the Musical Artist’s Survival Guide Part 2: Releasing your album

I trust that most of you read my last post, so I decided to keep going with this format so that those who brains didn’t melt yet could read on. Believe me, I know there is a lot to know and go over beyond songwriting and performance and even if you are the guy in the band that says “they just tell me when to show up and I do” you should inform yourself about the business side. It is not easy even with the advances in technology allowing for the informed to be their own manager/booking agent/record label.

Obviously when you are releasing your own album you want to make that you make it sound and look as professional as possible. However this goes beyond the quality of the actual recording and artwork. I thought that this would be best in a Question and Answer format:

How do we get our cds made professionally?Your cds need to be replicated and not duplicated The difference is a duplicated cd is like a cdr burned on your computer. These work well and can be sold, however distributors and stores will only carry actual replicated discs that are made using a glass master copy. All cds that you have purchased from stores are replicated. They are only available for purchase in bulk with a minimum order of 1,000 copies. Usually at this price they cost you 1 dollar each.A place such as Discmakers can do this for you fast and correctly. Discmakers can provide a number of other services that are needed in order to have a cd released professionally such as spine labels, shrink wrapping and Bar codes,which you must have in order to sell your cds in stores (sales are tracked through Soundscan,look for information on how to register with Soundscan in the paragraph on tracking radio airplay below) . And NO this was not a paid advertisement. I simply recommend Discmakers based on prior good experiences and because they are also affiliated with CDbaby which you will also need to work with(more on that in a minute)

How can we make it so when our cd is played on a computer or digital sound system that it is recognized?You need to have ISRC codes aka International Standard Recording Codes. You will need to go to their webpage, apply for a login and they will explain how to assign a unique code to each song. It will be your responsibility to keep a record of these codes. These codes are necessary in order to sell your music digitally. To get started with getting you ISRC codes visit this webpage

How do I make my music available for sale both online and in stores?The Same answer for both: Distribution. Basically there are two types of distribution that I will touch on, digital and physical. You can go through the same company for distribution of both, such as Cdbaby (however, I do suggest you shop around as well). Digital distribution is how you will get your music onto iTunes,Google Play,Zune,Spotify,,Emusic and even Xbox(yes you can make money when someone plays your music while they are playing video games). It is Best to find the means of digital distribution that allows for your music to be on as many sites as possible with the largest pay out back to you. As far as Physical distribution, like I stated earlier you MUST have replicated cds in order to sell in stores. I suggested CdBaby for Physical distribution because they are affiliated with Alliance Entertainment Corporation, which is the largest distributor of cds in the United States. Most stores that carry music deal with AEC. Of course locally you can still look around for some stores that will carry your music on consignment or some other deal, but it is best to try to work on getting your music distributed nationally.

How do get listeners on a national level?You need to have a promotional campaign. The goal of course is to have as many people as possible listening to and buying your music. Yes, this can be done by posting all over the place, but think about how many other bands are dong this. You need to make your music stand out. So there are a few ways of doing this:

1.Send your album out to be reviewed This method is free(except if any shipping is required) but not always guaranteed. You probably already do (or should be) reading magazines and webpages that you would like to be reviewed by. Whether you do or not, search the net for magazines,ezines,blogs, and other webpages that will review music in your genre. Look at the page and see the Contact us link. Just inquiry whether they except physical press kits(which consists of 2-8×10 photos, a bio of the band,any previous press you may have received, your contact information and of course your cd) or if they will except information via the internet. Also keep in mind that it may take several months for them to get around to printing your review. But the good thing about that is that it keeps your release fresh in the eyes of the public. For Example you send out 100 press kits to different publications for reviews, You may get one or two reviews within a month or so and you may get a few more in six months and a few more in a year or more. So even after your album has been out for a year people are still reading about it as if it were just released. Just make sure in your initial contact with these publications to be polite, brief and to the point. After sending your release information follow up in about two weeks to see if they receive it and inquire if they have an idea as to when a review maybe printed. If and when it does, make sure to post it online and include a visibly clear copy of the review to your press kit. You may also look into hiring a publicist to do this for you as well, as they may already have a rapport with several publications to give you a better chance at more reviews.

2.Advertising This of course costs money, so you need to be smart about when and where you advertise. You don’t advertise a rock album in a Jazz magazine 3 months before the album has been released. You need to view this like regular shopping, because after all you are spending money. Also there are of two types: Print and Online. For print when you are shopping around before you talk to any magazine, you should known some terminology in order to ask the right questions. Like what their circulation is. Circulation means how many copies are printed and when such as weekly, monthly, quarterly bi-annually or annually. Also ask them to send you a Rate Card. A Rate card will be broken up by prices for different size ads, which in most cases will be discounted if you agree to have the same size ad printed in more then one issue and discounted further. It is wiser to get a few smaller ads printed throughout several issues as opposed to one big ad in one issue. As probably already know a magazine you paid to advertise in will be more likely to write a decent review on your album. It is kinda of cheating, but it is how it is. And ask the print magazines if they have an online version or webpage you can advertise on and save yourself time searching for another webpage to buy ads on. Online ads are usually for a one month interval for companies that use Google adsense, Google Ads and I would recommend looking into Facebook advertising too. You can have a sponsored post and spend as little as five dollars or have a regular ad set up. You can set up a daily budget for each ad and bid for how many people will view your ad. The advantage of a standard Facebook ad is that you can target people based on age,location and interests. So that way your rock band that is influenced by Stone Temple Pilots, Metallica and Tool will not be seen by a guy in his Eighties that listens to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison whose interests include fishing and oil painting. Reverbnation also has promotional campaigns as well that I have been told have help bands gain more listeners. When purchasing your ad on facebook I would suggest looking at your audience demographic on both your band’s Reverbnation and Facebook accounts in order to target those people. Also make sure you target people who are fans of more well known bands that are similar to yours and people whose interests include music and going to concerts.

3.Radio Many bands still gain new fans from getting played on the radio. There is an argument that with the changing times with people using ipods and cd players in their cars, and more recently SiriusXM radio that your regular over the air radio is almost non existent and not worth bothering with. But after listening to the radio recently and hearing how many people still call in and win concert tickets and the likes this argument seems to be null and void. Not to mention how many larger companies still advertise on the radio(oops I forgot to mention that,think of it this way I just save you tens of thousands of dollars yearly that you wont be spending on radio ads). Many radio stations will accept music from a band and may play it on a local spotlight show of some sort. However, the most effective way to have a chance for consistent airplay or to be put into “Rotation” (meaning your song gets played several times a day for a specific amount of time) is to hire a radio promoter. Years ago record companies would pay the radio Djs to play certain records(this is how the term Payola was invented)but this method of obtaining radio play was made illegal decades ago. But for some reason a record company or band can pay a radio promoter to help them get on the radio as sort of a middle man. The best radio promoters will have contacts at several stations nationwide or internationally and will be able to track radio play(more on that in a minute). You should find the best radio promoter for your genre and your budget, as radio promotions can cost up tens of thousands. Although some radio promotions are considerably less. If you happen to need a radio promoter for Rock, Metal, Goth or Industrial I suggest looking into hiring Skate Board Marketing. This company has been around for many years, has worked with several great bands and is very freindly and reputable.

Can I get paid for my music being played on the radio? YES of course you can. However, it may take several plays for this to happen and only if you are having your songs tracked for airplay. The way you do this is by acquiring a login to BDS and Mediabase respectively. Each company will give you a login for free so you can upload your music to their database so that when your music is played it is tracked and your performing rights organization(ASCAP,BMI,SESAC) can collect your earnings. I would suggest also including your ISRC code for each song you upload as well. BDS is also affiliated with Soundscan which tracks retail sales when your barcode is scanned during a sale. Information on how to register for each service can be found here on the A&R Power Summit

So how much is all of this going to cost and how can a band pay for all of this?Obviously the cds will run you about $1,000 but I believe the fine people at Discmakers have better pricing for you on replicated cd packages. The estimated cost of releasing an album would be between $3,000 and $5,000 for a modest campaign. Some bands can pool this money together from their earnings or call up a rich relative if they are lucky. But in all seriousness, a new method for obtaining funds is through fundraising campaigns such Kickstarter. This a general site where people will donate to several start up businesses in exchange for rewards including thank you letters, free merchandise and services. However there is a site for just funding musical projects called Rockethub which you should also look into. Bands have offered their donators free downloads, shirts and even free concerts for generous donations. Each site lets you create a video to show potential contributors why they should help fund your project. I recommend looking at some successful fundraising campaigns and their videos closely to learn how they got their much needed funding.

Well, that should cover all the bases as to effectively release an album. I hope all of your questions were answered. And by the way can anyone tell why I posted this particular entry on a Tuesday? Because for reason this is usually the day of the week most new albums are released. Betcha you didn’t know did you? Until next time best of luck in your musical journey, Nate

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