A demo or extended play, EP, is a brief recording, often four to seven songs, that showcases an artist's or group's musical talent. Submitting a demo to Columbia Records, or any other major record label, usually is the first step in creating a successful career in the music industry. While many hopeful singers and would-be bands submit their demos each year, only the best of the best are set aside for a second listen.
Record several tracks for your demo. The tracks that you choose should illustrate your capability as an artist or a band. Include tracks that are catchy and relatively brief. Including a 10-minute ballad as the first track on your demo is a sure way to get it skipped over. Though the production value of your demo does not have to be high, the resulting recording should be of listenable quality that is free of distortion, hissing or other audible scratching.
Obtain a copyright for your material before submission, and include proof of it along with your demo. This ensures that your tracks are not used without your consent. Refer to the U.S. Copyright Office website for detailed information on how to begin the application process.
Provide Columbia with a press kit, which includes background information about yourself or the band. Include a cover letter that briefly explains your intention as an artist. Explain what type of musical genres you are most comfortable playing and what type of production you hope to be signed for, such as single-song contracts or movie soundtracks.
Include a track listing and lyric sheet. This adds greater coherence to the submitted music and acquaints the listeners at Columbia with your writing style.
Send the polished demo, cover letter, copyright information and lyric sheet directly to Columbia headquarters. Contact information is listed on the website listed in the Resources section.
Submit your demo on a CD, cassette tape or flash drive.
Generate interest in your band or yourself as an artist. Columbia signs musical acts that can draw and maintain a dedicated base of listeners. If you are a popular local band that plays weekly shows or have acted as singer for a number of other successful groups, your chances of successfully signing with Columbia are increased.
Maintain confidence and determination. If things don't work out with Columbia, stay positive. There are many record labels--both mainstream and independent--that are looking to sign dedicated, talented musicians.
Brandon Getty began writing professionally in 2008, with columns appearing in "Thrasher" magazine. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lives in Stockton, Calif.