For an up-and-coming musician, one of the hardest things to do is get noticed by a record label. With the major labels in the process of consolidating, there are less and less spots on labels, and more and more unsigned artists. One way to get noticed is to record a demo.
In the recent past there were few choices in going about this. Without the support of major record label money, artists were generally left with two options – releasing either a vinyl 7″ or a demo cassette. Now with costs coming down both for professional pressing and personal burners, making a CD is an option as well.
Among those smaller artists releasing demos are quite a few Brandesians. Tara Filowitz ‘01 has a demo CD courtesy of her voice trainers, ProVoce. A vocalist, she was under pressure to move to New York or Los Angeles so that she could further her singing career. Not wanting to leave school, she instead opted to record a demo. ProVoce paid for her to go to a professional studio, where she recorded a CD of herself singing Broadway standards. Now, rather than having to give up college, she can simply send out copies of her demo CD during the school year.
Beth Goldstein ’01 plans to go into the studio and record a demo CD this summer. Financing it with both money she has saved and help from her parents, she plans on both using the CD as a demo and selling it to recoup recording costs. According to Goldstein, who dabbles in both Jewish and secular music, “I’ve been playing music and singing since I’ve been talking. Right now I teach the Jewish music I write to the kids I teach at Sunday school. With the Jewish music, it teaches. They come away with [having learned something.]”
Singer-songwriter Adam Klein ’01 has also recorded a demo. Hailing from Athens, Georgia, a hotbed for underground music, he recorded his demo with the help of some musical connections. A friend of his in the Athens-based band Love Tractor got him some cheap studio time, and his friends in the scene backed him up. The resultant tape is “something I can pass out to established musicians that I respect that I meet, as a token of appreciation for their work.”
Klein, who began writing music after hearing “August and Everything After” by Counting Crows, wants to finish school, “keep writing and honing [his] craft” for now. But ultimately “the goal is that someone will like it and someone will say something. I can’t imagine myself having a day job, I would love to get out there and drive across the country and play clubs and tour.”
Perhaps Jaimee Wilans ’00 is furthest along the professional path. For Wilans (whose CD is being released under the name Jaimee Brooke), getting to this point was as much a matter of luck as anything else. While she has been writing both Jewish and secular music for about five years (she aspires to be a rabbi as well as a musician), her break didn’t come until last year, when she booked Jewish singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman to play here at Brandeis. Wilans quickly befriended her, and Friedman was impressed enough with her talent to loan Wilans her band. But the final encouragement came from a somewhat younger group of fans. “I was leading a retreat and decided to teach the kids one of my songs, without telling them it was my own […] and they loved it. They were jumping on tables, going crazy.”
And so Wilans, with money fronted by Wiltack Productions (with which she has family connections,) went into the studio to record her CD. She used two studios, including Avatar Studios in New York, the studio where Aerosmith recorded their contributions to the soundtrack for the movie Armageddon. With the fifteen-track CD finished, Wilans is now in the process of expanding her audience – in addition to this past Sunday’s performance here at Brandeis, she has two upcoming shows planned in Florida.
The fight to get heard can be an uphill battle. But rather than waiting for things to happen, these Brandeis students are taking things into their own hands. By putting out their own music, they are expanding their fan bases, getting gigs and potentially setting themselves up for future success.
Ed note: I could not find any contemporaneous music from any of the artists referenced, so I opted for a track from Klein’s 2010 release.