Sending Demo's to Record Companies.

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Creativemind
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Hi Everyone!

I have been contemplating for a while now of sending demo's to record companies.

Has anyone here done this or does anyone here have any advice / do's / don'ts for this.

I gather (from what I've been told and from a previous thread) that there isn't any lawful way of copyrighting songs and potentially they could be stolen and passed off as their own.

Anyway, just wanted to see what you guys think and what I should do.

Thanks!
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bitley
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Hard to say these days. Unfortunately I've been ripped when I've released things this way - small companies only. Since you have a much better position than me geographically, at least historically seen, you should look for local record companies and seek to get to know them & present your music personally if possible. I just have a gut feeling it would be better for you. The situation for creators certainly is complex these days and as soon I take the car and put on the radio there's lots of new music - so how to get airplay? My big question is if anyone has been "found" simply by putting out music on Soundcloud, Choon, Youtube? I've got tonnes of tracks online and I'm just kind of hoping some day some person with Jedi powers & unlimited amounts of cash will go Aha, This We Want and send me an offer & lots of cash upfront lol. It kind of happened once in fact - Sony wanted to release an old track of mine - but major email mistreatment on my behalf lead this to never happen; I discovered their email about two years after it was sent... !!! :roll: As for my pop music work I sent that to a very local radio channel which resulted in some airplay which got me STIM payments (the swedish rights organisation, doing similar work as BMI / ASCAP).

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bitley
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Post 12 Mar 2019

(Listening to your demo btw it's a very good song which could reach wonderful heights with nice production - try to connect with Trevor Horn!)

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dioxide
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Post 12 Mar 2019

I've done this a lot and I've never been ripped off. It's certainly possible but I don't think it should stop you from sharing your music. Typically you might share mp3s instead of wavs so that acts as a bit of a deterrent.

I use Discogs to search for targets, looking at artists that release music in a similar style to me, and listen to what they are releasing. Then I read their facebook and soundcloud pages to see if they have any preferences when receiving demos.

Bear in mind that now demos are done digitally via email instead of physical CDs that labels are often flooded with demos. So try an understand it from their point of view if they don't answer.

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Creativemind
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Post 12 Mar 2019

dioxide wrote:
12 Mar 2019

Bear in mind that now demos are done digitally via email instead of physical CDs that labels are often flooded with demos. So try an understand it from their point of view if they don't answer.
That's a point, never thought of that. They will get at least 3 times as many as they did 15yrs ago I'd have thought. So I'm guessing the standard would need to be higher I guess.

I also was told by a lecturer at uni a couple of years ago that record companies expect polished finished productions now too and not just a rough guitar track demo off a dictophone like you could've sent 25yrs ago. In the 90's record companies would hear a track and envisage what it could be but so he said, they want it polished and virtually ready for release as is now. Which I'm not good enough to do yet, just have the song writing expertise.
:reason:

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MarkTarlton
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Post 12 Mar 2019

most companies want music from artists that have a following or some kind of buzz, or they probably won't invest in you. my suggestion is to get your music out to blogs and radio stations that play your type of music. if you can get more fans, aka people who buy your stuff... than your odds will be greater. you should have an online presence and be able to play gigs...this is the stuff they will be looking at, and of course your music.

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pushedbutton
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Most labels are pretty risk averse. They want sales before investment. I'd get your stuff on something like bandcamp and shamelessly promote as much as you can, then approach labels with stats and figures, if they've already heard of you or know someone who had they're more likely to listen.
Personally I can't be arsed.
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Using Reason since version 3 and still never finished a song.

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dioxide
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Creativemind wrote:
12 Mar 2019
That's a point, never thought of that. They will get at least 3 times as many as they did 15yrs ago I'd have thought. So I'm guessing the standard would need to be higher I guess.

I also was told by a lecturer at uni a couple of years ago that record companies expect polished finished productions now too and not just a rough guitar track demo off a dictophone like you could've sent 25yrs ago. In the 90's record companies would hear a track and envisage what it could be but so he said, they want it polished and virtually ready for release as is now. Which I'm not good enough to do yet, just have the song writing expertise.
Yes the standard has to be high, or at least something that they might be able to make money on. Vinyl often doesn't sell well (depending on genre of course) and runs can be low. Limited edition is BS, it's just that records aren't selling like they used to as they can be €10 plus shipping, which adds up fast for a buyer.

In the 90s there was money in underground scene, so a demo could be reworked by a more experienced engineer in a studio. Now I think even labels with money want to hear the finished item. I'm not sure if anyone is taking stuff to be reworked in a studio. I'm interested to hear from anyone here if they know of this happening, at least in the electronic dance music genres. I'm sure it happens a lot in 'normal' music.

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Creativemind
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Post 12 Mar 2019

So do you think, if you had a really really good song, acoustic guitar, you played it extremely well, sang it extremely well, recorded it extremely well, that it would still need bass, drums and backing vocals etc to make any kind of impact as a demo?
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platzangst
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Creativemind wrote:
12 Mar 2019

I gather (from what I've been told and from a previous thread) that there isn't any lawful way of copyrighting songs and potentially they could be stolen and passed off as their own.
Well, this isn't the case, at least in the USA. If you make a song, it's automatically copyrighted in your name. If you wanted to be extra cautious about it, you could register your song with the Copyright Office, which involves paperwork, money, and a copy of the song, and that would provide a certain amount of evidence that a song is yours. In fact, if you ever had to take someone to court over a copyright issue, you'd have to register your copyright anyway before proceeding, or the amount you could claim in damages would be limited.

This doesn't mean an unethical party couldn't do what you say and just pretend they made a song themselves; if they're that unethical your copyright won't mean squat to them.

As for the rest, I'd highly recommend checking out the website of each and every label you want to send demos to. Many indie labels have demo policies, and they're often very different from place to place. Some never take demos, others do so only under certain conditions. Some may want you to email files directly (admittedly rare, but I've seen it), and others may want soundcloud links or something similar. Never assume that all labels share the same method of handling demos. And by conforming to a particular label's requirements, you show that you're actually interested in them specifically (at least enough to read their policies) and aren't just another band spamming demos to anyone that might cut them a check.

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platzangst
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Creativemind wrote:
12 Mar 2019
So do you think, if you had a really really good song, acoustic guitar, you played it extremely well, sang it extremely well, recorded it extremely well, that it would still need bass, drums and backing vocals etc to make any kind of impact as a demo?
Not necessarily, but you're making the hurdle a lot higher. Consider: what it sounds like you're asking for is a label to notice you out of all the thousands of others, recognize the talent or songcraft in your acoustic performance, AND spend money to develop your song into something they can sell, and probably a full album besides. That's a much more money-and-labor-intensive proposition than sending an essentially-completed master to a company that could then market it from the start.

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pushedbutton
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Who would you want on your label?
Someone who comes to you with a finished product and a good reputation or
Someone who has a lot of potential, needs training and is completely unheard of?
These days you've got to at least get some of the way yourself.
@pushedbutton on twitter, add me, send me a message, but don't try to sell me stuff cos I'm skint.
Using Reason since version 3 and still never finished a song.

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Creativemind
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Post 12 Mar 2019

pushedbutton wrote:
12 Mar 2019
Who would you want on your label?
Someone who comes to you with a finished product and a good reputation or
Someone who has a lot of potential, needs training and is completely unheard of?
These days you've got to at least get some of the way yourself.
Me, personally, the person with the best songs.
:reason:

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minilog
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Post 12 Mar 2019

What is a demo? You need to be established as an artist IMO. That doesn't necessarily mean having thousands of social media followers but you need to be a finished product with confidence in what you're doing. Kill your darlings, put more work into your craft, write more songs and proceed without expectations. Don't send anything to anybody unless you're absolutely sure that you're gonna rock their socks off. Then when they say they're not interested you'll be so far down the rabbit hole that it won't really faze you.

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Creativemind
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Post 12 Mar 2019

minilog wrote:
12 Mar 2019
What is a demo? You need to be established as an artist IMO. That doesn't necessarily mean having thousands of social media followers but you need to be a finished product with confidence in what you're doing. Kill your darlings, put more work into your craft, write more songs and proceed without expectations. Don't send anything to anybody unless you're absolutely sure that you're gonna rock their socks off. Then when they say they're not interested you'll be so far down the rabbit hole that it won't really faze you.
:thumbs_up:
:reason:

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selig
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Post 12 Mar 2019

Demos: there are (at least) two kinds, song demos (which can be simple) and production/artist demos, which must be full blown.

Labels: I’ve been extremely lucky in my life to have two record deals, and in both cases they came to me - so I don’t have any advice on how to reach out to lables except for this: the more they want you (and not the other way around) the better the deal will be for you. And in this day and age, that may be the only deal worth having...

As others have said, best to create the buzz first to “prove” you are a viable artist. Let the label come to you if at all possible, as you will then at least stand a chance of getting the best deal possible IMO.


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Noplan
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Post 12 Mar 2019

If you don`t need to necessarily make money with your music, stay independent.

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jam-s
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Post 13 Mar 2019

Noplan wrote:
12 Mar 2019
If you don`t need to necessarily make money with your music, stay independent.
Stay independent, create like a maniac, create quality tracks, build a fan base, use bandcamp and patreon and become the next F-777 (google him for inspiration on how to get your music career going) ;)
If you're in Aachen, come and visit us at the Voidspace.

RobC
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Post 14 Mar 2019

I learned 3 things:

1. It's best if your channel content has more serious works, so to say, instead of video-game/cartoon/show remixes, and alike which only generate you rather awkward, not necessarily useful traffic.
2. Don't upload (aka don't "self-release") your demo publicly (when it comes to copyright, you can just upload it to google drive, or other sites as unlisted, so you can prove it's yours in case of legal trouble). I've done so once, and got the fastest rejection letter ever. xD
3. Be exclusive to your targeted label. Think of the whole process and also treat it like - job hunting.

4. Bonus! Without being established, you just waste your time.
5. Bonus 2: You may choose a specific genre, add popular elements to your music, but don't ever restrict yourself - that can force you to put out cheesy stuff. Mostly true for lyrics.

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selig
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Post 14 Mar 2019

Noplan wrote:If you don`t need to necessarily make money with your music, stay independent.
It’s entirely possible you will make more money as an independent keeping 100% than as a signed artist keeping a few %.

I would guess that a record label would have to sell at least 10-20x more than you can on your own before you’ll make more money. And I would also guess that it’s not common for that to happen… ;(


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selig
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Post 14 Mar 2019

RobC wrote: 2. Don't upload (aka don't "self-release") your demo publicly (when it comes to copyright, you can just upload it to google drive, or other sites as unlisted, so you can prove it's yours in case of legal trouble). I've done so once, and got the fastest rejection letter ever.
I worry that this variation on the “poor man’s copyright” is no more legit than mailing a copy to yourself. Read more here:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_man%27s_copyright


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RobC
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Post 14 Mar 2019

selig wrote:
14 Mar 2019
RobC wrote: 2. Don't upload (aka don't "self-release") your demo publicly (when it comes to copyright, you can just upload it to google drive, or other sites as unlisted, so you can prove it's yours in case of legal trouble). I've done so once, and got the fastest rejection letter ever.
I worry that this variation on the “poor man’s copyright” is no more legit than mailing a copy to yourself. Read more here:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_man%27s_copyright


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Not long ago, there was a video posted, where a lawyer explained, that actually even the time stamp DAWs add, is perfectly enough for basic rights.
Though it seems, that it's pointless to gamble with music, so not much to worry about copyright.

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selig
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Post 14 Mar 2019

RobC wrote:
14 Mar 2019
Not long ago, there was a video posted, where a lawyer explained, that actually even the time stamp DAWs add, is perfectly enough for basic rights.
Though it seems, that it's pointless to gamble with music, so not much to worry about copyright.
One lawyer's post does not a law make...

I don't know about other countries, but in the US your work is protected from the moment you create it. I've never heard of any of these alternative approaches holding up in court. My lawyers have also said otherwise through the years. Always consult a lawyer if you're interested in know what applies to you in your country.

If you'd like to post links that say otherwise, I'm happy to check them out.
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MarkTarlton
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Post 14 Mar 2019

yeah, as an artist who has dealt with this, I would agree with selig. not to mention he has music and works with others who sell and distribute their music professionally. copyright is very easy to do...also belonging to a performance rights agency(ascap/bmi), meaning you have to set up a business with a tax i.d. if you are serious about your career. I've had several pieces of music placed in ads/movies, you wouldn't be able to do that without all the proper avenues I just discussed...if you are self releasing your music through bandcamp you can choose to not do this, but for the serious writers/producers don't be foolish and trust anything you read without talking to entertainment lawyer and reading up on all this....also check out donald passman's book.

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selig
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Post 14 Mar 2019

MarkTarlton wrote:yeah, as an artist who has dealt with this, I would agree with selig. not to mention he has music and works with others who sell and distribute their music professionally. copyright is very easy to do...also belonging to a performance rights agency(ascap/bmi), meaning you have to set up a business with a tax i.d. if you are serious about your career. I've had several pieces of music placed in ads/movies, you wouldn't be able to do that without all the proper avenues I just discussed...if you are self releasing your music through bandcamp you can choose to not do this, but for the serious writers/producers don't be foolish and trust anything you read without talking to entertainment lawyer and reading up on all this....also check out donald passman's book.
I second the Passman book - it’s well written and easy to understand even if you’re not familiar with the music business.



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