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#966313 - 07/02/12 05:35 PM Demos  
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 127
Lex Rose Offline
Serious Contributor
Lex Rose  Offline
Serious Contributor

Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 127
Basingstoke, UK
I suppose this has been covered a hundred times on these forums, but I just would really like a clearer answer. To pitch demos to publishers, what is required in terms of demo quality? I've seen so many conflicting ideas on this - one person says a guitar/vocal demo is fine, the next says you must have a full studio version, with Nashville session players and the works... So what really is expected of a writer?

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

17 year old country singer/songwriter from the Deep South... of England. I love most everything.

#966325 - 07/02/12 06:21 PM Re: Demos [Re: Lex Rose]  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,856
Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,856
Brunswick, Ga. USA
Our friend Big Jim, from Edinburgh says you need a full fledged demo. You do at least need an adequate demo to pitch a song. Those in Nashville want a demo made in Nashville mostly the publisher's.

Demos made in Nashville by better demo services can be expensive so you need to make sure you want to spend large amounts of money on a song. Not sure how much is going on at present in the music business. I get blurbs fairly often from MusicXray on Artist listings they want money to submit. I pitch both Pro Demos as well as my own Guitar Vocals when I find a place to pitch to. I say suit yourself as long as you have something decent to pitch.

Ray E. Strode
#966332 - 07/02/12 06:33 PM Re: Demos [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 2,722
Barry David Butler Online content
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Barry David Butler  Online Content
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Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 2,722
Sebring, Florida USA
OYE....Who Knows....If you Know Toby Keith you could just play it on a guitar. The Studios in Nashville promising the world if you do a demo there for $3000 are just ripoffs.
I don't think that 99% of us have any chance of getting a song to anybody whether it is done Great or Average.
I send my demos around like this.


Try and find a local band or singer and pitch them your songs.
Barry David Butler
Contact me at bdbutler@centurylink.net

#966365 - 07/03/12 12:40 AM Re: Demos [Re: Lex Rose]  
Joined: May 2009
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R. Shayne Vaughan Offline
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R. Shayne Vaughan  Offline
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Joined: May 2009
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Edmonton, KY
I keep hearing that a demo should sound as close to a record as possible.

“I usually start with a title or maybe a little rhyme or phrase.” - Harlan Howard

Co-writing = Compromise!

#966373 - 07/03/12 02:09 AM Re: Demos [Re: R. Shayne Vaughan]  
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 1,177
AaronAuthier Offline
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AaronAuthier  Offline
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Posts: 1,177
If you don't move to a music market and then put yourself out there then theres not much point in trying to pitch to publishers. 99.9% of the legit ones want to work with people they can talk to in person. If you're not moving to a music market then a simple acoustic guitar or piano demo would be perfect.

You can then find a youtube singer with a following and ask or pay them to perform your song. That is one way to get noticed without selling the farm.

#966394 - 07/03/12 09:29 AM Re: Demos [Re: AaronAuthier]  
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 6,318
Everett Adams Online content
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Everett Adams  Online Content
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Posts: 6,318
,NL Canada
It depends a lot on the song and genre of music. A rock or up-tempo country would need a well produced demo. A good country or gospel song which depends on the lyrics should get by with a simple demo. A bad song is a bad song and no matter how you dress it up,it is still bad.A well produced bad song though.

The more you taste the bitterness of defeat, the sweeter final victory will be

May the flowers of love forever bloom in your garden of life




#966828 - 07/06/12 12:27 PM Re: Demos [Re: Everett Adams]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline

JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
Lex, I've never heard your songs, so I'm not commenting on you specifically, but after several years in the music business I've come to believe this: LONG before demo quality, a songwriter should make it a mission to ensure SONG QUALITY. If the song is not absolutely top notch in every way it is a waste of money to buy an expensive demo. Until the songs are of very high quality, any money spent on recording should be thought of as being spent to learn how to record.

I've heard a lot of demos and out of all of them many, many more were high quality recordings of poor songs than were poor recordings of high quality songs. A good producer/publisher/listener can hear if a song is good through a bad demo but they can also hear if a song is bad through a good demo. A bad producer/publisher/listener may not be able to tell...but songwriters should stay away from bad producers and etc.

Now, having said that, pitching a poor quality demo of a good song can begin to label a songwriter as being "clueless." The songwriter can get a reputation as someone who does not understand the importance of good quality recording.

My definition of a good quality demonstration (demo) recording is one which is clear, pleasing and which does not distract from the song itself. A music business listener does not always have to hear "radio ready" songs, but until a songwriter knows which listeners do need "radio ready" material, they are better off only pitching such demos. The risk is, again, the songwriter gets a reputation as someone who doesn't know their audience.
The reason why reputation is important is that a songwriter is pitching themselves as much as they are pitching a particular song. The music business is a personal business. A lot of money gets invested, most of which is never recouped, so trust is important. Hence, folks prefer to do business with friends and acquaintances whom they trust.

So, as I said, I don't know where you are at as a writer of quality songs, but I highly recommend that you consider a good strong self assessment including a lot of input, especially from people who've been experienced in the music business, before buying expensive demos. One quick suggestion, though, if and when you do buy demos, get a seperate mix of the demo without the vocal. That way a songwriter can make changes to the lyric or the melody, or can even write a completely different song to the track as their skill level increases or when the muse takes hold.

Hope that helps.


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.

Mike Dunbar Music

#966833 - 07/06/12 12:50 PM Re: Demos [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 127
Lex Rose Offline
Serious Contributor
Lex Rose  Offline
Serious Contributor

Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 127
Basingstoke, UK
Thanks everyone for your replies smile I don't suppose that I'm ready to pitch songs to publishers yet, I'm still working on the songs (like you said, I realise that I can't go throwing just any old thing around in people's faces!) and on networking. Hey, I'm only 16, I have plenty of time! I was mainly asking because I was confused about all the conflicting answers to this subject - and I like to learn about the industry and what Nashville particularly expects from artists and writers. Thank you all for taking the time to answer my question, it's much appreciated.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

17 year old country singer/songwriter from the Deep South... of England. I love most everything.

#966847 - 07/06/12 02:23 PM Re: Demos [Re: Lex Rose]  
Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 318
Z. Mulls Offline
Serious Contributor
Z. Mulls  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 318
Lex Rose (and I do recognize the name and the hometown), Mike Dunbar is a very wise voice in this discussion. He knows the business and lives it.

It is absolutely true that you're unlikely to pitch a song successfully before you have developed some actual relationships, one way or another. Someone needs to be willing to listen to what you're playing.

The other way to get a song out to peoples' ears is to perform it yourself. Performing is also a way to meet people, find collaborators and otherwise network. Not every songwriter is able to perform, and I know that wasn't the initial question you asked; but if you *can* perform (and I know that you can), it's probably a more effective sales/networking tool than making recordings and hoping to play them for someone.

My Soundclick

2007 Grand Prize Winner International Songwriting Competition

Avatar Photo by Diana (used with permission)
#966990 - 07/08/12 07:02 AM Re: Demos [Re: Z. Mulls]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,272
Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content

Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,272
Indianapolis, IN USA
Mike Dunbar said most of what you need to know.

I will add this: Do not spend money on anything. Writing a song costs nothing. Making a simple vocal/instrument recording of any song you write costs next to nothing (and for most people with a computer you have all you need to do it for free). As a young writer, first write 20 songs. I mean fully finished, as best you can at whatever talent level you are at. When the 20th song is finished, listen to them all and identify all the ways YOU could improve them, from better lyrics, to different lyrics, to better melodies, to different melodies, to better arrangements (not just instrumentation, but literally where the verse chorus bridge pre chorus lengths and orders take place) and fix all those things on each and every song. Now go back and tweak them again as each step I am telling you will educate you on how to do it better. Once you think you have written them the best you possibly can, then come here, post your very best song and ask for free feedback. If 10 people here who have more than 300 posts all agree that it doesn't need any improvements, then bring another and repeat. If they DO think they need help, listen to what they have to say. Experiment on any suggestions you think might improve your best song. If you agree with any of those suggestions, implement them. Then realize you need to go back over your other 19 songs and consider if what you thought was your best work had some problems, you still have a lot to learn. That's okay though. That is what being a serious professional songwriter or even artist is all about.

My point is that long before you ever have reason to spend a penny and even longer before you think about sending material to people in the "industry" who actually matter, you most likely have a lot of work to do. Why 20 songs? It takes that many to find out if you have what it takes. Talent? Nope.. it won't indicate that at all. But it will demonstrate a skill even more important: Persistence.

I could go on, but you get the idea. If you don't, one day you will if you hope to compete in the real music business.


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

#967031 - 07/08/12 03:13 PM Re: Demos [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 3,898
Jody Whitesides Offline
Jody Whitesides  Offline

Top 100 Poster

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 3,898
Park City, UT, USA
Even pros have to tweak songs and they have probably written 100's. Make sure you're willing to fix first, second or even 8th drafts of a song.

Play them for people who don't have vested interest in you or people who won't sugar coat the reality. Be prepared to work.

Jody Whitesides
A Funky Audio Lap Dance For Your Ears!

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