Releasing your own music is getting easier and easier. Here are 6 good reasons I think you should go it on your own, either self-releasing, or by starting your own small label.
There is a lot to be said for creative freedom.
Make whatever music you want, and package as you wish.
Combine genres in any way you like, make the artwork crazy, and provided you jump through the relevant hoops regarding what can and can’t be on the cover, and having all the text and bits and bobs in the right places, then you can still keep a close control over your releases, your brand, your public image and so on.
Even right down to the blurb on the press release.
And trust me, some press release blurbs I get are incredible!
There is something to be said for being in the hot-seat when it comes to controlling things, especially when things go pear-shaped.
What happens when a label releasing your music makes a typo on the release information and Juno lists you as The Rapist instead of Therapist? Well, the answer is, right away, not much. You’d have to speak to the label, who then speak to distribution, who then speak to Juno, and getting even that done could take days (everyone LOVES getting auto-replies when things are time sensitive!)
If you manage it yourself? Well you can go direct to the distributor with urgency – or even better, direct to Juno if you have an agreement with them. Things get sorted much more quickly.
The flip side is when things go wrong, there’s usually nobody to blame but yourself.
With other labels I’ve had artwork typos and colour errors, I’ve had producer name typos, and all of those were a nightmare to deal with.
Had I been managing it myself, I might have been able to solve those things before the release even left my care.
Technically you’ll get far better returns on your sales in terms of percentage of profits.
The flip side here is that despite getting more profit, you may find you get less in the way of sales.
If you get 5 sales at €1 and you keep even 50% passed back from stores, then you have €2.50 – but if you’re on a label offering you just 50% cut of their paltry 40% from stores or distributors, but you’re getting 20 sales, then you’re looking at 20% being €4.00.
This is going to come down to how many sales you think the label can secure you – if it’s a major, or a big independent, then you could be onto a winner – but if it’s a small label who have approached you, then you may find you can reach a same or bigger audience yourself, and reap the rewards of financial advantage.
Bear in mind you’ll have to put in more of your own money than if you were on an indie, and this is often the clincher, but if you can afford to do it yourself, then I’d say go for it!
When I say terms, I mean contractual terms. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re getting a bad percentage deal from a label, when you are the label!
Nobody is going to tell you not to release anything 6 months either side of this next release if you’re calling the shots.
You don’t have to wait 3 years to collect your profit, if it’s you doing the dishing out.
This is an interesting one for me.
Let’s say you release with another label, and you’ve signed a contract regarding licensing.
Another label approaches them and wants to release your track on a compilation. Who do you think you’re going to have to split the fee with?
What if a big brand discovers your track and wants to put it in a commercial? Who gets a percentage of that fee?
Yep – the label who took the hit on releasing the music in the first place.
Had that been you and you’d been able to keep control of your licensing and publishing rights – then you’d be able to get 100% of that return from the licensing (often called a sync – when your track is chosen to be “synchronised” with video).
This is a big one for me. I was so frustrated by some of the mistakes I’d made when releasing on other labels in the past that I decided to completely leave my old alias behind and start fresh.
Being able to say you’ve managed to retain control, and make your own decisions about your releases is a powerful thing. Especially if you can build some degree of success from your music.
I’ve got no regrets when I consider the music I’ve released on my own labels and by myself, but looking back at releases on other labels – there are always little niggly things that don’t sit quite right.
No matter how good a negotiator you are, there will always be something that gets you.
Maybe the label decide to re-release your tracks after you’re trying to forget about them or promote something else. Maybe they sell your track to a compilation on a label you’re not so fond of. Maybe they just wrote some odd stuff about you on the press release which you’d rather hadn’t been spread about during promotion.
There are many things that won’t always come up on a contract, so often it’s a better bet to just keep control.
As I often say, if you want something done, do it yourself.
I also often say “you get what you pay for” but that’s another post entirely.
The caveat here is that of course, I do release my music with labels as well as myself. Why? Well this is sometimes down to personal connections, preferences surrounding funding of the release, promotional network or maybe it’s just a favour for someone.
Everyone has their reasons for releasing one way or the other. Only you will know if self-releasing or starting a label is the best thing for you – but above I feel I’ve gone some way to listing the benefits.
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