Pre- GNR Axle Rose Demo
5/29/2013 1:28:00 PM
As you probably can imagine, being a DJ in Chicago I have heard a lot of band demos over the years. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t very good. Poor audio quality, that’s to be expected, rookie mistakes, yes, poor execution, sure, but the biggest downer… simply bad songwriting.
Back in the day, and I’m talking pre-internet here, I thought that if other musicians and bands could simply hear all of these same demos that I was hearing, and realize how many of them have almost exactly the same sound, then they would understand they needed to work on the originality of their songwriting. Makes sense right? Yeah, not so much.
Fast forward to the last 10 years and every band on Earth, even some that have never played together but have a MySpace page, are all over the Internet. You can hear demos on YouTube, MySpace, Reverbnation, and yet I still get a stack of CD’s that sound almost exactly the same. It’s like the same person keeps sending me the same trite songs, but with the same bad lyrics organized differently.
And you know what?.. its OK.
You have to start somewhere, and while I might not have thought that the artist in the bad demo was ready for airplay, probably not by a long shot, hey, they took the time to write, record, mix, and distribute the demo to me. That’s cool. That’s trying. That’s moving forward. That’s a hell of a lot more than most people. I admire the effort.
Now let’s be fair here, it’s not just rookie musicians and local bands that make the mistake of writing songs that sound exactly same, boring, generic, out dated, etc,. Working bands, popular record labels, you name it; often decide to swing their sound in a direction that they THINK will sell. I know you’ve seen this happen, usually right after a new sound starts to hit the charts. Let’s not even talk about the Motley Crue or Poison posers of the late 80s and early 90s. How many rap rockers did we get after Linkin Park hit the charts? Get ready for the Mumford and Sons folk rocker bluegrass clones. Considering the success of Halestorm and Paramore, yeah, you can imagine what I’m hearing these days.
So there it is in a nutshell… It doesn’t matter, from rookie bands to pro touring acts to record labels; they all make bad boring trite song demos. The trick is to move on from it. Realize it for what it is, and walk in a different direction. Make a new path. Please for the love of God.. Be Unique!
Here is some fun motivation to help. Below is an old school (1983) demo from Axl Rose in his first LA Band – Rapid Fire. LOL. It is NOT GOOD. HOWEVER, Axl was able to move on from this, work on his songwriting and performance, and over 100 million albums later I would say he has found his sound.. and a hell of a fan base that keeps him liquid.
Yeah, listening to Axl’s demo here, I feel I should point out that I will hear several other demos this month that will sound exactly like this video. Seriously, bad 80’s demo songs are alive and well and for some reason people still think its going to work… eventually.. it has too.. doesn’t it? NO!
Novelty era type acts sometimes can survive, but they are few and far between. The Stray Cats brought back rock-a-billy for a while. Guitarist Brian Setzer then morphed it into a big band hybrid. He sells out shows, but you’re not going to hear any of it on the mainstream radio. Anvil and Steel Panther are trying to be the 80’s throwback novelty bands; problem is they are fighting with touring 80’s bands that actually have hits and an audience base. For some odd reason I hear more 80’s style rock demos than anything else, and they are usually accompanied by a photo of a band that looks like they still think its 1989.
Every sound has it’s time. Axl and the boys saw huge success with Guns and Roses. Axl’s new work, not so much. Slash has modernized his sound, advanced his songwriting, and has seen very good success on his last couple of albums. Smart.
I don’t care who you are, chances are any demo you make today, no matter how great you think it is right now, if you listen back to it in a couple of years you’ll think it sucks. I know that’s what happens to me, and that’s a good thing. It means you’re growing, working on improving, refining your art, and that’s what music is really all about.