These are more than terms. These three words and their definitions give you a clear idea of an important aspect of songwriting: what to do when you’re finished writing it.
In fact, there’s a nice formula to these three terms and I think it’ll make perfect sense once we put it all together!
WORKTAPE – a worktape is a simple recording of a song-in-process. Writers make worktapes so they have some version of the song they can come back to. In our culture, worktapes are used to pass song versions back and forth over the internet as writers continue to tweak them. Worktapes are most often recorded with one instrument and one voice at the same time. (A lot of writers use their phones to capture worktapes when they do work on songs.)
PRODUCTION – this any extra stuff you put onto a recording. It could be as simple as an additional keyboard part or as vast as a full band accompaniment. Production is most handy when recording a song wherein a “hook” is needed to make the sound stand out. Pop songs often require some production in the writing process because they’re so heavily dependent on drum grooves.
DEMO – this a worktape with production. (See! I told there was a formula!) Actually, a demo represents a finished song. These are what you send to your praise band to perhaps to your publisher. They’re not album-level quality, but they’re intended to communicate as closely as possible what the song should sound like in a finished, produced state.
If you’re a songwriter, you need to be recording your stuff in some form. It protects your content and gives you the great gift of analysis and rewriting. Now…go write some songs!