What Makes A Good Demo Submission?

First things first, this is subjective. These are my personal opinions, and following what I say will NOT guarantee your demo will be successful, however, it’ll hopefully be a step in the right direction.

After receiving a series of terrible demo and artist submissions, I decided to write a blog about this after being inspired by fellow work-colleague and rapper, Nyt Arcanum. There ARE a few other blogs for what a good demo should consist of, including this one by Simon Pursehouse which I recommend reading also. So, let’s get into this..

Remember these?

The Content

  • Get The Basics Right – write whatever you want to in Oxford-standard English (basicly, dont type like dis). The first thing I check out is the biography. If you’re trying to sell yourself and you make basic spelling errors (your / you’re), I won’t bother listening to the music. (I know I sound like a dick, but I’m just being honest!)
  • Writing In Third Person – please stick to keeping to one. I know it sounds obvious, but I’ve read a lot of bios that weave in and out of first and third person.
  • Sell Yourself, Not Your Co-Signs! – Don’t fill your biography with co-signs. If you say you’ve worked with this guy from this crew, or have been played on this station by this DJ, that’s cool, but don’t use that as your backbone. We want to know why we should sign YOU, not everyone you’ve worked with. In fact, go to the blog I mentioned during the intro, and read the section that starts with the bullet point – Tell Me Something Interesting.
  • Active Links – please make sure they’re regularly updated. I wouldn’t want to go onto a Twitter page that has had five tweets in five months. Forward any links that you update REGULARLY. Remember, content is everything. Views, Followers and Interaction hits are one of the initial spoon-fed things A&Rs like to see.

The Music

  • The Format – please keep to .mp3. Don’t send .wav, .m4a, .wma etc, because you’re not entirely sure if the person you’re sending music to will be able to play it. Unless they have VLC Player, it’ll pretty much be cancelled out.
  • Streaming – I usually refrain to download anything unless I hear it, and like it. Fortunately, most email accounts allow for previews of audio. Just to be safe, it would be worth setting up a SoundCloud or BandCamp account with your demos and redirecting them to it. DropBox is another decent one, though personally I’m not too fond of it.
  • ZIP Everything – if you’d rather send it directly, and you’re sending more than one song, ZIP it all together and send the link to download. Quite often, companies will have a cap on the size of emails they receive. ZIP downloads via link is always a good way to go about it, just make sure the download process isn’t arduous.
  • Originality – record labels want to discover the next star, if you sound like Trey Songz, Drake, Lady Gaga.. why would they want to sign you when there’s already a Trey, Drake, and Gaga.
  • Quality Control – please, please, please make sure your recording is of studio quality. If it isn’t, you’re probably better of waiting outside record labels and performing for them there. Trust me.

The Press Shots

  • Every demo should come with one or two images of who the artist is. The one thing I’d say for this again is QC. Make sure it’s a PRESS SHOT, not just a random picture you got your friend to take on your digital camera. Also, if you decide to send one of those self-shot mirror pictures, please take a long hard look at yourself. Actually, don’t. Doing that got you into this mess in the first place.

Additional Points

  • Chase up the A&Rs – they get a LOT of submissions, give it a couple weeks for them to reply. If they don’t, email them with a quick reminder that you sent something. I remember XXXX’s manager (who also discovered Shola Ama) saying he wasn’t going to manage XXXX. However, XXXX’s persistence and refusal to give up eventually resulted in him signing with the manager, who got him onto the Sony/RCA roster in the US.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and don’t give up – You could send out a thousand demos, and get a thousand rejections. However, at least you’re on their radar. Which is better than sitting around doing nothing. If you do get rejected, find out why they did – and how you could improve. Being an artist, a real artist, means there’s no cap on learning, and improving. Don’t be disheartened. It happens, it’s a fucking tough industry. But, you’ll come good.

Pretty sure I’ve covered the basics there, and I really hope this helps anyone that is a bit lost in regards to how to send demos. Like I said, I can’t guarantee success, but the smallest step in the right direction is better than nothing. What’s to lose?

Creating a Record 101*

Just to show you the general processes when creating a record. I’ll break this down by stages, and further elaborate on the thought processes for each section. In terms of the production technicalities, it’ll be brief. This is more of a sociological stance of production and production methods.

Definitions (just the basic terms I frequently use, so you fully understand. Taken from Wikipedia, but they’re correct!

Mixing – Audio mixing is the process by which a multitude of recorded sounds are combined into one or more channels, most commonly two-channel stereo. In the process, the source signals’ level, frequency content, dynamics and panoramic position are manipulated and effects such as reverb may be added. This practical, aesthetic or otherwise creative treatment is done in order to produce a mix that is more appealing to listeners.

Mastering – Mastering, a form of audio post-production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master); the source from which all copies will be produced (via methods such as pressing, duplication or replication).

Engineering
 – Audio engineering is a skilled trade that deals with the use of machinery and equipment for the recording, mixing and reproduction of sounds. The field draws on many artistic and vocational areas, including electronics, acoustics, psychoacoustics, and music. An audio engineer is proficient with different types of recording media, such as analog tape, digital multitrack recorders and workstations, and computer knowledge. With the advent of the digital age, it is becoming more and more important for the audio engineer to be versed in the understanding of software and hardware integration from synchronisation to analog to digital transfers.

Tracks
 – Multitrack recording (also known as multi-tracking or just tracking for short) is a method of sound recording that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources to create a cohesive whole. Multi-tracking became possible with the idea of simultaneously recording different audio channels to separate discrete “tracks” on the same tape—a “track” was simply a different channel recorded to its own discrete area on tape whereby their relative sequence of recorded events would be preserved, and playback would be simultaneous or synchronised.

BPM 
– Beats Per Minute – tempo (Italian for time, plural: tempi) is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.

Stage One: The Idea

First and foremost, every record needs a point. As any product, you need to define the target demographic and listening trends. The style of music is designed around the listener. A good way to start is by referring to select musicians that are popular in that genre at the time. For instance, ‘Gonna Be That’ is targeting the 18-24 year-old UK and mainstream US audience, particularly the male Urban demographic. The reason being, because R&B and Hip Hop are at an experimental stage with cross-genres. (Refer to: Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me; Loick Essien – Love Drunk & Stuttering; Magnetic Man & John Legend – Getting Nowhere). Predominantly Pop and R&B artists have been fusing various elements of Dub & Dubstep into their sound. Diplo, Skream, Rusko and Chase & Status are notable producers that have been successful in bringing Dubstep to the forefront of Popular Culture. Predominantly in the UK, and now in USA.

Stage Two: The Reference

For this track in particular, the BPM (beats per minute) or tempo is 143. 140BPM is generally a popular tempo for Hip Hop (half-time) and Dubstep. (Refer to: Rick Ross – B.M.F.; Chase & Status – Eastern Jam).

Stage Three: Production

The metronome (or click) provides the tempo so when you produce, you know the right speed you’re meant to be creating the record in. Usually, the foundation is the drum pattern. For slower music, occasionally the main melody would be played in by piano (or guitar), and the beat would be created around it. ‘Gonna Be That’ was created in Fruity Loops, a popular programme used by producers including Lex Luger and Benga. Obviously I wasn’t around for the production process, so I can’t go too in depth with this section.

Stage Four: Demo Vocalling

The same process for producing, the vocalist would have to reference songs/artists in order to write on the record, all-the-while keeping it tailored to the specific market. ‘Gonna Be That’ used elements of Rick Ross (verse two – song reference: B.M.F.), Kano (verse three – song reference: London Town).

Stage Five: ReProduction

Although we didn’t for ‘Gonna Be That’. The next step would be the re-creation. The producer would listen to the guide vocals, and alter the beat to suit them. After the beat was mixed (not mastered), the vocalist would record the track again, this time adding energy, and other subtleties.

Stage Six: Mixing

For professional quality, the vocals and beat would need to be mixed. Using a Mac, this could be done in two programmes – Logic or Pro Tools. Difference is purely out of personal preference. This is the longest part of the job, especially if you recorded in a different programme. For instance, this song was recorded on Logic, and mixed in Pro Tools. In order to transfers files, each track (or layer) would have to be ‘tracked out’ individually. See below (this isn’t the Gonna Be That recording session, but it’s just to get a better look at the Logic interface. See ‘global tracks’).

Logic Audio Tracks

This process requires bouncing (saving) each individual line of recording and can range from 10 to 100+ tracks.

Stage Seven: Mixing, Mastering and Rendering

Once the files are transferred, the engineer (sometimes the engineer is also the producer) would focus on getting each individual sound perfect. And it is usually monitored on surround sound speakers, and sometimes in headphones – JUST for reference. To alter the sound, once more, they have to reference different mixes. There weren’t any particular songs for ‘Gonna Be That’ as ADP (engineer) was only mixing the vocals. He went on to say that if he was mixing the entire project, the reference would have been Usher & Jay Z’s ‘Hot Toddy’, produced by Polow da Don. The mix process can take several hours, and even days. This particular track took 2 hours as it was solely a vocal mix. Finally, the record gets mastered.

Stage Eight: Bouncing and a Re-ReProduction

This means saving, and converting to an audio format. The most common type is .WAV, and occasionally .MP3. .MP3 is compressed, hence why .WAV is preferred as the sound quality is considerably richer. Following on, there would usually be a listening session with various musical experts. If all parties clearly stated that something needed changing, the song would be re-produced once more – implementing those changes.

*Post extracted from Tumblr Page, dated February 2, 2011.

PinBoards, Pens, Pads and a Macbook.

Hello all, welcome to the world of.. me.

This blog has been created specifically for my random musings, blog entries, poetry and lyrics, and so forth. I love writing but seldom get a chance to, so this blog isn’t frequently updated. Due to that, I rarely promote this! However, I liked the idea of having everything I write/publish blog/article wise, in one place. So alas, welcome to the world of random musings from a UK-based musician with too much time to think.

Due to the sporadic entries, I’ve decided to attach a picture of my face to keep you entertained.

The RKZ

Power Trippin’