How Much Money Should a Song Demo Recording Cost?

How much money a professional song demo recording should cost is easy to figure out. It can vary due to the quality of the studio and talent employed but there are basic guidelines.

Once you’re positive your song is finished it’s time to invest in a demo that will compete with the demos songwriters and publishers who already have hit songs pitch. After all, they are your competition for that all-important cut.

I believe that most songs can be effectively demonstrated with a four to six piece band. In rare cases even a simple piano and vocal demo will work.

It should be noted that if you are making a recording for personal listening or family and friends you can get by with less instrumentation than might be advisable on a pro “pitch ready” demo, but quality musicianship is never a bad idea. It might turn out better than you expect and then you’ll always have the option to market it.

Now perhaps you’ll think I’m biased but anyone in the industry 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 vocalists. Why? Because they are the best available.

Yes, there are talented musicians scattered about the country but Nashville is packed with high quality musicians- the cream of the crop culled from the rest of the country- who moved to Music City specifically to play on demo and master sessions. Not only are they amazingly talented upon arrival but due to the amount of work here, they hone their skills day after day for years, something few musicians elsewhere get the opportunity to do. They will absolutely nail your demo.

A piano player at $50 to $75 per song, a singer at $100 to $150, plus pre-production and studio time add up to about $250 to $325 for a piano/vocal demo of pro quality. A guitar/vocal is the same cost because most session quality guitarists also charge $50 to $75 per song.

A basic full band demo using four to six professional musicians; a pro vocalist; an engineer; a producer; plus studio costs typically totals between about $650 to $850 per song.

As noted, pro singers here in Nashville charge between $75 to $150 per song for a lead vocal and harmony, more if extensive background vocals are required and some singers are as much as $250 for lead and harmony. A top tier singer, stacked background vocals, a horn section or anything that requires expensive talent will push the price to between $850 and $1,500 per song.

So over half the total you pay goes right to the talent. The remainder must cover the producer and engineer, both of whom will put many more hours of work into your song than the musicians will, plus studio costs and overhead.

Nashville studio rates begin around $50 per hour with some of the top tier studios charging $150 or more per hour.

You should be able to get a good demo done in a studio charging well under $100 per hour. If you work with a music producer or demo service they’ll give you a set fee for the entire demo rather than hourly rates plus they’ll guide you through it or produce it turnkey.

You can find slightly lower prices than I’ve sited above, but the talent will almost certainly be of inferior quality. Cutting corners may make some sort of sense when you’re shopping for shoes at Wal-Mart. It makes no sense when you’re competing in a world class environment like the big time music business, where only exceptional quality is recognized.

Yes, it’s a fair amount of money, but well worth the investment and a small price to pay if your demo catches the ear of a song publisher who gets your song cut with a Tim McGraw or Martina McBride. A break like that will not only repay your investment thousands of times over, it will completely change your life.


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