LISTEN TO MY DEMO! PLEASE?
How To Send Demos and Get Noticed
reating art is hard enough, but that’s not the hardest part. Getting it seen or heard by the right people is the real challenge. Within the music industry, the coveted, painstaking “demo” can make an artist's career. It’s also a term used frequently throughout the creative process. So why is a demo so important and how do we rise to the top of the pile?
When sending a demo into a label for consideration, it should DEFINITELY reflect the musicians finest work. While a label may not expect a demo to be perfect, it's crucial to convey that time was put in and the musician’s best art brought forth in 1-3 tracks. If there is an ongoing relationship or if one is focused mainly in the electronic music world, it is possible that an artist submit one demo at a time for consideration by a label to represent or distribute. But always have more tracks where that came from. You may be asked for more demos.
Mid-sized record labels can receive up to 50 to 100 demos per week with larger labels getting hundreds at a time on any given day. That’s A LOT of demos. So what can we do to stand out? And what shouldn’t we do?
KNOW WHO YOU ARE TARGETING. INTIMATELY. UMM, LIKE A CREEPER.
Well, kind of. Let’s not get too crazy. In the article “Five Things Talent Buyers Hate”, we reiterate the same first rule. NO COLD EMAILS. Know your target audience, the size of the label you are submitting and the type of releases they are putting out, if their vibe is similar to your music, etc - is key to standing out. If you send cold emails to a large group of addresses you have, not only are you unlikely to stand out, you may also get blocked.
Moreover, following a label’s “rules” on demo submissions is also key. Usually a website will have crystal clear instructions on how to submit. Maybe its via their website, maybe they provide a clear contact to send to. Please understand this is not just to streamline things, it’s also for LEGAL REASONS. Following the outline a label uses is important, and is more likely to get viewed by a team whose sole job is to go through submissions. If you try to reach out to the label head via FB messenger, the chances are slim to none they will respond.
Be targeted, be professional, know everything about that label you dream of one day signing and distributing your hard work.
TELL THEM WHO YOU ARE, SHOW THEM WHAT YOU’RE MADE OF. AND “LINK” UP.
What does this mean? You truly look like you have your sh*t together. Because you do. Look at you submitting demos! Huge moment. Which should also mean you have a presence online and on various music platforms. You’ve got your EPK all set, you are utilizing the tools at your disposal or of your own creation. When you look professional, people take you more seriously. It's just the way it goes. Look like you can sell some records and labels will take note.
Needless to say, LINK UP. No files attached as it is unlikely to be received, and understand the settings for a SoundCloud private share, for example. Regardless of what web-based platform you use, make sure everything in the short but sweet email is fully functional before pressing send. If they prefer WeTransfer or Dropbox, test everything out first. No really, test everything out.
BE CONCISE. BE ORGANIZED.
In the digital age, being organized and having a clean presence online could mean a label finds YOU, and not the other way around. Tell them who you are. Show them how organized your art is. That said, it is still most likely you will be sending emails. Lots of them.
When sending emails, be straightforward, non-gimmicky, and to the point. Basically, don’t use as many words as we are here. Be concise and let the art speak for itself. A good rule of thumb is “no scrolling”. If the person receiving the email has to scroll down to finish your email, it's too long. A few sentences, a link to your EPK and online presence. Done.
IF IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU, IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR SUBMISSION.
CONFIDENCE IS KEY. Love it so much you wouldn’t change a thing. There can sometimes be an eagerness to submit a demo, which is somewhat hard to understand, we’ll be honest. But it happens all the time. Tracks go out that are not fully finished, or the text reads something undermining like “still want to add vocals and more bass, let me know what you think,” or “my bassist has been out of the country, but when she’s back we’ll redo the track, let us know if you like this.” Umm, no.
Instilling doubt in the person on the other end is the exact opposite of what your goal is! If it is not good enough for you, it is not good enough for submission. Pull the reins, and get it right. First impressions are critical! I know it seems weird we even have to say this, but it’s a mistake made daily.
HURRY UP AND WAIT. BE READY FOR THOUSANDS OF NO’s BEFORE THAT ONE YES.
This part can be painful. The waiting game. Did they get it? Did they hate it? What do I do. The reality is you may never hear anything. Large labels don’t have time to send responses for each and every submission. That’s the nature of the beast. Keep moving forward. Keep creating. Keep your social media and web-based platforms updated.
That said, for those that do reply, it could take days, it could take weeks. There is no formula. Remember ‘rejection is redirection’. We are artists and we are “sensitive about our sh*t”. Be patient and practice resilience. Remember, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody had the door slammed in its face and Outkast was turned down THREE TIMES by L.A. Reid. And their first hit “Player’s Ball”? It was released on a Christmas album because the label head still “wasn’t sure”. These types of stories are countless, every successful artist can tell you theirs.
Stay brave, positive, organized and use the tools at your fingertips to Advance.
The Advance began with the intention of creating community and dialogue around what the future of live entertainment looks like, how we are pinpointing places for growth, streamlining processes, highlighting advancements, and shaping it as a collective. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org