As a songwriter, having your songs presented to potentially interested parties in the best possible light is absolutely vital. In this article, Roy Cooper shares his first experience of having songs produced by a demo studio in Nashville. Roy is based in London, UK and has over 30 years of songwriting experience.
Nashville has long been hailed as the centre of country music. So I wanted to know how it compared to the UK when getting a demo song recorded. Having spent the last 30 years writing songs in the UK and having them produced and recorded here, I thought that it was about time I gave one of the Nashville demo studios a try.
First of all I did my Internet research, ensuring that the studios actually existed. From the forums it would seem that some are good, whilst some are almost too bad to exist. I had to read between the lines and check out for myself whether someone claiming that a particular studio had made a hash of their song was true, or whether it was a case of the studio doing their best to turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse. Many of the demo studios make claims, such as: ‘We will turn your lyrics, with or without your own melody,
into a great country production.” However, it should be pretty obvious, that if the song is lacking to begin with, the end results are never going to be a masterpiece. Some demo studios were even credited with using the same melody or music, for different songwriter’s songs. This apparently caused them to be easily identifiable as such, and often received no interest, from the industry or radio stations alike.
From experience I knew that using a studio in the UK to produce a song for me, involved a whole series of costs, often ending up as almost un-affordable. A lot of writers produce their own demos on their computer, with electronic instruments or samples; but I wanted live musicians and a top vocalist. Often I had found in the UK studios, that a producer would be playing 3 or 4 instruments whilst charging me for individual musician’s time – on top of all of the costs. I even had one who charged me extra for a session singer, when he himself was the vocalist.
Another pitfall to watch out for, is that quite a few studios, both in the UK and USA it would seem, give an inflated price for the whole job and then tell the poor songwriter that they will give a discount if the songwriter assigns a portion of the rights to them (known as points). I feel that, in reality, they are just trying to get two bites of the cake.
Having selected the studio that I would use In Nashville, I found the price list on their website for different levels of production and the prices were very precise. None of the ‘well lets wait and see, before we give you a cost syndrome’. Even the cost of each extra musician was priced, just in case I wanted to build my own orchestra. I went for two songs with two singers. The songs may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but they were mine and I love them both. On one of them I wanted a penny whistle player for a haunting part of the song and was told that $70 would get me one of the best available (this turned out to be so true).
Each of the Nashville studios usually has a list of vocalists that record for them and nearly all are first class. Some will also allow you to recruit your own vocalist from somewhere like ‘demosinger’, which I sometimes do. It is well worth taking the time to do a bit of research on the singers. A good track record will tell you that people already love the singer’s voice, which helps when your final finished demo track is listened to.
I found the whole process remarkably easy, especially since there were many emails back and forth to ensure that the producer knew exactly what I wanted – and also, so that I knew what I would be getting for my dollars. From start to finish the whole process took just over three week. To say that I was gob-smacked with the final result would be an understatement. Both songs were amazing. I have since sent the tracks out to many on-line radio stations and have been rewarded with lots of airplay and fantastic remarks such as, ‘wonderful song’ – ‘great song’ – ‘amazing song’. Ok, maybe I did start off with great lyrics and a great melody, (I would say that) but let’s cut to the chase:
A great song requires great lyrics, great melody, great musicians, a great singer and a great producer.
So, in conclusion, I had two songs recorded in a Nashville studio using 7 live musicians, a great singer with top history (chart-busting hits) and a top producer. The total cost to me was, in my opinion, remarkable; doing it the Nashville way came out at less than £300 per song. Also, I still own the rights to the songs and the music. Many Internet radio stations are playing them – and the first time I hear them I often shed a tear. This is what I wanted from the beginning. I expected demos and got masterpieces. From now on, it’s Nashville all the way for me!
Roy now has two Internet radio stations, dedicated purely to the work of independents. Submit your songs now for free airplay:
‘Country Demo Radio’ plays Country – Gospel – Christian – Bluegrass – Ballad – Blues – Jazz and a healthy sprinkling’ of ‘Other Genres’
For all other Genres.
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