The concept of a demo is an interesting one, I think.
Our writers write pop songs for other people. Working with A&Rs world wide, we are part of a huge pool of professional writers who get asked for songs for projects. It’s mainly pop stuff.
For instance, one writer might get an idea for a song. He demos it quickly for other writers to listen to. It will have a simple beat, a bass line or riff, the chord progression and a vocal. The lyrics will be incomplete, but the basic idea will be there most times. This kind of a rough demo works in that context. Everyone is listening out for an idea that we can together develop further.
Out of many such ideas, we develop further demos. We work hard on the sound of the track, we finish the lyrics. Someone will sing a guide vocal. This demo has all the basic ideas in place. It’s good enough for us to determine whether or not the song is strong enough to finish into a proper song demo. If it is, we get a session singer in and then, once there’s a cracking vocal on it, we work more on the track, to get it to sparkle and kick ass, so that we can present our stuff to people outside our circle. It will sound like a record that’s fit for public consumption.
That demo then goes to the A&R guy. He will listen to it with the artist in mind. If they like it, they will want to turn it into a proper record that’s bespoke to the artist. They may use our production. Equally, they may want other producers to finish it.
That version of the song enters the market place. The track has received a lot of attention in many different phases of its existence by different, very skilled people to turn it into a piece of music that the music loving public will hopefully desire.
Over the years, however, as technological advances have made it easier for people to make and share music, the idea of a demo has lost its meaning, especially in the band world. Virtually everything a band ever makes ends up with the end user. I wonder how good an idea it is.
Is what you put on Facebook something that’s going to make people forget all the bands they’re already into? Or, should you use it as an internal document instead?
Certainly, most of the stuff we receive in the post is not good enough for public consumption. By way of comparison, most of it is of a similar standard to our song demos when we’ve got the basic ideas in place and decide to develop them into something worth pitching to others outside our circle.
There’s one way to test whether or not stuff is good enough: if your intended audience is reacting with wild abandon, you know you’re on the money. If you’re not getting anything back, you should accept that you need to do better.
The only known cure: tune your twanger and get back in the studio.