Picture this: You’ve just spent some quality time finishing a new track and it’s brilliant.
You’re super pumped for other people to hear it and can’t wait to send it to people for feedback, maybe get a preview up on Soundcloud or even get it released on Spotify etc.
Before you do anything with the track, you need to wait.
Sit on it.
Put it away in a folder and store it for a week, then come back and listen to it.
If you still like it, come back in another week, and listen.
If you still like it, do the same in a month.
If you can still listen to the track after a month or two, then you can be a bit more confident about sending it out and feeling good about it.
Our problem as musicians is that we’re generally pretty content with a track after finishing it, but we lack the basic skill to be objective about it so soon after completion.
We need the time to let it settle, then to come back to it with fresh ears and listen to it without bias.
When you finish a song, you’re always happy with it (or almost always) – but after a week you get a bit of context.
When tracks are released, quite often there’s a pretty long lead-time between tracks going to the label, and them being released.
If you consider time for the label to sit on it and be sure it’s worth releasing, then mastering time, then time for manufacturing and time for press and PR you can be looking at anything between 2 months and 2 years.
Vinyl pressing can add 3-6 months to lead-times and PR companies will often want at the very minimum 4-6 weeks to run a successful campaign and get the release to publications in enough time for the next issues.
So with all that in mind, you still need to be able to stand by your track/s once they’re released.
What if the release ends up being the big one you’re always known for?
Imagine having to still finish your DJ sets or your gigs with one of the tracks from this release?
How will you feel about it in 10 years if you can’t enjoy it 2 months down the line?
Some time ago, I wrote about how to tell if your track is really good enough to release. Here’s a bit more on that, in case you’re not sure after those initial listens.
Take your mixdown or rough master and put it in a playlist or a mixtape alongside tracks that you respect. How does it stand up against your benchmarks?
How does it feel when your track drops in? Does the energy start to drag? Is there a noticeable dip in production quality? Do you think people would notice your track amidst the rest?
We’ve covered this above.
Personally, I leave my tracks months before they get released or sent out.
Artists often get frustrated with music they’ve released too quickly and if you want to be able to continue to support your own music, perform it at shows, play it the radio and deal with people discovering your older stuff in 3, 5 or 10 years time – you have to be able to enthuse about all of the tracks you put out there.
I released a bunch of stuff under my DFRNT moniker that I wasn’t happy with by the time it was out – take it from me, you won’t regret just waiting that little bit longer to make sure you’re 100% happy.
Assume, for a moment that you had the direct email address of your top 5 musical heroes. You knew that if you sent them this track to check, they’d definitely listen. Is it ready to go?
How do you feel about it now? Is it ready for them to check it out, or will you caveat the email with “well, it’s still in progress, so let me know where I can improve!”? How quickly will you regret sending them this track over another that you like more?
Have you got a few friends who enjoy similar music to you? Invite them round and play your tracks for them. Watch and listen to their reactions.
How do you feel as you press that play button? Do you get embarrassed? Do you mutter things like “well, I don’t know if it’s quite finished yet” or “I might actually look at sorting the drums here”? Do you get a bit of a pre-emptive cringe before the intro has finished? All good signs that when pushed, you feel like the tracks not good enough.
These sort of reactions might not surface when you’re alone, but having a small audience who are not afraid to tell you what they think will help.
As much as I feel like asking too wide an audience will always give you people who like something, and that the faceless nature of the internet means anybody will say anything to appease someone (or the opposite!), I’d suggest as a possible last resort turning to the internet for assistance.
Websites like Fluence or Audiokite can help you determine the viability of a track by getting feedback. Fluence, from a single tastemaker or person of interest (I’m on Fluence, if you feel so inclined!), and Audiokite, from a larger crowd of perhaps less relevant people.
This sort of thing could get you some interesting results, since many people will feel there’s no relationship or friendship at stake, and to give you honest, perhaps even brutal feedback is no big deal.
Honesty from your listener/s in this area is crucial, but you will also get those who likely gloss over how much you have emotionally invested in your own success, and respond with what they think you want to hear. This is the downside.
The bottom line here is that before you go sending music to labels, or starting your own imprint in order to self-release, stop and take some time out.
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