Define Your Purpose
When you're working on recorded music, it's really important to understand that there are different standards for different purposes. What's this for? Is it just to get a few local gigs? To get a record deal? If you're looking for a local gig, you might be able to get away with slight imperfections and rough edges in the recordings. But if you're looking for a record deal, then the stakes change and the rules are different.
If you're looking to score some gigs, you need to do your homework. When looking into clubs, find out what kinds of crowds and what sorts of people frequent the establishments. You need to ask yourself, “What will this owner or booking agent want to hear?” While it would be wonderful to believe the owner is into music for music's sake, you're not being realistic. Live music plays one role — to make the establishment money. In turn, you are compensated. Owners want to hear music that fits into their normal mold, and they rarely take chances on new formats and risky groups. With that in mind, you need to customize your demo to address the most important need for each potential client. What that means is putting what you consider your best and strongest material for a particular client on the first track of the tape or CD. Chances are, the client won't even listen to the second track. It's very common to put together multiple demos with different track orders and song content for different purposes. One size might not fit all in this case.
When handing out a CD for a prospective gig, make sure to place your contact info and phone number as many places as possible. Make sure to mark the CD itself, because CD cases often get separated from their contents.
On the first track, which might get only one minute of play time, the club owner simply wants to hear that you aren't a joke. He or she most likely won't listen very carefully to your content. The club owner wants to make sure you fit into the mold so that regular customers are happy with your sound and new customers are drawn in by it.
Getting a Record Deal
If you're an ambitious sort, you might want to seek a record deal. After all, your home studio has allowed you to produce quality content just for this purpose. While sound quality is always important, it really comes into play if you want to get a record deal. The person hearing your music most often is involved with music production. Chances are, he or she listens to music all day long from bands that either go the home studio route or pay top dollar for professional demos. If your recording sticks out with poor quality, soft levels, and other anomalies, you might be dismissed right off the bat. That's why getting it right the first time is ideal — you might never get a second chance.