Usually a guitar/voice or piano/voice recording, typically called a “work tape”, is suffice to present to publishers in order to try and obtain a single song or staff writer position. After all, if the song is king, it should grab them standing alone stripped naked.


But, if you’re pitching a song to a manager, A & R rep. from a label, or to the artist himself/herself, a more full production may be necessary.

As surprising as it may seem, some of the best ears in the business and great recording artists are inept at creating in their head a production while listening to a sole acoustic guitar and a fine singing voice. 

Publishers know this.

And when publishers pitch songs they’re hoping an artist will want to record, they generally pitch full-on production of those songs. And while it’s rare that the publisher will put of the money for a string section or the Memphis Horns, they will put out a substantial chunk of change to get the song recorded and get it recorded right. (Of course, some of the cost, usually half, will be recoupable against your future earnings: meaning they are fronting you the money for your half, but you have to pay them back…that is if the fruits of your efforts are profitable to the company.)

In fact, many publishers own their own studios for just this purpose.

And to facilitate timely recording and quality results, the studio will hire session musicians. Many of these players are A-team master session players; the cream of the crop willing to work for demo scale to fill out their schedule.

The end product often is as good as, if not better, than the master version of the song that the artist puts out. Often the same licks that were played on the demo are copied note for note on the commercial version, and it’s not unusual for it to be played by the same player.

It would be a fair question to ask if these recordings are so great, why do they need to be re-recorded for the master session.

Well, they don’t. The musician’s union does have a pay structure that gives the players a bump if the demos (paid at a lower rate) are used as masters (paid at a higher rate).

But some of the reasons they wouldn’t be used are: The producer wants to have his name on the project. The producer wants to use his own musician roster and/or studio that he has ties with. There’s a belief that it could be done better (not always the case, as stated above). Or, perhaps something as innocent and simple as it’s in the wrong key for the singer.

If the songwriter is well versed in the recording arts, generally their publisher will see that they’re in the studio to oversee their vision of the song demoed to fruition.

Now without going off into a treatise, the nature of the music business is changing. And some of these changes have leveled the playing field allowing songwriters to self-publish their own material.

Now most songwriters lack the financial resources to lease studio time and hire top notch players.  However, the same technical and digital revolution that allowed self-publishing to be a viable option has sprouted several innovative song recording options that are well within the reach of the typical songwriter.

So, with this much at stake, wouldn’t it make sense for the songwriter to have some studio savvy?
Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and

Originally posted 2010-11-01 23:51:32.