Setting Up a Release

After playing some local shows, establishing yourself on social media, telling all your friends and new fans about your band or project, then planning recording, going into the studio, and finishing your first recording, (Single, EP or Full Length) you are probably ready to release some material! Even if you haven’t played out live yet and no one knows about the project you’ve been writing for or practicing with - releasing a song could be a great way to let everybody know about it as these days (depending on genre & direction) there are dozens of ways, both traditional and new school, to release material.

Whether it’s a single, an EP, or a full length album, the process could be looked at the same. You have the material, shows, you’re building your name and your image / music brand, and the object is to line up all the pieces so they work together. Getting the order of tasks so they start building and continue the building momentum is key! We’ll go over a few ideas in this post - Though keep in mind these ideas aren’t the only ways to do a release.

Before you release a song or an album (EP or LP), you’ll have to do some preparation and planning. Setting up a release is a lot like recording pre-production, but on a different front - time-line, social media, content, online promotion, digital distribution, and coordinating with numerous people. It’s pretty much thinking in terms of a musical “to do” list in order to get your newly recorded song(s) out into the world - and letting people know about it!

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Before setting up a release you could ask yourself these questions regarding the material itself:

⁃ do you feel really proud of the song(s), the direction, and want to share it?

*you will be the one pitching and promoting the material regardless if you hire someone to help with PR, Marketing or Radio promo (you want believe in it 1000%)

⁃ is it representative of you and what your sound is?

*make sure before you release music that the image and the music represents you in the best way

⁃ has your music gone over really well live, and has it gotten a good crowd reaction?

⁃ is it sounding tight between you and your bandmates when you play these songs live together?

- did you pick the right songs for a release?

*Ex. If you recorded 5 or 6 songs or even 3 but 2 don’t feel right (maybe a couple have a different vibe direction than the others or the performance isn’t as good as it could be) don’t release them yet do a single or a smaller EP of only your best work!

*No filler!! These days there are so many artists, so many songs and so much content overloaded online that it is important to remember if you work really hard on your songs and what you do it will show and eventually pay off. The cream rises to the top!

Once you have decided on the amount of songs, preparing your album/single artwork would be the next step (or could happen simultaneously).

- will your music be a digital release, physical release, or both?

*this is a big factor because of art design and manufacturing, as well as budget!

Digital Art - you will most likely only need a cover for the single or album, and a few different versions of the art that you could use for online promotion.

(Example: Social media promo pics, including posts ‘coming soon’ & ‘out now’ and cover photos)

Digital Distribution - there are many digital ways to release music, here’s a few:

Tunecore, CD Baby (these sites distribute your songs to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify & many others for a small yearly fee & will send you money monthly)

Others: BandCamp, SoundCloud (Free streaming)

Physical Art - This is more costly but imperative if you’re a live band so people can buy your CDs at shows as well as online.

*you’ll need to decide on a design (pocket, plastic case with insert, fold out, 8 panel, there are many options, and at different prices) but you’ll need to figure out your budget by researching companies to find out how much printing is, how many they can produce for your budget, and how long it will take to manufacture. You’ll also need to get templates from the manufacturer (often you download these from their site, for digital the distributor usually states the requirements)

*check out http://www.discmakers.com and http://www.hollywooddisc.com for free quotes and prices.

You will also need to get your ISRC codes from your masterer - or these can be created by the online distribution outlet you choose as they will make them for you.

*ISRC codes are used to track sales and if you have them you will enter them in a form when you’re signing up to distribute your music.

With this information you can start figuring out a release date, timeline, as well as accounting/budget (art, manufacturing, distribution etc)

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Here comes coordination and timing! The most important part!

- you’ll want to give yourself a good window of time to create the product (once you have the finished songs you’ll need to make a deadline with the graphic designer you’re working with and line up the time it will take for printing or online distribution)

- promote the product before its release

- release the product

- sell the product

- promote the product consistently thereafter

Giving yourself a large window of time will give you a deadline to get it done, it will generate excitement about the release, and will give you ample time to prepare.

Let’s say your window of time is 5 or 6 months for a record (with the suggestion of a minimum of 8-6 weeks for a single). Your deadline, or day of release is at the end of that time frame (release day for new music is Friday).

Additionally, if you have some extra budget, you can consider independently hiring out a company to do a collage and/or specialty radio campaign (typically radio campaigns start 4-8 weeks ahead of release), most campaign companies will have you print up an additional 100-200 physical CDs that they will mail to radio stations (or you will, depending on the budget) to you’ll have to account for additional costs. If you’re doing this, getting you’re music to the campaign people at least 6-8 weeks ahead of time (depending on length) before the release is super important. Coordinating with the organizers of the campaign at this time is imperative.

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You can also consider hiring a PR company to pitch your music to blogs, media outlets, magazines, newspapers, and TV. There are many PR companies both big and small. Typically a PR campaign runs $1000+ a month. At a minimum, most companies like to start working a release 6-4 weeks before (sometimes more depending on the release as well as company or campaign length).

If you don’t have a budget but have time and a good work ethic, you can do your own PR (which we’ll go over in another future post!). But typically news and media outlets need time in advance for printing, featuring and/or premiering (of course not all online music blogs are the same but this is a general time frame) are 4-6 weeks.

A few check list items for you or your band in preparing for the release (5-2 months ahead of time) you will:

- make a budget / keep track of your expenses and know how much you have to put into your music

- set up and ready artwork idea/find a graphic designer

- set up distribution

- consider coordinating and setting up a release show in your home town

- make an online posting plan (telling your fans and friends that a new release is on its way - tell them what day it’s coming out)

- create and share cohesive artwork to go along with the release on all your social networks, get people involved through social media in a creative way

- set up PR and Radio campaigns - or If you’re doing it own your own, put the song or record up on a private soundcloud link that will be used for sharing with blogs/newspapers/media outlets/reviewers as well as other industry people a couple months before the release to help generate interest.

- share the reviews/features/premieres/response online that you get from the campaign to further excite your audience (this is a huge part of momentum and activity) and use it as online posting content.

⁃ consider making a list of Spotify playlists you want to pitch the song to once it’s out

- consider making a music video for your most popular live song (or if you haven’t played live, consider getting some feedback on what your strongest song is) that you can release around the time of the album release to build excitement and activity!

*Tips: you can try to get premiere for the video, or after the song has been released consider doing a video release show.

Other factors and tips for a new release to take into consideration are:

⁃ make sure, just like the music, that the album/single artwork is strong and matches you/your band.

- maybe consider a new photoshoot / art direction for a release theme which can be tied into marketing.

(For example, say you have a single called ‘Red Rose.’ Maybe you and your bandmates could do a photo shoot and wear all red colors near a rose garden. Maybe for building up for the release you could do social media pictures of red roses in different locations! Or live, wear these outfits. Whatever it is be creative and true to you!)

- sign up with a songwriters society (ASCAP or BMI, SESAC* *is invite only) and register your song or songs so you can get paid when your song is played on the radio.

- sign up for soundexchange.com and register your song or songs so you can get paid for online streaming.

Setting up a release successfully comes down to preparation, promoting your product, and finding the right outlets to help keep pushing it forward. You can pay lots of money for companies to do this work, but you can also do it yourself! Believe in the work you’re putting out and tell everybody about it! Setting it up with ample time to prepare for promotion and to generate more response and hype is going to be integral and well worth the wait!

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Respectfully Approaching People & Pitching Music Industry Professionals

It is definitely and without doubt (now, and it has been for for years) a necessity for a band or artist to connect with people and industry in order to grow and be a part of the music community.

When reaching out to bookers, promoters, studio engineers, blogs, radio DJs, magazines or other bands, artists you want to connect with, or anyone else in the industry, or even future fans, it is important to be aware of how you’re approaching them.

Whether reaching out via social media (Facebook messenger, Facebook Pages, Instagram messenger, etc), e-mail, or in person, it is equally as important to be courteous and respectful.

Most likely the person you are trying to reach has a busy schedule - whether they are an artist, industry person or even a music fan, it’s important to take this into consideration. Think about how you would want to be approached or written to. Also be aware that without artists and music, labels would not exist, so it does go both ways, we are in this together and need each other for our industry to grow.

Online: Kindly introduce yourself, acknowledge their name, get to the point and be professional. If you want to send a video or music link to an engineer you want to work with, or a label rep, understand that Facebook messenger or any public social media platform isn’t always the best way to reach them directly. Sometimes you will not receive a response this way or right away. Instead, try going to the official website, find an e-mail on the contact page and address the person politely, tell them who you are, and why you’re reaching out. Or, if you do reach out on social media, ask them if this is the best place to send them your music or briefly explain why you’re reaching out and if there is a better place they’d prefer you write to (i.e: e-mail)

Too often people are bombarded by random people / artists spamming links to people with their music with no explanation or asking for demands without saying who they are and because of this people (industry & fans) are being turned off immediately and making it harder for the artists who work really hard and care. Please consider taking your time to consider who you’re approaching without wanting a quick fix/answer. Take your time to research the right people... making sure it relates (meaning “I saw you were a fan of _____, my band has a lot of similar influences  & has been compared to ______” or “I saw on your credits you recorded _______, and you work with a lot of metal. We’re a metal band who is in the same vein as ______ and think you’d understand our band’s sound and us so we’d love to talk about working with you.”)

Different labels, media outlets, industry people, and artists will vary in their means of contact. It’s important to think it out... why are you contacting this person? What is your goal in contacting them? What can they, in turn, benefit from you reaching out to them? What makes it worth it? Let them know! Use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and full sentences. Sign your name and let them know how they can get in touch with you.

In the end it is about respect. Respect this person’s time, don’t insist anything of them - Respect their space, don’t expect them to get back right away and if they don’t, don’t pester them. They likely have a lot on their plate and a lot of people reaching out. But also do not be afraid to contact people, ask and follow up. Just like performance is a risk of being open to an audience so is reaching out to people in a positive way.

Tips:

- if you don’t hear back try following up about 10 days to 2 weeks later (this is not a set rule but a suggestion. Often 3-4 follow ups later you might hear from a booker saying “so sorry for late reply, we actually have that date, just have been so busy with the shows, my other 3 jobs and family life”. This is very common and people get lots of e-mails. Don’t lose hope and always think their uninterested)

- when approaching a fan consider comparing your songs to some other artists they may know or if you see they like and work with your genre tell them so they have an idea what they might be checking out.

- when emailing a blog, prospective label or management person, please definitely do your homework on them. Make sure they’re the right person to be reaching out to.

- try introducing yourself, be clear about what you’re asking / pitching, send a brief paragraph on yourself/your band, your career highlights (bigger bands who you have played with, bigger venues, radio stations, magazines or blogs who have featured you, and definitely tell them who you sound like.

- If you call an office of a music business professional or an individual when leaving a message always talk slow and when leaving your return # repeat it twice. Sometimes the first time people don’t catch it.

- absolutely always include a few online links.

The biggest risk you may take is not taking one, so take a chance and don’t be afraid to contact people but do it respectfully:)

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Finding the right studio/producer/engineer

When you go to record, you want to make sure you’re prepared as much as possible, especially if you’re funding something yourself without help or a label as we mentioned in our post ‘Preproduction and Preparing to Record.’ You will want to have all the right tools you need in order to get the most out of it and to get the best product. Tools such as having the songs well rehearsed and practiced, a vision for the songs, goals, a plan, an understanding of the sounds you want, and knowing the songs inside out so that when it comes to tracking you are ready. A huge component to making your recordings a reality is finding the right Producer, Engineer &/or Studio, or even having a plan in place to do it yourself. Either way, finding the right match to your music and sound is important - whether a songwriter, punk band or pop artist... regardless of genre, finding the correct place and person to record and capture the songs is imperative!

There are studios all over the world, and in a ton of places you wouldn’t ever expect. In big cities, in small towns, in warehouses, in churches, in garages, converted houses etc. and with the new digital age, on our home computers or mobile laptops. The location doesn’t have to be close to you to be the right one either. It’s not uncommon for a touring artist or band to record on off days while on the road with a producer from another city. In addition, artists and producers around the world are also making great use of the internet by sending recorded files back and forth to each other.

Most of the time, the style that comes out of a particular recording could be due to the engineer/producer. Depending on their experience, and their knowledge, this person can make a song sound a certain way as well as a studio/room. (Example: if a Studio has a tracking room that’s large like a church and the engineer use’s lots of microphones on the drums this sound might be very distinctly big and roomy with natural reverb - or if they have a production suite in a major studio or even a home with a smaller set up where they program beats or live drums, their sounds might be known for being really tight and polished, with a focus on vocal production - it all varies.) Maybe they’re most well-versed in punk music, or pop music, or jazz. Of course there are exceptions to this and people of different genres who collaborate, but for the most part you want to work with someone who can bring out the most from your sound, knows the influences you have, or is familiar with the scene you play in and your style.

If you know this person or if you don’t, first ask them what their specialty is or which bands/types of music they have worked on in the past to get an understanding of their background. If it’s similar to what you do, maybe this person is a great fit. Ask for some samples and see if you can get a list of their discography that lists their credits.

Another thing to consider is price. What is your budget? How much can you afford per day, hour, or per song or per person? Some studios have per-hour rates that may or may not come with an engineer (price will change), and some studios will have day rates and there’s an extra charge for an assistant or engineer. Producers may have a day rate or even a per-song rate, but the amounts will vary from person to person, mostly depending on the studio, the person’s background, and their skill level. Some do everything - record, mix & master - while others do not.

Tip: If you’re self-producing and need to record or need to find a producer or engineer - do your research. Search on the internet and look up studios near you, try looking up the bands or artists you love to find the places they’ve recorded or who they recorded with. Ask your friends or people you know who are similar to your sound where they recorded. Then find out what these studios or people offer and the prices they are, and also reach out to producers (e-mail, websites, social media, phone calls). Often the producer will have access or know a studio that he or she likes to work out of and can offer suggestions or good prices. Some producers also engineer and own their own studio so in that case prices will change! 

Keep in mind that all engineers/producers work at their own pace and the vibe is different with each individual place and producer. Meet up with this person prior to recording, visit the studio (most offer free tours), and see if something clicks!

Tip: For those who are new to recording, sometimes there are additional costs for mixing and mastering if the producer or engineer doesn’t offer this - so keep that in mind when budgeting. Also some artists will take recordings to a mixer (different engineer) after recording with another person, but really it all varies and there is no right or wrong way.  If you’re self producing, maybe you just go to the studio and use an engineer for some tracking and do some other tracking at home on your computer and then hire a mixer! Or maybe you can track it all at a studio and then you or your band can mix it if you have the skills to match your needs.

There are many different routes these days and no one way is right! All that matters is that the music sounds great and represents you well!

Extra Tips:

- For artists wanting to try to record themselves or even do Pre Production demos you can now get ProTools for about $25 a month to record on your computer, Logic Audio is available to buy for about $200, GarageBand comes macs.

- To look up different Artists or Bands album credits (for producer and engineer names etc) look up records onallmusic.com

  (Take at Studio 606 in Los Angeles CA)

 (Take at Studio 606 in Los Angeles CA)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder at The Den in North Reading, MA) 

(Photo by Doug Batchelder at The Den in North Reading, MA) 

Pre-Production and preparing for recording

You and/or your band are sounding like a solid unit, you’ve practiced multiple times on a regular basis, and you’ve possibly even played your music out in some venues. The songs are sounding good and you’re really happy with how they’ve come together - the next step could very well be stepping into the studio to record!

The first step for preparing for recording your songs is pre-production. Pre-production is one of the most important things an artist or band can do and have an understanding of, especially in this day and age when both money and time are such factors. Just like first promoting your show and then playing the show happens in two steps, so should pre-production & recording.

Pre-production is the time you spend to prepare your songs, practicing your parts as a band or artist, checking arrangements, breaking the songs down so you make sure everyone is playing the same notes, checking all the musical parts, practicing harmonies, refining lyrics, making sure the key is right, finding the tempos (whether you’ll play to a click or not, depending on your music) before entering the studio.

*A lot of us artists have some sort of home studio or computer recording setup available to us, and even with technology at our fingertips (which is a great luxury we have these days!) it can be overlooked. There are many opportunities to take your time to figure things out on your own for finding the best result - so take advantage of these things so when you spend your time and money on a great studio or great producer you are prepared!

When practicing your songs, you could even time yourself and see how long it takes you to set up all the instruments, play through the song(s) you want to record, *plus factor in the engineer mic’ing instruments and testing sounds (that will give you an idea of how long it might take in the studio to set up even before tracking). Find the BPM (beats per minute) of the song and try practicing to a click track, this will further tighten up the band and the song, speed up time in the studio, and when it comes to tracking it (especially via the computer), will give everyone a guide, allow the producer and everyone involved some more flexibility and creativity to build the song into something really cohesive and wonderful!

Tips:

- There are multiple tempo / click apps (try TEMPO) available for free or for a couple dollars online for iPhones or Smartphones that you can tap tempos out to.

- When you find a tempo for your song try it a couple beats slower and faster to see which sounds best!

- Try using a Phone or Computer mic to record your band or your songs to see how songs are sounding! This is a great way even if it’s rough to hear your songs.

- Typically full production indie band songs can usually be fully tracked in 1-2 days (of course depending on a lot of factors: if a band or artist is well rehearsed, instrumentation, style of music, budget)

- Typical studio rates can vary from $250-up (maybe cheaper depending on the place/location)

- Most average studios run $350-700 and up a day in major cities. Sometimes the rate includes the engineer if he or she owns the studio.

- Engineer rates average w/o a studio usually run $150/$250 a day and upward -or- $35 and up an hour

- Assistant rates run usually $100/150 a day

- Typical tracking hours in professional studios run 8-12 hours varying on the studio and engineer rates

Your friends, family, and fans are all going to want to be able to take something home that you created and that they can listen to over and over again. (Plus as a touring artist, CDs are a must have and merch sales help to pay for lodging, gas, and food. Recordings are also important for any band or artist who is serious about wanting to be a professional musician as it is an opportunity for online sales and a way for fans and industry folks who don’t live in the same city or country to hear you.

This is just a small glimpse into preparing for recording but above all, have fun and enjoy the process, learn who you are and what you like as you go - make sure to communicate how you want things to sound when you work with people; the more direction as a band or artist the better. Also, being flexible during the recording process will make things easier and less stressful. In pre-production, if it’s not sounding the way you want, experiment with some different pedals, amps, instruments, or even better - try different things out (second guitar parts, solos, arrangements, drums fills). Have a few great options and a couple ideas you can bring into the studio or to the producer so you can try things until you find your desired sound.

Recording can be a really great process and experience. Like anything though, it can become frustrating or present challenges when you least expect it - especially if you’re not prepared - so doing so will really help! Be patient, and understand that the recording process may take longer at first, but once you get familiar with how it all works, and familiar with a studio, it’ll get faster and become even more fun. Be respectful to the equipment, the people you’re hiring on the songs, whether it’s the engineer, assistant engineer, producer, mixer, etc. or hired players if there are any. They are all working with you to carry out your vision, and it can be a really rewarding experience for everyone when everyone’s on the same page!

   (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

 (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

   (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder)