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It can be very hard for bands and artists to get their material in the right hands. A&R people (Artist and Repertoires) receive so many demo's a day, and so you must ask yourself, 'how can you make them remember yours?' This article is designed to point bands and singers in the right direction with demo recording and submission.

It's so important to have a demo that shows who you are. People want to hear something they haven't heard before. If you are going to do a demo as a band, get a producer to do it, who understands who you are. Don't try and sound like any other band that is in the chart, because by the time your record is released, that sound is not modern any more. You have to "be beyond" what's already out there.

Example: If you look like Usher, and sing like Usher... Do a completely different style of music! This might not be what you wanted to hear, but the reality is that you need a "Unique Selling Point". The music industry is in that way the same as any other industry - you are a product.

Always strive to tell a story in a fresh way, or write/sing in a way that will make people think, 'that's different', or, 'that's an interesting idea'. The best advice for new artists is: Be yourself!

I Emailed Jaimie Carter, owner of Summer Records for advice on how to get the best demo.

Jamie, you have worked with major artists whilst A&R at Ronder Publishing in Sydney. You now work with many acts in London and produce from the legendary Battery Studios in North London, used by Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Radiohead and many more. Can you give some insight on how to record the RIGHT demo?

It's important for me to "feel" the bands and artists I work with. I work with a lot of unsigned bands, and it's my job to get the best out of them.

When an A&R guy hears a demo, he/she needs to be able to know where to promote the act, whether in magazines, TV shows, Venues, etc. You must have a strong 'sound' that will be easily marketable and accessible, yet unique at the same time.

Artists should be aware of the pressures on A&R today. With the huge money involved in breaking an act, A&R can't afford to make a single mistake. You must think of yourself as a product as well as an artist!

I can't stress enough the importance of "the right demo" when trying to get a deal. I mainly work with bands, but the same rules apply for solo singers. Studios like Apple Beam Studios are a great place for singers to do their demo's... or even releasable records. I know them quite well, and they are doing some great music.

If a band hasn't got ambition and drive I don't want to work with them. I want to work with people that are not scared of doing what they want to do. In the end, it's their music and my job as a producer is not to change the band... my job is to help getting the best out of them!


Do you have advice for singer needing a show reel?

Choosing the right material for your vocal demo is almost as important as the performance itself.

If you can't sing as high as Mariah Carey, then don't try to! It's probably going to sound terrible, and no one will know what you actually can do. If you are great at doing rock, then record some rock-tunes, as simple as that. Let's hear YOU.


What about recording cover songs?

You shouldn't choose songs that are too famous, example: Singing a song like "Ain't Nobody" could be a good idea, if you change it enough to surprise the A&R, but if you try to sound like Chaka Khan it doesn't help you.

If you, on the other hand, perform a less "typical" song for your demo and you can make it shine then you have the attention of the listener, because they don't know what's coming next. If you do cover a famous song, please, please don't sing like the original artist! No one wants to hear another Robbie Williams, we already have a perfectly good one!

Keep the songs in the same style. Remember that you have to have confidence in what you do, so recording songs in completely different styles to show how much you can do is not a good idea. You don't want to be a "jack of all styles", you must be the best at what YOU do!

If you want a career as a singer/songwriter you should obviously record your own material.

If you want a career as a session singer you should record stuff in different styles to show how versatile you are as a singer.


Is it expensive?

Investing some money in getting a great demo is not a big price to pay if that demo gets you signed to a label. You have to remember that producers are professionals that know how to make the best of a song and get the best possible performance from an artist.

It is tempting to try and do your own demo at home on your computer, but chances are that they won't ever be in the same league as a demo done in a pro studio. If you are serious about being an artist, then you have to do everything properly... from the beginning. A lot of people think that if they can just hang in there until they get discovered they will be greatly rewarded, but you can forget about that!

I work with a lot of unsigned bands at Battery Studios and Apple Beam Studios specialise in singers who need demos, both original and covers. The beauty with Apple Beam is you pay 60 per cover version. No clock watching! Apple Beam also write for international acts so we sometimes work on projects together. Budding singers should use the advice and skills of seasoned producers and writers and get a head start in the industry.... paying for a demo is really not that expensive for what you can get out of it, if you choose the right studio and producer for you. Do some research, ask for examples and try and pay a fixed fee so you can concentrate on getting the best results, instead of rushing to get everything finished!


What should singers and bands send to A&R?

You will need to get a great package ready when contacting labels and managers.
You NEED to include:

Biography (1 page is enough)
Pictures (If you don't they will think you are either ugly or old)
CD (With contact address, telephone number and e-mail printed on it - very important)

Forget about posting anything else than CD's. Don't expect anyone to have a Tape, Mini-Disc or DAT players available. It is a good idea to have a website up and running that you can refer to. It's also good to have some mp3 clips online so they can listen to your music at any time.


Thank you Jamie

Welcome :)

Hear is some powerful advice from the guys at Apple Beam Studios on how to get A&R to listen to your demo...

"When you contact record labels or managers it is very important to do it the right way. If you do it wrong, you might not get a second chance (this is where the right demo is important again).

A good way of finding the people that would be good for your career is to find out who is behind artists that you can associate with. If you like what Britney's label has done for her, you should contact them and tell them about yourself.

When you call them, ask for the A&R in charge if Britney. If they don't answer the phone, leave a message telling them very briefly who you are and say that you would like them to hear your demo. Say that you can post or e-mail it but that you want to double-check that it's all right with them before you do.

Obviously give them your telephone number, but don't expect them to call you back. Instead say "I'm gonna try you again later this week... hope that's okay" Leave it 3-5 days before you call again. If they don't pick up when you call the second time, don't leave a message! Give it another 2-3 days and then try again. If they don't answer then, leave a message saying that you've now posted a demo to them and it should arrive in a few days (4-5 days internationally). Say, "I'll try and get hold of you again in a week... hope that's okay".

Now they've heard your name 3 times, they know you are polite and they know you are serious about your career. Congratulations, you are already miles ahead of the competition!

Call them a week later and if you're lucky enough to get through, ask them if they've heard it and what they think. Remember to be humble but confident. DO NOT BE ARROGANT, because if they don't like you they will not listen to your stuff ever again. If they have heard it and like it... well done! - You got the demo right!!! If they don't think it's for them, ask them for feedback and if they know anyone that might be interested your demo.

You should always be grateful if someone gives you feedback on your material. After all... they are the professionals you are trying to understand!

You might have to contact a thousand people, before someone gets back to you, but if the right one likes your stuff, you're off!"

In conclusion, you have to remember that the people in charge at the labels and with the managers are very busy people and it's not personal if they don't get back to you. If they like your stuff enough they will, but until then contact the next one.

The music industry is not as big as it might seem. Most big labels, managers and publishers know each other, so if you are rude to one of them the others are likely to know and you may have ruined your chances of success. Just be nice and professional to everyone and you will reach your goals.

But until then... get your demo right, be yourself and the rest will follow!

'Be the best at being you'

Best of luck,

Daniel Scott - A&R/Recording Engineer

Article published with permission from Darren of Apple Beam Studio's.