It is every artist’s desire to live the good life: they dream of driving fancy cars, living in high class suburbs and want to hear their music dominating the airwaves. However, the music industry is a place that I would interpret as “survival of the fittest” in order to accomplish what your heart desires. For one to be a house hold name in the music business there is lot of hard work that needs to be done in order for the rewards to follow later.
If you had been working hard day and night, laying down some nice tunes for a demo that might turn you into a super star, before you send that demo anywhere, read this article for some insight as to what labels look for in a demo.
Before I share what I had found out about music demos with you, I reckon it is advisable to let you know that most of the major and independent labels are all on the same page and the principles of what they want from an artist or musician are more or less the same. Once you know how to put together a professional demo, the likelihood of getting a recording deal is more than possible, given that you have what it takes to be in the music scene.
Head of Artist and Repertoire for Gallo music SA – Melvin Khumalo stated that for one to lay down a quality demo, the songs should be put on a CD of a good quality. Khumalo said, those in need of a record deal should also ensure that all the songs selected to be part of the demo are properly recorded – preferably in a studio. “Artists also need to remember that in this country we only have one Mandoza, the artist should therefore be original and the style of music needs be popular in order to be sustained in the market”.
For Gallo, Khumalo said three songs per demo are enough and once you have submitted your material, it might take two to three weeks for Gallo to give you feedback as to whether your demo was successful or not.
When talking to Mzura Kuse – Head of Urban Division for Sheer Music, he said “As Sheer, we only sign new artists because of their originality and for bringing something new and unique to the music industry”. Mzura reasoned that in order for any artist to be signed by any label, your style of music must be marketable and commercially viable.
Mzura also mentioned that your demo need not be long and while three songs are usually more than adequate, they need to be stylistically different to each other, so as to get a better perception of what you have to offer. He also emphasized that before submitting a demo to any label, first register your songs with a publishing company and be sure that you keep original copies of your songs. “People should also present themselves well; they don’t have to call us day and night enquiring about their demo because once someone starts being pushy, they become problematic and nobody wants to deal with someone who is a problem.”
Once your demo reaches Sheer desks, it’ll be given full attention and if Sheer likes your music, they will contact you. Lastly, Mzura said that if one label didn’t like your music, it does not mean that other labels might not see your potential, so it would be worth your effort for you to send your demo to different labels.
Master Sechele – Artist and Repertoire for Universal Music – said that if you feel you have two convincing tracks, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from sending them to Universal. Sechele suggested that if you will be sending your demo to any label, your music must be original. “We cannot afford to market a copycat artist or music we don’t believe can be sustained in the market”.
For those who might like to follow up after submitting their materials, Sechele said it is not necessary to verify your fate because if the guys at Universal like your music, they will definitely call you.
As one of the emerging hip-hop artists who is making his presence felt – Prokid explained that when he released his project he didn’t record a demo but a full album instead, which he later took to a record label who then agreed to cover all Prokid’s project expenses. “I don’t think what I did was a demo, I actually strived to come up with an album, which I recorded by renting studios”. Prokid reasoned that although it was risky to put together an album without knowing if it would get signed, he went on to say, “I didn’t want to focus on the negative side of what I was doing. When doing an album all by yourself, you don’t have to consider what might not work because that might discourage you from pursuing what you had in mind”.
Prokid advises up and coming artists not to record their songs as demos or something that will need to be reworked. “Record your music as if it is your last album because talent and quality music is what matters”.
Ziyawamo Productions first Kwaito lady – Mshoza who has just dropped her latest album – The Return , was fortunate in that she never needed to submit a demo to any label but got spotted on the TV entertainment show – Jam Alley. However, Mshoza said that whenever somebody makes a demo the quality of sound should be up to scratch and meet the standards set by record labels. “Some people have real talent but due to the poor sound on their demos, things don’t turn out the way they envisioned”.
Mshoza advises those who want to get signed to budget enough funds for a demo, as she believes that a quality product also contributes to scoring a deal. “Up and coming artists need to practice a lot and make sure that they record their demos as if they’re about to release an album”.
January will be the beginning of a new year and most of the labels will be opening doors for music demos. Whenever you lay down a demo always bear in mind that record labels won’t offer you something for nothing; music is a business and once a label signs you, they expect you to give them something qualitative in return. The most important thing you should always keep in mind is – be original and work hard to record a professional demo. Good luck!