Q: Do you think it’s okay to pitch a home recorded version of a song or should I have the song professionally recorded?
A: It depends on how good your home studio is and your skills as an engineer/producer. There are very few limitations on how good a home studio can be if you have good gear and you know how to use it. But it will be harder if you’re recording a cutting-edge Electro-Pop-Dance track then it will be if you’re working on an acoustic guitar and vocal singer-songwriter song.
The biggest limitation in home recording often has to do with the recording space itself. Live drums are tough to record at home so you might need to go to a studio that’s bigger than your bedroom for something like that. Another thing to keep in mind: If you’re not a great mixer, then think about hiring a pro engineer for an afternoon. Be realistic about what you’re capable of and use a pro studio when you need it.
Bottom line: Your demo -whether you record it at home or in a professional studio – has to put across the emotion and energy of your song. This is true when pitching to publishers, labels, or film and TV. Make sure the instrumental arrangement is right for the style and instruments support each other. All performances should be confident, expressive, and free of mistakes. The vocal should be clear and easy to hear at all times but always in the pocket (surrounded by the other instruments).
This doesn’t mean you have to record an elaborate, expensive demo. A guitar/vocal or piano/vocal can work if you’re a singer-songwriter pitching to film and TV. But if you’re pitching a mainstream Pop-Dance anthem to a Kelly Clarkson, then the demo needs to be current and produced to the point where listeners have a good idea of the song’s hit potential.
The goal of any recording -whether it’s done in a home studio or a pro studio with session musicians – is to put the song across to the listener. Keep that in mind while arranging and recording and you should end up with something you can be proud to pitch.
by Robin Frederick
This post is based on my books Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV. In each book you’ll find over one hundred useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.