You know the record demo don'ts - all of those little things you can do to shoot yourself in the foot when you send your demo to a record label. But what about the record demo dos? These demo musts will show your demo off in the best light when you send it to a label, so you have the best chance of getting someone to pay attention to your music.
The Right Approach:
At some indie labels, the staff can be so small that the head of A&R is the same as the person in charge of distribution, promotion and coffee making. For these labels, simply sending a demo addressed to the label is good enough. For other labels, however, you need to send your demo to a specific person if you want it to have any chance of being heard. Know the difference. Most label's have their demo policies listed on their websites. Check them out, and if you are still not sure, send an email to the label to find out how your demo should be addressed.
Fancy folders and laminated press releases never won anyone a record deal, but your package should be organized and contain all of the relevant material. Make sure your demo is in there, obviously, and also include a short band bio. You band bio and any other similar material should be typed, and it pays to proofread. A handwritten personal note to accompany your package is ok (provided your writing is legible), but everything else should be typed.
Short and Sweet:
No record label wants to wade through your 20 track demo. A demo is just that - a demonstration of your music. It is not your whole catalog. It may seem like giving the label tons of options works in your interests, but really it just makes your demo look overwhelming, when there is a stack of other demos that need to be listened to as well. Pick a few of your best tracks - the ones that grab you from the get go - and leave it at that. If they want to hear more, they'll let you know.
Be a Show-Off:
Now is the time to let the labels know about your band's achievements. When you send your demo, make sure you highlight information about past tours, press coverage, radio play or any other achievement that might make someone sit up and take notice. If you have interest from a distributor, a manager, an agent, or any other person who could help raise your profile, make sure you let that be known as well.
Share Your Email:
If you want to hear back from a label about your demo, make sure you leave your email address with them. You can include your phone number if you want, but labels don't usually have the time (or desire) to call you up and chat about your demo. Make it easy for them to communicate with you by giving them your email address.
Don't Leave it at No:
When you send your demo out to labels, you should be prepared for the fact that you are going to be hearing a lot of the word "no." Being told no never killed anyone - it's important for your music career to be willing to take the risk and ask for something, even if no is the answer. But even more important than making peace with hearing no is to learn to not leave it at that. If someone tells you they aren't interested in your demo, follow up and ask them if they can think of someone else who might like it. It could be that you've missed someone along the way who is dying to release a record just like yours.
Mind Your Manners:
How many times have you sent an email out or made a phone call about your band 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. Not only is it the decent thing to do (you'd be surprised how many people don't bother with the whole gratitude thing), it puts a little goodwill in the bank for you. Who do you think is more inclined 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.
Turn That Frown Upside Down:
As I said earlier, the word "no" is one you're bound to hear a lot of when you send out demos. You can't take it personally, and you can't let it discourage you. When a label turns you down, most of the time it comes down more to your kind of music not being a good fit for the label or to the label not having any room in their schedule for new releases. When you get turned down, consider your demo, decide if there was anything you could have done differently that might have made a difference, and then learn from it and move on to the next label. End of story.
Sending out demos can be a little bit stressful, but you can increase your chances of getting your demo to the right people by following these demo sending tips. Above all else, remember to follow the demo rules of the label and keep your demo short - you'll win instant friends at the label when you make their job easier in this way.