If you think you’re ready to start submitting work to labels and get them interested in your work, then unfortunately it’s not going to be good enough to just present a sketch of a track for consideration – no matter how good it is. What you really need to come with is a near-enough flawless demo. But what do we mean by flawless? Here Guestblogger Tom Peters – co-founder of proshare.audio – is busy submitting demos to labels on a daily basis and here, presents his very own step by step plan so you can polish up and fully prep your demos for consideration.

How to Prep a Demo for a Label

#1. Lay down ideas quickly

New ideas naturally pop up in various different forms and from different place but often, a killer idea just hits suddenly and doesn’t care if you’re lying in bed, sitting on a bus, or zoning out at work. Wherever you are, when that idea hits, you have to get it down because before you know it, it’s gone completely or just reduced to half remembered drivel. Luckily, you can always just quickly record it to your phone.

#2. Expand on it

As soon as you can, get that idea into your mobile studio, home studio, or pro studio and start expanding on it. As soon as I get in there, I usually start by making a 16 beat loop, and if that works out, maybe I’ve already written a verse, chorus, break, or drop. It’s also important to keep the momentum going during this period, so try to fill up the track horizontally before stacking vertically (unless you ‘hear’ something that you just know will work, of course). Basically, all of the more elaborate stuff can happen later – right now you’re building up the basic bones that you can flesh out and dress up later.

#3. Get stuck into some sound design

Of course, the details are just as important. As soon as you’ve got your groove arranged, it’s time to get stuck into some sound design. Make sure to not just settle for the standard saw-wave – fiddle around with the control panel of a synth while you record (recording it as automation is also a good idea) and try to hit something more ‘exclusive’ sounding – in other words, your own sound. Once you’ve found something that works, maybe play around by inserting some effects and making some small changes to really carve out something that’s absolutely yours.

How to Prep a Demo for a Label

#4. Clear out all the ‘NOs’

It’s also important to be certain that your track has the right structure. Try to think in the same way as a dogged A&R manager from a big label who has to listen to a billion tracks in the space of a day. Yours will need to stand out. So, every moment and detail needs to hit ‘YES’, and as soon as anything hits a NO, then there’s a big chance that our imaginary A&R man will reach for the skip button. Try to listen to your own work with the same kind of critical ear and work on any of those potential ‘NOs’ as soon as they pop up so you can clear them all out.

#5. Fatten up the background to build tension

To strengthen the structure and tension of your track, try using some subtle background noises and effects. These can stay in the background (maybe buried in the reverb) to fill gaps. How often and how much you fill in naturally depends on the genre you’re working with.

#6. Mixing is making choices

Then there’s the mix. Make sure that there’s a clear balance and focus in your track, so try not to pull every sound to the front, but make clear-cut decisions. It’s also a good tip to filter the low-end and (where needed) the high-end out of almost every sound, so that you’re left with only the most essential frequencies of that specific sound. This will leave you with a cleaner mix. Try using automated reverb to softly push sounds further into the background and see if using any side-chain compression will help make some room in the mix for more essential sounds.

How to Prep a Demo for a Label

#7. Demo done? Get some feedback from a pro

Your first demo is done, so what do you do now? Your mates are telling you it sounds great and patting you on the back for a job well done, but what you really need is some feedback from a professional – someone who has the knowledge to give your work a more critical listen and offer some useful feedback. We actually offer a service at proshare.audio that gives a free rating for any submitted track – sometimes we do this for 100 tracks a day. We also offer a Pro Track Assist service where you can get one-on-one advice about how you might be able to improve your work – ultimately tailored to help you send out your best possible demo. The platform only receives positive reactions from producers because finally they have some experienced and unbiased advice to draw on, from someone who has actually listened to their music. Your work can also gather likes on the proshare.audio producer-community, making your track more visible for talent scouts searching the label pool.

#8. Labels: more effective than self-release

Seeking out labels and submitting material might be a more streamlined process using platforms like proshare.audio, but you might be asking yourself: ‘do I even need a label?’ And you might be right. Why not just self-release? There are plenty of channels available to get your work onto the biggest streaming platforms. The answer is basically advertising. Sure, you can get your track on Spotify and get that euphoric feeling when you see it appear. Then a week later, it’s racked up a total of 12 plays, all of which are courtesy of your mates and your mum, and a month later, maybe it’s risen to 100 and that’s that. With a good label on your side, a lot more can happen with the same track. A good label will get DJs to play it in their sets, for example, both live and online, or make sure that your track is included in as many streaming playlists as possible, or that it lands in the sync-circuit (for use in films and commercials etc.), or even that it gets played on national radio. All of which is surely worth the extra effort of polishing up your tracks and getting them submitted.

Unfortunately, none of my advice can guarantee success, but without these few tips, the chances will get much closer to zero. So, be inspired and make it happen!

See also…

» DAW Software
» Effect Plugins
» Instrument Plugins
» MIDI Controllers
» MIDI Keyboards
» All Studio & Recording Gear

» Getting started with iPad music production
» 5 reasons why you are not a full-time producer yet
» Mixing the Low-End: How to Get that Thick & Punchy Layer
» Should You Mix with Headphones?
» 5 Ways to Make Your Mix Sound Louder
» Get the Best Out of Your Studio Monitors with Absorbers & Diffusers
» Mixing with Inserts & AUX Sends
» Compression: What is it and How Do You Use it?
» The Finer Points of Studio Monitor Placement

Guest Blogger Tom Peters (proshare.audio)
Since he was young, Tom Peters has been obsessed with both music and computers. This combo helped bring him international success with acts including CreamTeam and Matrix and took him to the stages of festivals as big as Trance Energy and Mysteryland. Now committed to helping other producers, tom set up the producer-driven community proshare.audio in 2017, which has since grown to connect thousands of labels worldwide and almost 12,000 producers.
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