Getting Your Demo Heard: Traditional & Digital Tips

Jan 27, 2016

blog demo

Last week we explored some of the reasons to give songwriting a try, even if you’ve never done it before! Continuing with a similar theme this week, we’re going to fast forward a bit. Say you’ve been enjoying the creative act of songwriting for some time now, and you want to get your music out there. We’re going to take a look at how to go about doing that. We’ll start with some tips for the old school technique: getting your demo to a record label. Then we’ll switch gears a bit and look at how you can make a splash in the digital realm.

Record Label

If you’ve decided to go with the traditional method and want to send your demo in to a record label we’ve got a handful of tips to help keep your chances up!

  1. Choose your label carefully.

Do your research and find a label that produces music that is somewhat similar to your own sound. Just sending your stuff all around to every company you can think of is a giant waste of time and postage. If you were an executive working for a label known for its hip-hop, wold you waste your time listening to a county demo? Of course not. Focus your attack for better results.

  1. Method of delivery.

You’ve really only got two options here. For many people, snail mail is the way to do. Burn that CD, pop it in an envelope, and drop it in the mail, right? Wrong! If you’re going to send a CD by post, make sure you use a padded envelope. There’s nothing worse than finding out your CD was damaged in transit. The second option is to get your music to them digitally. Your first impulse may be to just attach the audio file to an e-mail and send it on its merry way. This may seem like the thing to do, but unless you have specifically been asked to do it, I would recommend against it. Many people do it this way, and the problem comes when there are hundreds of MP3s in someone’s e-mail inbox. This much data can clog up their inbox and sometimes crash the program. I’ve heard stories of people simply deleting everything with an attachment to save themselves the trouble. An alternate route would be to upload your music to a service like SoundCloud, which allow you to send a link instead of an attachment, and if they like what they hear, they can download it.

  1. Number of songs & order.

Unless you’ve been specifically asked to send a certain number of songs, its probably best to keep your demo to three songs or less. Most demo listeners have to get through a lot of material in a relatively short amount of time, making them much more likely to listen to a CD they know they can complete quickly. If you feel like you must send more, include a note prioritizing three songs they should definitely hear. The same goes for if you use a service like SoundCloud. But try to keep it to a select few that you have the most faith in!

Once you have your best three songs figured out, put your very best song first. Whack them in the head as son as they hit play. This should be a strong, up-beat song, or your otherwise most commercial song. If your other songs are a little less mainstream, that’s fine, but if they don’t like what they hear right away, they are less likely to finish listening. You may only get one shot, make it count.

  1. Paperwork

You wont be just sending a CD or e-mail. There is a lot of paper that should go along with your must. First and foremost, make sure to include a cover letter. It should be short and sweet, to the point. Let your music to your talking. Here’s a short list of things you should make sure of

  • Make sure it is addressed to someone specific in the company.
  • State your purpose: are you looking for a publisher, producer, or a deal? Do you what the to pay attention to the production, your singing, the band, the lyrics?
  • List any professional credits.
  • Ask for feedback if you want it. You probably wont get it, but you can’t get it if you don’t ask!
  • List the songs and writer’s names in the order they’re on the CD or playlist.
  • Thank them for their time.

You should also include lyric sheets for all the songs, neatly printed. Separate the sections of each song with a space and label everything (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) in a way that seem clear and obvious.


If you’re more inclined to give the digital route a chance, there are a few things you can try as well.

  1. Create a website.

A website becomes the official home for your music, and a great place for potential fans or deal makers to find all your material, as well your history and story. Creating a website has never been easier, and you’ll be able to have everything you will need for visitors to listen, share, and talk about your music. Some website builders actually include everything you need to present your music, like music themed website templates, commission and commission-free music players to show off and sell your songs, social media streams, and more. This is step one for getting your start on the web.

  1. Social media.

Any hardcore music fan knows the best way to learn about new music is word of mouth. It may be the 21st century, but that hasn’t changed, the format has just shifted a little. In today’s digital world, word of mouth has become the domain of social media. Having a string social media presence doesn’t just mean creating a Facebook fan page. Now you’ve got to have a smart strategy that sets a particular feel for who you are both away from the microphone, and behind it. With social media, you aren’t just promoting your music, you’re also promoting yourself. Share stuff that pertains to your music (band videos, digital music, etc.) but don’t limit it to that. Share your sense of humor, any causes you may support, little everyday tidbits. You might be surprised at the attention your music gets when you put your face and personality out there right next to it.

Social media is also a great place to interact with fans. You can post show schedules, but more importantly, you can actually communicate with the music community. Answer questions, join in on discussions, just talk to people.

  1. Show up on music streaming sites.

For many people sites like Spotify, Google Play Music,, and Rdio have become the go to place for new music. Don’t miss out on the opportunity! A lot of these sites will group your music with other artists with a similar sound, so make sure you are detailed when you fill out the artist bio or portfolio. This might cost a little, but it’s well worth it to get your music some real exposure.