How to make a Demo CD and Press Kit for a Hip Hop Artist

by Elliot Waite on November 24, 2006

Record labels get hundreds of demo CDs a day. Many are thrown straight into the trash. And the ones listened to usually don’t last for more than 10 seconds before being ejected and then thrown into the trash.

Many A&Rs won’t even listen to demo CDs unless they are given to them from someone already in the music business. And it is very rare that an artist goes from nothing to a big record deal. Artists that get signed to big record labels almost always already have some sort of fan base and a buzz about them. A&Rs are looking for artists that are the easiest road to success. And if you’ve already made it half way their on your own, and shown that you have the stamina, drive, and focus to continue all the way to the top, then the A&Rs will be dying to pick you up and step on the gas.

So if you are not signed to a big record label, and this is one of your goals, then it is time to start getting halfway there on your own. To do this you are first going to want to record songs that you can sell and perform. This takes two things, instrumentals that can showcase your talents, and a place to record your vocals. For beats you have US! Jee Juh! Of course we think we are the best, but there are also other websites that provide instrumentals for sale. Also if you have any personal friends that can make hot beats, you could work with them. For recording your vocals, if you do not have a home recording studio then find a friend who does, or work with an independent record label, or save up enough money so that you can pay for studio time. Once you have songs it’s time to start building your fan base. You can either self promote over the internet, hand out flyers or CDs, or you can work with an independent record label that already has some form of promotion infrastructure in place. Next you are going to want to do live performances and perhaps release a mixtape or album. Then once you have gotten this far it’s time to start going for the big record labels.

But how do you get hired by the independent record labels, by the performance coordinators at the clubs, and eventually by the big record labels? Really, there are millions of ways, and you should work any angle you can get, but a standard music industry tool that can only help is the artist’s equivalent to a resume, the Press Kit. A Press Kit will usually consists of a booklet of information about you and a demo CD. If the Press Kit is for a gig, it will also provide performance information, such as if you are providing or need provided a sound system, mixing engineer, or light show. Also sometimes used in these Press Kits are DVDs for a full visual experience. However sometimes CDs are more convenient and you will have to decide this on your own. None the less, CD or DVD, the process is generally the same – a disk and a booklet. Starting off, your Press Kit may be weak, but with time and experience it will slowly grow into a masterpiece. So be aggressive, be passionate, and enjoy the entire ride to the top.

Now how to make a Press Kit…

There are no rules on how the Press Kit is made, and creativity is highly encouraged, but here are some general ideas to help guide you.

First, for you visual learners, here is a picture of a press kit:

View full size.

The Press Kit Cover:
The cover should introduce you or your group, usually with a picture, your stage name or group name, and possibly a trademark or logo. The cover should imply what kind of music you perform and reflect you or your groups uniqueness. Although this is an advertisement for yourself, sincerity and authenticity are far more powerful than empty hype. Also, contact information on the cover will give that extra incentive for someone to get a hold of you, so provide as much as you think necessary – your name, stage name or group name, a phone number, address, email address, webpage.

The introduction:
Next comes your introduction/Bio/self advertisement. This is going to be about a couple paragraphs long and should be concise and to the point. The one I provided in the link above shows a much longer introduction but I really think that the shorter, more in your face, BAM BAM, it can be the better. Do Not Write Any Fluff Or Filler!

Information that could be provided…

  • Basic info about you or your group and the type of music you perform.
  • The names of places where you have previously performed.
  • (If applying for a gig) Does your act have a sound guy or will the venue need to provide one?
  • (If applying for a gig) Does your act have lights or a light show?
  • Describe your fan base. (If you have one)
  • Describe how you are going to promote for the event and get people to come to the show. (you could also send a promotional flyer with your PressKit)
  • What makes your group original? What makes your band something that people will enjoy and want to enjoy again?…harness your genius writing skills and make it interesting and authentic.

Next you could provide pictures of yourself or your group. These could be of you performing, recording in a studio, or more of the photo shoot type. Pictures could be used throughout the Press Kit, and perhaps the best one on the cover, but a certain section after the introduction could be devoted to a collage of smaller pictures and/or large 8×10′s. You can either have these pictures taken by yourself, a friend, or a hired professional. Also there are many semi-pro photographers looking to expand their portfolios and willing to take your pictures for free. These photo shoots are called TFP (trade for prints) or TFCD (trade for CDs). You give the photographer material they can advertise themselves with and you get free prints or CDs of the pictures. You can find many of these types of photographers at or sometimes on Craig’s List. labeling some of your pictures in your press kit may also be a good idea.

An Equipment Page: (optional)
If you are applying for a gig and planning on bringing equipment then this is where you would want to list details. Don’t repeat yourself too much if you discussed your equipment in the introduction, but information that a vendor would want to know is:

  • The types of equipment your band will bring to the venue.
  • Brand names and wattage of amps.
  • Whether you have a PA system and/and or mics.
  • If you have lights, and if you have a guy to run them.

Booking Information:
It is good to have contact information throughout your press package, but also have one place where you provide all of the contact information you have.

Demo CD:
Your demo CD should have no more than 3 songs and make sure the best one comes first. Make the sound quality of the songs and the CD’s label as professional as possible. On the label also include the track titles and your contact information in case the booklet is lost or gets separated. I suggest using ink jet printable CDs you can run through your printer for that affordable yet professional look.

Song List: (usually just for gigs)
Make a list of the best material your band would be ready to perform. Also include any cover songs or other material you would want to add to your act.

Gigs, Newspaper Clippings and Reviews:
Include a list of the best gigs you have performed at and and future gigs you already have booked. Also include positive feedback from newspaper articles or reviews written about your shows. If you do not have any articles or reviews yet, invite your municipal paper, college paper, or city paper to come review your show, and let them know you will put them on your guest list. Yes, they actually might come, especially if they are a small time newspaper looking for new material.

Business Cards:
You can also provide your business card in your press kit. These are pretty easy to make; some simple computer software, and some business card paper. Figure it out or get your computer friend to help you. Provide as much contact information as you feel necessary and make it look good. These are also great to hand out at shows or anywhere else.

Providing the press kit in an envelope will help keep it all together and clean, and if you are mailing it to record labels it is necessary. Even the envelope can have your personal touch to it that will catch someones eyes. Bold colors, stickers, or whatever else you come up with.

So go make your press kit, make your demo CD, and then work to make it better and better until it just might have a chance at the record label of your choice, and then never give up. You will succeed. Jee Juh believes in you.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronasia lennon February 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Im 14 year old and I was blest with a gift to share with the world my vocie and my view on,life

Harry Parslow March 12, 2012 at 6:58 am

Great article, fantastic tips that have always worked for my friends in the industry. Being Different is always the main focus – every thing is taken notice of from the font to the type of envelope. So everything has to look professional. Good luck to any aspiring artists out there.

If you would like any custom graphic design for flyers/logos/booklet or any other media prices.


thokozane AKA Cash March 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

I AM 22 years old i run a small hip hop group from my kasi (Young Carisma) i always get updadet wit music neccesity and i have also a small recording studio,we work so hard for th past 3 years but big recording company the dont recognise us pls give us good and better advices

Record Executive January 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I’ve got some advice, my dear friend; use proper grammar, spelling, and stop being so desperate.

John Byrne April 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Getting your hands on some good high quality instrumentals for your project can be tough at times, that is why we have put together a musician care package which comes with Access to Our Free Beats Collection.

djkidirex June 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

make me happy

Kayel heaven August 6, 2012 at 8:34 am

I got my own home record label i call it (heaven future muzik) so anyone closer can come to try the best for free

Cynthia (Shienzye) September 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Well , Hi ! My name is Cynthia Austine , Im 13 years old, I love music preferbly rap / hip hop ! Lols I can rap , My dream by the time im 18 is to make a music video and my first demo ! i have writtnen alot of music.My favorite rappers and inspirations are Lil Wayne and especially Nicki Minaj, I love her music , shes the best. i juss wish someone would sign me ! Please I really would give the world for this. thank you !

isaiah brewer September 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm

hey Cynthia, i don’t know much about you but i do respect how you came and showed you have a dream and you wont stop til you live it. Well i’m no magician in fact im just a 17 year old boy with a hook up, how about you give me a buzz on facebook or email me and we can talk about something i think you will love.

Shivz December 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

My name is Shivz. I am 26. Im an artist out of Boise, ID and I’ve been writing and recording for 7 years. I was with a group for a long time, and now I’m working on my solo album. Its coming along better than i could ask for. I was just researching press kits and i found this blog. I’d like to say thanks for having this up for artists that love the music and the industry. This is exactly what i needed to know.

Big-C of Wasted Talent Entertainment May 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

My name is Chris, i make up one half of a rap duo called Wasted Talent, we do REAL hip hop, were VERY lyrical combined with two RIDICULOUS flows. Our music combines the old school with the new school for a fresh sound with a retro feel. I feel that given the opportunity i could change the world but im sure I’m not alone amongst other musicians feeling the same way. Unfortunately im one of those musicians who is REALLY struggling. We dont have the means to record in a an actual studio, and cannot afford to pay the high prices of instrumentals online. I saved up as much as i possibly could and bought myself a computer, an akai mpk 49, and presonus studio one pro 2. I AM NOT A PRODUCER so the hardware as well as the software are like rocket science to me. I NEED HELP WITH THE SETUP IF ANYONE KNOWS HOW TO HELP lol. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what your story is, it doesnt matter how broke you are or where you came from, its about your talent and your will to succeed. DONT LET THEM COUNT YOU OUT AND EVENTUALLY THEY WILL RECOGNIZE YOU. Besides, pretty much everyone gets famous on YOUTUBE nowadays lololol

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