by Sue Basko, esq.
Demo Music is the sampling of your music that you use to try to get a manager, agent, lawyer, recording contract, booking agency, etc. The music you place on this demo will make it or break it for you. You can be ruled out in under 10 seconds. You can be ruled out on the basis of the cover photo alone. If you make it past the photo and 10 seconds, you actually have a good chance of getting someone to listen seriously to the first 5 seconds of the first 4 songs. If they make it that far, they might be interested enough to listen and get in contact with you.
Some places still want a CD, so you will have to burn some demo CDs. You can get these from a dupe place or do them at home. The most important things are the quality of the music and the main photo.
MANY places deal only with lawyers or agents. If you send anything yourself, it gets tossed in the trash or deleted. There are legal and practical reasons for this.
Most places don't want a CD, but want you to create an EPK page with music player and have your lawyer or manager or agent send them a link. An EPK is an "electronic press kit," meaning it is online, and includes mp3 music, jpg photos, a bio, links to press, and videos. You can get a free page on Reverbnation or Bandcamp. Neither of these is ideal, but the music players are good, so they are okay. I suggest a Soundcloud page, because the sound quality is good and the player is excellent. But there is no place for photos and bio. SonicBids would be good, but it has no direct URL to the EPK. Myspace used to be a good choice, but it is too messed up now. Do not use it as your EPK.
In theory, you could link to your own music website. I only once saw a band website with a good enough music player and a cohesive enough design. That band is booked solid, mostly from the website. It's the Ivas John Band. Their site was designed by a small company is Carbondale, Illinois. Note how well the site works. If yours does not work as well as this, do not subject a potential dealmaker to it. Check out their Upcoming Events page. It's always full. It's because they market themselves well. When they show up, they look and sound as they do on the website. They are polished music professionals. They may not be famous, but they are consistently working making music. If you have a site that functions this well, include it as your link. If not, use Bandcamp, Reverbnation, or some such site. Just be sure that to listen, a person is not required to join, have an account, "like" it, join a mailing list, or any such thing. To test this, log yourself out of the site, come back, and see if the music player is fully functioning for all songs. Make sure it is set so each listener each time can hear each song in full without joining or doing anything. Otherwise, do not use that music player as your link.
I love this website for We Are Augustines. It creates such a vibe. It is somewhat hard to maneuver -- to get to the desired song, see the whole Story, find the right lyrics. But it brings you deep into the sound and vibe of the band right away. You see this website and hear the songs and you know they are about something important and genuine.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DEMO MUSIC:
1) Pick your 4 best songs. Of those 4, one should be a cover song.
2) Think of music as textures. Choose songs that have interesting texture in the first 10 seconds. You need to capture the listener immediately.
3) Pick songs that sound different from each other.
WHAT NOT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DEMO MUSIC:
1) Do not have any dead space. I have been given demos where the song did not start until 12 seconds in. Do not let there be even one second of silence at the head or tail of any song.
2) Do not include any introductions, audience sound, shout outs, producer shout outs or announcements. And especially do not include any songs that include such things within them. This is the mark of an amateur. If you say "So and so Productions" in your song, it sounds dated, amateur, and ghetto.
3) Do not include any songs that start with a long musical intro or build-up. The interesting part of the song must begin right away. People who listen to samples of new music constantly do not spend 20 seconds getting into the right ambient mood to hear your song. They click it off.
4) Do not include any songs that start with sound effects such as waves, city sounds, crickets, coughing, dogs barking, crowd sounds, etc.
5) Do not include any songs that are extra long or extra short.
6) DO NOT include any song that is not in your current repertoire.
7) If you are looking for a record label or agent, or anyone that will represent you, include only music that has been recorded within the past two years. This simple thing always astounds me. I am looking for people making good music NOW, as is everyone else. Don't show me what you did in the past. Show me what you are doing now. If you are not doing anything now, do not waste my time.
CHOOSING YOUR MAIN PHOTO
You should have one main photo for your band or self as an artist. This photo should be on the demo CD cover and the main photo of the EPK. This photo should show what you are all about. You can be ruled in or out based on the photo. It should look like you and give the right vibe for the music you make. The photo you choose says so much about you.
Obviously, the best ways to look are: Physically fit, stylish for your genre, appropriate for your genre, like you put some effort into it. If your photo does not reflect your music genre, you need a new photo. Urban pop should not look ghetto thug. Alternative country is different from country rock, which is much different from country. Pop dance is different from electronica. Work with a photographer that understands this.
Also, use a photo that was taken within the past 6 months. I have people send me photos taken 2, 5, or even 10 years ago. They tell me they still look the same. Well, no, you don't.
The best videos are recent, live, unedited performances. These show that you can in fact play your instruments and sing in person. If you are doing this in front of a happy audience, so much the better.
Other good videos are one or two music videos, if you have any.
Videos that are not good to include are: Old performance videos that show people that are not in the band now; videos with bad audio; videos with bad picture/ lighting; videos that show anything questionable; heavily edited performance videos.
WRITING A BIO
I have read some of the most ridiculous bios. They're too long. They're misspelled. They include details no one cares about. No one cares where you went to high school or when you first started playing guitar. No one really cares who influences you. No one wants a list of all the bands you were in since 6th grade. No one wants to know about your struggles with addiction, prison stint, or the bad car crash. Keep it your little secret.
Keep your whole bio to 4 sentences maximum. Tell where you are from, what kind of music you make, a bit about your recordings and shows, and a nugget of interest. Shorter is better. Keep the audience wanting to know more, not laughing about the details you have included.
Think of a short description ( a few words) of who and what you are and include that. Examples: Electronic pop from London. Nashville Country singer. Rebellious Teen Girl Rock. Harmonizing Acoustic duo. Chicago Blues Legend. Dixieland Jazz Band. Electronic Dance DJ. Jazz Trombonist. Suburban Hip-hop Schemers. Scratchers and Synth.
It is nice to include some links or quotes (depending on the format) to press or reviews. The more prestigious the source, the better, but any nice review will do, even if it is from Itunes or a blog. The quotes or snippets you choose should give the essence of you and your music.