said earlier, listen to the quality of music on the website of the label you’re submitting the demo to. The chances are it will be well produced and professionally mastered. The mistake that many an aspiring musician makes is assuming that just writing a musical creation and sending it off to a label is enough, when in reality, virtually ALL modern music demos require much more. Demos require a level of production and mastering that can either be learned by experience and achieved in a relatively inexpensive home studio, or paid for by getting someone involved who has the expertise. The ambient, new age, electronic and instrumental music genres are specifically “personal” and solo based, so it really IS down to the person submitting the demo to ensure that the music sounds ‘professional’. In future blogs I’ll give some tips on how to achieve this.

On occasion, AD Music has received some good quality electronic music demo ideas that just aren’t technically up to scratch and we’ve tried to give some encouragement to the composers. Mostly though, we send a polite “Thanks but No Thanks” reply. This is the way it has to be for us, and I’m sure for most labels because we don’t have the time to write a personal letter back to every rejected artist. We’re always happy for musicians to resend works but if we get rude, abusive or argumentative replies to our standard letter, then we tend to ignore the artist whatever they may send later because, quite frankly, we can’t be bothered to deal with anyone who we feel is likely to be problematic, however good their music may be. Telling the label what you think of their demo policy may make you feel better, but do you think the label will care a jot what you think?

So if you think your rejected music is quite well recorded and fits the criteria of the label, then ask them if they could give you more information and any advice to improve. You must be prepared to hear some things that might knock you back a bit, but constructive criticism is VERY healthy and most labels will respond if you make it clear that their experience advise would be appreciated. The bottom line is, don’t burn bridges!

Remember that making music is available to so many more people now and record labels are receiving many more demos that ever before. And that’s despite the fact that it’s easier for musicians to get their creations “out there” on their own through places like myspace and sound click. The technical level attainable in a home studios is now quite high and if you’re prepared to spend a little money, and experiment and learn about processing and mastering or go to your local studio, really good standard demos can be achieved. And indeed, good marketable product to!

~ by admusic on December 12, 2008.

One Response to “Submitting a demo – Tip 3”

  1. Thank you very much for the advice. How important is the CD packaging presentation to you when considering signing an artist? Do you hold more credence over professional pacakaging versus just a burned CD?

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