I spent time today trying to find the right song to sing for a demo. I have heard lots of advice regarding song selection for when you are auditioning for a musical but not much at all to help you select the right song to get a recording job. There is a vast range of singing work -- commercials, jingles, animation, sound tracks, games, guide vocals, and educational videos -- to name the ones that come to mind. This time I'm sending demos to try to get the contract to sing for a phone game.
Sounding Like Yourself
I heard someone say recently that a head shot should look like you do on a good day. You should be recognizable and not surprise the people who have called you in for an audition by looking completely different. Not surprising people is also a good thing when it comes to providing demos. A good demo should sound like you do on a good day. There is no point in providing a demo of a song that you put together line by line over a week, or a song that you can only sing correctly after 40 takes. You need something that sounds good, but also something you know that you can turn up and sing. Not every job needs to be sung in one take, but there is no doubt that recording studios are expensive and you need to be able to sing the song in the allocated time.
Remembering That Your Voice Changes
People are aware that head shots become out of date as you age or if you change your appearance. This same principles applies to demos. Our voices change as we age and we may not be able to produce the same quality of sound that we did 10 years ago. And I'm not saying that aging is a bad thing, just that it can be heard in the voice. Vocal quality can also change because of your practice regime. Maybe 2 years ago you could easily sound like a legit soprano, but after singing as a contemporary mezzo for a year it can take work to produce a legit sound.
Choosing Material That Suits The Client
I was always told to avoid popular songs for auditions, but I have found that when providing demos that agents want popular songs. They want something that their client recognizes quickly so they spend time focusing on your voice and not the unknown song. They also want something similar to the job that you are hoping to get, but I have found that the descriptions can be vague. I may be sent a list of adjectives - we want a smooth sophisticated voice, or a lovely stylish voice. We don't want a voice that's too loud, but it needs to have power. Or we need someone who can reliably mid-belt to an Eb5. If you are fortunate enough to get information about specific vocal style or a particular vocal range then make sure that's in your demo. I would never sing "Let It Go" at an audition for a musical, but I have sang it as a demo piece because I have had to show that I can mid-belt to an Eb5.
Studying Recording or Recording at Home?
I have a mixture of studio made demos and recordings that I have made myself. I also have some recordings of live performances. If I am ask to record something new I record this myself at home and send it. The agents are aware that the quality would be better in a studio, but it's surprising how good a home recording can now be. I have a decent set-up at home, but I have been told that it's OK to send a recording made on my phone, if someone needs to hear a specific song or vocal genre.
I haven't heard back from the agent, so it's very likely that I didn't get the job, but I need to be ready for the next request for a demo.