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#706294 - 03/30/09 02:49 PM Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments?  
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DonnaMarilyn Offline
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I recently noted a record company was looking for song material for an artist. After checking out the artist's site, I felt that her voice and style would suit a song of mine. As it happens, the co-writer and I intentionally kept this song simple, with vocals and one instrument, so that the demo wouldn't sound cluttered and the music/melody and lyric would stand out.

I phoned the head honcho of the company (Missile Records) just now to obtain permission to submit, and was informed that any song they listen to needs to have at least three instruments. He said that in the past a lot of producers/record companies would listen to one-instrument (plus vocals) demos, but that those days were past.

That was a bit of a shock (but thank goodness he informed me before I sent the CD).

I was wondering what experience others here might have had/be having. Are multi-instrument demos now becoming de rigeur?

I've read recently through the many listings in Songwriters Market, and saw no mention anywhere with regard to number of instruments on demos. If it makes the difference between being listened to or not, surely that info should be included.

Donna


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers


#706295 - 03/30/09 02:58 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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I was pitching to an artist in LA, big one, that *preferred* stripped-down demos. So who knows? It would be a pain (and an expensive pain) to have two different cuts of each song.

Although the basic game plan that was suggested to me (given the time and resources) is to do stripped-down demos ($150-200) of the songs I thought were good, and to pick the best few (after rewrites, feedback, etc.) and do full-band demos ($600-800) of those. So in that scenario I'd have both versions of my best songs.


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#706297 - 03/30/09 03:02 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Donna, from what I've noticed lately, a demo needs to sound the way the cut would sound. The amount of instruments then should be pretty much the same as the cut. I suppose if you had the perfect Nora Jones song with just her voice and a guitar, that might be fine...but there really aren't many hits out today that don't have at minimum drums, bass and either guitar or piano. I'm guessing that's where the number three probably came from.

But I've come to accept that any demo needs to sound REAL good, just the way you'd want it to sound on the radio.

#706300 - 03/30/09 03:09 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Z. Mulls]  
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Donna,

That zesty dill really hit the spot! Oops, thought I was still on the shout box.

The Prez of Sony Records Canada told Cal (my co-writer) that our piano/vocal demos were fine for submitting.

However, some companies may want a full "broadcast quality" production.

There's no set answer for this. Depends on the listener.

Best, John

#706332 - 03/30/09 04:41 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: John Lawrence Schick]  
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My experience--limited, remember--has been that most of the Official Types listening to your demo can't (or don't want to) imagine what your song would sound like without "full band treatment." So I try to accommodate the lack of imagination as best I can.

Accordingly, when I have something done in a studio, we'll do it with a band. There will be bass, maybe drums (I can always call it "bluegrass music" and leave the drums out), a "whiny" lead (fiddle, harmonica, accordion, &c.) and a "non-whiny" lead (guitar, banjo, mandolin, &c.)--and I'll let the sound engineer mix the leads around so it sounds distinctive.

The Dark Side (for the Industry) of that lack of imagination is if you do that "full band treatment" on a song, what you end up with, if everybody's good, is something that you can easily put on a record and sell yourself. And I've done that, too.

Joe

#706338 - 03/30/09 05:00 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Joe Wrabek]  
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Donna,

For the past many years, full demos have been the rule for the "Real pitches." One of the reasons are the amount of filters everything has to go through. A "Hold" is simply a way of saying "They have to play it for someone else" before getting the go ahead on anything.
If an artist or writer is established a more simple demo can suffice, but up until then you are actually competing with the biggest dogs on the block who ALL do full demos. Another reason is that you might find a newer or up and coming artist who might end up using your song and possible demo to get attention in their own project. Making artists as much a part of the song now is essential since most of the material getting cut is "inside" material, which means the artist, producer, inner circle, record company or major publishers are providing the material. Outside songs have almost no chance to begin with so the less involved the demo is, the less chance we even have.
The process outlined by Z above is the right one, having clear guitar or piano vocals on all songs is the first step, but the higher the level the pitch you are shooting for, the higher the level the demo it has to be. And in the age of My Space, Face Book, Twitter, and You Tube, the technology have rendered the more simple stuff simply archaic. This is simply the way we have to go to buy the lottery ticket.

MAB

#706349 - 03/30/09 05:21 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Z.Mulls, Mark, John, Joe, and Marc, thank you so much for those perspectives.

Marc, you've summed it up nicely. Indeed, in this day and age full demos are the only thing that makes sense. Now I know what I need to do. wink

Donna


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers


#706351 - 03/30/09 05:26 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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And look at it this way. If you have a "full band" demo that doesn't go anywhere, you can still pitch it to TAXI for TV placement, since it will be "broadcast quality" ;-)


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#706355 - 03/30/09 05:38 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Z. Mulls]  
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Donna,

Always cover your angles. Like Z said (What an interesting name, do we call you that "Z"?) You have more angles you can cover with a full demo. And do this, ALWAYS" get a "Track mix" on any studio project you do. That is a backing track with no vocals. A few reasons:

#1 You might end up doing re-writes and it is easier to punch in vocals with a track mix.

#2 You might get multiple voices on your song. You never know where someone might be the "next big thing' who might love your song but can't afford to re-demo it. That might end up being on their project. A fairly small price to pay if it turns out opening a relationship with someone who goes on to be a big artist. Help them and they help you.

#3 Artists tend to get attention, so you could never tell where someone might hear them on the song and go "I don't really like the singer's voice, but where did that song come from?"

#4 You have a radio ready presentation for TAXI or anything like that. What if you ended up being interviewed by some local or college radio station as "local girl trying to make it big in music" kind of deal? It is best to represent yourself as well as you can.

#5 If you have music only with a nice track, you open up avenues for movie or television listings with the track alone. Exploring up and coming independent film or television or commercial companies could be a source for your music. Think outside the box. What is going on around you?

#6 Having a "Full blown" demo on My Space, You Tube, etc. shows that you are serious about your music. And you never know where cuts come from. I have a friend who just got five cuts from her My Space site, on a band in Texas who are a regional favorite. They are being played on 35 stations in Texas and my friend just got paid around $300 for that.Uses for music are every where outside the "normal" avenues. You just have to find them.

Explore all options and give yourself the best chances in all of it.

MAB

Last edited by Marc Barnette; 03/30/09 05:40 PM.
#706359 - 03/30/09 05:44 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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(Everyone calls me "Z." -- it's just easier at this point. It never gets misspelled, and everyone remembers it *g*)


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#706374 - 03/30/09 06:33 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Z. Mulls]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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I like that.

MAB

#706988 - 04/01/09 03:53 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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billrocker Offline
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Originally Posted by Marc Barnette
For the past many years, full demos have been the rule for the "Real pitches."
MAB


Hey Marc,

This is what I've always thought as well. However I was at a publisher the other night hanging out after a show and they started playing new stuff from Hugh Prestwood and some other amazing writers and they were ALL guitar vocals. I commented on that and it was unanimous that that's the trend these days.

They were basing their view on what they were seeing personally of course, and no two have the same experience...and I'm not refuting what you're saying...I was under the same impression...full demos all the time.

But maybe the ecomomy is changing things. Seems like just about everything coming from the inside that I've heard in the last month or so, almost without exception, has been guitar vocal stuff. Are you seeing this?

Thanks.

br
www.writethismusic.com

#706994 - 04/01/09 04:14 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: billrocker]  
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p.s. I'll add that if money is the issue I'd recommend paying for a top shelf professional gtr/voc rather than spending the same amount on non-pro full band demo (using amateur players to cut costs) any day and any time.

I just critiqed a song for a client that was a classic example of the demo being more of an obstacle than an attribute. I was really digging the guitar/voc 1st verse and thinking, "this is awesome!" Then the band kicked in and it was hard to listen through to the end. The guitar by itself was great and facilitated the song...the band was a 'one man midi band' thing and it was fairly hard to take. As much as I tried to hear through it I started not caring for the song itself because of the playing.

For songs that are brand new by writers seeking critique I actually request work tapes...voice and gtr into a cassette player. I find that if I suggest a rewrite, the writer who submitted a work tape is much more apt to embrace the notion than the writer who just paid $500-$1000 on a full band demo. Gee, I wonder why? ;>)

Work tapes are what staff writers submit to their publishers before a song gets demo'd, and in the evaluation stage of a song that's always been enough for me too. I'd rather hear the raw, bare bones, through the air to cassette creation first. I want to hear the chords, hear the melody and read the lyric...period. If a song passes that test I figure it's probably worth taking to the next step.

But ya can't pitch a work tape obviously. That surely goes without saying but I've suggested work tapes for evaluations in other threads and got railed for supposedly suggesting that a work tape could be pitched. Just wanted to clarify...thus the edit.

br
www.writethismusic.com

Last edited by billrocker; 04/01/09 04:28 PM.
#707073 - 04/01/09 07:11 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Hi Donna

Marc and Bill are certainly very knowledgeable and though not the long time veterans that they are-my experience is only full demos for publishers.....I go to Songwriter Workshops at BMI here in Nashville.....They are led by Jason Blume-one of the real "white robes" in this town as far as knowing what he is talking about...he says full demos for publishers...these workshops often have guest publishers who will listen to One song from the assembled cattle call of 50 writers who are let in for these things.....WORKTAPES DIE QUICK for those foolish enough to submit them........the publishers see them as a sign of disrespect...they arent there to play psychic and try to imagine what a song will sound like with full instrumentation and a studio quality production......they want as RADIO READY as you can make it....These cattle calls at BMI attract alot of people-from all over...so its really self defeating for some folks to fly in from wherever-hotels-meals-other expenses and then present a worktape.....so given my experience watching them get cut off so quickly-with Jason rolling his eyes and the publisher not happy that someone gave him a garage tape or whatever to listen to-I think that shows you what Music Row generally thinks of worktapes......yes I know full demos are expensive-but a worktape sent to Nashville is DOA...from what I have seen anyway.......

Tom

#707238 - 04/02/09 02:50 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: WriterTomYeager]  
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I was afraid of this...that someone would think I said "It's ok to pitch worktapes." That's why I edited my post and added that paragraph at the very bottom just to make absolutely sure nobody thought that's what I was suggesting.

I was saying if people come to me becaue they WANT TO HAVE HAVE a SONG EVALUATED I tell them a work tape is fine. Make no mistake, there's a huge difference in presenting a song to be evaluated and pitching a song to Dierks Bentley's producer to be considered for the next Dierks CD. I'm ONLY talking about how song gets documented during the development stage.

I advise my clients to not waste money on a demo before the song is ready to be demo'd...before it's done being rewritten and rewritten and rewritten...before it's up to the competitive standards of a Nashville song that can go up against Jason Blume's finest in a pitch cattle call.

I've had song after song after song come to me that I thought could possibly be ready to be demo'd professionally and pitched with some adjusting...some rewriting...some tweaking. I was right about one recently and it wound up on the radio after some rewriting. Four others I was wrong about...but when the dust settled those 4 other ones were much better songs after some rewriting than they were when I first received them. I might add that all 5 came in on work tapes.

Pitch me a song and tell me it's a demo when it's actually a work tape...you're right, I may lose a little respect. Pitch me a song and tell me it's a work tape becausae it's not done and I'll respect you more because I'll know you're not foolish enough to demo a song before it's ready.

The writers who've just spent $800 on a demo are always a little more reluctant to entertain the notion of a rewrite than the ones who recorded the song into a mono cassette deck.

I believe that a good song is a good song and anyone in the industry can spot a song that shows promise by listening to the song on a work tape. But that's only the beginning. The demo has to be KILLER to sell the song, not to mention you have to know someone who knows you who knows what you do who knows you pmup 4 times when you shake hands firmly or whatever, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. But why should someone spend money on a full band demo, OR a professionally recorded gtr/voc for that matter, before they've even run the dang song up the pole a couple times to see who salutes? If it's done, and it's ready to be pitched, OF COURSE it's gonna need a great demo.

But I also believe that no killer demo will turn a bad song into a good song and you can put that on my grave stone. ;>) However, I do believe there are great songs out there that have been demo'd poorly and those songs have some cards stacked against them right out of the box when it comes time to pitch....to say the least.

The reason I asked about gtr/voc demos is because just in the last 3 or 4 weeks I've heard quite a few people in Nashville talking about making the shift to pitching more guitar vocal demos...NOT WORK TAPES...I'm talking about professionally recorded, professionally played, and professionally sung gtr/voc demos (or 'enhanced' gtr/voc demos that have bass and a little perc in there too maybe). I was just wondering if anyone else had heard that. I wondered if it might be a reflection on the current economy if that's really happening...which it might not be I'll be quick to add. In fact that's why I asked. ;>)

Things change quickly in this town and ya never know. What was gold yesterday can be garbage today and I wondered if anyone else had heard that.

br
www.writethismusic.com


#707267 - 04/02/09 09:33 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: billrocker]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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OK!
Lets seperate a demo from a song not ready to pitch. If you have songs you have recorded with a guitar or piano and nothing more and the recording is clear enough to represent the song and you have a request that the song seems to fit the request send it!

Publishers in Nashville will want a full band demo because that is what they can pitch and will most likely only accept.

Producers most likely don't care if the song is only a one instrument demo if it fits the request and it might make the final cut on a project. It all depends on if a song fits a request.

If a work tape/demo is very poor and the recording is garbled don't expect it to be taken seriously but if it is fairly good and clear it is all you need to send to a producer.

Demos can be expensive at a lot of demo houses but you don't need to spend much over $300.00 at most and I recommend that you not spend that until you are sure a song is commerical.


Ray E. Strode
#707326 - 04/02/09 01:37 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Bill,

I have heard this every year since I have been here. I have been on panel after panel, discussion after discussion, and I always stop it with this question:

"Tell me the last time any of you have cut a song on guitar vocal or piano vocal from someone you don't know." That is what you have to remember. That whole "I can hear it non sense" is the biggest cock and bull stuff I hear here. The people who are interning and being the filters at the lower levels every one goes through are two year graduates from Belmont and have very little experience and they thin those songs out without demos. Period.
I was in the president of Sony publishing yesterday. I was there to drink a toast to the artist and songs that we have just gotten to Warner Brothers on an artist deal. (Sony signed him to a publishing deal in August.) The fact of the matter is the songs or the artist would have never gotten attention without full demos. Ever.
I saw Hugh Prestwood last night at Sunset and talked a few minutes. And he is the one that every body brings out when they are talking about it. it is a HUGE world of difference when you started in 1971 and starting now. And that is the deal most people on these pages and doing this stuff are having to do. They are starting out. And until you are known, writing at a high level, getting demos are part of the equation and they have to figure.
I'll always bring up the other side. Jeffery Steele. 875 cuts, 82 singles, 12 number ones. I can guarantee you almost every one of those have full demos on them because that is what he does.
People buy lottery tickets and win too. I wouldn't bet the rent or grocery money on the chance.

MAB

#707849 - 04/04/09 02:14 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Originally Posted by DonnaMarilyn
I recently noted a record company was looking for song material for an artist. After checking out the artist's site, I felt that her voice and style would suit a song of mine. As it happens, the co-writer and I intentionally kept this song simple, with vocals and one instrument, so that the demo wouldn't sound cluttered and the music/melody and lyric would stand out.

I phoned the head honcho of the company (Missile Records) just now to obtain permission to submit, and was informed that any song they listen to needs to have at least three instruments. He said that in the past a lot of producers/record companies would listen to one-instrument (plus vocals) demos, but that those days were past.

That was a bit of a shock (but thank goodness he informed me before I sent the CD).

I was wondering what experience others here might have had/be having. Are multi-instrument demos now becoming de rigeur?

I've read recently through the many listings in Songwriters Market, and saw no mention anywhere with regard to number of instruments on demos. If it makes the difference between being listened to or not, surely that info should be included.

Donna


Tell em you got a friend in the background playing the rubberband and somebody else playing the jug. Whats the difference between one and three instruments? Does he have a maximum amount of instruments? Like no more than 6? If yours has 7 is it inadmissible?

Last edited by stevens119; 04/04/09 02:14 AM.
#707857 - 04/04/09 03:31 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Stevens119]  
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Stevens,

They are most likely talking bass, drums and guitars or possibly keyboards. Basic full demo. The three instruments simply means more than a guitar vocal or piano vocal work tape.

MAB

#709513 - 04/09/09 06:53 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Originally Posted by Marc Barnette
Bill,

I have heard this every year since I have been here. I have been on panel after panel, discussion after discussion, and I always stop it with this question:

"Tell me the last time any of you have cut a song on guitar vocal or piano vocal from someone you don't know." That is what you have to remember. That whole "I can hear it non sense" is the biggest cock and bull stuff I hear here. The people who are interning and being the filters at the lower levels every one goes through are two year graduates from Belmont and have very little experience and they thin those songs out without demos. Period.
MAB


Marc,

Great points. I do have to ask however (in reference to Belmont interns), whens the last time (in the last 12 months anyway) that you heard of someone in this town getting a cut by going through A&R? ;>)

I got a work tape (not even a demo) from a Canadian writer last August that I'd never met before in my life. I did a rewrite consult on it that week, recorded it in September, and today the song sits at #58 on the Canadian charts. Doesn't happen every day but it happens. Granted, there were many steps between the work tape and the final version. It didn't get cut 'as is' and in that your point is well taken. (The work tape and full band versions of the same song are posted on my home page at www.writethismusic.com for those who may be interested in hearing the difference).

I don't think we disagree. You say yourself in the "don'ts" list on your website, and I quote, "Don't throw away your money by creating a demo before your song is ready." I'm saying exactly the same thing but I'm adding that you don't need a full band demo or even a professionally recorded gtr/vocal demo to GET that song reviewed. I ask people to sing and play into a cassette deck and ship it off. When someone sends me a song that shows much promise, but it has a person conflict (started off singing TO her and ended up singing ABOUT her), I ask the writer to rewrite the song. It's always interesting to me that the writer who sent me a full band demo, that he/she may have spent his/her retirement income on, is often a writer who will argue that the person conflict in his/her song isn't really that big a deal. "I've heard other songs that do that." "Nobody will notice." "They'll understand what I mean." "Pairamountain Music Group loved it and said they can get it cut!" (sorry...I couldn't resist.) It's amazing how many justifications one thinks of for breaking a fundamental rule of songwriting AFTER the demo has been recorded.

97% of the songs writers submitted to me last year weren't ready to demo (in my opinion of course...but this is tale often told by anyone who accept unsolicited material). About 10-15% of those that weren't ready to be demo'd benefited in that they were ready to demo after being rewritten. Four of them are now in my catalog and they're being pitched. Of the remaining 85% I believe many would have realized improved pitch potential with some rewriting. Again, it was usually the writers who'd submitted full band demos who disagreed and decided a rewrite wasn't neccessary.

Pat and Pete Luboff review songs every Monday night for a group here in Nashville and some of them aren't even gtr voc...they're just vocal! (I highly reccommend their critique session to anyone who hasn't gone. It's only $5 and it's awesome.)

It's probably a semantic thing. We'll always agree that you never PITCH a work tape to industry, but you don't need a pro demo on a song to get the song evaluated.

NOW, on to the OTHER matter. Whether people are PITCHING professionally recorded guitar/vocal demos these days (perhaps more than before) opposed to full band demos is another discussion entirely and I probably shouldn't have mixed the issues in the same thread as it has caused some confusion. You're of the mind full band demos all the time. I appreciate that. Producer/writer Brett Beavers had 3 #1s a year ago and sometimes pitches gtr vocal demos now. He used to only pitch full band demos. (He claims he got tons of experience doing all those full band demos as a producer but he says it nearly cost him his deal due to the tab he ran up. He got a big cut in the 11th hour and all was well.) He's obviously more established...but then again so is Jeffery Steele and you say he only pitches full band demos. Guess it comes down to what a writer thinks works best for him or her.

I totally agree with you though that if you're new and don't have a track record full band is probably the way to to. As you say, Hugh Prestwood is an experienced writer with a track record. JUST LATELY I'd heard more pro writers are pitching more gtr/vocal demos than they used to (perhaps due to the economy?) and I was curious if anyone else had heard that. Not taking a stand one way or the other. You've had bigger cuts and more years in Nashville than I and you better believe I'm listening to what you say, and based on your experience with your new material for the Sony artist I'll probably side with you that full band is the way to go.

With much respect,

Bill
www.writethismusic.com

#709530 - 04/09/09 07:53 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: billrocker]  
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it's pretty common knowledge now a days that demos have become more like full blown recordings in many aspects. Marc on one hand is right, if your going to compete for attention where the big dogs run, you best better bring a big set of teeth with you.

The better your presentation the more likely you will be to hold the listeners attention long enough to get into the meat of the song.These guys aren't kidding when they tell you, you got about 15 or 20 seconds to convince someone in the industry to listen to the whole song.

You wouldn't go looking for a job on Wall street dressed in cut off shorts, and a muscle T, why would you present what you hope to be a great song in anything but it's best light?

Yes it's an added expense, but it's the best investment you will ever make in your future. Sadly it's also one of the aspects that keep a lot of good writers out of the market.

#709629 - 04/10/09 03:33 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Billy Darnell]  
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Billy,

I couldn't agree more. The demo's the selling point of the song. IT's gotta sound great. It says something about the writer when not only is the song great but so is the demo. If an artist aspires to sound THAT GOOD (as the demo) the writer has really accomplished something. However I have writers that send me songs who automatically assume the more production the better and, as we all know, more isn't always more.

It might suprise some to hear that I only have 1 guitar vocal demo in my catalog. The rest are full blown records in just about every sense of the word. But the one that's a gtr/voc I wouldn't change if someone gave me the money because it get's as much attention, sometimes more, than some of the 'records' I've slaved over. It may be that the imagination of the listner can sometimes work to ones advantage, but from what I gather and from what I've heard here, probably not very often.

br
www.writethismusic.com

#709648 - 04/10/09 06:19 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: billrocker]  
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yeah br It's a mighty fine line between perfection and disaster.

When a song is over done musically, or the volume of the music is loud enough to bury the singer, it always makes me think, " Was it the song or the singer that wasn't strong enough to stand on it's own?"

However much like beauty, the right mix is sometimes in the ear of the beholder.

#709699 - 04/10/09 01:06 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Billy Darnell]  
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Hey Donna,

This is all sage advice and good testimony.

I was most impressed that you phoned the head honcho at Missile Records to get info on how to pitch there. That's really the key. You wouldn't throw a fast hardball to a bare handed softball catcher...make the pitch match the catcher. If you're pitching to a bluegrass band, don't send them a heavy metal demo. Yes, Nashville is, and has been for some time, a full demo town. My publisher, however, doesn't want a full demo. He doesn't even want a demo. He likes it when I come in and play the song on my guitar and sing it to him.

So, keep on asking how to pitch, and pitch the way the want to catch. That's the best way to go. You can keep a catalog of "catchers" and tailor your demos for them. Another idea is, when getting a full demo, get a copy of all the tracks. Then you can move them to your computer and use Garage Band or one of the free/inexpensive mixers, and do tailored mixes yourself.

cry ziens,
Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#709713 - 04/10/09 01:57 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Dank je wel, Mike. wink

Yes, that seems to be the shot: Take the time and make the effort to determine beforehand who needs what.

Interesting that you mention doing one's own mixes: I suspect that's a path I might have to follow one day, though I'm not a musician. Thank goodness there's reasonable equipment that can help with the task.

Donna


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers


#709719 - 04/10/09 02:16 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Donna,

Yes, taking the time and making the effort shows them something about you and begins the personal relationship. You are a salesperson for your music, the key to sales is trust and the key to trust is relationship.

I've been to the Netherlands several times, love the country, but all the Dutch I've learned is: cry ziens, dank je wel, and Een bier, alsjeblieft smile

Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#709728 - 04/10/09 03:12 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Hey guys,

Lively discussion. Let me throw another wrinkle into it and since Ray, Bill, Billy, and Mike are on this, let me mention my full process I suggest to writers:

#1 First of all, write several songs. Don't just write one and get a full demo. Get some options, different types of songs, different co-writers, different styles.

#2 Do good work tapes or guitar vocals.
Using one or two music tracks, clear vocals, harmonies, possibly some precussion or bass, sometimes can move a song just enough to pass for a pitch possibility.
Bill, to answer your question, I had a song cut that I wrote with David Vincent Williams, Rescued Me" That was a nice guitar, multiple harmoines, precussion, light instrumentation. It was recorded by John Berry, and subsequently recorded around 9 times by independents and once by Toni Sol Fa, a Minnepolis based adult contemporary accapela group. So yes, that is a viable pitch without going full demo route.
Of course, writing a song with a number one writer like D Vincent (I'm Moving On, Just Got Started Loving You) don't hurt.

#3 Get evaluations on the best songs. Play them out, live with them, gague audience or friend's reaction, test on web sites, etc.

#4 Get full demos on the best of the best. Take time and study what goes on.

#5 Be aware of "outside the box" pitches. Local or regional artists, My Space, Face Book, You Tube sites, explore other avenues outside of the mainstream pitches. Attend local writers nights or open mics in search of collaborators or potential audiences.

#6 Make sure you have them on your own sites, explore as many ways as you can to get songs out there.

#7 Write more songs, repeat process.

The demo in this day and age represents more than just a pitch on a song. They are speaking the language and shows a level of understanding about the level of the business needed. It is a way to be taken more seriously and gaining street credibility. And I am living proof that it expands your co-writing and your personal network. I look at the demo process as one more level of competing on the same playing field as the big boys.

MAB


#709741 - 04/10/09 04:00 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Marc, great process points. I'd expand on #3. I always recommend that folks develop a team. This team should include a friend who is trusted to be honest, no more than one family member (spouses included), someone who has had success in the music business who has no monetary interest clouding their opinions, someone who has had success outside the music business, someone who is a rabid music fan, and a lawyer who specializes in entertainment.

This team is basically a group of advisers who can keep us grounded. They can protect us from our own egos and those who might try to stroke them. They can help evaluate songs, offers, and tactics.

The team doesn't have to have meetings as such, though some might. It would be a good idea to buy some of them lunch once in a while smile The lawyer is not necessary until legal questions come up, contracts etc.

Another good team member is the pro critiquer. Of course these are expected to be remunerated. Folks like Barbara Cloyd, Pat and Pete Luboff, and yourself are good resources for the critique.

A team can be the best tool a musician or composer has to navigate the music business.


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#709799 - 04/10/09 08:21 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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As always Marc, great info, all those thing are essential to learning how to develope good songs. I think the aspect of song writer nights, and other networking functions, are greatly over looked by most writers,for some reason most of us aren't great net workers. I was recently attending an industry type function where Rand Bishop was the speaker, and he talks about the how important the contacts you make are, and how many of the people you come into contact with as a songwriter ( other aspiring songwriters), will eventually go on to become musicians, major label writers, recording artists, producers, sound engineers, talent managers, and many will end up working in some function with a Label. When you have friends in those places it sure does become a lot easier to get your material to the people that matter. Networking matters, don't underestimate it.

#709964 - 04/11/09 09:01 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Billy Darnell]  
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Howdy all.

This whole discussion brings up some interesting stuff to me. Marc used the term "lottery ticket." Back in the early 90s I had lunch with a guy who cowrote a couple of number ones in the 70s and I used the same concept of songs as lottery tickets. I'm still looking for the winning one. :-)

I know back in those days it was easier to play my worktapes and feel comfortable with it. However, I was told by a guy I highly respect to get some demos done. The way I look at it now, being over 50 and very reticent to quit my job and move back to Nashville, I figure the chance to win the lottery is so slim I do it this way: Get a good singer and a/some good picker(s) to present the song to publishers. I have no illusions about playing my song for many A & R folks. That is more likely to happen by accident I think for me. Besides, I have a gambling problem and I can go crazy with spending money on lottery tickets/real expensive demos (which is $150 LOL). I'm not saying my way is the best way for anybody else but it is the best way for me at the present time. I figure my best shot is trough a publisher hearing my song but my singing and my playing won't cut it though. It has to be a better singer and picker, at least until the publisher likes me enough to allow me to do it.

If a publisher or certain people in these songwriting groups like JPF recommended more costly demos to better evaluate the song, I would do it but not before getting other people's inputs. I would always get critiques first before doing a demo that costs money. Some critiques I put more value in though I listen to them all. Like I said, I'm a gambler and I've learned I can't be objective. I always think I'll win but seldom do.

One of the things that's brought me to this point is something Paul Overstreet said someone told him. (He didn't tell me this face, he said it on TV.) He said he always believed if the song sounded good on just a guitar, you probably had a good song. I've heard you can't get a good uptempo groove on a piano but then I think of Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John. Now, no one needs to tell me none of us are Jerry Lee or Elton John. But I have heard good songs sound good on one instrument if the picking and the singing were good--not necessarily great.

At all these writers in the rounds, how many instruments are there? It's usually one guitar and sometimes other guitars and maybe a keyboard join in. I don't know if those songs still sound great because we're familiar with them or because it's possible for good songs to sound good with one instrument but I enjoy hearing one good song on a guitar. Of course, I'm looking for entertainment and not trying to make a profit.
.
.
.

#710041 - 04/12/09 04:40 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Marc,

My question was actually who's recently gotten a cut going through A&R...(Belmont interns, etc.)

wow....D Vincent was one of the guys hanging out a few nights ago saying he was pitching more guitar vocals these days....it was that conversation that made me curious enough to ask if anyone here had heard that lately. Small town...

I'm with Mike that #3 is crucial. I like his 'team' approach. Keep it balanced as he suggests and one doesn't wind up preaching to the choir. I love hearing someone wants to hear the song sung with a guitar first before any talk of demos. That's what I'm talkin' about- bring on the worktapes. If it kills ya like that....

#3 seems to be glossed over so often which is half the reason why I'm always jumping in on these discussions. I hear the rants about the unfairness in the industry being the rate limiting factor so often on boards and elsewhere and it drives me nuts. Like there's this conspiracy among all the publishers to keep talented unknown writers suppressed so the powers that be can put out crappy songs; all with the goal of making sure radio totally sucks. That's nuts. There's nothing I'd love MORE than to wake up tomorrow and find a killer song in my box and I don't care who the heck writes it.

Many (probably most) of the people I know that listen to songs for producers and artists don't look at the names of the writers before they listen to the songs. So much for the conspiracy theory.

And of course they're mostly inside jobs these days, but that's probably more because they know their friends write some great songs than just the fact that they're friends. No businessman ever wants to turn his back on a gifthorse. So if it's a unanimous thumbs up from your peers, your professional associates and colleagues and the others on your team, at least you know you're in the game.

br
www.writethismusic.com

#711579 - 04/17/09 06:14 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: billrocker]  
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Bill,

Having gotten a cut from one of David's "Guitar vocals" I kind of know a little bit of what he is talking about. First of all "David's guitar vocals" are pretty much works of art on their own. Our cut, "Rescued Me" was recorded by John Berry, very close to the demo David did on his home recording equipment. It was comprised of three guitars, around 8 vocals, and a shaker and bass. And D. is an AMAZING musician, so his version of guitar vocal and what other might consider a "work tape" are kind of night and day differences.

Having said 'that, also the fact that he has had multiple cuts, starting with Hand's of a Working Man" (number three in 98' for Ty Herndon), writing for the second largest publishing company in Nashville, Warner Chappel, having a song plugger from that company that is one of the most respected people in town, Kurt Denny, who had a long time personal relationship with Mark Spiro, John Berry's producer, enabling them to not only go back in and record the song, after they were finished, but to re-title the CD after a line from the song, "Wildest Dreams" all played a part.

D.'s most current monsters, I'm Moving On' for Rascal Flatts, and "Just Got Started Loving You' by James Otto, (written with James) have done quite well, so he is going to get a bit more lattitude than most people just off the street.

When we talk about the subject of demos, I always try to stress that I look at the demo process as more than just the demo on that particular songs. I work almost exclusivly with newcomers to the scene. People that are just starting their writing journey, or finding that the "big fish in the little pond" in their hometown doesn't carry them too much farther than the state line of their own world. We are in a different league here. So much of the elements I discuss when it comes to demos have to do more than just the pitching of that song.

Demos are now our business cards. They are what goes on our My Space, You Tube and Facebook sites. They are used in building relationships with other writers, helping us gain street credibility in areas we might not be able to access if we weren't on the same playing field as our contemporaries and gatekeepers. They enable us to come out more favorably in a song critique session and tweak the interest of a jaded industry person that might not be as interested without a pretty strong presentation. And even more important, understanding that through the filters of the industry, we are in a corporate world where many people are involved in an ultimate decision.

An artist, producer, intern, A&R rep, manager, record exec, are not always around when we have that "magic moment" at a show, or smaller group. That song has to survive the excitement of those moments, and be passed on from one decision maker to another decision maker. So, where the "Hold" factor comes in, allowing a song it's best chance to get through the gauntlet of competition for those coveted slots on artist's CD's and projects.

I believe the professionally done demo is simply adding to your chances to beat the odds. Never to be taken lightly or an end all of end all's. But it helps when it is in the middle of other competition. I try to take away the negatives in most of my own stuff and those that I council. It is just another step.

To sum it all up, there is rarely a day I don't drive down the streets of 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Ave. of Music Row, and don't see some hit writer friend of mine, wondering into a studio full of cars, guitar slung over his or her shoulder, going to do demos. So I guess, that for myself, I am always ready to pitch to whomever with a guitar vocal, but will doubtfully do so, because my competition doesn't. That is about the best description of why I believe like I do. The people that have come before me have done it that way, I have always done it that way, and for the most part, in the world I operate in and around, it is pretty much the standard operating procedure. There are always exceptions, but you can rarely depend on exceptions to pay the rent.

MAB

#712944 - 04/21/09 06:32 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Marc,

I'm not arguing with you about full band demo or guitar/voc demo. Things change sometimes and I'd heard some are doing more gtr/vocs to pitch. That's all. You disagree that that's the case, or that it's a smart thing to do...perhaps both. That's totally cool man. I hear ya and I respect your opinion.

All demos have to be works of art in my opinion. But paintings are never judged by the number of colors used to create them. They are judged by how they affect us emotionally.


bill
www.writethismusic.com

#712976 - 04/21/09 08:49 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: billrocker]  
Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 5,011
Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
Top 50 Poster

Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 5,011
Nashville, Tn.
Bill,

It is not a right or wrong issue. I take everyone on these and other threads from the point of view that they know absolutly no one, and no one knows them. I suggest ways to participate and eliminate negatives. For instance, in the same context we are talking about here, if a person has a really polished demo, he or she is going to have more flexibility in his or her pitches. If they have a guitar vocal version, that is fine. Then they also have the full version. If they have the full version, they have it all.
But of course, unless they have written a few songs, gotten critiques, have some options, they might just be "free lance defication dusting" polishing a turd. The fact is you have a lot of ways to think about before you do anything and pitches often dictate what they need.
Again, part of my comments are about more than just pitching a song. It is about using the song for pitches for artists, co-writers, publishers, My Space, you Tube, personal CD's, etc.
It is a calling card.
So that is part of what develops my opinions.

MAB

Last edited by Marc Barnette; 04/21/09 08:49 PM.
#713375 - 04/22/09 10:16 PM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: Z. Mulls]  
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 57
James Guglielmo Offline
Serious Contributor
James Guglielmo  Offline
Serious Contributor

Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 57
Philadelphia, PA
Hello:

I think Joe summed it up pretty well. The art of listening is dying. If you notice what most people do when they listen to music. Usually, their body is in motion, driving a car, or something like that. I go to the gym and most people have an ipod while they are on the exercise machine. When I was a teen I would sit in front of the stereo and listen to Oscar Peterson or Brahms or Tennessee Ernie Ford. I think a lot of people hear music but don't listen. I call it passive attention not active attention. I might be off on this matter, but this is something I've been thinking about.

What do you think?

JG

Last edited by James Guglielmo; 04/22/09 10:17 PM.
#713497 - 04/23/09 05:08 AM Re: Pitching demos: one or multiple instruments? [Re: James Guglielmo]  
Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 5,011
Marc Barnette Offline
Top 50 Poster
Marc Barnette  Offline
Top 50 Poster

Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 5,011
Nashville, Tn.
JG,

It is the overall effect of 24 hour television, and the Internet that have done away with the "all attention never take your eyes off the album jacket" days. People have very short attention spans. It is the natural evolution of things.
Remember, that in the "old days" tent revivals would go on for days, Speeches would take hours. Everette Horton, a world famous orator, gave an almost 3 hour speech before Lincoln got up to give the Gettysburg address, as an afterthought.
People have a lot of competition for their time and money now. So it is normal that people would always be on the go. That is the nature of life now.

MAB


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