So what makes a good vocal demo and one that not only enhances the singer’s abilities, but the singer’s increased chance of reaching a record deal or establishing session work? It lies somewhere amid the singer who’s got "It" and again with the singer who’s got "It". And so you’re saying, alright what’s that suppose to mean. There are many well intentioned singers out there who quite honestly don’t have "It". You know the "It" factor – Like man that groups got "It". It is difficult to establish exactly what "It" is, but you certainly know it when you hear "It". Many a singer out there today rely on family, friends and other individuals close to them to determine their singing viability, instead of a seasoned professional ear. Grant it, it’s hard to find the ear of a professional and so many well intentioned singers come along thinking that their the best thing since sliced bread, only to find out, after spending thousands in the studio, that they don’t have "It".
So starting with the idea that you have "It", what is your next move? Don’t be fooled by the notion that just because someone you know has a computer, a couple of mics, a sequencing keyboard and is "musical," that this is your best source for your demo. I realize that money doesn’t grow on trees, but do some research by finding out who is recording and producing that has significant radio and TV success. Don’t get pulled in by price alone and don’t get fooled by those who "know" so many individuals and have so many "contacts". Take your time and locate a seasoned studio and writer.
After locating a studio and writer/producer, you will want to begin zeroing in on your specific style. As an artist, you already most likely know what style you are going after, but stay open to other ideas and don’t freeze up when approaching the "This ain’t me" feeling. Your ability to help others be creative will pay off. Do you really just want to put out a style and groove that’s already being produced with artists already recognized in this arena? You might just try charting new creative territories because you will need to develop the "you" sound – When you turn the radio on, and know immediately who it is through production and vocals – That’s the "you" you want to be going after. Remember it’s fine to have a compilation of artists and songs, etc that you’re comfortable with and who have helped to define your style, but there will come a day when you have to have your very own sound.
Don’t get fooled by the "Let’s put something out that people know and can relate to" mentality. Do you really think it would have mattered when your favorite groups came on to the scene that you had to relate to some known song that they were playing – Of course not? You loved the song or group from the get go and wanted to hear more. Write, record and produce from that perspective. Do not include covers. They will not advance your demos, recording contract possibilities or further your career. That logic is a waste of time. Put your own material out that people will love and can’t wait for the next release of.
Start looking at your singing demos, whether they are jingle, general session work or artist demos with the "wow" factor. Your listener must say "wow" or you’re not there yet. "Make your socks roll up and down", or "wow" I don’t care, just make sure your demos have it. And again that starts with picking the right studio and team. Let’s look at some practical things you can do to take your average demo and take it to a ten.
Hire the best players for the session and not just friends. Look at production work and CD’s and find out who are the key players in your area. You absolutely do not want to cut corners here. Your players may take an otherwise average song and put the sizzle on it that it needs to get it to the ten that you’re after. Like singers, finding fabulous players is not easy. Do you know how many sessions I’ve been involved with where I was told that such and such is the hottest thing out there on guitar, you end up using him and he doesn’t create the magic and feel that you were after. Great players like singers make it happen.
Hire only the best back up singers you can find. Singers break a great sounding project faster than anything else I know. You’ve got great tracks and the average or should I say "good" singers, that you were promised, take away all of the energy and groove of the tune. Hire the best.
Make sure that your mixes are realistic to the type of demo, defined to your specific audience whether A&R, jingle houses, or managers and booking agents and help create the musical message and not just get in the way with clutter. Listen to your mixes on a variety of systems before finalizing the master mix. You may want a couple of different mixes that you can send out to different folks. With jingles they better hear every syllable of every word – You’re selling products – At ReelMusician.com we specialize in master quality jingle demo reels. Feel free to contact us 615-300-5030 with any questions you might have. Your artist hat must be on when mixing for A&R. You get the picture. Remain consistent with each listening audience.
One final word – Singers often come from a point of "good" to having "it" with practice and attention to detail in their recording. So don’t give up with writing and demo production. Individuals do hone their craft over time and develop awesome singing and production skills. Don’t get caught up in the artsy fartsy moment of recording, but treat it like a product and you’re aiming for the very best the "It" factor.
About the Author