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How Much Money Should a Song Demo Recording Cost?
By Bill E Watson
Before I answer this question with concrete numbers it's important to explore two related questions.
Question #1: What is the purpose of the recording?
Question #2: How good is your song?
If you are making a demo for personal listening or family and friends, you may not care if
it's up to industry standards. In that case you can easily get by with a "bare bones" drums, guitar, bass, piano demo, maybe even less. And you don't need world class session musicians either. I would recommend spending no more than about $200 to $250 unless money is no object.
Before you go much above that price, get some feedback on whether or not you have written a song that justifies a higher expenditure. My service offers free evaluations of your songs. Of course there is a potential for conflict of interest. To eliminate that problem and make our review unbiased, we evaluate 3-5 of your songs with the goal of selecting the song we believe has the best chance of commercial success. You can also get feedback from other songwriters, a song publisher, or some other music industry professional.
Once you're positive your song is quality it's time to invest in a demo that will compete with the demos songwriters and publishers who already have hit songs pitch. After all, they are your competition for that all-important cut. I believe that most songs can be effectively demonstrated with a six piece band.
Paying six professional musicians, a pro vocalist, an engineer, a producer, studio costs and overhead usually totals between about $600 to $800 per song. Professional major label artist-gig session musicians typically charge $50 per song. Pro singers here in Nashville charge between $75 to $150 per song. So over half the total you pay goes right to the talent. The remainder must cover the producer and engineer, both of whom will put many hours of work into your song, and studio costs and overhead. You can find lower prices, but the talent will certainly be of inferior quality. Cutting corners makes sense when you're shopping for shoes at Wal-Mart. It makes no sense when you're competing in a world class environment.
Yes, it's a lot of money, but well worth the investment if your demo catches the ear of a song publisher who gets your song cut with a Tim McGraw or Martina McBride. A break like that will not only repay your investment hundreds of times over, it will completely change your life.
Bill Watson is the owner of http://www.playitagaindemos.com which is a demo service for songwriters and song publishers. He has also written magazine articles for publications as diverse as Small Business Opportunities, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Afield. His book "Guitar Shop: A Beginner's Guide To Learning Rhythm and Lead Guitar" was #1 in its category on Amazon.com for nearly two years.
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