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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​Booking & Setting Up a Show

A lot goes into booking a show for an artist or band from start to finish. From rehearsing and coordinating to online and grassroots promotion, and from negotiating and communicating about availability to confirming other acts for the bill (whether you or your band puts the bill together or booker does - someone does the work).

The terminology regarding shows can sometimes be confusing for someone just starting out (words like: hold, load in, line check, draw, room cap, cover etc.). Bookers will often ask questions like “what’s your market history?” and “what’s your draw?” or “how many people can you bring out to the show?”

Here’s a brief overview of some terms:

Hold - Sometimes artists or agents will put a “hold” on a date when their working on routing / booking a tour and waiting for other dates to confirm so in that case venues will put you on “hold” if they have other acts who have reached out before you for the specific date you reached out for. Sometimes the booker will tell you have a second or third hold, and if the other bands who have that date reserved end up cancelling it, the night will go to you or your band.

Load-in: The booker will give you a load-in time for the show, this will vary from venue to venue, but will generally be about an hour before doors open. This is the time you bring your gear in and set it near the stage or onstage before the show.

Line-check: This is another word for “soundcheck” but it’s more of a quicker one right before the band plays. Rather than doing a full 20 minute or hour long soundcheck before the crowd gets there, often for headliners, the opening bands will just do a line-check and check their levels minutes before their set.

Draw: A draw is how many people you can bring to a show. A booker or venue will ask this so they can figure how many people will likely be there buying drinks, cheering you on, and paying the cover to get in. This could also determine a guarantee you’ll be paid, bar % or door deal you’ll get. Bars and venues rely on this draw sometimes to cover their expenses for the night (security, sound people, door people, bar tenders). They want to know that hosting you is going to benefit them.

Room cap: “Room Capacity” This is how many people the room/venue holds according to fire safety laws.

Cover: Door price /  Ticket price / How much it costs to get in.

A lot of people are involved in a live show. In addition to your band and the audience, there is usually a few other people involved: The promoter &/or booker, a sound person, a door person, other acts (that a promoter, band or you will have added to the bill) and the people who work at the venue.

First, the booker is who you’ll have to reach out to for a potential gig. This e-mail is usually listed on a venue’s website contact form.

Helpful Tips:

- If there are two different booker contact e-mails: local & national - email the most appropriate one

- Address the booker by their name if you see there’s a particular person

- Introduce yourself, your act or bands name (if you are one)with a brief paragraph & include a short description of your band / comparisons and that you’re looking to book a show

- Pick a few dates to send as options for booker (prior if you’re in a band make sure all members could do these days as possible options, some people may need to get off work or change their schedules)

- Include a link to any CURRENT single or album & some live video if you have available.

- Include you or your bands career highlights (like if you have been featured on any blogs, news papers, magazines or on any radio, tv) & where you have played in the area (list a few venues & locals acts you have played with)

- Include your contact info & social media links

The booker will ideally get back to you (usually within a few days but sometimes a couple weeks, if not, try e-mailing again/follow up. Try following up a week-10 days later) and let you know if the date is available or sometimes they will recommend other venues that may be a better fit or other possible dates if the one requested is already taken. If the date is open and your band is given the gig, the booker may ask you to find other locals acts to support the night. Local bands will help bring in a bigger crowd especially if you’re not from the area. If you’re booking a show outside of your hometown, it’s integral to get local supporting bands. You can find other bands on sites such as http://reverberation.com, facebook music groups, local music blogs to the specific city, venue website’s show calendars, and fliers other artists have hung up at venues or coffeeshops nearby. Also google searches can be helpful by looking up city names, band & genres tags. Sometimes bookers will also have a recommendation band list, so always ask incase they do!

Reaching out to other bands is similar to reaching out to the booker: be specific, be respectful, and include all the info in a clear and concise way!

Sometimes and ideally, a promoter or venue of a show or venue will help push this newly booked show out to online outlets and upcoming show listings. There won’t always be a promoter, but even when there is, it’s important to do your own promotion. There are many simple ways of getting your friends, family, and soon-to-be fans to your gigs. Sometimes venues, bars, coffeeshops, or houses that host events will have a built-in crowd but you can’t rely on this. That’s where online promotion and grassroots promotion come in! Once your show is booked and you’ve found other fitting acts to join the bill, make a flier and an event page on facebook and push it out to everyone you can! Give yourself a good month to promote and remind people, in person, and on social media.

Also ask the booker if they have a press list. Often they do! This can be helpful as they may have good contacts at local radio stations, blogs, and news outlets who you can email/reach out to help promote your show. Invite them to your show or ask if they can feature you, do an interview or live in-studio performance (radio) before the show to help get people out :)

Once you’re at your show, it’s important to know the door person’s and the sound person’s role.

The door person will sometimes tally how many people come into the venue and take the cover from anyone entering the show. The sound person will do the soundcheck/line check for bands, and ask you what your set up is. *Sometimes when booking (depending on venue, a booker will request you send an input list & stage plot for production so they know what to expect as far as your setup ahead of time).  They will want to know what you need on stage as far as instruments, microphones, and necessary cables, etc. to get the best sound. You can tell this person how high you want the levels in your monitors, and if you’re singing - whether you want reverb added to your voice or not. Don’t expect them to read your mind! They’re there to make it sound the best it possibly can.

At whatever level you are at, it doesn’t matter, you have to start somewhere! If you are just starting out just know even bigger artists who have been playing for years also have their own booking or show / touring struggles. So regardless of the level, hopefully this post and some of these suggested steps and tips might help making booking easier!

Additional Tips:

- http://www.indieonthemove.com is a great database for bands and musicians starting out looking to book their next gig. There are listings on this site of music venues all over the country, and they will even tell you how many people fit in the room, what genres they host, and who to contact to book a show. We would highly recommend checking this site out and becoming a member! It will help you locally as well as country-wide once you’re ready to take your act on the road! The benefits of this site are great examples of what you need in order to book shows.

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

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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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)

Writing & preparing songs

Whether you have just started playing or you have been in bands for years and you’re starting a fresh project, writing strong and thoughtful material will always rise above all else.

Creativity comes in so many ways and at so many different times - lyric ideas can come while walking outside, while in the shower, while talking to people, while seeing live music, melodies can come while sitting in traffic, or doing things free-flowing. Great parts of songs can come to life from 20 minute jams with different players (Tip* be sure to record it and listen back later!), from poetry notebooks, after seeing an amazing inspiring movie or even after reading books & local news! Concepts, music and lyrics have endless possibilities and there are no rules regarding how they come to be. Most of the time ideas will likely come at very inconvenient times! Be sure to mark it down wherever you can, sing it to yourself in a voice memo or voicemail, use a notepad or text yourself. The idea might leave or be quickly be forgotten (we live in a very busy age!) so whatever it is write it down right away! It doesn’t matter if you’re punk, pop or a heavy metal band... Song material can come from literally anywhere. When you’re building your band or self as a solo artist, whether to prepare for playing shows or to record your first CD, you’re going to need some songs! And some great ones for that matter!

Writing Tips:

- What genre are you? Who are the successful bands or artists in your genre that inspire you? What makes their songs great? Try studying & taking note of their arrangement (i.e intro, verse, chorus etc) to get ideas as well as their approach lyrically (are they clear, do they tell a story, are the words simple or is more poetic or cryptic)

- It can be easier sometimes to start with a song title or even a message you’re trying to convey and branch off from there.

- What inspires you? Are there certain places around you that you know bring creativity or inspiration? Are there certain activities that you do that get that creative energy going or put your mind in a close-to meditative state? Be open to these places and actions and write down what you’re thinking about.

- When you’re first starting out you may want to consider writing some goals for yourself or together as a band so you have at least 6-10 songs to pick from to play your first show.

(Typically most live acts will get a time slot of 25 mins-45 mins to fill, so your material will need to cover this time. Also for acts that play loud full band shows you may want to consider having the ability & flexibility to play your songs acoustic / at lower volumes for particular shows or even for recordings - one acoustic for your record to show diversity or have a couple extra for marketing- like a free download or Alt version of a song *of course there are exceptions, for example - if you’re a metal band & that is not your direction). Additionally, you’ll want to include and prepare the time in between songs on stage for conversation and banter.

So how do you know which songs should stick? It’s hard to know sometimes before playing them out and before a crowd reacts.

Asking yourself these questions about each song might help start you in the right direction when making a set list:

Is this particular song one you always look forward to playing? The audience wants to hear songs that you enjoy yourself!

How relatable is the song? Does the melody of the song match it’s mood/lyrics? If it’s a sad song & a quiet moment in a bridge will people feel that? People will pay attention if it’s something they can relate to.

Will people be able to sing along, dance, or bob their head to the song?  Either way, whatever it’s about, mean it when you sing it! Play it 100% because people will feel it!

If the melody is catchy enough, most likely in a live setting the words won’t even matter and people will connect and move their head to the beat anyway!

Ultimately it’s not about pleasing your audience, but it’s about giving your audience an experience and music they’ll remember - We are all humans with feelings and that is how we relate. It’s about opening up, sharing your honest emotions, yourself and creations that you’re proud of with people who have opened their ears to it. For the Every crowd will react differently, and every room will have a different vibe. It is important to believe in each one of your songs genuinely so it’s not up to anyone else if it’s a hit or not. If you don’t believe in it, leave it out, more songs will come to you. Focus on the songs you believe in and make them really great. That way others will start to believe in them too.

(Photo by CJ Lucero) 

(Photo by CJ Lucero) 

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