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10 Reasons Why Most Demo
Recordings are Rejected
by Christopher Knab - Fourfront Media & Music - Updated April 2010

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"Getting a deal" has long been the goal of many would-be artists and bands. For mostly naive reasons most new artists and bands feel that by securing a recording contract with a significant major or independent label, success will be guaranteed. (talk about naivete). Even in this new era of "do-it-yourself" career building, many musicians figure all they have to do is send off their demo to a label, and a recording contract will come their way.

The following list of "10 Reasons Why Most Demos Are Rejected" was gathered together after years of listening to comments made by Record Label A&R reps at music industry conferences and workshops; as well as from personal interviews with reps, and from many interviews A&R reps have given to the press. In addition, I can verify that these observations are true from having personally listened to thousands of demos over the years.

Since there is little I can do to stop anyone from "demo shopping," (which I truly believe is a waste of time these days) the least I can do is try to improve the odds that your music will get listened to if you do send out your demos. This list will look at the most common mistakes musicians make when either shopping for a record deal, or trying to get the attention of A&R Reps with their demo recordings.

10 Reasons Demos are Rejected:

No Contact Information on CD, CDR and/or CDR container.
Put your name, address, phone number, email, website URL, MySpace/Facebook address, on all submissions. 

Lack of Originality.
Just because you can record, doesn't mean your music is worth recording.

The Music Is Good, But The Artist Doesn't Play Live.
This applies to all genres of music except electronic and experimental music. 

Poorly Recorded Material.
So you bought ProTools... so what... most submitted recordings sound horrible.

The Best Songs are Not Identified or highlighted on the CD or the CDR. (Send only 3 or 4 songs and highlight the best ones.)

Sending Videos In Place Of CDRs.
Keep it simple. In the demo world all anyone wants is to check out your songwriting and musicianship. If you want to send a link to a video you have put-up on YouTube, that would be a better idea then sending a video disc or tape.

Sending Unsolicited Recordings.
You sent them, but they never asked for them... which means they will probably mail them back to you.

Sending The Wrong Music To The Wrong Label.
You didn't do your research to find out what labels put out what kind of music, did you?

Musicians Can't Play Their Instruments Competently.
This is so basic, but you would be astounded at how incompetent most start-up musicians are. 

The Music Sucks.
This criticism is as old as music itself. You may think your music is the greatest thing since frappacinos, but most demo recordings the industry receives are as bad as the first round contestants on American Idol.


Christopher Knab is an independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He is available for private consultations on promoting and marketing independent music, and can be reached by email at: chris@chrisknab.net

Chris Knab's new book,
'Music Is Your Business' is available NOW from the Music Biz Academy bookstore.

Visit the
FourFront Media and Music website for more information on the business of music from Christopher Knab.

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