Professional Music Demo Reel
For Musicians, Composers, Songwriters, Bands, and Singers.
- Date Published:
- Date Updated:
- by Gerald Martin Davenport
- Read Time: 24 minutes
What Is A Demo Reel?
A Demonstration Reel, also known as a Demo, is a compilation of an artist's best work showing their specific skills and talents. For a musician, a music demo reel, or also known as a demo tape or CD, that accomplishes the same thing but only through the ears. However, musicians who perform, such as singers and bands, a visual Demo Reel is better than a music tape or cd as it showcases your look and performance, not just your sound.
Acting Reels are the most common form of a Demo Reel or Show Reel, but Directors, Special Effects Artists, Editors, Animators, and others also have a demo reel.
I have a Music Demo Reel, well it was on tape, then CD, and now it is online, for my composing, songwriting, performing, and production, as well as a Video, Filmmaking, and Editing Demo Reel.
Do I (you) need a Demo Reel?
No one needs a demo reel, but would a demo reel be a useful tool in helping your career by showcasing your work to a record producer or music job that you would not be able to do otherwise?
Yes, it would.
Okay, so you could USE a music demo reel, but WAIT!
You should also consider the body of work you have, or lack thereof, in this NEED of a demo reel. Do you have enough GOOD material to put onto a demo reel?
What Should I Include on my Music Demo Reel, Tape, or CD?
Your demo reel reflects your personality, character, work ethic, talents, and professionalism. It is the first and only time you have to make a positive impression. Every stage of any Demo Reel creation is essential; one weak area and you are better off not having one at all.
Include only STRONG and REAL material you on your demo reel
Strong material showcases your best effort, work, or project. It also captures your skills and talents. It shows your diversity and ability to accomplish and solve different tasks or performances.
The material you use on a Demo Reel should be REAL, not fake, or made up to look like it is a real project. Never use school lessons or assignments and not someone else’s that you tweaked or fiddled with. It should be clearly labelled and visible that you are the artist being represented in the piece and for what you did on it; above all, it should be your BEST work. If the potential employer, client, producer, or viewer cannot look it up and see the finished product and verify its existence, DO NOT USE IT — mainly for acting reels.
I had a person send me a visual effects demo reel with three major Television shows and two major films on it, which led me to believe the person worked on them. But why would this person be applying for a non-paid short indie film? I looked it up, and the person never worked on any of those projects. It was the person's class school work. Why would you put Star Wars on your demo reel? What can anyone possibly change to Star Wars, and have anyone notice it?
I do not have any "Real Production Experience" or Clips?
If you have no clips due to no experience on real productions, you have no need for a showreel/demo reel. Work on as many Student or Indie productions as you can to get real experience and material working on your craft honing your skills — most of them are volunteer without pay, but at least they are REAL Productions, not fake.
Dishonesty may not only cost you one job, but in small production markets (where word travels fast) it could mean the end of a career. Be smart! Also, the cost of sending demo reels to people, unless it is a url to a website, can take its toll on your bank account. Only send a demo reel when you have enough strong material of your own.
Length of a Demo Reel, Tape, or CD
The length of a demo reel is dictated upon the strength of your work, not the amount of work, but the STRENGTH.
If your material is Strong and Real enough, and you have at least three pieces than a Demo Reel, Tape, or CD is something to think about. If you have one or two, it is more like a single or or double song tape, not a demo.
Your reel should be between one-and-a-half and three minutes.
That is a good rule of thumb and a good starting point. But if it is compelling enough for someone to continue listening to or watching, then the length is a moot point. But is it strong and compelling enough? It is best starting off by keeping it short. Let them want more.
Do not include the entire piece; just a sample that shows off your creativity, skills, talents, and uniqueness. It may just be 20 – 30 seconds of a song that shows off a lyrical passage, a vocal spike, or a catchy beat. The sky is the limit, but keep the rules and guidelines in mind to help you choose the right piece, section, and length to put your strengths. Remember: this is why you are creating a demo reel in the first place — getting hired to make music for pay.
Best advise is to HIT THEM WITH YOUR BEST WORK — your best performance — no matter what the length is.
Design of the Demo Reel, Tape, or CD
The design of a demo reel is dictated by the style, and type, of material, and where it is going to be sent. There is no default or mandated design, just as there is no default or mandated length; do not let anyone tell you there is, they lie and are trying to act like they know what they are talking about; they do not!
What you want to do is keep it simple and easy enough for the potential employer or client, to navigate and listen to, or view, your material. Get right to the point with little fluff or introduction, and by all means, LABEL everything, and give credit where it is due — your previous employers, clients, and collaborators will appreciate it more and allowing you to use certain material without issues.
Can a Demo Reel help or hinder your career?
To make the Demo Reel work for you as a useful tool serious planning and organization are required, as well as, research and design – if you are going to do anything in your life it must be done with conviction, passion, care, and love. Bottom line: You have spent your time, blood, sweat, and tears creating your body of work, your talents, and skills, why cheapen them by skimping on your Demo Reel?
DO NOT DO THE DEMO REEL YOURSELF
I have seen and heard too many Demo Reels, Tapes, and CD's from people who want to save money or think they know how to do it and they make it worse then not having a demo reel. Unless you are an editor and have done successful Demo Reels, Tapes, or CD's for people that have gotten them work, your time and money would be better spent hiring a professional to assemble it in a powerful and eye catching manner.
CRAZY FACT: I have done Demo Reels for other editors, but they never got the job, I did.
If you are an editor and need and editing demo reel and you do not know how to create one, then you are not ready for an editing demo reel.
Do the right thing when thinking about a music demo reel for you, a friend, or a colleague and get professional advice, because you have one, maybe two, opportunities to make a positive impression about yourself, your material, your skills, and your talents. Do Not Leave It to Chance.
Remember: Turn your headlights on for safety.