A Demo Disk is a CD that comes as a magazine insert in various gaming publications. It usually contains demos of upcoming games (hence the name), movies for games, cheats, and news (usually for PC demo disks only).

People have often raised the question that if there are demo disks now, how come there were no demo cartridges back in the days of the SNES or the Sega Genesis? Here's why: It's cheaper to replicate the demo disk than it is to produce the actual magazine. Cartridges, on the other hand, are rather expensive and it would cost the publishers of such a magazine a bundle to include one.

Demo Disc

Any musician worth his/her salt has created a brief collection of tunes that best demonstrates (hence, "demo") their technical and stylistic prowess.

"Demos" are also utilized by voice over actors who narrate all of your favorite commercials, read books for the blind, and provide the voices you hear when you talk to a telephone robot, e.g., 'your call is very important to us, so please hold...'. The equivalent for a film or television actor is their 'reel.'

Demos are a musician's business card. The intrepid self-promoting musician will eat grilled cheese sandwiches for a month to pay for plenty of demos to have on hand. They should be handed to anyone remotely involved in deciding whether or not to hire you for a live performance, or better, hire you to work on, or lead, a CD. They are indispensable when contacting the media in a public relations campaign.

The ideal demo features many, or all, of the following:

  • A businesslike mailing package that's not extravagant but that's sharp-looking and above all contains the correct spelling of the intended recipient's name and title.  The correct address is a must. Labels work really well to convey the importance of what's inside.

  • Accompanying documents:  business card with complete information, musician's biography (one letter-sized page), no more than three letter-sized photocopies of your most significant press coverage, and a cover letter introducing oneself and addressing any requirements made of the musician by the intended recipient.

  • A real jewel-box (CD Case) with a colorfully printed two-sided label inside the cover (and preferably on the rear/spine, too).  Sure, it's expensive if you use a graphic artist.  And it's a pain in the neck pulling apart the jewel-boxes, cutting the labels and assembling the whole thing.  But unless your sound is really awful, the look of success breeds success itself in this business. The information contained on the labels is the same as on any recording, but for the absence of liner notes.  Avoid the mission statement of the artist so you can use the demo across genres and applications.

  • A CD with a printed label, whether silk-screened by your CD reproducer, or a computer label.  The label should contain the song list and timings for each, at the very least.  The more detail (backup musicians, composer/lyricist credits) the better.

  • Finally, what's on the CD.  The best-engineered, most polished four to six tunes you've ever recorded.  Cacaphonous backgrounds in live recordings are a no-no (live recordings should be used sparingly and should be professionally engineered).  The sound levels on the disc should be high but never, ever clip.  Avoid too much bass-boost; leave it to the listener.

Distribution

You wouldn't want someone to ring your cell phone while you're on stage, would you?  Don't call restaurants during lunch or dinner hours.  Don't call a nightclub while you're gigging at another night club and you're on a break.  But by all means, call them, or stop by, in order to get the information correct for your demo package labeling.

The good news is that with the dip in price of good-quality computer-driven sound recording software and hardware, the musician needn't spend hundreds of dollars an hour for studio time, if they or a friend can engineer the recording for them.

Just as every great film star once "had to take a screen test," every musician is called upon to audition in one way or another.  Often their only audition is their demo disc.

So to rob shamelessly from the popular Master Card Card commercials:

Recording time:  A twelve-pack of Heineken, and fifty dollars

Packaging and production costs:  five hundred dollars

Getting signed by a major record label:  priceless!

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