making a demo – (cover gigs)

These words are intended for the vast army of working musicians whose venues happen to be cover rooms – where almost all of the material to be played is not the performers original compositions, rather “covers”. Wedding bands, solo, duo acts, club bands sluggin’ it out night after night.

First, I would not be giving full disclosure if I didn’t tell a story first. I was in my first original music band and I was spewing off some choice words to a producer about the cover scene, probably out of anger to audiences that fill the cover rooms, and the bands that play them, while a local original music scene always seems to struggle for any draw at all or a comparatively smaller one.  At the end of my little rant my producer quietly and with nothing but gentleness in his heart said, “I don’t know. I think that anyone that is making music is doing a noble thing”.  Not only did I feel every bit of the idiot I was but it shook me to my core and thankfully I never looked back. Lesson learned and brought into my very soul.

So you noble warriors, you need to get some damn gigs! Here’s the important rule on your demo. You are not the original artist and therefore there is no need for the entire version of any song. If the booking agent wanted that they’d just go put on the original CD. I’m not saying you aren’t every bit as good as the original, hell, maybe even better, but that matters not for the purpose at hand. 30 seconds to 1 minute of any tune is enough. Medley is the key word here – a “set” made up of 7 to 10 segments of tunes. Keep the overall length of your demo to under 15 minutes max.  The booking agent wants to get an idea of your abilities, taste in song selection, and professionalism. A short concise demo, recorded well, and not over reaching will give you a leg up. Think one verse and one chorus, fade out, and while fading out, fade up into the next song snippet.

You can tailor a CD for any type of gig by using only the song selection best serving that venue or occasions needs. So when recording, remember this idea and record a bunch of segments of different tunes.  With some choices you can tailor fit the blend for the club you’re trying to book and reduce the risk of them not booking because you included a style they or their clientele will not dig.

Think about what part of the song you want to use and record only those parts. It’ll save time in the studio and save a bunch of time in assembling the demo.

Try not to be too over produced or slick. Wedding and club bands will need to sound very close to the original but a solo act that also has a ton of backing vocals on their demo might feel misrepresenting and actually hurt the chances of getting the gig.

Most club acts need an acoustic set or chill set, a perky middle set and I’m hammered and wanna dance set. For wedding bands you too will need to think about sets – dinner set, a middle set and a dance set. For both club and wedding gigs you might be able to combine sets 2 and 3 into one 5 to 7 minute medley.

Most musicians need a general track for the web site, Facebook, etc that covers a lot of ground i.e., “chillin’ as they chew” tunes to a modern dance set. Try to keep each “set” to between 3 and 5 minutes and no more than 7 minutes.

In pacing the set don’t go too fast or too slow – half of a chorus will not due, nor will the intro to on past the bridge. Let it be enough time for it to sink in, “oh I know this tune”, to how you’re playing the song, “oh aren’t they very good” and like the vibe “my toe is tapping” and then fade out. 45 seconds and you are right on.

Medleys that are continues are great – as one tune is ending the next is already starting to fade up. When doing this, try to get the end beat of the first song to be dead on the first beat of the second song – even if tempos don’t match, cutting on a beat just feels better.

You are now ready for the noble cause of playing music for the masses!