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A demo (shortened from "demonstration") is a song or group of songs typically recorded for limited circulation or for reference use, rather than for general public release. A demo is a way for a musician to approximate their ideas in a fixed format, such as
cassette tape The Compact Cassette or Musicassette (MC), also commonly called the tape cassette, cassette tape, audio cassette, or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback. It was developed by the D ...

cassette tape
,
compact disc#REDIRECT Compact disc {{redirect category shell, {{R move {{R from other capitalization, printworthy {{R yes print ...

compact disc
, or
digital audio file An audio file format is a file format for storing digital audio data on a computer system. The bit layout of the audio data (excluding metadata) is called the audio coding format and can be uncompressed, or compressed to reduce the file size, often ...
s, and to thereby pass along those ideas to
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s,
producers Producer or producers may refer to: Occupations *Producer (agriculture), a farm operator *Film producer, oversees the making of films *A stakeholder of economic production *Executive producer, contributes to the film's budget and usually does not w ...
, or other artists. Musicians often use demos as quick sketches to share with bandmates or
arranger In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure. Arranging di ...
s, or simply for personal reference during the songwriting process; in other cases, a songwriter might make a demo to send to artists in hopes of having the song professionally recorded, or a
publisher Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works, such as books, newspapers, and mag ...
may need a simple recording for publishing or copyright purposes.


Background

Demos are typically recorded on relatively crude equipment such as "boom box"
cassette recorder A cassette deck is a type of tape machine for playing and recording audio cassettes that does not have built-in power amplifier or speakers or both, and serves primarily as a transport. It can be a part of a automotive entertainment system, or a par ...
s, small four- or eight-track machines, or on personal computers with audio recording software. Songwriters' and publishers' demos are recorded with minimal instrumentation, usually just an acoustic guitar or piano and the vocals. Both
Elton John Sir Elton Hercules John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight; 25 March 1947) is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967 on more than 30 albums, John has sold over 300million records, ...

Elton John
and
Donovan Donovan Phillips Leitch (born 10 May 1946) is a Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist. He developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelic rock, and world music (notably calypso). He has lived in Scotlan ...
gained studio experience early in their careers by recording publishers' demos for other artists since their managers also handled music publishing, as did
Garth Brooks Troyal Garth Brooks (born February 7, 1962) is an American singer and songwriter. His integration of rock and pop elements into the country genre has earned him popularity, particularly in the United States with success on the country music sin ...

Garth Brooks
, who was so impressed when recording the demo of "
Friends in Low Places "Friends in Low Places" is a song performed by American country music artist Garth Brooks. It was released on August 6, 1990 as the lead single from his album ''No Fences''. The song spent four weeks at number one on the Hot Country Songs, and won ...
" that he asked to release the song himself.


Function

Many unsigned bands and artists record demos in order to obtain a
recording contractA recording contract (commonly called a record contract or record deal) is a legal agreement between a record label and a recording artist (or group), where the artist makes a record (or series of records) for the label to sell and promote. Artists u ...
. These demos are usually sent to record labels in hopes that the artist will be signed onto the label's roster and allowed to record a full-length album in a professional
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. However, large record labels usually ignore unsolicited demos that are sent to them by mail; artists generally must be more creative about getting the demos into the hands of the people who make decisions for the record company. Many signed bands and artists record demos of new songs before recording an album. The demos may allow the artist to provide sketches for sharing ideas with bandmates, or to explore several alternate versions of a song, or to quickly record many proto-songs before deciding which ones merit further development. Demos may include as few as one or two songs or as many as would be contained on a full-length album.


Availability

Demos are seldom heard by the public, although some artists do eventually release rough demos in
compilation album A compilation album comprises tracks, which may be previously released or unreleased, usually from several separate recordings by either one or several performers. If by one artist, then generally the tracks were not originally intended for releas ...
s or
box set A box set or boxed set is a set of items (for example, a compilation of books, musical recordings, films or television programs) traditionally packaged in a box and is offered for sale as a single unit. Music Artists and bands with an extremely ...
s, such as the album ''
Demolicious ''Demolicious'' is a compilation album by American rock band Green Day. It was released on Record Store Day on April 19, 2014. It is a collection of demo versions of songs from their ''¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré!'' album trilogy. The album also includes t ...
'' by
Green Day Green Day is an American rock band formed in the East Bay of California in 1987 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt. For much of the band's career, they have been a trio with drummer ...
. Other demo versions have been unofficially released as
bootleg recording A bootleg recording is an audio or video recording of a performance not officially released by the artist or under other legal authority. Making and distributing such recordings is known as ''bootlegging''. Recordings may be copied and traded ...
s, such as
The Beatles The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The group, whose best-known line-up comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, are regarded as the most influential band of all time. They were int ...
' bootleg demos and the
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'
Sea of Tunes Sea of Tunes was a music publishing company, founded in 1962 by Murry and Brian Wilson. Murry was the first manager of the Beach Boys; father of Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson; and uncle of Mike Love. The intention of Sea of Tunes was to publish an ...
series. Several artists have eventually made official releases of demo versions of their songs as albums or companion pieces to albums, such as
Florence and the Machine Florence and the Machine (stylised as Florence + the Machine) are an English indie rock band that formed in London in 2007, consisting of vocalist Florence Welch, keyboardist Isabella Summers, guitarist Rob Ackroyd, harpist Tom Monger, and a col ...

Florence and the Machine
(" What the Water Gave Me", among others) and
Cults In modern English, a cult is a social group that is defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by its common interest in a particular personality, object, or goal. This sense of the term is controversial, having d ...
on the EP ''Sunday Jams''. The event of a demo tape appearing on
eBay eBay Inc. ( ) is an American multinational e-commerce corporation based in San Jose, California, that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales through its website. eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, and became ...
has happened in the past, with the recordings being leaked onto the internet. In rare instances, a demo may end up as the final released recording of a song, as was the case with
Foster the People Foster the People is an American indie pop band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 2009. It currently consists of lead vocalist Mark Foster, lead guitarist Sean Cimino, keyboardist Isom Innis, and drummer Mark Pontius. Foster founded the band ...
's "
Pumped Up Kicks "Pumped Up Kicks" is a song by American indie pop band Foster the People. It was released as the band's debut single in September 2010, and the following year was included on their EP ''Foster the People'' and their debut album, ''Torches''. "Pump ...
". The version of "Pumped Up Kicks" that was released as a single and subsequently became a hit was a demo recorded by frontman Mark Foster alone, before he had formed the group. In 1982,
Bruce Springsteen Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949) is an American singer, songwriter, and musician who is both a solo artist and the leader of the E Street Band. Originally from the Jersey Shore, he received critical acclaim for his ea ...
recorded ten demo songs in his bedroom that he intended to later record with his
E Street Band The E Street Band is an American rock band, and has been musician Bruce Springsteen's primary backing band since 1972. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. When not working with Springsteen, members of the band have ...
, but he subsequently decided that he preferred the acoustic demos and released them as the 1982 album ''
Nebraska Nebraska is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is bordered by South Dakota to the north; Iowa to the east and Missouri to the southeast, both across the Missouri River; Kansas to the south; Colorado to the southwest; an ...
''. In more underground forms of music, such as
noise music Noise music is a genre of music that is characterised by the expressive use of noise within a musical context. This type of music tends to challenge the distinction that is made in conventional musical practices between musical and non-musical so ...
,
black metal Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, a shrieking vocal style, heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (lo-fi) recording, unconventional song structures, and an emphasis on ...
, or
punk Punk or punks may refer to: Genres, subculture, and related aspects * Punk rock, a music genre originating in the 1970s associated with various subgenres * Punk subculture, a subculture associated with punk rock, or aspects of the subculture suc ...
, demos are often distributed by bands to fans as self-releases or sold at a very low price. Amateur (and some professional) musicians may choose to make demos available to interested listeners through websites such as
SoundCloud SoundCloud is an online audio distribution platform and music sharing website based in Berlin, Germany, that enables its users to upload, promote, and share audio, as well as a DSP enabling listeners to stream audio. Started in 2007 by Alexande ...
or
Bandcamp Bandcamp is an Internet music company founded in 2008 by Oddpost co-founder Ethan Diamond and programmers Shawn Grunberger, Joe Holt and Neal Tucker, with headquarters in Oakland, California, US. Business model Artists and labels upload music to ...
in order to share new ideas, receive feedback and/or provide fans with "behind the scenes" access to the songwriting process.


Footnotes


External links

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Music production{{Commons category Production Sound recording category:Sound production Music ...
Audio storage {{CatAutoTOC Storage media Electronic documents Sound recording technology Sound production technology ...
Album types
Punk rock {{Cat main, Punk rock 20th-century music genres Rock music genres rock ...
it:Demo#In musica