In this episode I’m going to expose more of the details of the DIY release your music process and procedures.
Your website, music aggregator, record label, performing rights associations, publicity and promotion, launch day, follow up, and more.
I’ll also leave you with some advice worth its weight in gold.
The stuff you’re really good at – writing music, collaborating, recording, rehearsing, and preparing your band, are all now completed and covered in part 1.
What follows in this episode can seem overwhelming, particularly if you’re a first timer, just as we all once were. Believe me, when you get down to it, you’ll get better every time you release your music.
It can actually be a fun process, and it’ll be another skill – that normally you’d allow a record label to manage, that adds to your expanding music management repertoire.
As a reminder, this three part release series is loosely in order, but how you do things can be changed around as suits. As I pointed out in part 2, it’s always going to be expensive if you’re serious about your music and your career.
I’ve noticed a trend over the last six or seven years where bands haven’t bothered with a stand-alone website. When you have multitude of free sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, Reverbnation and many, many others, it would seem futile, right?
Not so! You absolutely need a website. It should be the epicentre of your social activities that acts as a portal to your socials and back. It can be where you offer a unique user experience and special offers.
Further, it will be where you collect subscribers’ emails, which are quite possibly the most important assets you can acquire on this trip.
Yes, an old school email list.
Simply put, all the social sites are owned and operated by somebody else. You actually own none of it. If the company that owns your social page decides to change policy or structure at any time, the modification they make can ultimately affect your interaction with fans.
And you have no say. You can quite easily be derailed by the smallest change.
You should own your site and your email list. They are your assets to use as you please. That’s a very powerful thing to have as an act. I cannot stress this enough.
Set up a site, register your domain, and begin to promote it, and you will then build a subscriber list.
I’ve used every one and they all work well. It’s super simple to set up an account, register your unique domain, and build a basic site where you can personally interact with your fans.
All of these hosts offer really easy interfaces to drag and drop elements, and templates that make gorgeous sites. A small monthly fee is all that is required if you want to remove advertising and use your own domain.
Very easy and very affordable. Just take a look at the Prettymess site which is hosted by Wix.
Performing Rights Associations
We all need a Performing Rights Organisation (PRO) for many critical reasons, not least for being paid locally and internationally collected royalties.
I could spend an episode on PRO’s but I’ll condense it by saying they’re part of your support team. If you haven’t yet joined the PRO in your respective country, stop listening and do it now!
You need to register your compositions with your PRO, which to me has always been a form of copyright control. They then collect the monies your songs have earned and pay you quarterly or bi-annually.
Most PROs are not for profit and in Australia we have APRA. In the USA there is ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, and in the UK there is PRS. Every country has their own and they usually work with each other in order to collect global royalties.
Your PRO will have workshops, events, and even competitions that are very useful to you as a songwriter and performer. Their sites are normally a great source of information and support.
You need to be part of this big family, as I have been for nearly 30 years. Each song, on each release you create should be registered with your PRO before it parts company with you. No exceptions.
It goes without saying, that this may be the greatest leap forward that has happened to us as artists. To facilitate a release and have your music distributed throughout the digital music listening universe is a click of your mouse. It’s nothing short of brilliant.
CDBaby, Tuncore, ReverbNation, Ditto, and more are the aggregators of this service enabling your music to appear on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer, Pandora, and a seemingly endless list of other consumer music suppliers, outlets, and stores.
You’ll get a unique International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) code for every song you upload and release. This essentially becomes the unique identifier for a song, so your PRO and others can easily track it.
Each site obviously charge you for their service and it’s up to you to do your due diligence about which one works best for you. There are a lot of reviews and forums online about each and it is well worthwhile doing your homework before committing.
I will say that I have tried several aggregators, and for me, the best one is CDBaby. This is largely because there is no ongoing fee to keep your songs live.
I have a number of releases with Tunecore, and every two years they expect another rather hefty payment to keep them live, otherwise they pull your music from all the stores and outlets.
It is a really shitty and unfair system that locks you in forever. If you decide to pull your music from Tunecore, they will take your music down when the next payment is not made.
When that happens you lose all your likes, comments, and followers across the board. Pretty smart, Tunecore.
So, the musician loses again.
Your own label?
Now, do you need a label if you’re going it alone? Well, not really, but I have established a few indie record labels over the years for mainly two reasons.
Firstly, it does give your release some faux kudos in the sense it looks, for all intents and purposes, that you have a company bankrolling you.
Bankrolling = you appear desirable = you must be good! It’s not always the case, but it’s relatively simple to come up with a label name and logo, and create maybe a simple site and an email.
Secondly, I always found it much easier when promoting the release to become the “head of the label” rather than just the “singer” of the band. Coming from the label angle, you can have some detachment from the artistic side.
You can present a more business-like demeanour, which will help you stitch up the deal you’re trying to broker. Check out the success formula.
Give it a go.
Publicity and promotion
Well, this could certainly be an episode or two in itself. I will circle back to some of these subjects later in the series if there is enough interest because there is much to cover.
I have been down the rabbit hole of publicity and promotion for years. Not by choice, I might add. This is always/often one of the elephants in the room when it comes to your release.
It can be tricky, but publicity and promotion are unavoidable, unless you’re prepared to allow others to do it all for you.
As blunt as it seems, you’ve just gotta learn how to sell. Period. It’s very difficult for some people, me included, but in order for your release to been seen and heard, you have to sell it like car salesperson, again and again.
Often there’ll be someone in your band who is really good at it. They might volunteer to get out, make the calls, meet the people, arrange the interviews, sort the advertising, promo the launch, print the posters, etc., etc. Interestingly, I’ve noticed lots of drummers are willing to step up for this job.
Or, you could just hire a publicist.
Could you imagine spending tens of thousands of dollars on a publicist? Well that’s exactly what my bands over the last 15 years have done. Before you walk away, you need to hear the pros and cons of the publicist.
It’s a hot topic to be sure, and publicists pretty much polarise everyone in the industry. So lets take a quick look.
Pros: As you’ll hear in the Varasso interview, good publicists have procured a lifetime of quality relationships within the music industry. They have the ability to drop your music to all the important people you just can’t touch.
They can influence and hype your act to the right people and doors can open.
Cons: Yes, they are expensive. You wouldn’t be able to enlist the services of a publicist for less than $3000 per song. Great publicists can start at around $6000 per song. Even though they can open the doors, ultimately your music still has to cut the mustard once it gets past the gatekeepers.
An honest publicist with integrity will not take you on if he or she believes you have no chance of success. They need to nurture and maintain their delicate relationships, so delivering average music will potentially damage that. Their livelihood depends on great music.
Personally, I have always had impressive results with publicists. Who knows, maybe it was our style of music or a timing thing, but it’s always been worth the cost for my bands, Prettymess and Five Mile Sniper.
We’ve landed multiple high profile television appearances, high rotation on the biggest FM radio stations in the country, and profile interviews with the movers and shakers.
When you’re on tour, your publicist will stitch everything together, so whatever town you land in, they’ll have organised meet and greets, interviews and in-store appearances, etc.
The big question would be, could we have procured these results on our own? Possibly, but probably not.
There’s always a price to pay when making your way to the top, and this is one I believe you cannot avoid if you’re serious. I really look forward to your comments on this one.
Even with a publicist on board, you will still have to tirelessly promote your act through your website and socials. You will also most likely need to consider injecting some cash into social advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
But pay attention here. At all costs, avoid buying phony likes and shares. It is tempting, yes. However, your fans will likely see through that, and turn on you.
Be genuine, and reach out and connect with your fans and followers as much as possible – that’s free BTW. They will be the catalyst for spreading the love and you getting any traction at all.
If you’re in a band, everyone needs to be involved in this process. Just keep you head down and work your socials.
It’s the big day. The one you’ve been spending at least three months preparing for. If you have a live band, you will have booked a venue well in advance and done all the required promo to back it up.
I will inform you however, that based on my failures and successes, your “live” launch should be at least six weeks after your digital and CD release/launch.
Your release needs time to permeate the listeners’ world so they can get pumped about seeing your live launch.
A live launch show is a great way to bring the whole campaign to its climax. If you don’t play live, you still require an official date for your release and again, all your hype and promo will be built for that.
Interviews and blog coverage, including reviews will have been delivered throughout your campaign as support.
If everything comes together, you’ll have a fabulous launch day and you’ll be well placed to escalate your global dominance.
It’s not over with your launch. Now is when you need to book more shows, and even a tour if other regions or states are getting behind your act.
You’ll need to keep the pressure on and work your socials even harder, connecting with all your fans and building trust continually. Two or three weeks of silence on your socials can the spell the death of your fan base.
This in some ways is only just the beginning. While you’re touring, promoting, connecting, and hyping your act, you’ll be mentally preparing your follow up release. By all accounts that should not be far off. And, the story continues.
Without digging into the many smaller details, such as crowd reviews, socials advertising, blog submission, pre-release announcements, pitching to Spotify curators, special offers, giveaways and more, this about covers it.
I will get into some of these other components in more details later in this podcast.
To reiterate what I mentioned at the beginning, this is by no means the only way to approach a release campaign.
You always need a detailed plan and structure, and there are some tips and tricks in this three part series that will help you do this. Ultimately, you’ll need to find what works best for you. I wish you all the best. Good luck.
Concluding this release mini series, I’d like to offer you some advice that is worth the price of admission alone.
And this is it: inclusion. Always invite people into your world, and allow them to participate and have some ownership in your release.
It’s very easy to close the door and become protective of your art, for fear of contamination. That’s how I once felt as a naive beginner. My approach has changed and I am quite the opposite nowadays. I have everyone involved!
You see, by having a large circle of friends and acquaintances involved in your project, by default they become part of your larger support team. It’s a ring of supporters and admirers that creates a trickle down effect to others in the music industry.
You must embrace this concept of inclusion because it can be so powerful. Trust me on this. The next time your pro photographer is doing a shoot with the Birds of Tokyo, she’ll mention you, your great attitude, and your incredible music. Doors will open.
How are you going with your release? Chime in with your ideas so we can all learn more. Head over to indieconfidential.com where you can leave your comments and any questions.
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.
In the next episode of Indie Confidential I will be chatting with the Passive Promotion website creator and front man of electronic pop act Color Theory, Brian Hazard. He is the number one go to guy of DIY promotion.
Not to be missed.
I’ll catch you soon.