The Difference Between Recording Master Records and Making Demos In Nashville

The Difference Between Recording Master Records and Making Demos In Nashville

When looking to record your song, it’s important to understand the distinction between recording an album quality “Record” or making a demo.

A Demo or Demonstration


A Demo or Demonstration is a quality recording used to get the idea of a song across to the listener. If you are a writer here in Nashville, demo’s are used for pitching your song to other artists or producers in hopes that the song will become a record. The average cost of recording a demo is between $600 and $1000.


A Master Record


A Master Record is a recording of the highest quality meant to be sold. Masters can be made for varying costs but typically they are more expensive to produce because they are meant to be the best possible version of the song. Masters also become much more expensive here in Nashville due to the Musician’s Union. When creating a musical piece for the purpose of making money the musicians, engineers and studios must be paid a higher rate.


The main difference between creating a demo or a record is what they are used for and what they are allowed to be used for. When recording a demo in Nashville, you hire musicians to play the different parts of the song, usually a six piece band including electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums, bass guitar, keys/ piano and some sort of utility player (Steel guitar, mandolin etc…). All these players are part of a musicians union that puts stipulations on what you are allowed to do with your recording after it’s finished. With a demo you get to use these players for a cheaper price, but you are not allowed to sell the product afterwards. The union (American Federation of Musicians) uses different scales to determine the cost owed to the players.


Demo Scale


The lowest union scale is for demonstration only. This means the recording will only be used to “pitch” the song to other artists, producers, publishers and record companies.


Master Scale


Master Scale is the highest scale you can upgrade a recording to. If you make a recording at master scale this means you are making a “Record” of the highest quality and plan to sell and promote the recording. All the costs associated with this are higher because the union sees that you plan to make money off of the talents of these musicians, engineers and studios.
Limited Pressing


Limited Pressing is the next scale up. With limited pressing you have the right to sell the recording on a limited scale. Once you have sold a certain number of copies of the recording, you must upgrade the recording to Master Scale with the Musicians Union.
Other than the amount you pay for a recording and what you plan to do with it there are many differences in the process of making a record or recording a demo.


When recording a master record, you will follow the same process as you did to make a demo, but you will allow for more time and thought to go into each part of the process. Where tracking the instruments for a demo may take you 30 to 45 minutes, you would want to spend 1 to 2 hours on instrumentation of a master record. The same goes for recording the vocals and the amount of time and money you invest in mixing.


Another major difference in the recording process of a demo and record is the amount of time and money you put into the “sounds” that you get. With a record you may try many different positions of microphones and different types of microphones to get the best sound. You may also decide to pay extra to get a musician of a higher talent level to play the part.


Lastly, almost all records are mastered. Demos are not. Mastering is the final step that happens after the recording and mixing is finished. A mastering engineer will bring the overall level of the track up while fine tuning the frequencies in the recording to give the song a clear finished polish.


These are the main differences in making records and recording demos here in Nashville.