How Long Should a Music Demo Be


I have submitted myself quite a few demos to music labels and I also know a lot of people who have done the same therefore I have a good idea on how long a music demo should be. If your target is to get released by music label the length of your demo is just one of the elements you have to consider but generally speaking:
A music demo should be between two-and-a-half and three minutes long. Research shows that It’s important to grab the listeners attention from the start since most A&R managers listen just the first 20-25 seconds of submission. Try and implement attention-grabbing hooks in each section of the song.

In this article, you will discover important elements that will contribute to the achievement of your goals and hopefully help you get signed by the label of your choice!

Enjoy!

Is the Style of the Label Important?

If you’re wondering if the style of the label is important the short answer to this question is yes!
One of the best tips I ever got was:

“Treat your music as a product”

But this may be difficult, especially if you are an artist, but it is an essential step to master if you want to achieve success in the music industry, this is even more true for pop music.

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 Think about this, as you don’t expect to find groceries at your local hardware store the same way a label doesn’t expect to get music that is outside of their vision.

Before sending your demo you have to check the style of the label if for example, you create hard rock music don’t send your demo to SPINNING RECORDS even if you track is awesome, most likely you won’t get a response back since the product you’re sending  doesn’t fit the image of the label

The Recording Quality of the Demo

In an interview of the Legendary pop songwriter Max Martin, he said that some of his initial demos sound very bad and are poorly recorded. Sometimes it’s just a guitar and his voice, If you think about it, this is all he needs in order to capture the musical idea and further transform it into a complete smashing hit.

However there is one key difference, Max doesn’t submit his early stage demos two artists or labels, instead, he creates a high-quality demo in order to show the potential of the song to the artist.

 In some cases A&R managers are able to look further than the recording quality and actually see the hit potential of a song, however, sending a professionally performed and recorded demo is of course in your advantage.

A Few Key Things to Consider Are:

Vocal Performance

 One of the main elements that should be as good as possible is the vocal performance. Vocals are often the most important element of a song, therefore, pay extra attention to them!

The Overall Performance Style

Make sure to deliver the right amount of emotion throughout your performance,  the target here is to transfer emotion to the listener. Yes it’s true that in many cases we treat music as a product but we have to remember that we are dealing with art and that humans are emotional creatures.
If you’re able to grab the listener in an emotional way you definitely will increase your chances of success!

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Good Lyrics

Depending on your genre lyrics may either have a primary or secondary role.

If you’re creating a country or blues music, lyrics will have a primary function. Often in popular music, the vocal melody takes the first place, nevertheless, your lyrics should make sense and tell a complete story or at least be interesting enough.

Mix Your Demo Properly

This goes without saying but you should always make sure demos,  make sure that all the elements of the song work well together if you’re on a tight schedule at least create a rough mix and focus mainly on the volume differences.

Should I Master My Demo?

Once your mix is done you should take some time to master your demo.  At this stage I don’t suggest to pay a professional mastering engineer, this is something you want to do when you’re about to release your song.  

What I do suggest is to make use of an online mastering service or simply use a mastering plug-in, my personal favorite is Ozone 8.
I find the results good enough for demo submissions and in some cases ( if you know what you’re doing)  you can even use Ozone for official track releases.

Best Way to Send My Demos

The best way to send your Demos to a label is through the demo submission email each label has,  you can always try and send the demo to let’s say the customer support or to the press release contact email but don’t expect to yield any fruits.

If you are lucky enough to find the personal email of the A&R manager, label executive or some other high-level contact details try and send your submission to them. There is a  wrong and a right way to do this but more on that later.

How Much Do A&R Managers Listen?

As far as I know, big-name labels receive up to  100 demo submissions per day(!) because there is such a high level of competition you have to be lucky just for someone to even listen to your demo.

Even if luck is on your side and your submission does get heard they won’t be listening to the full length of your song, why is that? Because of time shortage.

The average demo length is around 3 minutes if they listen to 100 songs a day it would take them at about five hours!
Therefore most A&R managers preview just the first 20-25 seconds of a song, in most cases that means intro verse and a bit of the pre-chorus, if you managed to grab their attention they may listen up to the first chorus or second verse.

PRO TIP: One trick that you can implement is to have an engaging “hook” in every section of the song in order to grab the listener’s attention.

How Many Demo Songs to Include?

You can send to the label a USB flash drive, or an email with your demo attached to it, a message with an online streaming link, or even you may choose to go old school and send a physical CD (not recommended)!

Every method has its advantages and disadvantages but in each case, your submission should not exceed 3 demos at a time. I find that sending only one track leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Such as:

  • “Is this a one-hit wonder?”
  • “Can he produce more songs in the same Style?”  
  • “Will their future songs resemble the same quality?”

In order to avoid any problems, I suggest to include three demos with every submission. This will paint a good picture for the label’s person regarding what he can expect from you as an artist.

Should I Send My Demo Twice?

This is a biggy! I read an A&R managers interview, and one of the things he said is that an artist should never send the same submission twice and never send a follow-up email such as:

”I just wanted to make sure you received my email from last week with my demo submissions my name is artist X and Y and in case you miss my submissin I have re-included them in this email”…

Furthermore, the same manager said that if he received duplicate submissions he simply would ignore the artist completely.

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How Should I Send My Demo?

Before we talk about a couple of ways on which you could send your demo to a music label, let’s first start with the don’ts.

Don’t Send Your Tracks Attached in an Email

Depending on the internet connection, it will take quite some time to download your tracks,  thus increasing the changes they will simply skip your submission

Even if they have the patience to wait the anti-virus may block the download files as it might think they are a virus.  These are problems that are that can be easily avoided.

Don’t Send A Compact Disc

We live in a digital world, just look at the newest Mac and newest Windows PC they don’t even have a CD ROM, also a lot of cars lack the CD Rom function these days.

In contrast:

Do Send Your Submission in a USB Drive

USB Drives are great! They are small, easily transferable and they work on any laptop or desktop computer.  
If you do choose this road make sure you make a flash drive that is compatible with Windows and Apple computers alike.

Do Include a Link to an Online Streaming Service

This is by far the best option,  uploading your tracks at an online service with streaming capabilities means that they can be played from virtually any device. Windows, Mac, Android, tablet or phone it doesn’t matter as long as it’s not a paid streaming service or a service that requires you to create an account before previewing the tracks.

One of the most used online streaming services is SoundCloud, it’s easy fast and you can listen to the tracks even without an account.

Or you could upload your tracks to Dropbox and share the link but I have personally found that problems may arise since Dropbox is not a dedicated streaming service.

Personalize Your Demo Submission

When sending your demo submission it’s a good idea to add a short message explaining who you are, what you do and why you’re reaching out.

Don’t write your life story, nobody is interested in that unless you’re famous, but also don’t be too brief.

“Don’t write something like: “Hi I hope you enjoy my  demo Send from my android device”

And also avoid writing something such as: Hello My name is Joan Jonas, I first was interested in music when I was a child at the age of 6 I started playing the piano and I develop Perfect Pitch at the age of 13.
I also learned the guitar where are mainly focused on popular music also I always had an interest in jazz and classical music.  Later on I did study X and Y which took me about 4 years, I produced most of my tracks on Ableton Live and I custom make all the sounds and lead synths you hear. I try to mix my own songs because”…

I hope you get the point! 😀

Instead, a proper text would look more like this: “Hello! My Name Is David Beck  I’m a music producer from fictional city X!

I have a brand new track that I’m interested in releasing on your label. The track name is ABC and I believe it fits the labels Style considering your latest releases!

The song is in the key of A minor at 120 bpm. Please listen to the track by the following link www.Soundcould.com

Regards, David www.davidbeck.com

Recap: How to write an email:

  • One short paragraph about yourself.
  • One or two sentences about this demo.
  • Signature with one main website link.
  • And send Links, not files.

Choose A Different Route

If you find your attempts on successful  I suggest you implement the following strategy, it’s something not everyone will do but it sure can provide great results:

Try reaching out to associates around the big name instead of reaching directly to the star.  
Big name artist are aware that a lot of people only want to talk to them because they are famous, which makes it hard for the stars to trust people’s intentions altogether.

Therefore it easier to get to the artist by someone of their team members.

You can try and create connections through social media platforms such as Instagram, but make sure to not ask for something from the start, instead its better to ask for a favor later on.
Keep in mind his process generally takes more time since first you have to create and build the trust between you and the person you’re reaching out to. After a few weeks when a connection is established then you can send them a “ by the way I have this track I believe it fits the style of artists x”   type of message. Remember to always show interest to the person you’re reaching out to and avoid making them feel used by you or that you contacted them just to get something from them. Value their personality and be generally interested in them.

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Conclusion

If your target is to get released by music label the length of your demo is just one of the elements you have to consider. I hope through my research that I have provided you with a clear picture of the steps you have to take as well as the do’s and the don’ts.

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