I’m jazzed on recording my first demo. What should I keep in mind?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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While everybody has different opinions on how to record a first demo, and depending if you are simply doing a 3-5 song demo, an 8-song EP, or a full-blown album with 12-15 songs, keep the following considerations in mind:

(1) Pre-production: Before you even step into the recording studio, spend plenty of time making sure you will record your best songs, and that all the instrumentation and song structure is down pat.

(2) Prepare a budget: Once the songs are tight, plan on how long it will take you to record, how much it will cost, how many units you will press, and what your music will sound like when you complete recording. Your budget will need to include recording costs, cover costs, and duplications costs.

(3) Format: Before mastering your record, decide what format you want to deliver to the manufacturer. The “format’ is the configuration of your final product, i.e., DAT (digital audio tape), CD, 2″ reel tape, 1630 (U-matic), ½” tape, or ¼” analogue tape. There is both a quality and cost difference.

(4) Theme: Don’t try to “show off” you musical skills by including overly diversified material. Stick to one theme or “sound”, and try to record only potential commercial hits or singles.

(5) Sequencing: Before mastering, the song sequence needs to be decided. Place your most strongest and impressive songs first.

(6) Mastering: “Mastering” is a term which means preparing the master tape for duplication.

(7) Art Work: Unless you are doing a simple demo, a good looking album cover is essential, because many people buy music because the cover is visually appealing. Your album cover should be placed on your cassette (on the “J-card”), and the same basic design in a different size should be on your CD case (the jewel box). A professional graphic artists can help you develop your theme, logos, and format.

(8) Liner Notes: The words inside the album cover are the liner notes. They include: list and sequence of songs, the length in minutes an seconds of each song, thank-you’s, lyrics, copyright and publishing information, and your phone number, address, web site address and/or e-mail address for ordering or for booking gigs. As in artwork, if you are the creator of your own unique liner notes, you are the copyright owner of that original expression and there is no problem.

(9) Publishing Information & Credits: Make sure to include your music publishing and record company information, i.e., the year of publication, the name of your publisher or your own publishing company (if any), and the performance rights organization you belong to (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC).

(10) Copyright Notices: Placing a copyright symbol (©) on your original musical works is not required by law, but it is always advisable. Make sure that your final product includes the name of the author or owner of the copyright, the year copyrighted, and the copyright symbol (©.) Also, include the sound recording symbol, ” “.

(11) UPS Bar Code: Soundscan is the company Billboard Charts used to base it music chart positions. Soundscan keeps track of all music sold in the US by way of the UPS bar codes that you see on commercial CD’s.

(Reprinted with permission of Ruben Salazar, Esq.)

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