So you’ve recorded your demo – now what? Now you need to get your demo in the hands of the people who can help you take it to the next level. But with so many people trying to get their demos heard, how can you make sure your demo will reach the right people? Follow these simple steps to move your demo to the top of the pile.
Get It Professionally Mixed / Mastered
Show the record labels that you’re serious and give your songs the best possible chance. Don’t miss out on your opportunity due to a sloppy mix.
Do Your Research
Before you start sending out your demo, you need to compile a list of labels who might be interested in hearing it. Which artists do you like? What labels are they on? Spend some time online researching artists you consider to be similar to yourself and the labels that work with them.
Learn Demo Policies
One you have your short list of labels, you need to learn each label’s policy on demos. Some labels, especially larger labels, will not accept unsolicited demos for legal reasons – they worry about people sending them demos, and then later suing them, claiming their songs have been stolen. Most labels have a demo policy clearly displayed on their site. Find out:
- Are unsolicited demos accepted?
- Acceptable demo formats (WAV, MP3, CD, etc.)
- Demo mailing address
- Is there a specific demo (A&R) rep you should address your package to?
- Follow up rules – Is it ok to call? Is it ok to email?
Keep it Short and Sweet
Remember, even relatively small labels get thousands of demos, and many labels do listen to everything they get. Making their job easier will only help your case. Your submission should include:
- A short demo. Go for two to three of your best songs. Anything longer won’t get listened to.
- Your demo should be clearly labeled with your name and email address (NOT your number – you’re more likely to get a response via email).
- SHORT artist bio. Keep it short and sweet and get straight to the point.
- Press clippings, if available
Once you have sent your demo out to labels, you need to follow up with the labels to make sure they have received them and to solicit their opinions. If the label has a demo follow up policy on their website, make sure you stick to that. Otherwise, an email a month after you have sent the demo is a good place to start.
It may take months for a label to actually get around to playing your demo, but a friendly, occasional email will help your demo stand out from the pack. Unless you have been told differently by the label, Don’t call. It puts people on the spot and won’t win you any friends. Stick to email. Above all, don’t guilt-trip the A&R staff because they haven’t yet listened.
Sending out demos can be a little frustrating. Often, despite your best attempts to follow-up, you won’t even hear back from anyone. You are also likely to hear “no” a lot. If you hear “no” from someone, ask them for feedback, advice, and suggestions of other labels who may like your music.
Again, you won’t get this advice from everyone, but asking never hurts, and you may end up with the piece of advice that turns everything around for you. Treat every “no” as a chance to learn something that could turn that “no” into a “yes” in the future.
Keep in Touch
When you do hear “no” from a label, that doesn’t mean you have to scratch them off your list. Include labels you like on your mailing list, which should include an “opt-out” option, to let them know what is happening with you. If you record a new round of songs, it is perfectly fine to send a new demo to a label that has rejected you in the past. If you’re playing a show in the town in which a particular label is based, invite them to the show. Getting people to know your name is half the battle.
Take Feedback Seriously
How many times have you sent an email out or made a phone call about your music only to be ignored? It happens to everyone – and it happens a lot. That’s why it is so great when people actually take the time to share some advice with you or talk to you about your demo. When it happens – say thank you.
Who do you think is more likely to help you out in the future – someone who took some time out to share some advice with you and who was rewarded with a thank you, or someone who tried to help you out, only to receive no reply from you? Exactly.