Demo-tivation

I often see (or rather hear!) bands and artists releasing demo tapes and unfinished songs on SoundCloud or ReverNation or Bandcamp or any of these free sites where people upload music, and it always makes me wonder…

It can be a pre-pre-version of a song (which finished version will more often than not never see the light of day), a sing-along recording done with an iPhone in a bathroom (for the acoustics, right?), an acoustic guitar strumming + vocal jam thing with barely recognizable vocals, a recording done on a laptop in a hotel room while the room service is ringing at the door, a booze induced racket with your pals at the pub… or anything in between.

Fact is, guys, I hate to tell you, but no one really wants to hear that! 

I mean you can record anything you want and maybe a couple of your die hard fans will drink it like honey milk, but quite frankly they will be alone. There is so much good music around, of great sound quality, done with taste and with hours and hours of careful thinking and good recording, that your last recording at the park with a ukulele when dogs were barking in the background and complete with birds accompaniment is not going to cut it.

What you need to realize is that putting too much of your scrapes out there is not helping you. It just feels unprofessional and people will get bored easily if you’re releasing half-assed ideas and bad recordings.

If you want feedback on your demos, send it to other artists for useful feedback, don’t send it to your family or close friends for honest feedback, they will likely praise it (whether they’ve listened to it or not). For honest feedback, ask your peers, or find forums where people exchange about music, there are a few around… 

I’ve been on one of them for years and have learned a lot from it… it’s been discontinued now but most of the people from there are now on another platform called Indie Recording Depot - worth checking out if you want to achieve better recordings.

Do yourself a favor and delete these demos from the face of the internet. High quality music is what you want to be known for! #JustSaying

23 comments

  • KiKi Skinner

    KiKi Skinner USA/UK

    Ghost - a great "head's-up" so to speak for the Indie Music community. The best way to present music to any forum is in its best form. Like fashion, once it is on the runway, there it is - you want to make your BEST self the one that others remember (even if it is set to music). Fab post dude. Keep it up. U know I'm gonna share this right? Besos

    Ghost - a great "head's-up" so to speak for the Indie Music community. The best way to present music to any forum is in its best form. Like fashion, once it is on the runway, there it is - you want to make your BEST self the one that others remember (even if it is set to music). Fab post dude. Keep it up. U know I'm gonna share this right? Besos

  • Verity White

    Verity White

    Good point well played! It’s super tempting when you have something that you want to share to pop it up there and get feedback but demos are really only good for sharing with your indie mates and your producer who can help you shape them into something great! I do sometimes pop some ‘work on progress’ on my Patreon/Insta/Twitter as my followers like to see ‘behind the scenes’ - but they know that it’s just a glimpse of the process rather than the finished article... Make sure what you release is the best representation of what you do!

    Good point well played! It’s super tempting when you have something that you want to share to pop it up there and get feedback but demos are really only good for sharing with your indie mates and your producer who can help you shape them into something great! I do sometimes pop some ‘work on progress’ on my Patreon/Insta/Twitter as my followers like to see ‘behind the scenes’ - but they know that it’s just a glimpse of the process rather than the finished article...
    Make sure what you release is the best representation of what you do!

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Thanks for chiming in KiKi! Indeed once it's out, it's out. So I think it's a question of respect too to put out the best you can and keep the crap to yourself...

    Thanks for chiming in KiKi! Indeed once it's out, it's out. So I think it's a question of respect too to put out the best you can and keep the crap to yourself...

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Your Patreon is for your die hard fans Verity, I'm sure they enjoy that! But the general public who doesn't know you and that you want to reach will unlikely find this appealing. Put your best out, and your best only. I know you do and I enjoy your releases!

    Your Patreon is for your die hard fans Verity, I'm sure they enjoy that! But the general public who doesn't know you and that you want to reach will unlikely find this appealing. Put your best out, and your best only. I know you do and I enjoy your releases!

  • Jacqueline Lademann

    Jacqueline Lademann Melbourne,Australia

    What is this ukulele with barking dogs song of which you speak? Do you have the link. Lol Great piece mate.

    What is this ukulele with barking dogs song of which you speak? Do you have the link. Lol

    Great piece mate.

  • Dez

    Dez Scotland

    Good read however I must disagree. The merrit of a song isn't in the production - production is icing it makes the package look (sound) nice and polished but music doesn't always benefit from being too polished. I appreciate a bit of grit in a recording - I mean consider all the over produced autotuned to with in an inch of sounding human music poisoning our ears these days - and for that matter some of the overblown rock nonsense recorded in the 70s / 80s... give me a good song sung by a good singer - regardless of production. I know which one of these I'd rather listen to: https://youtu.be/t9nYxPhTIu0 https://youtu.be/G5uamDMoW4o

    Good read however I must disagree. The merrit of a song isn't in the production -
    production is icing it makes the package look (sound) nice and polished but music doesn't always benefit from being too polished. I appreciate a bit of grit in a recording - I mean consider all the over produced autotuned to with in an inch of sounding human music poisoning our ears these days - and for that matter some of the overblown rock nonsense recorded in the 70s / 80s... give me a good song sung by a good singer - regardless of production.

    I know which one of these I'd rather listen to:
    https://youtu.be/t9nYxPhTIu0
    https://youtu.be/G5uamDMoW4o

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    I can probably find it for you, Jacqui! Hell, I can probably find thousands, and you can too, if you venture on SoundCloud. ;)

    I can probably find it for you, Jacqui! Hell, I can probably find thousands, and you can too, if you venture on SoundCloud. wink

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    TBH I like none of these two Dez, but that's a taste thing! :D But I'm not talking about over-production here... I'm talking about having a little bit of respect for your audience that you don't throw at them each piece of shitty recording you might do in your kitchen while the microwave is humming in the background.

    TBH I like none of these two Dez, but that's a taste thing! biggrin
    But I'm not talking about over-production here... I'm talking about having a little bit of respect for your audience that you don't throw at them each piece of shitty recording you might do in your kitchen while the microwave is humming in the background.

  • Dan Orias (@pomCountyIrregs)

    Dan Orias (@pomCountyIrregs) Los Angeles

    You’re not wrong, and I’m nowhere near successful, so what could I possibly add here? I consider SoundCloud somewhere between joke and exploitative, so now it gets, rarely, my 24 hour demos, meaning something about the track excites me but it will change, or alternate takes to tracks that will be released for sale. I am about to release a first album and I’m toying with the idea of recording unplugged alternates as a discounted giveaway to introduce people to the premium product, i.e., fully produced. To be clear, the unplugged tracks will not be slapdash. All sorts of questions begged: free unplugged tracks will convert to produced track sales, my production is superior to my stripped-down performance, I can get unplugged tracks in front of people who will be receptive, anything I do matters, etc. But, I agree with what I think you’re saying: don’t put stuff out unless you’re proud of how it represents you and what your music is about. As someone above noted, a track can be effective without production. (And haven’t we all experienced the demo that had that something that couldn’t be replicated in later attempts?)

    You’re not wrong, and I’m nowhere near successful, so what could I possibly add here? I consider SoundCloud somewhere between joke and exploitative, so now it gets, rarely, my 24 hour demos, meaning something about the track excites me but it will change, or alternate takes to tracks that will be released for sale. I am about to release a first album and I’m toying with the idea of recording unplugged alternates as a discounted giveaway to introduce people to the premium product, i.e., fully produced. To be clear, the unplugged tracks will not be slapdash. All sorts of questions begged: free unplugged tracks will convert to produced track sales, my production is superior to my stripped-down performance, I can get unplugged tracks in front of people who will be receptive, anything I do matters, etc. But, I agree with what I think you’re saying: don’t put stuff out unless you’re proud of how it represents you and what your music is about. As someone above noted, a track can be effective without production. (And haven’t we all experienced the demo that had that something that couldn’t be replicated in later attempts?)

  • Dez

    Dez Scotland

    The kitchen with the microwave, booze induced racket and room service ringing the door bell are all very different scenarios from some one in a bathroom with and acoustic guitar and their phone trying to get the best recording avalibe to them. Even David Gilmour isn't above a bit of phone recording (see 11:15) https://youtu.be/fo043v0d3kw (Good documentary by the way I recommend watching it if you get the chance). My point was that a good song will shine through poor / limited production... some songs actually benifit from minimal production (Just ask Bruce Springsteen) it depends on the style / vibe of the music you make. I think musicians like us that enjoy getting into a bit of production can get bogged down in it unnecessarily.

    The kitchen with the microwave, booze induced racket and room service ringing the door bell are all very different scenarios from some one in a bathroom with and acoustic guitar and their phone trying to get the best recording avalibe to them. Even David Gilmour isn't above a bit of phone recording (see 11:15)
    https://youtu.be/fo043v0d3kw
    (Good documentary by the way I recommend watching it if you get the chance).

    My point was that a good song will shine through poor / limited production... some songs actually benifit from minimal production (Just ask Bruce Springsteen) it depends on the style / vibe of the music you make.

    I think musicians like us that enjoy getting into a bit of production can get bogged down in it unnecessarily.

  • Laughing With The Raindrops

    Laughing With The Raindrops London, UK

    LOL I know what you mean! So I will share this with you: Can't believe they actually posted it on YouTube... https://youtu.be/qxiiGLhluxo?t=1m59s

    LOL I know what you mean! So I will share this with you:
    Can't believe they actually posted it on YouTube... https://youtu.be/qxiiGLhluxo?t=1m59s

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Dan, thanks for commenting! Yes we probably all have experienced demos that couldn't be replicated. Does this mean this should be a the finished song? Does this mean the world wants to hear it? My point is not that over production is needed. Just that you should try to put your best work out there, not your scrapes. I don't think bad recordings will incite your listeners to buy the "superior product", I think they will just make them turn away from it.

    Hey Dan, thanks for commenting! Yes we probably all have experienced demos that couldn't be replicated. Does this mean this should be a the finished song? Does this mean the world wants to hear it?
    My point is not that over production is needed. Just that you should try to put your best work out there, not your scrapes. I don't think bad recordings will incite your listeners to buy the "superior product", I think they will just make them turn away from it.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Dez! Yes, I've seen this documentary. Good one indeed! But note that Dave didn't put this iPhone recording out, he used it as a starting point, and it was used to build a final track that was well thought out. Now again, my point is not that over production is needed. Never said that! But if the recording is shitty, it just makes me want to shut that thing off and go to another artist who has a little bit more respect for his listeners and who has put a little bit of effort so that they have an enjoyable time at least. To use your words, I don't think any song will benefit from bad recordings.

    Hey Dez! Yes, I've seen this documentary. Good one indeed!
    But note that Dave didn't put this iPhone recording out, he used it as a starting point, and it was used to build a final track that was well thought out.
    Now again, my point is not that over production is needed. Never said that! But if the recording is shitty, it just makes me want to shut that thing off and go to another artist who has a little bit more respect for his listeners and who has put a little bit of effort so that they have an enjoyable time at least.
    To use your words, I don't think any song will benefit from bad recordings.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    LOL V! At least this video was entertaining! :D

    LOL V! At least this video was entertaining! biggrin

  • Dez

    Dez Scotland

    Laughing With The Raindrops That video looks more like people having fun and documenting the day, rather than anything serious there's loads of videos that look like the same day on the feed underneath.

    Laughing With The Raindrops

    That video looks more like people having fun and documenting the day, rather than anything serious there's loads of videos that look like the same day on the feed underneath.

  • Bryan

    Bryan http://indierecordingdepot.com

    Thanks so much for the shout out for http://indierecordingdepot.com! I agree, using a service that allows you to get some feedback from peers is really worth your time before releasing your songs/mixes. I'm glad we opted to keep that going from the Recording Review days! :)

    Thanks so much for the shout out for http://indierecordingdepot.com!
    I agree, using a service that allows you to get some feedback from peers is really worth your time before releasing your songs/mixes. I'm glad we opted to keep that going from the Recording Review days! smile

  • Erin At Eleven

    Erin At Eleven Scotland

    Hey Patrick, I agree with you partly. However, from time to time I will put up demos on my Soundcloud as well as recording/mixing/mastering tracks and I am still fairly happy with doing things this way :) If I've just written a song I'm keen on, I like having that sort of template of an idea up somewhere and not just on my phone (where all the duds end up! XD) so that I can work on it and develop the song - so by the time I come to record it, it's hopefully much more than it was at demo stage. I appreciate most people might not want to hear such things so I label them as demos so people can avoid them (if that's their style) & just listen to my mixed tracks. For me personally though, it's more about my writing the song and working on it rather than caring (oops sorry) too much about what people think of my demos. Not to say that I don't appreciate people's feedback and kindness or criticism (because I certainly do) however it's not my goal when I write songs. Interesting debate though, cheers :)

    Hey Patrick, I agree with you partly. However, from time to time I will put up demos on my Soundcloud as well as recording/mixing/mastering tracks and I am still fairly happy with doing things this way smile If I've just written a song I'm keen on, I like having that sort of template of an idea up somewhere and not just on my phone (where all the duds end up! XD) so that I can work on it and develop the song - so by the time I come to record it, it's hopefully much more than it was at demo stage. I appreciate most people might not want to hear such things so I label them as demos so people can avoid them (if that's their style) & just listen to my mixed tracks. For me personally though, it's more about my writing the song and working on it rather than caring (oops sorry) too much about what people think of my demos. Not to say that I don't appreciate people's feedback and kindness or criticism (because I certainly do) however it's not my goal when I write songs. Interesting debate though, cheers smile

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Bryan, thanks for visiting! Yeah, I think the "Bash This Recording" section was the best thing ever on Recording Review and I'm glad to see you've kept it alive. Wishing you well with Indie Recording Depot!

    Hey Bryan, thanks for visiting! Yeah, I think the "Bash This Recording" section was the best thing ever on Recording Review and I'm glad to see you've kept it alive. Wishing you well with Indie Recording Depot!

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    I hear what you say Erin, but if it's just a place to store your demos, you could also set them to be private. I have a few myself on various services, but I don't want to inflict that to anyone. You say it's about writing songs and working on it, yet you are trying to get played airplay on radios and get some attention too, so bottom line is I don't think your demos reflect too nicely on what your finished song can sound like... I'd be careful of what I put online if I were you...

    I hear what you say Erin, but if it's just a place to store your demos, you could also set them to be private. I have a few myself on various services, but I don't want to inflict that to anyone. You say it's about writing songs and working on it, yet you are trying to get played airplay on radios and get some attention too, so bottom line is I don't think your demos reflect too nicely on what your finished song can sound like... I'd be careful of what I put online if I were you...

  • Erin At Eleven

    Erin At Eleven Scotland

    Hey Patrick, I'm afraid I don't really see it as "inflicting" anything on anyone haha and it doesn't matter to me either way to set it on a private setting or not, I just want it somewhere to revisit but fair enough if that works for you. I send mixed/mastered songs to radio, not demos, that's true but radio play is not the be all and end all for me as a musician, more just a fun way of connecting with different people: if people enjoy my music great, so be it, but equally if not, I'm okay with that because ultimately it is for me. As I said on Al's show, if I just work in music for the rest of my life without a record deal or some "recognition" whatever that is, I'd still be happy because that side of it isn't the driving force behind me, it's my creativity :) Final thought: anyone judging me too harshly for having a demo (although got to say had some nice comments on demos bizarrely!) well that's okay too, I won't lose any sleep over it, everyone's entitled to their opinion, me included haha :) Then again, I reserve my right to look back upon this conversation in several years' time with hindsight and have changed my entire opinion on the subject haha as we never stop learning. So, live and learn but I'm happy with my approach so far XD

    Hey Patrick, I'm afraid I don't really see it as "inflicting" anything on anyone haha and it doesn't matter to me either way to set it on a private setting or not, I just want it somewhere to revisit but fair enough if that works for you. I send mixed/mastered songs to radio, not demos, that's true but radio play is not the be all and end all for me as a musician, more just a fun way of connecting with different people: if people enjoy my music great, so be it, but equally if not, I'm okay with that because ultimately it is for me. As I said on Al's show, if I just work in music for the rest of my life without a record deal or some "recognition" whatever that is, I'd still be happy because that side of it isn't the driving force behind me, it's my creativity smile Final thought: anyone judging me too harshly for having a demo (although got to say had some nice comments on demos bizarrely!) well that's okay too, I won't lose any sleep over it, everyone's entitled to their opinion, me included haha smile Then again, I reserve my right to look back upon this conversation in several years' time with hindsight and have changed my entire opinion on the subject haha as we never stop learning. So, live and learn but I'm happy with my approach so far XD

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    You're funny Erin! :) Anyway, you should do what works for you of course! :D I'm just saying that since there is so much good music around, most people will not necessarily want to hear your less professional output when faced with other better quality recordings...

    You're funny Erin! smile Anyway, you should do what works for you of course! biggrin
    I'm just saying that since there is so much good music around, most people will not necessarily want to hear your less professional output when faced with other better quality recordings...

  • Grrrrr

    Grrrrr Toronto

    I agree, that it's unprofessional releasing low quality demos. It seems that most people/ writers/ musicians have a very low level of objectivity when it comes to their own music, songwriting and audio production quality. I've seen so many people releasing their own music believing it's great, but the truth is that they are completely delusional and misguided. As music makers we need to be less self absorbed so that we can see the forest through the trees if we really want to create "quality".

    I agree, that it's unprofessional releasing low quality demos.
    It seems that most people/ writers/ musicians have a very low level of objectivity when it comes to their own music, songwriting and audio production quality. I've seen so many people releasing their own music believing it's great, but the truth is that they are completely delusional and misguided. As music makers we need to be less self absorbed so that we can see the forest through the trees if we really want to create "quality".

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    For sure Grrrr! We should be our most ruthless critics, and only release the best of our output.

    For sure Grrrr! We should be our most ruthless critics, and only release the best of our output.

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