On your marks. Get set…
In today’s music industry one of the biggest positives for any artist/band is to be able to release their own music on their own terms and therefore be masters of their own destiny. However, in today’s music industry one of the hardest things for artists and bands to master is releasing their own music effectively and efficiently and in addition to that also coordinating PR, creating and distributing publicity, exploring airplay possibilities (across all media), organising bookings/gigs and effective and creative use of their website(s), email lists and social media.
Being signed to an active record label (regardless of their size) may not offer some of the financial rewards of ‘the old days’ but a big plus is they will certainly look after their artist/band with regards to publicity, advertising, airplay, appearances and gigs, social media etc. The value of this support cannot be underestimated, both in possible results but also in time and energy saved by the artist/band. And let’s be honest and realistic, the bigger the label, the more ‘clout’ they do and will have in all areas of the industry. A good manager can offer a similar level of support too. Obviously, apart from getting the opportunity to sign with such people/companies in the first place, the pressure on an artist/band is being able to recognize the difference between a good or bad offer or contract!
For the modern independent artist/band, apart from enjoying performing (and possibly writing) their music, they really need to understand all aspects of copyright, possible royalty revenue sources – both performance and mechanical, create good and effective PR, be an efficient booking agent and manager, manage creative publicity and use of websites, emails and social media, video directors for those essential YouTube videos… and so the list goes on. I’m sure you get the idea!
A trap that I’ve constantly seen so many artists and bands fall into is aptly summed up by Derek Sivers, the founder and former owner/MD of CD Baby. He made the observation that the biggest mistake a lot of artists make is viewing the release date of their album (or single or EP) as them reaching the finishing line when they should actually be viewing it as the start line.
He’s 100% correct – whether you are talking about a ‘physical’ release (CD, vinyl etc) or a digital release (Download and/or streaming) or indeed both. Here’s a few little tips for you:
1. When planning the production schedule for your release, don’t forget your artwork! I’ve had so many people approach me (either as Doxmedia to aggregate their release or as a record label) with a master they are so pleased with and proud of. They are wanting to release it ASAP but with not having given any thought whatsoever to the artwork. Artwork is SO important for a release. It’s your advert/first impression to the world, so give it some thought and try and make it eye catching in some way. Although not guaranteed, good artwork may sometimes get you featured in the new releases sections of some sites, music providers etc
2. Plan your release schedule AND the follow up activity timetable. Just because your music suddenly becomes available on a download or streaming site doesn’t mean people will somehow mystically be attracted to it and buy it! You’ll be surprised at how many artists/bands think this! Did you know that well over 50% of the music available digitally is never listened to! People will only know your music is there if YOU tell them. Either at gigs (have cards/flyers available with all details on them), via your website, from email mail shots, social media sites
3. When submitting your music for possible radio play, include as much info as possible with your release, especially running times of tracks – that’s important for radio programmers. Other useful info is writers, publishers and ISRC numbers if you have them. Make it easy for them. Don’t make them work to find info they may need.
4. Create a concise, precise and effective EPK (electronic press kit) complete with photos, a bio, a list of upcoming gigs/appearances and any live or release reviews – any info to make the work or presenters or reviewers easier.
Some simple, and hopefully obvious, advise for you to think about and consider. As an artist/band your first love and desire is obviously to create and perform the music you love – and so it should be! But , if you are an independent artist you are also your own manager, agent, lawyer, roadie, driver, instrument technician(s), plugger, PR department, sales department, accountant, book keeper…