Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sending Demo's 101

Getting demo's is really exciting for a label. Frustratingly the vast majority turn out to be a let down for all sorts of reasons - all totally avoidable in my opinion and all something every aspiring producer should know and about and something any established artist you look up to and want to be learnt long ago in their career - probably by trial and error. So, I got to think it would make a great feature on the blog.

Okay, you've for a demo track or tracks and you want it signed and out there so you can build your profile - I get that but here's the most frequently made mistakes you might be heading for…

What not to do:

Tell everyone
The number of emails I get that start 'Hello, this demo is for you…" - invariably the demo is for me and 180 other people judging by the number of plays, or worst still be in the public domain for 27 days already and listened to 300 or more times. All labels are looking to sign 'new' music, not a track you've had for a while and a mate told you, you could get that signed the feedback's been awesome. Keep the track private, streamed preferably and be selective who hears it. Find out who to send the demo too, a bit like sending a CV out, make sure you make it personal and spell their name right!

Presume you're sound is right for everyone
Do your homework. If you make techno don't send your tracks to a soulful house label it's a waste of your time and theirs. And if you do, don't be surprised if you get a less than polite email back. The industry today made up of micro-genres, there's a home for your sound and labels looking for new material, but as a producer it's up to you to get your shit together and look professional from the outset.

Expect me to know all about you
These days it's easy to hit Google or Facebook to find out about someone, but by presuming that's what will happen is a fatal mistake. A prospective label will want to know a little about you - not the full autobiography, just enough of what your sound is about, labels you might have been on, remixes you've done or other connected stuff. And for the love of god don't give them the bullshit biog about being inspired into music at an early age and how you're a DJ legend in your bedroom. Here's a decent example of what can work:

Be unorganized
It's unlikely a label is going to download every demo they get sent, so increase your chances of being heard by having your Soundcloud private links well labeled, track info and all that stuff looking professional and sounding as good as you can - clipping baselines, too quiet or just not polished enough is the surest way to make a crap first impression. Equally, as has happened to me, don't send a link that's a year old or worst still for sale on iTunes already. The label is looking for good production and a good producer they can work with.

Get shitty if you don't hear back immediately
You've spent precious time crafting your track/s, you've done the homework, compiled the email to be just right. Last thing you want a label to do is listen to it for 30 seconds on shitty laptop speakers and tell you "thanks but no thanks". Give the label a couple of days to listen properly and then if you've not heard follow up - politely. And of course, equally you need to expect a certain amount of knock backs - especially if you're track has been out there a year and for sale on iTunes, unlike this guy...

What happens next:

The label loves the tracks and wants to sign them - superb! But the work has only just begun.

From here you can expect the label to want you to sign a contract and agree a royalty percentage, license details etc. You need to read and sign this stuff and it's legally binding so take it seriously. You can expect a deal to be around a 50/50 split of profits on sales of original tracks and 20% or more/less on remixers, but this will vary from label to label and depending on your commercial value. The better known you are the more negotiating power you have obviously.

Once signed and sealed you'll need to supply pre-masters. It would be my advice to ask how the label wants these supplied. Some artists want to master their own tracks whereas others have specific mastering services they use so ask before you finalize anything.

If there's going to be remixes done you'll need to bundle up all the parts for the track too and supply them. And if you want to be uber professional package up a press photo and your biog info (see previous mention of what not to do there). Once sorted send the download link and follow up to make sure the label has everything they need. It may sound like going over the top, but think about it from the label's perspective - you're on it!

As I said the work has only just begun really - there's likely to be a delay while the release comes to market - keep in touch with the label and find out the promotional plan. Ask to see the promo feedback if you're interested - understand what the label would like you to do to help promote the release and help where you can - ultimately it's in your own interest to do so.

Once released the real work begins. One post on Facebook of the link and a couple of likes to other posts of it is just not promoting yourself. Sales patterns mean the first weekend is huge for your new release - so warm your fans up then come Friday give them the good stuff and drive some sales.

If you're a label owner and have anymore advise - drop a comment below and help get this right!

If you want to send UM Records a demo go here for more info HERE


  1. So true! Today i received a demo without any text at all, not even something like Hi or hello. Just the link to a filesharing site en the word Demo.
    Searched the guy on Google and found his Soundcloud, with...the demo tracks shared to everyone for about a month yet and the style didn't fit. Every week i receive demo's like this.
    Anyway, I think it's good to add a private streaming link in the mail, and even better if there is an option to download (since many online players are compressed). In addition to your story i would prefer when artists send music, to use a solid site, without many commercial adds/pop-ups.

  2. Great article Richie ... and I'd better get working on my deep bass! ;)

  3. im interested in sending you some of my stuff, and i want to ask do you accept single tracks or i have to send you at least two tracks, and do i have to take care about mastering on my own, or do you do that ? cheers :)