For anyone who hasn’t worked their way through my free course “Getting Started With Self Releasing Music” I’d like to simplify the process of going from having a few tracks made, right through to releasing your music and seeing it on iTunes, Spotify and everywhere else.
This process will be more suited to electronic musicians, although could feasibly apply to bands and solo artists too. This is going to be a very simplified process, but should help those who don’t know about it, understand things better.
This is probably where you’re at right now. Finishing tracks (or wanting to finish them – here are a few tips on finishing).
There’s not much to say here except, you’ll want to put together a handful of tracks for either an EP, an album or a string of singles.
You’ll also want to get your social profiles and online presence in some sort of order. I wrote about that here.
The one thing to be aware of here is that this entire process will take at least a month, but more likely a little longer if you want to do it properly. Be prepared to need to support your music months and months down the line once it’s out, since if it does well you’ll not be able to shake it off so easily.
It’s far easier to decide you want to forget or delete a track if it’s not been released.
You’ll want to get your tracks sounding as good as they can out of the box (DAW). When you’re happy with how they sound on a multitude of systems, you can render off the premasters. These are likely to be uncompressed wav files and you’ll want to make sure they have about -6dB headroom (so the volume shouldn’t peak much higher than -6dB ish. This gives the mastering engineer room to play with things.
Mastering is the process where a trained engineer will tweak and polish the sound to make sure that it sounds good on all systems, and can involve various techniques. The general rule is that the less they have to do, the better. For those who are happy with their mixdowns, it’s almost a sense-check.
Expect to pay anywhere between £10 and £100 to get a track mastered. It will vary a great deal, so shop around.
Assuming you’re going to release your own stuff (here are a few reasons why you should and some more on that), and your aiming for digital-only to begin with, at the very least you’ll need artwork for your release. A square image at least 3000x3000px in size (I work to 4000x4000px now) is what’s normally required.
You’ll also want to have some sort of release-sheet, which details the tracks, some info about you or the release and some links for more information.
When you have your mastered tracks, artwork and release info to hand, you can schedule your release.
You will need to find what’s known as a distributor (or a digital aggregator to be more precise). This is a company or website which will take your tracks and information, and “distribute” them to stores and streaming platforms.
There are a multitude of digital distribution platforms out there, but just be wary of hidden charges and what stores are serviced. Most will serve iTunes and Amazon, but you’ll probably want Spotify, Apple Music and a few others, so again, shop around and find a company that works for you. It’s easy to sign up, but not so easy to get your music taken off these systems. I wrote about choosing the best distributor for you here.
When you’ve found one, you’ll be able to sign up, and upload your tracks and artwork then schedule your release for a date in the future.
Most platforms will try and recommend you schedule the release date for 4 weeks away minimum. This is designed to give them time to process the release as well as giving you time to put in some promotion work and PR.
You will probably want to save/convert to mp3 files from your mastered wav files to promote the release with. (don’t delete the wavs of course!) Often you’ll want to send pre-release tracks to blogs, journalists, reviewers, youtube channels etc. Make sure your tracks are ready for promotion here.
You’ll also want to start building a list of people to promote to. As you start to contact blogs and other influencers, you’ll build a group of contacts who may be interested in hearing more from you. Make sure to build your promotion list properly.
Basically the promotion and hype game involves generating as much interest in your release as possible and can be anything from asking bloggers to review your release, to trying to get your tracks featured or playlisted on Soundcloud or Youtube. It can mean paying for PR, which may result in some coverage, or it may be as simple as just mentioning it on your social channels if you have enough people interested.
The more you put in here, the more you’ll likely get out, but it’s not a simple process – it takes lots of hard work and perseverance and you may have to cover lots of bases.
I have been building a strong email list for my music productions, so that’s starting to be my biggest promotional asset, but there are many ways to skin a cat.
Your release date will be approaching and beyond your last-minute reminders, you’ll probably want to shout about the release once it’s available on stores.
You’ll also want to collect up the buy-links and keep them handy somewhere, as well as adding them to your sites, socials and posts about it.
Generally that about covers it – start to finish. There’s obviously lots more to the process and all the work is in the details, techniques, your promo efforts and much more.
This also doesn’t account for physical production and distribution of actual stock either, that usually adds on a few months to the process.
Ultimately though this should be a rough guide on what to expect when you want to release your own music. Costs can be kept fairly minimal and the things that will cost you are mastering, possibly artwork, distribution and then any promo costs (Facebook ads, PR email-blasts etc). That and your time.
If you want a more detailed explanation of each step, or want to dig into a specific part of the process more, I’ve put together a free course which covers a more detailed overview, as well as a premium course which goes into INSANE levels of detail about the process, as well as providing a bunch of resources at each stage, templates, documents, lists of mastering companies, distributors and loads, loads more.
If you’d like a one-stop solution to getting your record label up and running, Ditto Music offer a very solid Record Label in a Box product, which gives you a physical box of stuff showing you how to start a record label. It includes legal stuff, management tools, software and is mentored so you don’t get lost. Well worth checking out if you need a solid starting point.
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