If you’re a new musician trying to build a career in music, you must wonder if sending music demos still work.
The answer is YES!
You still need to send demos in 2020 and beyond. Yes, even if there’s an abundance of content and everyone is doing digital, even if you think you can do everything on your own, and even if you heard from well-meaning folks that it’s just a total waste of time.
HOWEVER, in order for your music demo really work, you have to do a dozen more things, and trust me, they’re not so easy. You have to operate like a signed label!
BUT WHY NEED A LABEL WHEN YOU’RE ALREADY DOING GREAT? Well, the labels have the money to invest in marketing and distribution so that your $1M will become $50M. That’s basically the answer. They can do everything faster, too, because they can pull the strings of industry folks. These people are like mafia and you know it. You can’t do this yourself.
But record labels are tough to crack. You have to be in the top 1% for them to even notice you but don’t let that get you down…IT IS POSSIBLE to get a record deal.
Here are some truths you have to know to manage your expectations and adjust your strategy:
#1 Sending unsolicited links is useless. FUGGEDABOUTIT!
Just sending links or a demo to a label unsolicited has a very low percentage chance of actually getting heard by anyone other than an intern. Go for small and mid labels then go check their websites. Most of them indicate if they accept demos or not. Don’t bother contacting those who say they don’t accept demos.
#2 You gotta get your music out there first.
It’s impossible to get a label’s attention if you don’t perform live or if you only perform a few times a month. This is no fairy tale. You have to have a gig at least 3-4 times a week and be really active.
#3 You gotta do the heavy lifting in all areas.
You gotta operate like a signed label. Aside from performing weekly, you have to put together some type of small tour on your own. Labels aren’t in the business of babysitting. Record a great album, build a great website–market the shit out of themselves on social media, build a following, make youtube videos–and most important, play live 3-4 nights a week.
#4 Scouts pay attention to your online profiles
Labels and producers nowadays lurk social media to search for those musicians with not only great music but also good following (100k Facebook likes, Youtube videos with 1m views, awesome website, etc.)
#5 You gotta stand out
If you’re gonna send a demo with a kit, you gotta have good CD packaging, or any type of buzz puts the record on the top of the list. For online kits, make yourself a nice little electronic press kit with audio, video, photos, any press mentions, and a thoughtful bio.
With the amount of content today, it’s really hard to be noticed. But the good thing is it’s also easier to be seen and to promote your stuff more than before. Do you need to send demos? Oh yes. But do everything else as well. Don’t put all your eggs in the demo basket.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.