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Gig to record a demo, or record a demo to get gigs?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by dhagler, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. A brief band history: I live in a fairly large college town, so there are plenty of venues with plenty of competition. My band consisted of 2 guitarists, drummer, singer, keyboardist, singer/keyboardist, and me. After about two months of practicing and jelling, we successfully played a birthday party. Then another month of practicing toward a possible event, when the guitarists lower the boom: let's go to Knoxville over a weekend and record a demo so we can start trying to get gigs (and oh, by the way, we want you to chip in toward PA equipment too). If you can't do either of those two things, we're moving on without you.

    Now, let me say that, musically, we had good chemistry so it wasn't an issue of being able to play the songs we agreed on (although our inability to decide on songs could be a factor). The singer and I bowed out due to our inability to commit to either of the make-or-break propositions. I should mention here that, since my exodus, I haven't heard from any of my former bandmates so I don't know if they are still pursuing their plan.

    Finally, my question: which seems to be a better strategy: record a demo and use it to "audition" for gigs, or play enough gigs to raise the money to record a good demo?
  2. For me, the demo would come first. If you need a demo to get gigs, it seems doubtful that you'll have a lot of gigs to finance the demo.
  3. +1

    It's been my experience, whether it's me asking or the band leader/manager and we hear it from them, club owners don't have time/desire to come hear your band play. They want to hear what you've got or better yet, see a video.

    Demo first. :bassist:

  4. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Definitely go with the demo first. I waited a year before getting a video for my band, and it definitely hurt us - do the video if at all possible, but the bare minimum is getting a demo recorded.
  5. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I agree on the demo. My past bands did one pretty quick once we got going and it helped allot. The one originals band I am in was lucky to get a few gigs without one for awhile and we used gig money to make an EP a few months after we got going and it opened doors.

    I am a new member of another originals band that has only done 2 gigs and we just completed a 4 song demo to get gigs and have something to pass out and get a buzz,
    it was partly funded by gig money.

    A good decent demo will get you in clubs etc, keep the budget low and just record a few songs.
  6. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Demo first, without a doubt. One of the first things I will do with a band is come up with promo materials like demo, photos, videos, etc.
    If people aren't going to put in the effort to come up with materials to sell the band, I want to know that sooner than later. Much better than wasting time with rehearsals and other band activities only to hit a roadblock that takes you nowhere. Even if people quit after you develop your materials, you still have something to get gigs and attract replacements.

    One of the mistakes I see many bands make is to confuse a demo with a release. A demo is a throwaway item. People will listen to it to evaluate you, and probably will never listen to it again. It just has to give a potential client an idea of what your band is like. On the other hand, a release is something you want people to hear again and again, so you want to put in greater effort. Using airplanes as an analogy, a demo is a paper airplane. You can check out the design and see if it will fly, but it's not meant to last. A release is the actual plane, and you want to be sure it's made well enough for people to ride in.
  7. kjpollo


    Mar 17, 2008
    Would this also apply to cover bands? I can certainly see cutting a demo of a few songs to give to the club owners, but I dont think a video would be necessary.

    Also to the OP- chipping in for PA gear is probably not a good idea. "Community property" can be a hassle to split when its just a married couple getting divorced. How would you handle it if the band breaks up? How do you divide a board, speakers, stands and cables equally between however many members there are in the band. And how would you handle paying back to people who might have to quit while the band still exists?
    Lets say you all put in $200/person for the PA rig and it was already bought brand new, say a week before you left. Now you & the singer leave- are you getting your $200 apiece back from the other members? Not likely, so now you have involuntarily 'contributed' a total of $400 for gear you will never get to use. Not quite fair, right? And its not like the other members will sell the gear so you can be reimbursed. Plus now the gear is "used" even if the band only owned it for a week and used it at one rehearsal- so it wont be sold for what you paid for it anyway.

    Thats why its probably a bad idea for a band to own gear like that collectively, at least without some kind of formal agreement in place that covers how to reimburse people who leave the band. Or how to handle it in the event the band breaks up.
  8. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    This. It has essentially killed my band.

    To elaborate: I play in a cover band. We agreed at some point to record a demo at the rehearsal studio we rent. Due to circumstances the first set of recordings were lost and we had to redo the recordings. Everyone agreed that the first round was so much better, though it probably was not :)

    Anyway, our singer and one of the guitarists are in a different band too, focusing on original material. Having the experience of recording with us, they used the same facility to record an actual album.

    Their album has led them to get better and bigger gigs. Our demo did not really do much, although I still believe the sudden lack of gigs has more to do with the attitude of certain members at past gigs. But obviously, comparisons were made between 'our' demo and 'their' album. Apples and pears yet it has led to some internal turmoil and the band is all but dead now.

    And to think, at age 30-something I am the youngest member of my band ...

    [edit] But to answer the OP: demo first.
  9. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Covers..originals no diff a good demo is still needed. IME the demo was need much more for my originals bands to get higher paid gigs such as festivals etc.
  10. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I believe no-one is gonna hire you based upon a studio audio demo - they want to hear and see you live and see lots of heavy drinkers packing the place ;) . I have a couple HD cameras and a video stage I can use, but I think real gigs have more cred. Problem is most smaller venues don't have a raised stage and area to put up a camera platform :( . If anyone local wants some video shot cheap hit me up :) .
  11. capncal


    Apr 14, 2009
    you can pick up a decent to fair hand held digital recorder for around a hundred bones, if you're lucky you can rent one from a local music supply store for $15 a month. use that to record rehearsals and use the best tracks for your demo.

    get gigs. make money. record a "real" demo with a local producer.

    get more gigs. make more money. record a big boy record.
  12. Pix... Graphics & website
  13. I actually did record all the rehearsals with a decent digital recorder (not of a quality of a Zoom, mind you, but still pretty good if placed properly in the room). All total about 175 tracks over a six month period, and certainly some of them were demo worthy.
  14. Thanks for all your responses. After reading them, I understand the importance of a good demo. My own feeling was that we needed to keep working on songs until we got six or eight as close to perfect as possible. But it seemed like every rehearsal we would throw in four or five more songs and ultimately we ended up with about 30 songs, none of which were demo-ready. And if they weren't demo ready, they weren't performance-ready IMHO.

    I hold out hope that I will have a chance to play with these same folks again, and I certainly wished them well as they went forward with their plans.
  15. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Another vote for demo first

    Absolutely. I think it applies to any type of band. A video isn't necessary, but it certainly helps. It shows that you:

    Can play
    Can entertain people
    What the band sounds like, and the material the band plays
    That you have the commitment to do a video
    *If done live, it shows that you can bring/keep people in the venue
    *If done extremely well, that you are professional

    Our video gets watched much more than our demo gets played.
  16. I agree with Roadkill. You've played one gig and you're going to spend money recording a demo? I think that's completely backwards. Better to build a reputation as a good live band, and you do that through playing as many gigs as you can (club owners do talk to each other, and to patrons who go to see live bands).

    It's far too early to be recording demos in my opinion, and certainly too early to be investing lots of money on P.A equipment (which can be hired if needed) and costly recordings. As previously said, it's easy enough to make decent live recordings which not only show off your music, but also crowd reaction.
  17. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    This sounds like the band broke up. Unfortunately it's the case and what happens to most "start up" projects.

  18. I think so, yes. I fired off a "hello, how are you?" text to the members around Thanksgiving. Most responded but no one mentioned any progress with the band.

    I'm a little sad because I was really enjoying the musicianship.
  19. funkingroovin

    funkingroovin Conquering A-D-D,and all the other notes as well!

    Apr 19, 2009
    Demo first. Do you have any idea how many people approach clubs with "I've got a band and we're good,you should hire us.." Better be able to prove it then and there. Like someone else stated,they're not going to run out to your next gig to check you out,and they're as likely to hire you as the last ten guys that just did the same thing..

    MAKE A DEMO..It doesn't have to be a high quality production or a twenty track LP. I'm a dinosaur from before the age of the internet,but even I figured out how to make a you-tube vid..from my phone no less!
  20. Personally, I didn't want to fork out any of my personal cash except on my own equipment. We got gigs based on word of mouth and friends in bands. We saved up for about a year and put it toward a demo. If you have the money to spend on it and you're OK with chipping in then go for it, but I don't care to split costs like that. Hope it works out for you!