Music Business

What Should A Song Demo Cost? A Songwriter’s Guide

by Marty Dodson
Nov 20, 2019

WAY too often, I run into people that have been taken advantage of in regard to paying for a song demo. So, I wanted to give you all the info you need to answer the question of what should a song demo cost.

Here are several demo scenarios you might find yourself in…

You write with a track guy/girl.

Usually, the co-writer will do the demo for no charge, unless they have to pay a vocalist in which case, all of the writers usually split the cost of the vocal. But, It would be nice for the non-tracking co-writers to offer to split the vocalist on their own since the track person is doing more work, but you aren’t expected to do that.

You want to pay a track person to demo your song.

Usually, this costs around $500 including the vocal if the track person (or one of the co-writers) sings it. So, if a vocalist has to be paid, that would be extra.

Become your own track guy/girl.

Another great way to cut down your demo cost is to learn to create your own demo tracks. These days it’s possible to create a killer home studio for a pretty reasonable price. If your talents lean in that direction, then your cost of a demo lessens to the price of hiring a vocalist.

You want a full band demo of a song you wrote.

In this case, check out the studio you are considering online. The reputable ones generally are very clear about who you are working with, what they have done, and their pricing. Most Nashville studios have something similar to this price structure below. LA or NYC will be priced a little higher.

Premier Demo – $625 Plus a vocalist if you need one – six piece band

Premier Demo Track with no vocals – $550

Standard Demo – $495 – Plus vocalist if you need one – 4 Piece Band

Guitar/Vocal Demo – $295 – Just the guitar track and vocal.

Here are some things you should NOT do in regard to demos…

Pay a publisher for them to demo your song.

Never! If they like your song, they will pay for the demo. Never ever ever pay a publisher to demo your song. Real publishers do not operate that way.  Therefore, If you are giving them half of your publishing or more, they should pay for your demo.

Pay more than your share of the demo.

Any demo done she be agreed upon by each co-writer. Each co-writer should be given the opportunity to attend the demo session and have input on the demo. And each writer should pay their share of the demo unless some other arrangement is made in advance.

Pay more than $1000-$1300 for a demo.

I’ve had demos that pushed or barely crossed the $1000 mark, but all of the co-writers knew about it and we’re ok with it. I have run into people who paid a publisher $2500 for a demo and gave the publisher all of their publishing. We’ve covered this. Don’t do it!!!

Do a demo with someone you’ve not met or talked to.

The reputable ones are easy to spot when you meet them. Don’t simply go by someone’s website. Talk to them or meet them before you pay them hundreds of dollars.  You can even “Ask Marty and Clay” in the forum by that name if you are unsure about a specific demo situation.  We’re glad to help and we don’t want you to get ripped off!

If you keep all of those things in mind, you’ll save a lot of money and you’ll thank me later. Write on!

-MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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