Sending Your Demo To Dependent
As a general rule, anyone can send us a demo, but the music should be more or less in line with the label's profile. We have been making a concerted effort to diversify our roster, but if in doubt, you might first want to check out some of the bands on the label before sending in your demo.
Our concentration is electronic Industrial. A guitar is not a hindrance in and of itself, but the music should be principally electronic, with a distinct underground appeal, so this means no raggae, jazz, Nu-Metal (get over it!), etc., you know what I mean...
If you think your demo is appropriate for us, the next step is the number and selection of songs. Your demo should include between 3 to 5 tracks, no more, no less. You should obviously include your strongest pieces, but the selections should also give some indication as to your project's stylistic breadth. Even if you have ten times as much material, please send no more than 5 Tracks; if the first 5 don't convince us, the next 30 won't either.
Extremely important: include your email address and telephone number in the CD booklet and on the CD itself, not just on the mailer!! Imagine my desk, if you will, as a vast, bombed-out crater, filled to the brim with demos. It is my eternal A&R nightmare to one day receive a fantastic demo, only to be unable to contact the artist, because they only put their contact information on the info sheet or maybe even only on the envelope, and I am unable to figure out which envelope/info sheet goes with the CD. At least twice per week I awake from this nightmare in a cold sweat. (The nightmare may have something to do with the state of my desk, as well.)
But seriously: your email address and telephone number belong on EVERYTHING, on the CD, the info sheet, and in the CD booklet. Ignore this at your peril, lest your demo vanish forever in the post-nuclear warzone that is my office.
Due to the sheer volume of submissions, I cannot send personal feedback in reponse to every demo I receive. Generally, I will hear your demo within 6 weeks of arrival, often much sooner. If the demo is interesting, it is entirely likely that I will send the band a few tips, without offering a deal, but I often suggest sending something again in 6 months or so. Bands like Seabound sent us their first demos years before they were signed, and you can hear the positive results of the resultant fine-tuning in their debut. If I receive a demo which is absolutely spectacular I tend to call the artist straightaway, but this happens rather rarely.
And if your demo does nothing for me, it tends to find its way into the trash, so don't expect to see anything you send coming back to you.
Each demo we receive will normally be listened to at least twice, oftentimes more than that. In some cases, however, it is clear to me almost immediately if I think something is crap, and I tend to not subject myself to the experience more than once.
And finally, if a month or so after sending in your demo you decide to send a mail and ask if we've had a chance to listen to it, don't be too angry if you get back an answer like "Yeah, the name sounds familiar, but I've no idea what the music was like"; I usually hear 3-5 demos per day - that's over 100 per month.
Pictures, Info, and Cover Design
These three things are actually secondary for us, although they can have an effect on the overall quality of the presentation as a whole. If you are a crummy graphic artist, then don't try to design a cover; if you can think of nothing to write on the info sheet, there is no need to torture a novella out of yourself. The fact that you met one another in 1998 at the Parkcrest Neighborhood Swim Meet is of marginal interest to us. If, on the other hand, a particularly interesting story underlies the recording, it can be useful to include on the info sheet, and if your brother-in-law is a graphic designer and has already designed a cool cover for you, then by all means send it along. None of these things, however, can take the place of good music; it is the music that forms the backbone of any successful relationship with a record label.
Criticism and Advice
Please be aware that your demo will be judged in a brutally honest manner, regardless of how good your buddies, your girlfriend, or your relatives think it to be. It is not our intention to be cruel, this isn't supposed to be "American Idol" or anything, but you should be expecting (and able to handle) some criticism. Keep in mind that your demo is being compared not to other demos, but to quality releases from professional bands. The production (i.e. sound quality) is largely secondary, so long as the idea behind the track comes across well, but on the other hand, good sound quality never hurts; still, it is not a must for positive feedback. What you should under no circumstances overlook are the vocals. The most common problem plaguing the majority of demos is that too little attention has been paid to the vocals. You might have spent a month fine-tuning your track, but then did your vocals in a half an hour, and the results speak for themselves. Most demos leave considerable room for improvement: we don't expect you to deliver a demo that can stand up to Covenant's "Northern Lights" in terms of recording quality, but the voice is the one instrument that everyone has, and one needs neither money nor expensive equipment in order to deliver a good performance. Only once did we pass on a demo where the vocals were good, but the music was left something to be desired; the opposite scenario has happened hundreds of times. (And for the record, that one time was a mistake; the band was Mesh.) So: the vocals are always important; bad vocals can ruin a perfectly good track, but good vocals can make a mediocre song stand out from the crowd.
Instrumental demos have it pretty rough time of it at Dependent, particularly those which are intended to later have vocals added. Rather than send in what amount to unfinished tracks, I'd suggest waiting until the vocals have been recorded. If the music is intended to be instrumental, by all means send it along, but the instrumental demo that caused me to spring from my chair in amazement has yet to arrive (although there have been a few awfully good ones).
So far so good. You might have gotten the impression that we're somewhat picky when it comes to signing new artists. Keep in mind, however, that at the end of the day, the decision to sign or not sign a band is essentially a matter personal taste: this means that, if you are serious about finding a record deal, you shouldn't give up just because one person doesn't like your demo. However, preparing your demo submission as described above definitely optimizes its chances of getting heard in a timely fashion.
All the best