Ask Joe: Am I Sending The Label A Demo Or A Promo?

Posted on September 8, 2010


I wanted to offer the blog’s readers an opportunity to ask industry related questions to me in an effort to offer what might be a new or refreshing look at situations artists commonly face in developing their craft. I will start it with this one.

Hey Joe: When I send my CD to a label for considerations in joining them, do I send a demo, or a promo?

Lets begin by dissecting the two terms in their relevance to sending a disc to a label interest. They are two words of completely different intentions and should be dealt with carefully when representing your recording to a record label for solicitation. Here’s what I mean.

Demo – being short for demonstration, is an offering of what you can give the label to work with. A label wants to see what you have from a marketable standpoint. If you give them something they can shine up, or maybe add their special trimming to, they know their retail crowd and whether they can sell it that crowd or not. Of course, being the initial distributor of the music is what is going to be the key selling point to the label. They want to have the first rights to show you off and make money all around the table – and rightly so. If they are going to invest in you, they want a return on the investment. In this situation, telling them a demo is in their hands is exactly what they want to hear.

On the obverse, a promo is short for a promotional item. Sending a label a promo usually indicates that the item is promoting a release that has already been made available. If it has already been exposed to the retail market, the label won’t touch it. It’s already in the publics’ hands and the first wave of sales has passed. It might have received airplay and it may have been represented poorly. It might already have names attached that aren’t in line with the type of promotion the label would give it; or worse – maybe it’s been a failure in certain radio markets and they will be pumping a dry well in efforts to distribute it there. It’s a risk they just won’t take.

The best results would be to solicit a demo rather than a promo. In regards to the quality of the demo – that’s something I will add in brief. You don’t need to have a pro-packaged demo. That looks more like a marketed CD. You do, however, have to have a more polished sound on that demo. It might not need all the reverb or multi-track guitars your finished product is intended to have, but it has to be a good quality recording. Pay the money to make the studio track sound as good as possible; if it’s not in the immediate budget – put it off for a bit. Seek out a producer with experience and make it shine the best you can. This is going to sell you to the label – give it all you’ve got, but remember – it’s a demo, make it appear as such. It doesn’t need the packaging, that’s what the press kit is for.

‘Nuff said. Next question please ….

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