Here's a topic that comes up more now than ever because there are more 'broadcast' opportunities, and because today's gate keepers really do not want to receive 'demo quality' songs any more. Consider this real quote from a television show music supervisor:
"T___ is one of those bands that are perfect for TV and film. The reason why we picked "Get Up and Dance" is because the production, the vocal track, the lyrics and the melodies were perfect for the TV series we were working on."
Now, I find that many musicians see 'the melodies were perfect' and gloss over the FIRST item mentioned - 'the production.' Hear me out because this point can make you a better player regardless of recording or production. As musicians we need to always remember people hear our songs in the context of SOUND. The better that sounds is -- pitch, timing, polish -- the better most people will perceive your song to be. As musicians we often hear the ideal, or what we have in mind for our song as we listen to it. Others can only hear the SOUND that comes to their ears. There is often a difference between these!
Being realistic will force you to work a little harder (and a professional engineer can help bring this more objective perspective as well). Pete Koller (Sick Of It All - btw, they're touring in Europe as I write) said to me that guitarists often ask him for advice. He told me few do the work of developing great tone. The SOUND, not just the notes, chords, theory. Yes, it starts with good song writing. But it finishes with good SOUND. Without the latter, the former (good song writing) doesn't make it to pay dirt. A good song with crappy sounding drums - for example - doesn't cut it.
Music Supervisors, non-family, non- friend fans, and A&R people are heavily effected by high quality SOUND. It is the first impression, and the first requirement for music supervisors. That's what the supervisor above means by saying "production" ; that you'll give him a sound that will reflect well on him when he presents it to his peers, bosses, or friends. This is a big part of the value of coming to our recording studio - initial tracking with great gear, into a high end signal chain, that 'outsider' objectivity, and experience mixing and mastering. Because a good song has to sound good in order to be successful at reaching others.