What Is A Demo In Music And Why Do You Need One?

If you are looking to break into the music business, you’ll want to know some of the lingo that goes along with it. One word to start with is ‘demo’. We’ll talk about what it is shortly.

There’s a lot of people that want to become musicians. For many, it’s a dream come true. However, not everyone is going to make it to the big time.

It can be due to a lot of factors. Some people might not like the song. The record company might not like it.

It’s no secret that the music business can be cutthroat. Not a lot of people will be cut out for it. Those that do will need to handle the pressure and demands.

If you want to create music to get your name out there, you’ll want to record a demo. Let’s explain what a demo is and why they’re essential.

What is a Demo?

A demo is a song idea. If people needed to hear your song back in the day, it would have to be sent to record companies or local radio stations. The barrier of entry was not easy. Thanks to people uploading songs on Spotify and SoundCloud, it’s now become more of producing and posting to get noticed.

A demo is not the final version of your song. That’s the master recording version. You record these demos using your recording setup (which can be a computer and a microphone, thanks to today’s technology).

Modern technology has been a blessing in regards to aspiring musicians. Back then, you needed a recording studio to get it done. It would cost you money for studio time. Imagine having to spend money for that then getting your demo rejected.

If you need a professional to get it done for you, you still can. Keep in mind that recording demos will cost less than a master recording. Demos aren’t usually released to the public and are kept under wraps.

Why Record a Demo?

Recording a demo can help you generate buzz about your music. Established musicians can use a demo to hype up the release of a new single or album. 

Demos can also be used to get noticed by the general public (via SoundCloud or other platforms). They can promote their songs by sharing them on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. When those didn’t exist, demos were sent to record producers and even local radio stations back in the day.

The goal of a demo is to get noticed and land a deal for a record company. Many demos have been recorded. But not a lot would be good enough to launch someone’s music career. 

Keep in mind that not everyone will listen to your demo. Not every label will listen to it because it may not be their specialty. So it’s best to get it sent to the right people so the right ears can listen to it.

In other words, if you want to create a metal rock demo, don’t send it to a record label that works exclusively with country musicians. Get the idea? 

Also, if you want to promote your demo on social media, promote it to the right people. This includes fans of your genre of choice. Again, don’t promote metal songs to country music fans.

The barrier of entry may seem a little lower since you can record your demos and post them online. However, the battle to get noticed by record companies can be fierce as you’ll have other aspiring musicians jockeying to do the same.

The important lesson here is never to give up and keep trying. You may create that song that will get someone’s ears to perk up. Soon enough, someone may notice.

Can You Use a Demo as a Master?

A master recording is a recording that is available to the general public for purchase. Master recordings can be compiled into an album which can be sold as CDs or even as MP3 files (thanks to iTunes and similar sites). You can use your demo as a master recording, assuming you own the master rights.

If you do not own the master rights, you’ll need to purchase what is known as a master release; this will transfer the rights over to you. With the master rights, you’ll earn royalties for every purchase of your music.

If you want to earn more, you’ll want to have master rights. Record companies would pay you a percentage of said royalties (a minor percentage precisely). That’s how it is these days in the music business.

Master Rights Vs. Composition Rights: What’s the Difference?

One of the common confusions in music is that master rights are the same as composition rights. They are actually two different things. Master rights pertain to the recording aspect, while composition rights have to do with the publishing.

The master rights are owned by those who created the recording. The songwriters and publishers own the composition rights. Reread those last two sentences, so you know for sure what you’ll earn and for what.


A demo can be recorded using your own equipment. However, you can still get it done professionally. The old fashioned methods are still alive and kicking.

Either way, getting recorded with the intent of getting noticed can be hard work. Your musical works can be heard by the right kind of people if you work hard and produce some awesome music that they’ll appreciate.

Whether it’s house, country, or rock, you may realize your dream of becoming a musician. Some consider it a fun hobby, while others consider it an opportunity to make a living out of it.