Writing a great song, while a success in and of itself, is only the beginning when it comes to getting your music out in the world. A subsequent, and essential, step is making a professionally performed and recorded demo of your song. However, where a lot of songwriters find themselves at a loss is knowing what to do with their finished demos. Here are seven things to keep in mind when you’re trying to figure out what comes next.

What to do with your finished songwriting demo

1. Catalog them

First and foremost, you should have a system in place to catalog your mixes so that you know where they are at all times. There’s nothing more discouraging that having an opportunity for a song and not being to locate the recording. I’d recommend keeping three different folders on your computer (which you always keep backed up, right?). Create folders for your hi-res mixes (.wav is the file format), your mp3 mixes and your track mixes (these are the instrumental tracks without vocals). This makes it easy to find what you need when you need it. Don’t take yourself out of the running for a potential placement just because you’re not organized.

2. Show them to your PRO representative

Many songwriters are unaware that the performing rights organizations (BMI, ASCAP and SESAC) have representatives who are available – generally through appointments – to meet with songwriters and provide some guidance. If you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the major music cities (NYC, LA and Nashville) as well as a few others like Miami or Atlanta, the PROs have offices there. Once you’ve got a couple of songs/demos you’re proud of, it would be worth trying to schedule a meeting with a rep at your PRO. If you haven’t affiliated with a PRO yet, this would be an excellent time to schedule meeting with as many of the PROs as you can. If you don’t live in one of the above cities, it would be well worth your while to schedule a meeting and plan a trip around it. Two words of advice… Be patient. These representatives are generally very busy people and it can often take months to schedule a short, in person meeting. I’d still consider it well worth your while.

3. Pitch them to publishers

Showing your finished demos to publishers is the first step to possibly getting signed as a staff songwriter or getting a deal for an individual song. There are several differences between showing a publisher your rough, homemade recording and a polished demo. First of all, you’ll be showing them that you’re serious about your craft and your recordings. Secondly, if they do like the song, they won’t have to consider spending any additional money to demo it. All that to say, anything you can do to make the process easier for a publisher, the more favorably they’ll look upon you and your songs.

What to do with your finished songwriting demo

4. Pitch them for artist opportunities

I know it sounds obvious that this is what songwriters should be doing but many of us stop short of actually getting our music out there either from lack of information, fear or downright laziness. Even though it’s appealing to imagine there are people out there who will take care of all of this for you, I personally believe that songwriters should be pitching their own songs. With the help of pitch listing services like www.RowFax.com, any songwriter willing to subscribe to – otherwise known as pay for – one of these lists can be made aware of current artists looking for new material.

5. Pitch them as a masters for film/TV opportunities

If the quality of your recording is good enough – which any truly professional demo will be – there’s no reason you can’t pitch these recordings for placement in film or TV. The caveat here is that you’ll need to remember to have the musicians and the demo singers sign proper releases so that you’ve got written permission to use these recordings as more than demos (short, of course for “demonstrations”).

6. Provide the instrumental track so a potential artist can hear their voice on your song

If you’re fortunate enough to get an artist interested in one of your songs, sometimes hearing their voice on it can help seal the deal. It’s a really helpful thing to be able to provide a finished track for them to record their vocal to. More often than not, these recordings aren’t the ones that end up on the album but they can go a long way towards convincing an artist to cut your song.

What to do with your finished songwriting demo

7. Use the instrumental track for your own artist project

If you’re a singer as well as a songwriter, you’ve got the additional luxury of a professionally recorded track to put your own vocal on for an artist project. It’s often the case that the songwriter’s version – while not necessarily right for pitching – works beautifully for an independent release. If you’re investing good money in a strong recording, it’s in your best interest to find as many uses for it as possible.


This article should serve as a reminder that your job as a songwriter isn’t done when you’ve finished your song and recorded your demo. In fact, the “job” is just beginning. The more you can do with your demoed songs, the greater the likelihood you’ll find a home for them and generate a little income in the process.

Good Luck!

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24 responses to “Seven Things Songwriters Can Do With Their Finished Song Demos”

  1. Don Lawson says:

    Awesome advice as always, Cliff!! Thank you!

  2. Cliff, Hope This Note Finds You Well And Off To A Stellar Start In The New Year … I Have Been A Most Grateful Recipient Of The Hard-Earned Advice For Several Years Now And Count / Heed This Lesson Among Your Best To Date … Thanks So Much For Your Continued Consideration And Support With Best Wishes For Wherever Life & The Music May Lead You … J Nelson K

  3. Gary says:

    Excellent advice. Thanks Cliff!

  4. Richard Young says:

    Thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I always save and go back and re-read your articles every chance I get. As I advance in my music and songwriting the things that I didn’t comprehend in the past in your articles seem to take on new meaning.

  5. april C says:

    You put these articles out right when I’m about to google how to’s… your like telepathic and mega helpful. Thank you

  6. Patricia Haney says:

    Hi Cliff,
    Thanks for these great articles, they are so helpful!! I always save them so I can refer back for my FYI.
    I have a question – is there a sample document somewhere of a release for written permission to use demo recordings in which I have hired a singer?

  7. Michael Pemberton says:

    Hiya, Cliff. Just wanna chime in here and add my voice to the chorus. Timely, detailed, clear as a bell. I am a grateful fan. Cheers!

  8. Thank you, Cliff!
    I need to be reminded every 5 minutes…

  9. Rob Tambuscio says:

    Cliff, I was surprised and thought that was a very good suggestion to get in touch with BMI NYC which is where I live. So I called and asked to meet with a rep. to play some demos the receptionist told me ” they don’t do that here” Is it different with ASCAP or SESAC or even what region they are in?

    • Hi Rob. I have to say I’m surprised. This is news to me. I’m sorry they’re no longer doing that. They did for years. I’m not sure about ASCAP or SESAC but it’s certainly worth exploring. Hope that helps!

  10. Susan says:

    Can you send a finished demo to the local radio station for airplay?

  11. Susan says:

    Sorry, let me clarify. The demo that I have was produced by the publisher but the song was never placed. It is a full professional demo. The song has since been released by the publisher back to me. Can I release the song to local radio for airplay?

  12. Valerie Hemmings says:

    Hi Cliff,

    I am a songwriter and recently I have hired singers and have been making professional demos which are costly.

    I have posted some on Facebook, Soundcloud and YouTube. I have gotten some views. I have joined Nashville Christian songwriters and recently Taxi.com.

    I am really serious about getting my songs out because you know I’ve been writing a long time.

    I thank you for the advice. I really needed that.

    I still have not been able to get them in the right hands. What do you think about songwriters workshops?

    So if I get an offer, do I still have to contact that singer and track maker, because I paid for their jobs?

    • Hi Valerie,

      Glad two hear you’re working so hard on getting your songs out there.

      I think songwriter workshops are great not only to learn but to broaden your network.

      And, yes, if you paid the demo singer and track maker, then, most likely their work was “for hire” and you don’t need to pay them again but it might be worth talking to an attorney about a work for hire contract.


  13. Valerie Hemmings says:

    Ok .. thanks!

  14. Ramona Nunley says:

    That’s why I love to write with someone.
    We split the cost ,studio. . An it’s a WIN WIN

  15. Don Tomlinson says:

    And, btw, from reading the above comments, I thought I would add that I am a long-time entertainment attorney and would be happy to provide WMFH agreements, etc., for a small fee. Feel free to share the email address associated with this post.

  16. jbneon says:

    I called BMI in Nashville Nov. 2019 for an artist I am representing. We were making a planned trip to Nashville in Jan. 2020. Still waiting on a callback as of 3.2021.
    First impression : BMI customer service is non existent.

    • Hi There,

      I know it’s easy to get frustrated with the lack of responses in the music industry (I could tell you stories…) but try not to take it personally. A polite follow up every couple of weeks will net you many more gains than reaching out and then waiting for a response.
      Hope that helps!


  17. Michael Sion says:

    Cliff, thanks for your tip to contact a PRO. I’ll be working to schedule a meeting with a BMI rep in 2022.

    I do have a qualm about these sort of columns you and Jason Blume pen. You never give practical advice on finding a publisher or movie/TV placement. My songs have been heard/streamed millions of times thanks to music-library placement. But I’m stumped on the next step.

    I’m open to scheduling a one-on-one consulting session with you, paying your rate. Feel free to get back to me. Have a happy new year!

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