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how to make a demo CD tips on making and marketing your showreel

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how to make and market a demo CD

tips on putting together and marketing your showreel


It’s showtime!

The CD showreel is an important weapon for a composer. Why? because in the right hands (and ears!) it can showcase your talents and skills to your most important audience – the directors and producers who may one day want to employ you.

However, never send unsolicited demos to people. I can almost guarantee you that they will get buried or binned. There is no point in going through a list of production companies and mailing out a 100 CD’s. In the end it costs you valuable time and money, time you could have spent composing or in more valuable means of self-marketing.

demo cd


So who should you send the demo CD to?

  • by invitation

This is the very best way, and the one most likely to produce a positive result. If an agent or director has already asked to hear your work, then you have already built up a measure of respect. This is a good time for them to be introduced to what you are capable of doing.

  • by personal contact

People you have personally made contact with in the music/media industry, and who (in some way) already know you or know about you.


If you really do want to do a mail out:-

  • make sure that you first speak to somebody at the company you are contacting.

  • Ask them if they are currently looking for new material, and if so, what type.

  • Ask them if it would be OK to send something in, and who the best person would be to send it to.

  • Ring that person a few days after sending it. Ask them if they received it, and if they might be interested in your work. Then leave it with them – don’t pester or harass. Again, this will only waste their time (as well as yours).



Ten top tips for putting together a good showreel CD:-

  • 1. Equipment

If you haven’t already got your own means of recording and arranging your music on computer, I would advise you do so. If you’re serious about a career in composing, then it’s going to get very expensive in the long run to keep hiring studios so that you can work on your material!

  • 2. Variety

Think about the tempos, arrangements and styles of the tracks you are presenting. Make sure that you demonstrate your abilities at different speeds and approaches.

  • 3. Send your best

When putting together a demo CD, I would advise assembling a number of your works on one CD, and a pass it around one or two trusted friends, or better still, people who have some connection with the music or media business. Ask them to choose the ones which impact them the most, and draw up a short list.

  • 4. Number of tracks

I would limit the number of tracks to about five.

  • 5. Tasters

I advise constructing the CD so that the first tracks are only about 30-45sec long. Then have all the tracks again at their full length versions. This increases your chance of success – if the listener doesn’t like the first tracks, the third or forth might appeal to them, and they don’t have to wait too long before they hear it. Make sure that the label makes this clear.

  • 6. Mastering

If you don’t have it already, invest in some good mastering software/hardware such as TC Electronics (featured here on this page of my Cubase mixing tips) and master each track. Also pay attention to the volume levels between each track. Try to avoid large differences of volume.

  • 7. Customise

If it’s possible, try to find out what type of music the director (or A&R person) has used/employed before. It might be that you have some music that would specifically appeal to them.

  • 8. Presentation

Don’t just scribble something on the CD! Design a good label. Make sure that it is clear (don’t get carried away with fonts that are too creative!) Remember to include:-

  1. The track list

  2. Copyright information

  3. Your name

  4. Your contact details - provide several ways (people have their favourite ways of communicating!) – tel number/s, email, website, physical address.

  • 9. Covering letter

Make sure this is typed (unless you know the person really well). Design a letterhead. Remember that “first impressions last”. Don’t forget obvious things like spell checking and grammar – it may not be important to you, but it can irritate some people if small things like this are wrong.

  • 10. Copyright your work before sending

In the UK, this is done by posting it to yourself and leaving it somewhere safe unopened, or with a third party (eg. a solicitor or bank). When posting, I recommend sending it by Royal Mail Special Delivery and signing along the seal of the envelope. Also remember to keep early demos and sketches of the work. Then, if the work is ever contested, you will be able to prove (in court) the date of writing. (Other countries have different ways of copyrighting). There’s a good article on music copyright here at bemuso.


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