Demo Recording Pitfalls – No Second Chance for a First Impression

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:


The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is never truer than in the songwriting business. Audiences are somewhat fickle, and if you aren’t grabbing their attention pretty much right away, you’re wasting time, and probably squandering the only chance you have to win new listeners.

There are several reasons why songwriters make demo recordings, but possibly the most important ones would be:

  • to get a gig at a club
  • to hire an agent or manager
  • to secure a recording contract

In all cases, what you’re trying to do is connect with someone. And if you waste that opportunity with that club owner, or that record exec, you’ve probably lost the one chance you had with that person. Demo recordings are tremendously important vehicles for selling your product – your songs.

So whether you’re trying to get the attention of a club owner, or trying to get a recording contract, here are some tips:

  1. Make sure your recording is of the highest quality possible. If you don’t have your own home facilities that can achieve this, it’s best to invest a bit of money and find time in a local studio. or better yet, find a friend who does have the facilities.
  2. Keep your songs short. Long songs run the risk of losing your listener.
  3. Keep your song list short. Handing over a CD crammed full of every song you’ve ever written raises the possibility (or likelihood) that your CD will get tossed aside. Choose your best songs, and limit it to four or five.
  4. Strumming away on your guitar song after song is boring, unless you are an amazing guitarist. See if you can change instrumentation in a bid to give each song its own sense of “freshness”.
  5. Design a cover for your CD that will captivate a potential listener. A plain white cover with felt pen track listing is a sure-fire way to kill interest in your songs. If you can’t design, find a friend who can.

Remember, your Demo CD is your product, and though many songwriter’s hate the business aspect of songwriting, it’s important. You’re a salesperson, and your CD is your product. Do it right, and you’ve got a great potential career ahead of you. Do it wrong, and you can kill the only chance you’ve got to impress some important people.

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