"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Sounds
December 19, 2011

Don’t bring demos – Bring product

This morning I was reading Eric Beall comment on Berklee’s recent Perfect Pitch music and songwriting event. What Berklee is trying to do (as always) is prepare musicians and songwriters for the realities of the music business they will encounter. In his post Eric made this startlingly honest comment, “In case you didn’t get the […]

This morning I was reading Eric Beall comment on Berklee’s recent Perfect Pitch music and songwriting event. What Berklee is trying to do (as always) is prepare musicians and songwriters for the realities of the music business they will encounter. In his post Eric made this startlingly honest comment,

“In case you didn’t get the memo, major music companies are no longer in the business of developing artists or “making records”. A&R staffs have been slashed, and frankly, the track records of most A&R people were abysmal anyway. Record labels and even publishers today are looking for people who have product in hand—artists who they’ve developed, records they’re releasing, shows they’re producing. Don’t bring demos. No one in the record business even knows what those are. Bring product.”

Over my lifetime I’ve watched technology constantly ramp up expectations about what we have to do for ourselves. Offices used to have typing pools, now everyone writes their own emails, letters and documents. Companies would pay huge amounts to have film slides developed for presentations, now everyone uses slide-ware like Keynote or Powerpoint. Photographers would either have to build a darkroom, or send photos off to be processed, but now that can be done on a portable computer. And, musicians had to book expensive studio time to record a demo of their music, but we all produce our demos at home now.

That trend is only going to continue. The stages, between our raw creative output and a “product” (for want of a better term) that people want, are going to progressively fall on our shoulders.

Photographers need to learn not just how to make photos, but how to manage video, create books (and ebooks), develop exhibitions. Musicians, also need to understand video, create teaching programmes, run a studio, make their records and book their own gigs. Writers need to learn how to self-publish, find their own editors, develop their own collaborative projects, launch their own magazines or sites. And, everyone needs to learn to market and promote themselves.

The “be discovered” economy is gone – for ever. If you want to make a name for yourself, you have to make a name for yourself. What I am seeing, over and over, is that publishers, labels, newspapers and the like are responding to people who have already developed a following for their work. The expectation is higher that it has ever been when it comes to proving that you’ve “got it.”

This all feeds into why I’m “closing my doors” in 2012. To build a bridge from where I am to where I could be, I need a substantial body of new, fresh work in a format that people can “consume.”

Or, as Eric Beall put it,

“Don’t bring demos. Bring product.”

Responses
Jeff Shattuck 11 years ago

I suppose he’s right, unless by product he means sound quality. To me, what matters today is a great song performed well and with decent sound, nothing special. What does not matter, and really never has, is a bad song played and recorded perfectly. At first, it will catch people, then they will turn away bored and letdown.

    Fernando Gros 11 years ago

    Jeff – I don’t think sound quality alone is Eric’s point. Rather, it’s about having something “finished” that people might be willing to pay for.

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