Demo vs. Master-Which should I record?

Ah, the age old question. Here’s how I break it down.

A demo is a “demonstration” recording of your song that will be used to “pitch” to recording artists. Usually these recordings are made (paid for) by music publishers and/or songwriters, with no intent to sell the recordings.

A master recording is something that you plan on selling via cd’s or digital downloads. Since many demo studios have the gear to produce master recordings, and since the talent pool is so great in town, it is highly feasible to record a “master” in a “demo” studio. Difference is, you MUST pay the musicians a different (higher) rate for the session. This schedule of fee’s is called a “limited pressing scale” or “master” scale. When paying the musicians “limited pressing scale” you are authorized to make up to 10,000 copies of your product to sell via cd’s or digital downloads. Master scale costs even more, and is used when the project is expected to sell more than 10,000 units (major label, etc).

Here are two examples of the Nashville Musicians Union Scale/Wage Chart. Compare the slight difference between demo and limited pressing rates.

For a full list of rates, scales and other wonderfully valuable insight, please check out the Nashville Musicians Association website.

Demo Scale

Limited Pressing Scale

3 thoughts on “Demo vs. Master-Which should I record?

  1. Eddie, thanks for the clear explanation. A track recorded in a Demo session cannot be sold commercially. How about the other direction: Can a track recorded in a Limited Pressing session still be used as a demo to pitch to publishers, artists and labels?

    1. Hi Steve,
      A Limited Pressing Scale demo can be used to pitch, as well as any demo recorded anywhere. There has been a proliferation of high quality demos coming out of Nashville with the advent of affordable pro-quality home studios and the single song demo scale. For example, since I play keys, acoustic gtr and sing, I can hire a drummer ($100) and an electric gtr player ($100) and do all the other parts myself including the mix. I just contact the players,send them a rough demo with an established tempo and key, some simple production directions and I’m off to the races.
      Let me know if you’d like to try this sometime, it’s a blast! I can steer you in the right direction and get the perfect players for the job. Cheers!
      Eddie K

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