There’s no single way to approach making music. Whether your process starts by creating beats or going on a walk, there’s no wrong way to start.
But one common practice in the early stage of creation is to create a music demo to sketch out your ideas.
Recording your demos will define your musical direction, increase your productivity, and give you more opportunities as an artist. There are a lot of complicated and difficult aspects of making music. Luckily, this isn’t one of them.
In this guide we’ll show you why recording your demo tracks is so important. It’s an easy habit to get into that will add structure, clarity, and consistency to your music.
What are demo tracks?
Demo tracks are early undeveloped recordings of your songs. Think of them as rough references of the music you’re currently working on.
Hot tip: In the past, demos were rarely mastered because the cost to hire a qualified engineer was too high. But with today’s instant AI-powered mastering, it’s possible to put the final polish on your demos for an affordable price.
The job of a demo recording is to put a structure to the songs you’re working on. These recordings help you remember what you’re working on and show others your ideas.
The job of a demo recording is to put a structure to the songs you’re working on.
Demos can be rough and spontaneous, such as recording acoustic songs on your smartphone. Or, they can be produced and thoughtfully recorded. How you approach recording them completely depends on your goals.
If you want to share your new work in the hopes of landing a show, manager, or label, demos will help. The idea is to give music industry folks a taste of where your music is headed early in its development.
Developing artists record demos to introduce their music to local venues and tastemakers. Professional songwriters record them to share with collaborators, producers, and labels to find opportunities for their work.
Do demos still matter?
The way listeners hear and discover music has completely changed over the past decade. But the way music-makers create hasn’t. Making demos gives you massive benefits you can’t find working any other way.
6 Reasons to make a demo
With the background out of the way, here are six reasons to make your own music demos.
1. Demos give structure to vague ideas
One of the biggest reasons to make demos is because it’s a process that gives your songs a solid foundation to work with. Demos transform loose ideas into structured songs.
2. Demos make remembering your songs much easier
If you’re a prolific writer, you might find it hard to keep track of everything you’re working on. Recording and labeling your demos will make your life as a musician so much easier. If you’re serious about making music, relying on demos in your process is essential.
Demos transform loose ideas into structured songs.
3. Labels, managers, and venues use demos to consider taking on new talent
Whether you’re new to music or are experienced, demos give you access to new opportunities. They give industry influencers an idea of what you’re working on early enough in the process to decide if they want to work with you.
If you haven’t officially released music yet, demos will help you book shows and build momentum as an artist. Think of demo submissions as samples of what you’re making and where your music could go.
4. Recording demos forces you to make important creative choices
It’s easy to create when the ideas are flowing, but much harder to make decisions when you don’t know what to do. Whether it’s a chorus without lyrics or a missing bridge chord progression, songs have missing parts early on.
The process of recording a demo forces you to make decisions needed to finish songs. Keep in mind that these decisions don’t have to be set in stone. Demos are snapshots of the progression of your music, not finished songs.
5. Demos capture the unique energy and intensity of the moment
This might be the most important benefit on this list. Recording demos gives you the power to capture deep emotions and spontaneous creativity. Hearing your idea in a demo is much different than trying to remember it and recreate it later.
The emotional urgency and creative excitement you feel while writing something needs to fuel your idea for a long, long time. Making a demo while you’re the most passionate and excited about your song is the best way to build on that energy.
6. Demos provide a helpful framework for recording
Making demos will save you some time when you decide to record the final version of your song. Things like instrumentation, BPM, and early production choices in your demos can be easily transferred to final recordings.
Sketches, ideas and directions
Demos might seem like not much of a big deal, but they really are.
Recording demos is one of the rare things in music that’s easy to do and provides massive benefits.
Get in the habit of demoing your songs, and you and your music will be far better off.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.
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