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Careers In Culture

Music and Sound Recording - What You Need to Do

Work Search Strategies

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Developing your demo

A good demo can be the difference between employment and unemployment as well as the key to a record deal. Although A&R reps (Artist and Repertoire representatives) are bombarded with CDs on a daily basis, they are always on the lookout for artists who are original, can sell records, and have that indefinable “spark” that sets them apart from the crowd. The spark is up to you, but here are some basic tips for a top-notch demo.

Developing your demo

Sounds good to me!
Unless someone you know is a technical wizard who can make your $500 home computer-based studio sound golden, you may have to bite the bullet, spend a few bucks and go into a decent studio. CDs, DVDs and MP3s are now standard when sending out demos. Some artists even lead AAR reps to their websites, where select songs can be sampled online.

Testing 123
Check the copy before you send it out. Nothing's as embarrassing as having someone from a record company calling to tell you that there was nothing on the demo you sent them ...In fact, they won't call you at all.

Leave' em wanting more
Don't record any more than three or four songs on a demo

Do your homework
Don't submit unsolicited demos to a record company without first asking if they are accepting demo submissions. Also, get the name and title of the appropriate person to whom you should send your CD, DVD or MP3 files.

Songwriter — protect thyself
Until your song is recorded and the copyright is registered, you need to protect your ownership. Write down the words and music, put the document in an envelope, and then send it to yourself by registered mail. When you receive the envelope, do not open it. Put the envelope in a safe place in case you ever need proof of authorship

The package
Elements such as a distinctive art style, group logo and a brief but well-written bio are a real bonus and add to the overall professionalism of your submission. Promotional pix don't have to cost a fortune. They should simply reflect the style and personality of the artist and let the prospective employer, producer or record company put a face to the music.

Guess who?
Make sure the demo has your contact address with phone and e-mail information. Wait at least a month or so before calling a record company to inquire about your demo. But definitely call. AAR reps get hundreds of demos, so they might need a gentle reminder to listen to yours.

Rejection is part of the game
Even the Beatles got turned down by several record companies when they first started out. Don't give up! Keep making new demos and keep sending them out.

And we'll have fund, fund, fund…

In Canada, the music and sound recording field has funds which provide financial assistance in the making and marketing of music demos, albums and videos. Here are four important organizations:

Also check out local/provincial/national organizations for support.

Auditions – Facing the music

An unavoidable reality in the music business is the audition. Whether you're a fiddle player trying to get a gig with a Celtic band or a classical musician who wants to be a section player in an orchestra, there comes a time when you have to lay it all on the line, stand on that stage, and show what you can do. Auditioning can be a nerve-wracking experience for many musicians and performers. Here are some tips to make things go smoother.


Research the company
In classical orchestral music, there are well-established audition procedures and standards. For other genres, do some research into the type of market you are seeking work in, and design your performance with that in mind.

Be prepared
Know the material cold. With preparation comes confidence, poise and a positive attitude — all of which are going to make the experience easier on your nerves. Good preparation also shows the prospective employer that you have a good work ethic and that you've put the time in to master the material.

Be aware
Different types of music — classical, pop, jazz, hip hop — require different types of auditions. Contact professional organizations for advice on auditioning (click here to go the list of organizations on this website).

Be cool
If you flub a lyric or make a mistake, just keep going. Chances are, if its a minor mistake, nobody will notice. Even if it's a major screw-up, stay cool. Your reaction to a mistake says as much about you as the mistake itself.

Be yourself
You're not being judged solely on your musical abilities. If you get the job, these people will have to work with you. They want to know what kind of a person you are. So relax, and have some fun.

Be persistent
Audition often. The more you do it, the more comfortable you're going to be with the process. Another tip — do mock auditions in front of your friends.

Be resilient
Getting turned down for a job is offen not a reflection of your auditioning ability. Them can be other tomes at work. Maybe it's an image thing. Maybe you're as good as the other guitar players that auditioned, but the band leader had his head set on somebody with a on Mohawk. Don't worry you'll have another chance.

Be realistic
You're going to win some and lose some. You're not going to get every job. Go to the audition well prepared, do your best, and whatever happens, happens. Consider it a pad of gaining hands-on performance experience.


Many performers use auditions and demos to get work. But if you want to work in other areas such as songwriting, administration and technical work, you'll need a résumé. In today's highly competitive job market, you cannot simply use the same résumé for every position. Target each résumé by tailoring your Career Objective section to the organization and the position you're interested in. Then write your résumé in such a way that the information reinforces your objective.

Résumé Tips

  • Keep it short – no more than one page long.
  • Make sure there are no spelling mistakes.
  • Keep it organized, neat and relevant.
  • Make it easy to read.
  • Emphasize past accomplishments.

Your Name
Street Address
City, Proving/territory, Postal code
Telephone: (Area code) Phone number
E-mail: e-mail@address

Indicate your career interests and goals.

Career Objective
To work as a technical writer. I want to use my computer and communication skills to build a career in writing about the internet and technology.

List experiences in your area of career interest.

Highlights of Qualifications
  • Internet Columnist and Features Editor for The Clarion, the Prairie University newspaper
  • Founder and President, Book Club, Prairie High School
  • Computer literate - Windows XP, MS Office, Adobe Illustrator and Dreamweaver
  • More than 5,000 hours on the internet

Point out your outstanding achievements.

Accomplishments and Awards
  • 2001 Student Essay winner, Prairie Sun
  • Grade 12 Honours List, Prairie High School

List your educational achievements in reverse chronological order.

2005 - Present Completing Honours Degree in English, Prairie University

List your jobs and their responsibilities - and volunteer experience - in reverse chronological order.

Employment History
1999 - Present Busperson (part-time and summer job),
Bob's Restaurant, Prairie City
  • 425 hours of reliable, prompt support of waiters and hostesses
  • Efficient service to waiting customers
1996 - 1998 Lawn-mowing for five residential clients

Demonstrate the range of your interests.

Reading, browsing the internet, computer graphics

References available upon request

Show me the money

How much you can earn in the music and sound recording industry varies. In many cases, especially in performing, earnings depend on your popularity and the demand for your services. Here's how some music people make their money.

Artist manager
Usually charges 3 – 10% of a musician or band’s income.

Booking agent
Gets a percentage of the money earned from bookings, plus a salary if he or she works for an agency.

Concert promoter
Fees are negotiated (there is no standard).

Earns remuneration dependent on the reputation/prestige of the orchestra and may receive royalties from recordings.

Disk Jockey (DJ)
Earns remuneration based on the size of the market and the DJ’s popularity.

Orchestra member
Earns remuneration based on the terms of the master agreement.

Recording engineer
Earns remuneration from a recording studio.

Staff producer
Earns remuneration from a recording studio.

A popular recording artist can generate income in many ways:

  • Record sales – both records and digital format
  • Concert tours
  • Public appearances
  • Merchandising
  • Songwriting royalties (if the artist writes the song)

A popular song can generate income in four principal ways:

  • Mechanical reproduction rights – paid by the recording company to the copyright holder for each record or CD sold.
  • Performance royalties – paid to copyright holder, by a performing rights society such as SOCAN, based on the level of performance a song receives on radio or in concerts.
  • Synch rights – paid to the publisher for a song's performance on TV or in movies.
  • Neighbouring rights – paid to the performers and record producer for a song’s play on radio, TV, in film and online.