I do not actually kill Zebras. I have never physically seen one.
First things first, this is subjective. These are my personal opinions, and following what I say will NOT guarantee your demo will be successful, however, it’ll hopefully be a step in the right direction.
After receiving a series of terrible demo and artist submissions, I decided to write a blog about this after being inspired by fellow work-colleague and rapper, Nyt Arcanum (we’re currently working on a collab mixtape, so keep a look out!). There ARE a few other blogs for what a good demo should consist of, including this one by Simon Pursehouse which I recommend reading also. So, let’s get into this..
- Get The Basics Right - write whatever you want to in Oxford English (basicly, dont type like dis). The first thing I check out is the biography. If you’re trying to sell yourself and you make basic spelling errors (your or you’re), I won’t bother listening to the music. (I know I sound like a dick, but I’m just being honest!)
- Writing In Third Person - please stick to keeping to one. I know it sounds obvious, but I’ve read a lot of bios that weave in and out of first and third person.
- Sell Yourself, Not Your Co-Signs! - Don’t fill your biography with co-signs. If you say you’ve worked with this guy from this crew, or have been played on this station by this DJ, that’s cool, but don’t use that as your backbone. We want to know why we should sign YOU, not everyone you’ve worked with. In fact, go to the blog I mentioned during the intro, and read the section that starts with the bullet point - Tell Me Something Interesting.
- Active Links - please make sure they’re regularly updated. I wouldn’t want to go onto a Twitter page that has had five tweets in five months. Forward any links that you update REGULARLY. Remember, content is everything. And I know a LOT of A&Rs who actively judge musicians by the amount of hits and follows they get.
- The Format - please keep to .mp3. Don’t send .wav, .m4a, .wma etc, because you’re not entirely sure if the person you’re sending music to will be able to play it. Unless they have VLC Player, it’ll pretty much be cancelled out.
- Streaming - I usually refrain to download anything unless I hear it, and like it. Fortunately, most email accounts allow for previews of audio. Just to be safe, it would be worth setting up a SoundCloud or BandCamp account with your demos and redirecting them to it. DropBox is another decent one, though personally I’m not too fond of it.
- ZIP Everything - if you’d rather send it directly, and you’re sending more than one song, ZIP it all together and send the link to download. Quite often, companies will have a cap on the size of emails they receive. ZIP downloads via link is always a good way to go about it, just make sure the download process isn’t arduous.
- Originality - record labels want to discover the next star, if you sound like Trey Songz, Drake, Lady Gaga.. why would they want to sign you when there’s already a Trey, Drake, and Gaga.
- Quality Control - please, please, please make sure your recording is of studio quality. If it isn’t, you’re probably better of waiting outside record labels and performing for them there. Trust me.
The Press Shots
- Every demo should come with one or two images of who the artist is. The one thing I’d say for this again is QC. Make sure it’s a PRESS SHOT, not just a random picture you got your friend to take on your digital camera. Also, if you decide to send one of those self-shot mirror pictures, please take a long hard look at yourself. Actually, don’t. Doing that got you into this mess in the first place.
- Chase up the A&Rs - they get a LOT of submissions, give it a couple weeks for them to reply. If they don’t, email them with a quick reminder that you sent something. I remember Master Shortie’s manager (who also discovered Shola Ama) saying he wasn’t going to manage him. However, Shortie’s persistence and refusal to give up eventually resulted in him signing with the manager, who got him onto Sony RCA in the US.
- Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and don’t give up - You could send out a thousand demos, and get a thousand rejections. However, at least you’re on their radar. Which is better than sitting around doing nothing. If you do get rejected, find out why they did - and how you could improve. Being an artist, a real artist, means there’s no cap on learning, and improving. Don’t be disheartened. It happens, it’s a fucking tough industry. But, you’ll come good.
Pretty sure I’ve covered the basics there, and I really hope this helps anyone that is a bit lost in regards to how to send demos. Like I said, I can’t guarantee success, but the smallest step in the right direction is better than nothing. What’s to lose?
RKZ // @RKZUK