This article is part 4 of a 4-part series by guitarist Cameron Mizell. For more information about self-releasing your album, visit the series home page:
Should I Self Release My Album? and Self Releasing and Album – Pros and Cons by Heather McDonald at About.com will help you decide whether or not you’re up for the task. Heather has written about her career in music on our site, and her own blog is loaded with useful articles such as these.
Before Designing Your Next Album is an article based on my experiences in the Creative department at the Verve Music Group and working with independent musicians putting together their own releases. These tips will help your CD look more professional.
Home Recording for Indie Musicians with Indie Budgets might help those of you who can’t afford the studio. In fact, I believe not all albums need to be recorded in a studio. Home recording equipment is relatively affordable now. Plus the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere of your own home relieves the pressure of budgetary and time constraints that can come along with hiring a studio and engineer.
Creating a Budget for Your New Album will give you a better idea of what recording and releasing your album might realistically cost. Avoid surprise costs that could derail your plans by creating an appropriate budget ahead of time.
How to Release an Album
An Introduction to the Self-Released Album will give you an outline of the process and a little history as to why this is even possible. This was the first article in this series on the self-released album, and an excellent place to start.
The Self-Released Album 101: The Basics discusses the different types of stores in which you can sell your CDs and downloads, the all important distribution, and some bare essentials necessary to start selling your music such as the UPC, ISRCs, and metadata.
The Self-Released Album 201: The Details continues where the last article left off and teaches you how to create a production schedule, gives you a crash course in manufacturing, and offers a little guidance over some legal matters like copyrights, licensing cover songs, and that legal line you see on the back of every CD.
What’s a Netlabel? by Andrew Dubber at New Music Strategies discusses the grey area between being signed to a record label and being a completely DIY, independent musician. There are a number of emerging business models that can help you release and market your album digitally. If you’re looking for somebody to help you the business end of releasing an album in exchange for a portion of the profits, a netlabel business model may be right for you.
Should I Pay For Music Distribution? Another article by Heather McDonald. Any article that discusses what you should or shouldn’t pay for is a must read.
How to Promote and Market an Album
How To Effectively Promote and Sell Your Music on iTunes is simply a detailed discussion about creating iMixes (now simply called “Playlists” on the iTunes Store). As I say in the article, “the one thing I’ve done that has generated more money, reached more fans, and helped me target other types of promotions, all with no cost other than a little thought and time.”
In short, years (yes, years) of generating very specific playlists of the music I love mixed with some of my own commercially available recordings has helped me sell tens of thousands of tracks and thousands of albums around the world. Don’t read this expecting a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s just part of the marathon that is guerrilla marketing.
Music Marketing with a Purpose by David Rose helps you focus on your priorities, whatever they may be. This sort of article is always good to revisit every few months to help re-evaluate your direction.
Creating Income With Your Original Music is an article about using your talent as a composer or songwriter to it’s fullest extent, and diversifying your portfolio of music assets. If you could have side projects that existed just to record niche oriented music instead of working a day job, wouldn’t you do it?
Building an Internet Presence with Allison Weiss describes how Allison has won the attention of her fans by keeping a consistent, interactive online presence. As a result, promoting her new releases has become much easier.
The Art (or Act) of Doing sums up my general philosophy about productivity. As long as there’s some action, you’re going to get somewhere. The things that work for you and your fans will become obvious and your focus will begin to shift in that direction. Sitting around reading about how to do it won’t get you there, you need to get to work.
As an independent musician, it’s incredibly important to have a better than average understanding of the music industry and how musicians are paid through a variety of business models. The Future of Music Coalition is an excellent resource, and recently posted an article on the Principles for Artist Compensation in New Business Models.
Speaking of the future of music, if you didn’t read the article about netlabels I still recommend reading Andrew Dubber’s excellent blog, New Music Strategies. It is insightful, well organized, and thorough. One of his more popular articles, Should I be worried about piracy? is something I frequently direct people to who about to release an album and start to worry about getting ripped off.
Not only is it good to understand the music business, but if you’re going to be marketing your music, it’s good to know how marketers think. None think better than Seth Godin, and his blog will inspire you to keep your long term goals in check. Even though most of his posts are not related to music, they are general enough that they can be applied to anything you do. There’s at least one gem every week for musicians. Take for example, this post on building a following with ten people.
And finally, perhaps nobody is more synonymous with independent musicians than Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby. Derek has many great thoughts about music, and you can find them at his website. One of my favorite posts is called Is Your Album a Starting Line or a Finish Line? Consider this the next time you set out to release an album. Will you be ready for the marathon?
As I said before, there are many more valuable resources out there, but this is a start. I recommend subscribing to all of these blogs, using RSS feeds, Google Alerts, bookmarks, and any other tool that can help you organize and filter large amounts of information. Chances are you will only release an album every two or three years, so there’s no need to commit the information to memory. You don’t have to read everything, but scan the headlines and subtitles, take note of what is discussed, and know where you can find the information when you need it.