In this article, we talk about the process of recording, planning, digital distribution, social media marketing and publicizing your new release.
It’s not uncommon to be the musician first, and then later pick up on the business skills. Fortunately for me, I got to learn them side-by-side because I stayed a musician while I worked in the music business for a few years. It helped me pick up a lot of skills all the way up to making a proper invoice, something I have invested time in even making artists understand. Countless hours. Good God, they needed help! Anyway, I digress. That’s a completely different article I’ll write up soon!
For now, let’s go through this process of getting your music out there, step by step. Here’s the ultimate release checklist!
Recording music the right way
I think here’s where the mistakes begin. This is also probably the least considered factor when you’re just new to making music, or you’re trying to record for the first time. The quality REALLY MATTERS! Make sure you remember this for a long, long time, especially if you’re serious about music. The best thing to do is try to go to a studio and record with a professional set up and recording engineer. Why? Because good quality files recorded at the source itself will ensure the good quality of your recording, be it an instrument or your voice. The microphones, preamps and sound-proofed studio will also ensure you get this done in the best way. So don’t make this common mistake of just ‘putting it out there because it needs to be out’.
Following recording, you’re also going to need to get your track mixed and mastered, which means balancing out all levels and frequencies within the track. There are audio engineers who do this, so approach an engineer and try to make them understand what you expect out of the track.
If you’re a producer, or you want to start building on a home studio setup, we’ve got some crazy good tips and suggestions in our Home Studio Setup: Essential Gear For Beginners article.
Once your track is mixed and mastered, you’ve got a big chunk of the work done! It now comes to the planning bit. You’ve cracked what you wanted to do. But how do you proceed, and how do you get the word out to the world? How do you make your music available to maximum people online, and promote it in the best way possible? There’s more than one way to get noticed!
You can start with setting the date for your release, and working backwards from there. The best way to do it is take at least a month from the release date to plan everything in between. The biggest advantage you have once your music is ready is the planning, which is entirely in your hands. Make the most of it.
Start making notes on information you should keep handy. By now you should have your artist name, the title of the track, and the track length.
You may also like reading about 5 FREE Music Production and Recording Software.
One of the important things to do is get an artwork done for the single / album. You can contact designers and illustrators to do this, depending on what idea you have in mind, and what you are trying to convey through your music. You need a standard minimum 3000 x 3000px to be on the safe side, especially if you plan to upload music on streaming platforms. The artwork appears next to your music when it’s uploaded, so this is very important. The artwork can even be a simple high resolution image of you edited to fit these dimensions. What you can also do is create different adapts of this main artwork, to use on social media for promotions, or to change your Facebook and Twitter cover photos.
See all these empty green squares? That’s where it appears.
You can also work on more visuals like a music or lyric video, more info ahead in the article. Don’t miss it!
The reason I’ve written about digital distribution as opposed to any other forms like CDs, cassettes or vinyls, is because of how cost-effective and easy it is to get music out. If you have the funds to back the effort of making physical copies, sure, definitely go ahead! But I’m going to run you through some easy ways of distributing music digitally. You will have complete control over this!
What’s a DSP? A Digital Service Provider is a platform or online service that features your music – like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, etc. DSPs play a huge role in online distribution of music. To upload your music to DSPs, you would need to use a platform that aggregates and distributes to all of these together. Of course, there are many people who choose and upload only to certain platforms. But we’re trying to maximise how many people this reaches, so why settle for lesser, right? There are services like Believe Music, CDBaby, DistroKid, and Ditto Music that do this. To provide this service, they take a certain percentage from sales, or there’s a fixed amount that needs to be paid for that release every year, depending on the platform. See which scheme works best for you!
There are a few different ways of doing this, like if you get lucky enough to release music through a record label. In all situations besides you doing this yourself, ensure there’s a contract signed stating all monetary payouts, and the deal is written out clearly in the best way possible. Also, if you receive a contract from someone, PLEASE READ THE CONTRACT before signing. There’s a whole lot of things that can be slipped in there if you don’t care enough to notice. Avoid getting cheated at all costs!
DSPs allow you to select dates for your release in advance. Once you’ve got the perfect service for you, upload your music and prepare to start promotions!
Press.. and Release!
Another essential part of this process is the press release. It is basically a document that contains all information related to your release – A private listening link to the track(s), the artwork, and a brief description about the music. It’s like a report of the full release that can be presented to anyone before the release. You can also include additional information like links for photos that can be used in the article, along with lyrics, and contact information.
What are you going to do with this document? You will send this document out to the press. I made my press contacts over years of communicating and sending music. The approach is as basic as reaching out to magazines, newspapers, blogs and websites to find out who writes about music, or the particular genre of music you make. You get a contact, preferably an email, so you can send the press release out. Press releases can be sent out anywhere between six to a month before the release, so the press have enough time to listen or identify if they want to feature your music. If you do send something in advance, make sure you also send a follow-up reminder closer to the date of the release! Most of all – Don’t be pushy. No one is indebted to write about you or your music, and if someone like it they definitely will. But try not to let your persuasion become dissuasion!
Social Media Marketing
Now that you have your release date in mind and we’re working towards the release, you can start with making a content calendar. This can be on a notepad or an Excel sheet. You write the dates from the day you begin the document, to 15 days after the release date. Then you start filling in the sheet with all essential information. Some content you can include pre-release is unveiling the artwork, the name of the release, giving out a teaser of the track, or even using a small portion of the track to promote the release on the decided date.
Wait wait. Hold up. Did I forget something, or did YOU forget something? x)
Create an artist page on different platforms – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter (if you use this) are the bare basic accounts you should have. There’s generations using different platforms, so again, this helps maximizing the audience you reach out to. If you’re starting afresh and you don’t want to use your personal accounts, that’s completely fine. You can maintain a separate artist identity that will be the go-to place for everything related to your music.
On the day of the release, make sure you have (what people these days commonly call) a fan link, or a page which allows you to access the music on different streaming platforms. This will help people choose a platform they prefer listening to your music on. This link should be ALL OVER, everywhere you can. You can send a follow-up email to the press with this link too, so they can include it in their articles.
Keep up the work of promoting your music. Make all audio/video formats as possible across all faces of a platform. For example, with Instagram, using tools within Instagram to bump your music helps, like Reels, or the track on Instagram Music itself! Use static cover photos or skins on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Send out broadcasts to friends and family on WhatsApp or Telegram.
What Else You Can Do
There’s a few other things you can do. The reason I didn’t include this earlier is because most independent musicians in their initial phase MAY not be able to afford it. It was important to get the bare basics out of the way first!
- Make a music or lyric video – Visuals really draw people’s attention quite a bit. Videos can come easy from simple concepts, or you could spend some and make a grand appearance too. It completely depends on if there’s any investment in it.
- Hire a PR person – I did this a lot at one point, meaning I was the PR person! This article is a part of what I do when working with artists, but I believe it’s also free knowledge for all. You can hire someone who already has the contacts, so that could save you the trouble of scouting for the right people.
- Plan a performance – You can plan to play a concert or pitch performing at a gig to mark the release. If you are releasing an EP or album, this would be very important. Playing music live can help garner a new audience, and can also bring fans of your music to a venue to catch you live!
You can even pitch to brands, agencies, and see if that turns out into something. If this is your first ever release, then make sure you get the fundamentals right. Work will come once you are properly exposed to more people.
I wish you all the very best and hope you have success with your release. If you need someone to talk to about this, you can even find me on social media and I can continue with the advice!
All information in the article is purely based on professional experience and dealing with some amazing Indian and international artists.
Feature image illustrated using images from FreePik.
Music photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com
Technology vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com
Technology vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com