Choosing a Singer For Your Song Demos

By: Jerry A. Greene

Question: Is it better to have a male, or female vocalist on your song demos? Also, how can you find good demo singers that can really showcase a song and make the artists you're pitching to want to sing it?

Answer: Your choice of song demo singer can have a huge impact with whether, or not your song will even be considered for being cut with a recording artist.

Recording Song Demos with Male Vocalists, or Female Vocalists?

In general, if you are going to be pitching the song to both male and female artists, you will want to go with a male vocalist on your demos. The reason for this is that most male artists have a hard time hearing themselves singing a song when it is is first heard being performed by a woman. That being said, the opposite is generally not so much of a problem. Female artists seem to be quite able to hear themselves singing the song with either a male, or female vocalist on the demo. Sometimes, it's even preferable for a female artist to hear the song's demo sang by a male, for the simple reason that they would like to "do it in there own way" and not be stuck into micking the vocalist on the demo.

Finding the Right Demo Singer To Record Your Songs

You'll definitely want to do your homework on this one. A good way of finding a good demo singer is to talk to people in the studios. Generally, there is going to be at least one singer that everyone is raving about. You'll definitely want to get the demo singers demo (their demo for pitching to you!). Try to find at least 5 singers before settling down with one, or two. You may even want to have your songs recorded by both a male and female vocalist, despite what I mentioned above, so make sure you have that in mind.

Recording Your Song Demos in Batches

You will definitely want to record more than one song at a time. A great deal of studio musicians and demo vocalists work through the musicians' union (American Federation of Musicians). You will definitely want to have at least 3 songs ready to record since you will have to hire them in blocks of time (like 3 hours, whether you record something, or not). Make sure that you budget for this when selecting the 3 songs that you think have the best chance of getting recorded. The amount of songs on a demo is completely up to you, but working with 3-5 is usually a good start.

What if the Publisher is Paying for Recording the Song Demos?

If your music publisher is paying the bill for the demo, be aware that it may be in your contract to pay back the costs of the demo through the initial royalties that the song generates. Be sure you understand your contract and make sure that the publisher doesn't "go all out" with their funds, only to find that you will need to foot the bill later. If your publisher is taking care of the demo costs, without any recoupement in your contract, then allow them to decide how much to spend on the demo. You may have some input, but it is their money being spent and you may find that you need to "go with the flow" even if you think the song should be sang by someone else (and at a different cost).

Should the Song Demo Sound Like the Artist it is the Song is Being Pitched To?

Generally, you will not want the demo to sound exactly like a single artist. The reasons for this may not be so obvious.

You may be thinking that it would be a great way to show the potential artist how they would sound singing it, but what happens if they say "no"? You have paid for a song to sound like a particular artist and now you may not be able to shop it to someone else without them thinking "hey, this sounds like a 'artist you recorded the demo for' song...they should record it, not me!".