This question many songwriters ask themselves these days. Obviously, a scaled down demo is the cheaper option to choose, but will it take you to your ultimate goal of placing the song? Despite recent rumors about this, the answer is NO, it won't. It would if we still lived in the 1980s - but it is 2015 and the industry has changed. Anything less than fully produced will be tossed by any serious A&R or music supervisor. Just think about it, why would they listen to YOUR piano/vocal demo if they have 100s of ready songs with less work for them? But, don't take my word for it. Gary Ewers, one of today's most influential songwriting educators recently published an article and states: "I try to remind singer-songwriters that in today’s musical world, demos need to be clean and relatively polished renditions." Jason Blume, a successful songwriter with numerous major placements for artists such as Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys writes on BMI's news section: "The majority of songwriters who successfully place songs with other artists produce demos that closely approximate how the finished master recording would sound." He goes on saying: "It’s not realistic to expect a listener to envision how your song might sound if it had a dance groove; if it were a different tempo; if it included catchy instrumental melodic hooks…" Matter of fact, I heard "demos" that actually sounded better than the final song to be released by the artist. And the best news is, having a fully produced demo will not only give you the opportunity to pitch your song to artists, but also to film, TV, commercials, and more opportunities as all of them will not be able to use a "scaled down demo". Does this mean the end of stripped down demos? Certainly not - use a basic version of your song to determine if the song is strong enough for a full production. Simply play the guitar or piano yourself and sing over it. See if the song flows well, if it's catchy and has the desired energy. There is no need to spend a large amount of money for a simple two piece demo. If the song is ready for the full production, go for it and don't fall for misconception that you should professionally record or better even, pitch a scaled down demo. This is the one most effective way to permanently get the doors closed on you with any publisher, A&R agent or music supervisor.
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