Demos are so important for artists, especially when going into record at a studio. They will save time as you will know exactly what you want the song to be and sound like however they can also be as rough as you want. Producers and labels expect your demo to be rough, and no one is going to give you a record deal (or turn you down) based on the recording quality of your demo. Speaking to Sound on Sound, mixing engineer Hans Bieger said, “I always ask for rough demos first! These are so important for pinpointing the direction in which to proceed. Very often there is a great vibe and energy in these demos, and the goal is always to maintain, keep, or even nurture this and still make the whole thing sound more refined and just better. Just as a picture sometimes says more than a thousand words, there is a lot of truth in demos.” I have found myself in the past to get too attached to demos, wanting certain elements in the final song which in hindsight doesn’t work. Thankfully, my band are brutally honest and will tell me if something doesn’t fit and they will be right!
I often like to have a full sounding demo as opposed to a phone recording or voice memo but I think this is mainly because I tend to write and record simultaneously so whatever demo I have usually contains all the instrumentation and arrangement anyway just because of my workflow. Tommaso Colliva has a similar thought to me, “I prefer to have something that is reasonably fully formed, if possible, so as to avoid confusion. Even a basic multitracked rehearsal recording can work, and I might advise an artist on how to do this — or do it myself. The important thing is to establish a demo routine with an artist that you can follow throughout a project.” Recently I have found myself bouncing some tracks from a demo into a final session. If the file and sound is right, don’t fix it!