Song is the product of the songwriter but a song demo is a by product of a team of music professionals. And the process of creating demo from your songs is a bit complex and needs to be understood. It is important to learn basics of the song production process. The objective is for you to find a suitable person that can help you produce the demo if you are a songwriter.
Let us discuss step by step what happens from the moment the songwriter put his pen to a paper to write lyrics and melodies and to the moment the song will be heard on the radio or other performance medium:
1. Songwriting Stage: the songwriter is the first step. He is the one inspired to write songs with purpose. Professional songwriters write for a specific artist while Amateur Songwriters write for themselves although in a transition of becoming professional soon. In this stage the song is created. The end product of this stage is a complete set of lyrics and melodies of the song. It includes also the arrangement and simple raw recording from the cassette tape. In this stage, the songwriter will file a copyright registration of the song.
2. Recording production stage : the songwriter will seek help of a professional recording producer at this stage. In order for the song to be marketable, the recording producer has all the tricks, ideas and experiences needed to make the song a hit. A good advice is to look for a producer which is very good at your targeted genre. If you are a rock songwriter or you write for rock artist, go look for a rock producer. Or if you are country songwriter, go look for a country producer. Expect to pay the producer at an agreed cost as well as settle the ownership of the song recording as early as possible.
In the US Copyright, ownership of the song and recording is different and make sure that if you want to earn some royalties in your recordings not just songs, you should obtain a written permission from the recording producer. It is possible also that you will find a recording producer for a “Work for Hire” agreement. In this way, the producer is paid by some amount and you still owned his recordings.
By hiring a recording producer,it will make your demo sound so professional. I suggest that in finding the right producer, you should listen first to his works. Also make sure that his works are your type. If you like the sound of his recordings, go and hire him as producer.
3. Artist and Musicians Rehearsal- Recording Stage: One of the job of the recording producer is to hire musicians/ artist to perform your song. They will go to a recording studio and do some recordings. This is the birth of your demo. Also the way the artist is being compensated depends on the agreement between the producer and the musicians. You are paying the producer to do the job on the demo, the record producer in return pay the artist/musicians to perform the songs.
You can even attend the recording sessions to make sure, all those melodies, lyrics or chords are performed exactly as you need it to be. Although the producer oversees the overall recording process, you can suggest to the producer any positive comments you need to make. Bear in mind that it is the job of the producer to handle all the recording cost and expenses. It is why it could be expensive to pay a producer, because the producer needs to make a profit while spending some of his money to the studio engineers, artist and others.
It is also the reason why most of the songwriter nowadays practice the art of recording in their home because hiring a producer is becoming more expensive and rare. But doing your demo recordings without thorough recording experience is a suicide and you could not produce great recordings right away. It is why it is highly advisable to find a recording producer so that your demo recordings will sound great and professional.
4. Final mixdown stage (Decision of recording producer and the songwriter): This is the last step of the mixing process, where the mixing and song arrangement are finalized to the will of both recording producer and the songwriter. After all, this is the songwriter demo and the songwriter will make sure that the demo is sounding the way he wants it, although it is the producers job to get the sound he want based on their agreement before the recording process takes place. In this stage, the songwriter will listen to the final mix produced and make some comments. If there are changes, the producer will take note of it or may asked for additional charges, again depending on their agreement.
5. Mastering stage – one of the important steps in demo song production process. In this stage, the final mix down is brought to a mastering studio. This is the job of the mastering engineer , although under the supervision of the recording producer. Mastering process is the process of achieving the loudest possible volume without hurting dynamics or producing distortion. One of the purpose of the mastering process is to make the mix radio and user friendly. Music consumers and industry professionals used to hear mastered tracks and you should not disappoint them by submitting a demo that is not mastered.
6. Pressing stage (Marketing stage) – you may think after mastering stage that your demo is complete. In reality, it is not. You still have to make a good package out of your demo. This includes press kit which is a very important marketing tool. Demo CD is just part of the song production process. But having a complete press package is what completes the demo song production. You still need details about your package such as lyrics, your photo and song reviews. Song reviews from professionals is mostly overlooked in this process. In fact, having a professional and honest song review can boost the songwriter confidence of the song as well as find opportunity for improvement.
Those are the demo song production process based on my experience. Others may bypass other processes but will take a lot of effort to produce consistent and high quality results. Do not forget the very important documentation in your demo. Things such as copyright registration, related licenses, recording producer agreements, artist agreement and receipts of all the cost is also important to take note. Good luck in the production of your song demo!