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How Much Money Should a Song Demo Recording Cost?

It’s easy to guess how much a professional song demo recording should cost. This can vary depending on the quality of the studio and the talent employed, but there are basic guidelines.

Once you’re sure the song is done, it’s time to invest in a demo that will compete with demo songwriters and publishers who already have a chart to play. After all, they are the competition for that all-important cut.

I think most songs can be effectively presented with a four to six piece band. In rare cases, even a simple piano and vocal demo works.

It should be noted that if you’re recording for personal auditions or for family and friends, you can get by with less instrumentation than you’d recommend for a professional “pitch ready” demo, but quality musicianship is never a bad idea. You may do better than expected and then you will always have the opportunity to sell.

Now you might think I’m biased, but anyone in the business with a clue will agree with this statement: When it’s time to demo a song, use a Nashville service that employs Nashville session players and singers. Why? Because they are the best available.

Yes, there are talented musicians scattered around the country, but Nashville is full of top-quality musicians — culled from the rest of the country — who have moved to Music City specifically to play demos and master shows. Not only are they amazingly talented when they arrive, but due to the amount of work here, they hone their skills day by day for years, which few musicians have the opportunity to do elsewhere. They absolutely nail the demo.

A piano player at $50-$75 per song, a singer at $100-$150, plus pre-production and studio time comes to about $250-$325 for a professional quality piano/vocal demo. Guitar/Vocals are the same cost because most session quality guitarists charge $50-$75 per song.

A basic full-band demo with four to six professional musicians; a professional singer; engineer; producer; plus studio costs are usually around $650 to $850 per song.

As mentioned, professional singers here in Nashville charge anywhere from $75 to $150 per song for lead vocals and harmony, more if extensive backing vocals are required, and some singers charge up to $250 for vocals and harmony. A top-notch singer, layered backing vocals, horn section, or anything that requires expensive talent will push the price between $850 and $1,500 per song.

So more than half of the paid amount goes to the talent. The remaining amount should cover the producer and engineer, who will work more hours on your song than the musicians, plus studio costs and overhead.

Nashville studios start at around $50 per hour, while some high-end studios charge $150 or more per hour.

You can make a good demo in a studio for well under $100 an hour. If you’re working with a music producer or demo service, they’ll give you a set fee for the entire demo instead of an hourly rate, and they’ll either walk you through it or make it turnkey.

You may find slightly lower prices than what I listed above, but the talent will almost certainly be of lower quality. Cutting corners makes sense when you shop for shoes at Wal-Mart. It doesn’t make sense to compete in a world-class environment like the big music business, where only exceptional quality is recognized.

Yes, it’s a decent amount of money, but it’s worth the investment and a small price to pay if your demo catches the ear of a record label who cuts it into a song with Tim McGraw or Martina McBride. Such a break will not only pay back your investment thousands of times, but will also completely change your life.

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