What’s the Standard for Songwriter Demos?

Last week a songwriter told me that one of her songs had been rejected by a music produver because he didn’t like the sound quality of her demo. Said producer actually wanted to hear a fully arranged, produced and polished demo song that met international standards. In fact, quite many music producers ask for “finished demos only”. It’s only natural that a songwriter will wonder about such requests, wouldn’t a producer re-record the song anyway according to his singer’s style and vocal range? I have looked for a few answers:

Tracks vs. Songs
Of course, there are music genres such as Hip Hop and R&B where songs mainly consist of beats, rhythm and sounds rather than a catchy vocal line. It becomes obvious, that such tracks need to sound ‘as is’ and ready for use so they can be licensed from their respective creators.

The Perfect Assist
We have guessed it all along and it seems to be true, at least partially: the ‘end customers’, in our case non-writing performing artists’, seem to lack the ability to imagine a finished song from a raw demo layout with piano and vocals only. Even their producers’ hints and explanations might not help much. Many demo productions, especially from the U.S. and Sweden, tend to become more and more elaborate and are often recorded with a sound-a-like singer so the final artist can well imagine whether the song in question suits her or not.

Time is Money
Can there be an easier way to save time – and thus money – than by having someone else, the songwriter, presnt a new song on a silver platter and already suggest the final arrangement and sounds so that a producer doesn’t need to waste any time racking his brain? All he will have to do is re-record what’s already there once the recording artist has given his or her okay.

Traditional music Producers still exist
Fortunately the creative ones still exist. Music producers who love to add their own creativity to a song. Such producers prefer rough layouts of a song, usually no more than vocal and a guitar or piano. This way they can best evaluate a song and make up their own mind as to where the song could be going stylistically.

Encouraging the Songwriter
There seem to coexist two types of music producers: those who prefer a finished product served to them on a silver platter and the other ones who love working with a rough idea and developing it into a full song.

It’s understandable that not every songwriter has the means to produce chart-quality material on a regular basis. Still it can’t be wrong pointig a song into a specific direction by taking care of its arrangement. Is it going to be pop, rock, electronic, R&B, country? Fast or slow?

Everyone of us is good (or even great) at something. However, once in a while we need outside help. From a singer, a drummer or a sound expert. Find other musicians whom you can barter ‘musical services’ with: demo vocal for a demo mix. Guitar track in exchange for a piano track. Build a network of like-minded musicians and you will, hopefully, have a few friends to help you with your arrangement and recording needs. If you can’t find anybody, though, try studiotraxx.com.

– Julian Angel

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About MusicBizMadness

Julian Angel is a chart-noted songwriter and film musician with Hollywood credits. He has successfully released six (physical) records by himself. MusicBiz Madness started as a business conference in Germany and keeps sharing hands-on advice for musicians and people in the music industry.
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