Like it or not, the days of being discovered singing in the local lounge, or getting a recording contract from a simple piano-voice demo, must be relegated to the archives of rock history.
The demo is the vehicle for your hopes and dreams of becoming a recording artist, and it will be the first connection between you and the record company. On the basis of your demo, you will be asking the record company to spend tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to record you as an artist. Therefore, your demo must meet certain standards and be an accurate reflection of your artistic and commercial potential.
Just as the quality of recorded music has progressed very rapidly, so has the record company’s expectation of demo quality. The aspiring artist must be ready to meet the challenge because you need more than a good voice in today’s music scene to get a record deal.
Remember, your demo is your calling card and the representation of the product that you’re trying to sell, mainly you!
The first point to consider is how many songs are enough to show your style as an artist. It is better to have four strong songs than eight songs when you want only two songs to truly stand out. Keep in mind that it is quality, not quantity, that is going to impress your A&R listener and make them want to seriously pursue you as an artist and/or songwriter.
It is crucial to show a consistent musical direction on your CD. If you mix too many different types of music, i.e., hard rock, pop and R&B, it becomes difficult for your A&R person to know who you are as an artist. Make sure all the songs on your demo reflect the musical direction in which you want to go. Always put what you believe to be your strongest song first on the tape. If A&R likes the first tune, it is more likely that they will give a careful listen to the remaining selections. You must have potential hit songs using original material. There is occasional success doing a cover version of an old hit, but you are much more likely to be signed as an artist based on the strength of the original material on your CD, and your interpretation of it.
On Making Your Press Kit:
-Spend some money. Buy laser-printer compatible labels and research who you will be sending the package to. It’s also a good idea to actually call that person and get permission first to send your press-kit. Go to an office supply store and stock up on insulated large envelopes, spend some money on a nice 8″x10″ glossy, have someone at your local college’s art department design a computer-generated logo for you (crisp black & white line-art is recommended). And here’s a BIG TIP: create a logo for your make-believe management company (obviously this one’s only for those without formal management representation) and put this on the letterhead of the typewritten note you’ll enclose with your press kit. Your cred-factor has just scored major points and you just might get that foot in the door. – Stacy LeFevre
Prioritize who gets what. If you want to reach a lot of media sources and simply can’t afford to send everyone CDs, do this: Send your CDs to the high-priority contacts and places most likely to respond. Send lower-priority contacts your bio and a photo. In the cover letter that goes with them, ask the recipient to contact you if they want a free review copy. That way, you’re only sending your CDs to the people who really want
Make sure complete contact info is on both the CD and the case it came in. Sending out your press kit and then expecting people to go to work figuring out how to get in touch with you is pure idiocy. Cover letters get separated from bios. Photos get removed from press releases. Put your contact info on everything! Think of your music marketing tools as frisky puppies that love to break from the leash and run away. They need identification tags so the people who find them know who they belong to. – Bob Baker
Many artists and bands writing their own Bio, just throw together a bunch of stuff about how “good” their music is, and infer that the music will speak for itself. There is no doubt about it, the music is the centerpiece, it is the axis upon which the potential success of an artist’s career rotates. However, that “good” music may never reach the ears of many gatekeepers, if the artist doesn’t pay close attention to all aspects of the business, and the “instruments” of that business must be carefully considered and prepared. In many cases the Bio will be the first introduction a gatekeeper receives from the artist. It should speak clearly and directly to the needs of the reader.
It can be quite useful to “take an inventory” of an artist or band’s talents, skills, lyric content, stage presence, attitude toward life, and the business of music. Many useful facts can emerge as this inventory is taken. Bands should really take some time to sit down and talk about the music they make, what they feel their image is, and how they can best preserve an honest image throughout their career. Being clear about who you are, even recognizing who your influences have been, and what you want to say with your music, can make writing the Bio an enlightening, and useful experience. – Christopher Knab
“Okay, everyone, it’s really important that when you’re sending your picture out through email or posting it online, make sure the file is not too big. When taking a picture, full resolution can be a few meg large, but when posting it online, it should not be more than 100k. Otherwise it will take too long to load and people may lose patience. [I do :)] To solve this problem, try bringing the file into Microsoft Publisher or another program where you can resave the picture at a smaller resolution” – Kieth
On Sending Your Demo:
Don’t be gimmicky on your envelope. A hot-pink envelope may catch the eye, but it will not reflect a professional presentation.
Don’t oversell yourself in any introductory letter. Be positive and confident in your presentation of the facts, but if you sound arrogant or obnoxious, it will hurt your cause rather than help it.
Don’t telephone your A&R person 20 times in one week, waiting for a response. Diligence is appreciated, but remember they have hundreds of CDs and demos to screen. One follow-up call after several weeks will suffice. Please don’t say how bad current music is today and that your tape is the salvation of the music scene.
On Finding a Manager:
Any manager you become involved with should be compatible with you musically, as well as on a personal level. You should check to see what other artists the manager handles, and what success the manager has had in the past. If you cannot get an established manager, it might be worthwhile finding a manager who is new to the game, who has a lot of enthusiasm and initiative and also believes in you as an artist.