Last Updated on February 20, 2017 by Michael Benghiat
How To Get Your Music Placed on Film/TV: Episode #2 – Demo Reel Presentation
This is the second episode in my How To Get Your Music Placed on Film/TV series.
This article is going to cover how to vastly improve your chances of getting your music placed or licensed in film/TV/media productions by improving your demo reel presentation.
A professional demo reel will give you an edge over the competition when you present your music to music publishers, music libraries, and music supervisors.
It will make sure you showcase your music in the best possible light and demonstrate that you know what you are doing.
To learn how to submit a track for a cue makeover, please click here.
This article is going to take a step back from Kenechiii’s cue makeover and go into his initial demo presentation. Kenechiii made most of the mistakes that I find composers make when submitting music, and we’ll go through them one by one.
By the end, you’ll learn just what to do (and not to do!) to put together a demo reel that gets listened to, and hopefully, gets your music tracks licensed or published for film and TV productions.
Demo Reel/ Playlists
A demo reel is simply a collection of your music tracks that demonstrates your music and abilities as a songwriter, composer, or producer.
In days past, demo reels were put together on physical CDs or videos and mailed to recipients.
These days, demo reels are almost always presented online in streamable mp3 or video format.
Unfortunately, more often than not, demo reels are not put together correctly and don’t showcase a writer’s work in a professional manner.
Kenechiii’s makeover cue was sent to me as part of a Soundcloud playlist of his work.
Soundcloud is a very popular free service that allows composers and songwriters to post their music in playlists and then send links to anyone they want to hear their works.
Soundcloud playlists are a great way to for music supervisors, music libraries, or publishers to listen to your work quickly and easily.
However, in Kenechiii’s case, I found so many things wrong with his presentation that I got his permission to use it as a case study in “what not to do.”
Kennechii’s Soundcloud demo playlist consisted of the following 10 tracks:
Below are the first 4 Soundcloud tracks so you can listen, with my notes:
Track 1: Rock Vibe Commotion Moving Montage 3:
The track starts off with a distorted guitar that sounds like it was played on a keyboard.
A fake guitar part isn’t great, and having my first impression be that he’s skimping on the production quality is not a good way to start off.
But, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and listen a bit longer….
THEN, at 0:12 a snare comes in… and it’s over for me to keep listening to this track.
Immediately I know that the production quality is sub-par.
The snare sound is wrong for the track – it’s thin and sounds like a drum machine, and it doesn’t fit well in the mix.
Then, at 0:16, some wimpy toms come in.
This cue is toast now…
I can immediately tell this track was done by someone still learning the basics of his craft.
If I listen to the rest of the track, my immediate impression is confirmed. The composition, structure, sound choices and production quality are all poor.
As a listener, I’m waiting for the band to kick in – full drum kit, bass, rhythm guitars, etc. It never happens. There is no production value.
As a cue meant for TV/film/media, no producer or editor will choose it.
Even worse, any hope of Kenechiii being a composer I can publish in my music library with is dashed. I’m already thinking it’s time to move to the next composer’s demo.
TIP #1: First impressions count!
Always put your strongest track first! Your goal is to make the listener want more!
This is how it works:
You only get a few seconds to make a strong impression.
Kenechiii’s first track did not make a good impression.
It’s always better to send someone 1 or 2 tracks that are well produced and finished, rather than a bunch of tracks that are partially produced.
If you put dozens of tracks that are incomplete sounding and poorly produced, you’ve shot yourself in the foot.
And it is not uncommon for me to receive dozens of tracks to listen to.
As it turns out, one of Kenechiii’s more promising cues (close to being a finished viable cue) was towards the end of the Soundcloud playlist.
The truth is, I would not have even listened that far.
After listening to a couple of tracks that have glaring issues, I would just move on to the next writer’s demo.
Track 2: Hip-Hop Vibe Tropo’s Tropology 1 (5c)
This cue is vastly better that the first one. It should have been placed first on his reel.
The clanging bell that sound like a railroad station bell is distracting and should be removed or mixed better. I’m not sure why it’s on this track…
Moving on, once the track kicks in it has a cool vibe.
It’s a little long at 4:16 in length. Not much changes after the first minute or so. I’d edit it down to around 2:00.
The end is a little weak with just the synth for 15 seconds.
All in all, it’s not bad, but it needs work.
Track 3: Country’s Country 4 Film/T.V. Cue (with great edit points and button ending)
This cue just doesn’t work – it’s an unfinished demo idea. It has no depth, no development, and the arrangement, production and mix sound like it was hastily done.
My impression of this cue is that it is just made up of loops pulled from sample loop CDs of slide guitar, banjo, and country-style drums.
The cue never develops, and I know why – he could only repeat the first section over and over because he didn’t have enough loops to flush out a full arrangement!
Experienced listeners will catch these small things that lead to rejections!
There is also no bass, so there’s no bottom end to the cue, making it sound wimpy.
This cue should never have been on a demo reel that is supposed to showcase his best work…
Track 4: The Meat Inside Your Body
Demo Presentation Guidelines
In addition to the track specific flaws, there were some more general issues I came across that made this an ineffective demo submission. The next 5 tips will help you avoid making these mistakes.
TIP #2: Make Your Titles Descriptive
Here is the title list again.
A good title will create a snappy visual representation of the music for the listener.
These titles are all pretty weak – most of them are confusing and a mixture of descriptions and titles.
A title like Rock Vibe Commotion Moving Montage doesn’t reflect the music’s style at all.
I would expect something like a fast, out-of-control grunge rock track which this track is definitely not.
In actuality, there’s no commotion, and it barely rocks.
Avoid Unnecessary Info
Track 9’s title shows it is version 13! The listener doesn’t need to know that this track needed so many revisions. So many versions demonstrate a lack of focus and ability to make a creative decision and go with it.
He also includes “for film and TV” or “with great edit points and button ending” at the end of some titles. This is unnecessary and should be removed.
TIP #3: Always Include Whole Tracks
Track 9 is a snippets track.
It is always best to send full-length versions of tracks, not a montage or short snippets.
If I like a snippets track, I then have to contact the writer to send the whole track, and then wait until I receive it to listen to it. This takes up valuable time could be put to better use.
I also want to hear if the writer is able to develop and expand upon musical themes/ideas.
So, always include full-length versions of songs or instrumental tracks.
TIP #4: Most Tracks Should Be Between 1:00 and 3:00
Many of Kenechiii’s tracks were over 3 minutes long. One was almost 7 minutes long.
For film/TV use, most music users like tracks between one and three minutes long.
TIP #5: Forget Quantity – Include Only Your Best Work
Composers frequently feel like they need to fill up a playlist with lots of tracks.
Generally, anywhere from 1 to 10 tracks is appropriate.
BUT, always think quality, not quantity.
If you only have 1 that you feel is your best, just include that.
If I like what I hear a lot, I’m going to request to hear more. If I don’t, well, it doesn’t really matter how many you send…
TIP #6: Check Your Playlists Before You Send Links Out
Finally, before you send links out to prospective users, make sure you check your playlist to make sure it is working properly and all tracks play correctly.
Kenechiii initially sent me a link to his Soundcloud page, but Soundcloud said it could not find his playlist!
This is sadly quite common and entirely avoidable.
For busy music pros, a mistake like this could mean that they just pass on your submission without even listening to a note.
Don’t let that happen to you. Always check everything beforehand.
I’ve covered some of the most important issues that I see with composer demo submissions.
These 6 tips will help you greatly increase the odds of getting to the next level with your music: getting licenses and placements that make you money.
So, always take the time to make sure everything looks and sounds as professional as you can.
Remember, you only get one shot to impress someone with your music.
Don’t waste it!