A guest blog entry from writer Gaby Alter, from Nobody Loves You, about promoting readings and shows to the industry. Gaby was recently in the Festival with his show Band Geeks! in 2009.
A demo recording for a musical is an odd thing. So much of the impact of a song in a musical depends on it being experienced live. The facial expressions of the actor often provide the subtext, or fight the subtext of the song. And hearing a score played live under the actor is one of the electrifying things about theater. It lets us know that the art is being created, in part, in front of us. It begs our active participation in imagining the story.
The fact is, however, that a demo recording is now critical to the fate of any musical. It represents the show to a producer, or a literary manager or artistic director, who are too busy to come to a reading (which can only happen in a blue moon anyway, given the resources it takes); or who live outside New York. If it’s good, a demo will transmit the piece’s musical world and vocabulary. It will get people excited to see how the musical would look on stage.
For good or ill, the difference between a good quality demo and a so-so one is usually a large factor in a piece’s perception. And, in an escalating arms race of quality, demos are now usually expected to be fully produced, often near-album quality pieces with vocal and instrumental arrangements, mixing, EQ-ing, etc. As the need for a high-quality demo continues to rise, and the level of quality expected, so too does the cost, which generally falls on the artists.
To help this situation, NAMT has started a RocketHub campaign to help cover the costs of printing the demos of its musicals. Supporters of a specific musical, and those who care more broadly about the development of new musicals, can donate towards this cost, knowing that they are helping with a critical step in the process of realizing our shows onstage. With hundreds of CDs to give away to industry professionals, a musical’s chance of finding its backers at NAMT and after it have risen greatly.
A small note: NAMT is the one festival where all costs related to the reading are covered. Once you’re in, you’re in–there are no rental fees, production costs, actors’ stipends to pay. However, there still remains the cost of the demo, which is technically not part of the reading. And even at NAMT, not everyone can make it to every reading; many will still need to hear a recording. And those who do see a show they love still need to go back home and sell the show they loved to the rest of their staff.
So the demo remains an indispensable tool at NAMT.