Release Your Music Pt. 2

We’re going to dig further into the nitty gritty of the DIY release you music process.

Mixing and mastering what’s that all about, is it worth it? Affordable artwork, pressing CD’s, music videos, and more interesting topics. Make sure you take a look at part 1 before you jump in here.

So, you’ve worked really hard and produced your very best music in your home studio – and that could either be a fully equipped space or just a laptop or iPad. Great!  This is where you now take a leap of faith and trust others to be involved.

What’s about to follow doesn’t necessarily have to come in the order laid out. It’s OK to jump around a little, but be sure to keep to your overall game plan. Often, you will find you’ll be juggling a number of things at once. That’s pretty typical for the DIY release.

And just as a reminder, these Release Your Music episodes are geared toward the serious musician who wants to be a contender in the race for success –  however you measure that. It’s OK to run it as a hobby and keep your expenditure low. 

However, I have to point out that if you’re serious, this is not a cheap process! You have to spend your hard earned money with the greatest possibility of never seeing any return on your investment. It’s just a fact.

Mix it up

Alright, tracking is finally completed and .wav files are parked on disc or memory stick. For many years, this would be as far as I would take it. In other words, mixing music and mastering was never my gig.

It was just too big for me to get my head around at a time that I was focusing on other fiddly release commitments. 

However, having said that, mixing has indeed become my gig.  It has taken years and years of learning, and developing my ears and skills. I mix releases all the time now, but I would not have dared to attempt it back in the 2000s.

Everything I released during that period was contracted out to professional mixers, and believe me, that is the best option to take in most cases.

There are some mega-talented mixers around, that can polish your songs, and take them to the next level, and they are mostly affordable.

Better still though, we now have access to the global community of mixers. It’s just an email away to have your songs mixed by the best in the world. Yes, some are expensive, starting at $3000 per song.

Others, however, are not so expensive, and having a fresh set of ears on your songs can be a huge bonus. If you choose the right person who ‘gets’ your sound and direction, they can add some magic to your sound.

All Prettymess releases were outsourced for mixing. Sure, I recorded and produced everything. But I was more than happy to hand the tracks to the professionals to work their magic.

Although the reknown talent, Shane O’Mara mixed a handful of tracks for that band, mixer extraordinaire, Craig Lewis, mixed the majority of songs. 

Craig worked at Kaleidoscope Music in Adelaide, and he did an absolutely amazing job on those songs. In particular, a track called Rescue Me went on to be the biggest song for the band.  The track’s success included cracking the top 20 charts.

It’s a shining example of how a mixer can fall in love with your work, and there by unlock your potential by truly understanding the direction the band is heading in.  Someone who is not merely looking for a pay cheque.

He slaved over the Prettymess songs, doing what seemed to be beyond the call of duty, and all because the songs really resonated with him. It was a fortuitous moment in my career that I’ll never forget. 

So you too can have this kind of special connection with a mixer, which could result in elevating your songs to the next level.

It will require some research on your behalf to ascertain who that person is, but connecting with the ideal mixer is relatively easy now as it can now be all executed online.

You can record your music at home then simply dropbox it directly to a mix engineer or their agent – in the USA, for example. Then just sit back and wait to hear the results. Brilliant.

You will likely find that some ‘up and coming’ mixers will do a rough or test mix on one of your songs before you commit to them. That’s a great option before you make your investment.

But you must be aware that the well known and best mix engineers will expect a financial outlay somewhere between $3000 and $5000 per song!

Maybe wait until you get signed to Universal Music.

Mastering

Mastering may be the only thing that qualifies as a black art to me. It is that last polish your song gets before it sails way forever. Because a lot of my releases were being geared towards FM radio, I always invested in mastering. It ensured everything was in place sonically. 

By that, I mean, frequencies and loudness. Ocasionally, I do the mastering myself for clients on desk mixes. 

It is intended to add some hype and volume to the tracks.  While they are always very happy with the outcome, to be honest, I am really no expert in mastering!

A good mastering engineer will be your friend and understand the direction you’re taking. That relationship is important in producing the very best final product for you.

He or she should be able to contact you to inform you of any issues with the mix that you can then adjust and resubmit.  Believe me, this is a common occurrence, so don’t despair. 

Like mixing, mastering can now be done anywhere in the world. Our options were very limited in the past. 

In Victoria, we had to book into one of the very few mastering suites in Melbourne.  As the choice was so limited, they could charge a fortune for a reasonably uninspiring master. 

Thankfully, those days are long gone, and your choices are now far less restricted.

For many years now, I have used the same mastering engineer.  He is now based in Los Angeles. A wonderful and generous chap, Ludwing Diaz at US Mastering’s work is well priced and he goes to great lengths to get my masters sounding just perfect.

He is just an email and a dropbox away.  Even though separated by distance, building a solid and ongoing relationship with your mastering engineer is well advised.

Photography

This is enormous. I don’t want to sound dramatic here, but bad photography can almost certainly end your chances of success.

Yep, that’s a big statement. But I’ve suffered the fall out of bad photos and seen the benefits of beautiful, creative well-considered pics.

It seems an easy route to take; pay a friend a couple of hundred bucks to take some pics of the band on a cheap camera or smart phone.

You get them home and even with the best skills in the world, Photoshopping won’t capture the cool, edgy look you want.

And after all that, what do you end up with? Average photos.  The end result, from initial photos that are less than professional, make your act look a bunch of amateurish beginners. They are unusable.

I have to confess here, over the years, my bands have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on professional photographers.

I relied on professionals mostly in the latter years of my career having learned early on from making critical mistakes using under-skilled photographers. 

A pro-photographer is a dream to work with. They’ll usually have the location sorted, the mood right, and sometimes even make-up. 

They adopt a demeanour that relaxes everyone and then they fire away endlessly until they catch that one, maybe two timeless photo.

You may end up with a seemingly overwhelming 1000 photos on a shoot. That’s inevitable to be able to capture a handful of abosutely incredible pics of your act.

There really is no substitute for a professional photo that projects the right image of you and your band. I’m afraid you’ve gotta outlay the money, but you’ll be rewarded for years to come. 

Get arty

As a former graphic designer, I have nearly always covered the design end of releases. Although having said that, I’m beginning to outsource more nowadays as I think it’s helpful to have external creative input and allow another designer’s conceptual interpretation of your brief.

It can’t be overstated enough: great artwork is essential! Just like the ‘judging a book by its cover’ adage, people will respond to first impressions of your artwork.  It will happen, no matter what.

Just try to be creative, and make space for individual interpretation of your design. It should stand up well alongside the music you have worked to hard to perfect. 

Yes, graphic designers can be expensive, but there are a number of online resources such as 99designs that allow you to post your brief in a completion style scenario that budding young designers compete for.

Unfortunately, it’s a tough world for those competing because there’s always going to be losers, but that’s life.

Video

So what about video? Once video killed the radio star but I suspect that Spotify killed the video star. I’ll admit I’m on the fence about video nowadays.

It’s nice to have one to support your release, but I’m not sure they carry the power to launch a band as they once did.

Back in the day, MTV, VHS1, Rage, and more, ruled the music landscape.  With that sort of exposure, it was almost compulsory for an act to produce a number of videos for each single.

There was a time when the video was a large part of the mechanism that helped launch your act. 

There are very few commercial outlets for video now. But if reaching a larger audience is not your intention, and if you’re looking for a fun arty video to upload to your site and socials, definitely jump into it. 

If you’re going to shoot a video there is a plethora of options for how to do it. There are so many people out there who have a version of Final Cut Pro on their Macbook Pro and love to shoot and edit footage.

But again, like photography, you need to be careful to ensure the end result is a true reflection of your act, and that your video has some originality about it.

In 2015, my band Five Mile Sniper decided to try something different.  Historically, we had paid a small fortune for videos such as the Rescue Me video for example, which was shot on 16mm film.

For the Can’t Go On video we worked with Polish director Lukas Pytlik. This was done through the Radar Music Video site, which puts film people in touch with the music industry. The link will be posted on my site.

Through email correspondence, we were able to put together a brief for the shoot, and the majority of it was carried out in Poland. Believe it or not, there was not a single word spoken between the director and us.

Paul and I got some shaky-cam pick-up footage shot locally, and then Lukas dropped them into the video, and edited it all together. 

It was certainly an easy and quick way to produce a video – for once! This may not be the way you’d like get your video done. 

However, if you do decide to make a video this way, and you’re indie act on a DIY budget, you’ll have access to upcoming creative video directors worldwide. 

There’s little that can go wrong, really. For the price of $800 AUD we were very pleased with the result and used Radar Music on two more videos. It’s worth a look.

Are you ready to release your music yet? How far into the process are you and do you have any tips that can help the rest of us?

Head over to indieconfidential.com where you can leave your comments and any questions. You can also follow me on Instagram @indieconfidential or you can message me here.

Most importantly, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or whatever streaming service you’re using. That way you’ll be notified when my weekly episode is available.

The next episode of Indie Confidential will be wrapping up the often difficult final pieces of the release puzzle that can trip you up, if you’re not careful. Don’t miss it.

I’ll catch you soon.

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