Releasing your music independently? Here are some critical pointers for every DIY artist.
1) Every Song Should Be Your Best Work.
Don’t release a song if you’re not excited to show it to anyone. If you wouldn’t listen to it yourself, wait to release something you would. We had a song we almost released on this upcoming EP and no matter how many times I tried to re-write the chorus, it just wasn’t getting me excited. After talking with my producer, we decided to scratch it and I showed him a song I had written a week prior. It’s now our favorite one on the record.
I am so happy we didn’t settle for “good enough” and waited to release one we were really proud of.
2) There Is A Formula For Release Dates.
Though it may seem like artists and bands release their music whenever they want to, more likely than not, their timing was extremely calculated. Just because the songs are mixed and mastered doesn’t mean they should go immediately into exposure. When you are planning to release a record, you must consider how long mixing and mastering will take and how much time should be spent in promotion. Then, schedule your release day accordingly.
Typically, if you’re releasing a single off an album, you will want to share it anywhere between 2-4 weeks before the album comes out. If it’s your first EP, a release show should be held the same day your music is released online. Timing is everything— too quickly and no one knew it was coming, wait too long and people forget.
3) Network. Network Network. (Wisely.)
Let people know you exist. Don’t be annoying, but make yourself and your internet presence known. If you’re afraid people will judge you for self-promotion, you need to humble yourself and start accepting that you cannot expect to make it alone. Be willing to share what you have with others — but do it with humility. Get started on a website, social media handles, and a Facebook music page if you haven’t already.
People can’t listen to your music if they have no idea where to find you online.
Out in the real world, you may be like me and might be perfectly content spending hours alone in your room writing music like any crazed creative person. You need to physically force yourself to go out to shows and events and meet people there. You’ll be surprised how quickly friendships will be formed when you start showing your face more often. Most importantly, meet these people and genuinely become friends with them. When you start treating people like friends instead of a means to an end on social media, they’ll start to care about your project and be the ones to help you get the word out.
4) You Can Never Be Too Organized.
There are some things in life to which you can say, “Don’t worry about it,” “Go with the flow,” or “Just let things fall into place.” This is not one of those things. Planning an event requires diligence and organization. You must be on top of your e-mails, contacts, expenses, meetings, and team members. There’s nothing more annoying than working for someone who isn’t giving any direction, making any firm decisions, or keeping their ducks in a line. To be someone people want to work with, you must be on top of your schedule and plans.
Better to be slightly neurotic and functional than too laid back and disorganized.
5) Be Consistent.
Once you get the ball rolling, you cannot stop. There’s always that guy who promotes his first single and you never hear from again. It’s not the fan’s job to keep the buzz going. They will help, but you need to be the one initiating the interaction. Post about upcoming news, share the news, then continue to share your latest news. Don’t overdo it— but post at least once a week from your social media sites. Be on the look out for opportunities to create a buzz. Thank any blogs or radio stations that featured your music, share your photographers’ pages, and post every show you’re a part of— big or small.
6) Be Confident.
If your genre of music isn’t too popular in your area, don’t use that as an excuse to not do it. Finding local artists to do shows with may be more difficult, but if you keep doing what you’re best at, opportunities will happen on their own. In our case, Nashville isn’t exactly the electronic-pop center of the country, but we knew if we loved this style of music and felt that we could do it well, we should stick to it. Find your niche, capitalize on it, and be confident in what you can accomplish. Who knows? You may just be the fresh new sound your city didn’t know it was missing.
7) There’s Not ONE Right Way To Do It.
There are a hundred ways not to do it, but there is certainly not one right way to go about releasing an independent record. There are a multitude of different services, methods, and products to choose from when going about it alone. Determine what your goals are, what your budget allows, and what’s realistic for you at this point in your career. Ask around for some advice and figure out what strategies other people used when releasing their music. Gain insight from their experiences and pick and choose which methods might be best for you. Either way, rest assured you will not be left in the dust. There are benefits to every service and no matter which ones you decide to use, the job will get done.
8) Know When To Stop Asking For Advice.
Between your friends, family, and team members who hear your music before its released, you’re bound to get a lot of feedback regarding how you could make that last song “sound even better.” What’s most important is: Do YOU like it. Second, come the suggestions from only those you trust. I recommend no more than five people hearing a song in pre-production. Having too many ears and opinions can start to blur your original vision for a song.
Taking everyone’s advice is like forcing twelve co-writers to write a song together. No one else knows how you were feeling when you wrote it, and surely no one else needs to know why you chose to use “this” word over “that” word. Remember, it’s YOUR music first. Know who has the opinions you should take and who can wait to hear your music when it’s finished.
9) Save Up. There Will Always Be Unforeseen Expenses.
No matter how well you plan, there will ALWAYS be unforeseen expenses. While you’re still at this alone, set aside some money to pay for extra rehearsals, solutions for roadblocks, or implementing any last minute ideas. If the next couple paychecks are supposed to fund this project, be safe and set aside one more for the expenses you didn’t see coming. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.
10) Patience And Appreciation.
With yourself and those you’re working with, have all the patience in the world. It WILL get done on time. Take a breath and be thankful for the work everyone is putting in to help you get where you’re going. This may the the project of a lifetime for you, but you are just one of many projects other people are working on to stay employed. I can’t say it enough: be someone people want to work with. Be thankful and patient with others and they will be thankful and patient in return.
Ellery Bonham is a writer and electronic-pop musician living in Nashville, Tennessee. After studying the Entertainment Industry and Creative Writing at Belmont University, she now works for Artist Growth as a Creative Production Assistant focusing on helping artists prepare for the music industry. She is a firm believer in all things local, good, and coffee-infused.
Thats another decent area to be in. Either some tech start-up that uses the music to source huge seeding rounds or else some sort of fancy looking artist help business. With recording revenue down production etc. is not a great area to get into as there are way too many cooks in the kitchen as is, however advice like this to those still buying the dream seems a reasonable way to perhaps make some money.
Does she have a 10 step advice blog write up on how to get a good job like she has?
Save money, blow it on releasing music that will not recoup it. Grind grind grind to maybe get some shows you dont have to pay for and then maybe in ten years of dues paying on the road, you might be able to add some carrots to your bowl of itchiban noodles before you roll up on someones couch to catch some z’s before spending your last $20 on gas for your 1960’s volkswagon van.
Interesting perspective. I wrote this while still a full-time student in college, working part-time at a music tech company and at the start of my music career.
Happy to report I quit my job to do music full-time a few months after graduating college. I recouped everything I spent on the EP in less than 6 months, and I actually do pay for rehearsals, rental equipment, and musicians out of pocket for my live shows.
Happily a full-time indie artist.
Ten tips for people who want to “get a good job” like I had…?
I firmly believe there’s no one right way to success.
But here’s what I would tell myself:
Work harder than people expect you to.
Be kind to your professional superiors.
Learn when to be a team player and when to lead. (And how to do both well.)
Graduate college (If financially feasible.)
Find the balance in humility and confidence.
Plan.. but take risks.
Love what you do.
Don’t expect to be handed anything. Earn it.
The only thing I would really add to that, if someone wants to be successful, in order of whats most important.
1. Schmooze, schmooze, schmooze, schmooze! An extremely schmoozy industry, network, network, network.
2. Money, money, money, money, money, money.
3. Work hard, work ethic, results are not as important as perceived work ethic.
4. Build bridges do not burn bridges.
5. Fans are fickle, when you finally land your precious deal, nearly all fans will betray you anyways and you’ll make different new fans anyways.
100. The music. Who you can name drop and advertise that you used their services is better then learning it yourself and doing it yourself, even if you do a better job! Hire, hire, hire, hire, hire. The music is really mostly unimportant in the big scheme of things. If you have $50k, you would be better off giving that to a producer just to have them introduce you to his industry buddies or high ups at a label, cause in this economy, a label is more important then its ever been. Dont worry about the producers work or sound, worry about his contacts.
“when you finally land your precious deal”
Precious? If you sign with a major today, you automatically sign with Google, too.
This means you’ll never sell a song again (if you sign with Google, you’re forced to make your entire catalog available on YouTube as free downloads on release day).
Great philosophy. Just one suggestion: get a new do. You ARE a beautiful young lady. Let the rest of the world take note.
Disagree. She is beautiful, and the do was part of what is attractive (to me anyway). She doesn’t look like all the other wannabes.
That number 100 is the worst advise anyone has ever given about anything. First, the music is the MOST important thing. Second, in this economy, the label is less important than it’s ever been. There has never been a time in the modern music industry in which labels have had as little market share as they do now. Any one who is anywhere near this business is constantly aware of that. So much so that it haunts there dreams. When i was a teen, Sony had entire manhattan skyscraper filled with offices and studios, in addition to satellite offices with hundreds of employes running imprints. Now it’s a few floors of offices for every employee in the company. All imprints and they’re staff, some of which consist of two people in one very small office or cubical, are housed their. No studios. In one day you can meet the head A&R of every sony imprint and never have to get on an elevator. And they spend the majority of their day watching youtube for the “next thing” thats already happened.
Hey Chris G. maybe if they would stop watching Youtube and instead of “looking for the next big thing”, start creating the “next big thing”, this/their industry will recover !
No they won’t recover. Not when artist can upload music themselves to various streaming/buying platforms. Unfortunately its the way of the business marketplace. When something like a middle man becomes obsolete, it dies. The labels were the intermediary, and the internet changed that. Artists can actually make a little something with their shows, streaming, merch, and small sales. Not to mention brands wanting to be associated with certain artists, and they’re willing to pay for it. It’s kinda over for the labels.
Remember it’s a mostly pay it forward Industry. If you can’t buy your way in just make sure you keep track of all your expenditures! I’m pretty certain people keep tabs on how much money someone has dumped into that dirty industry, once past a certain threshold then you might get some help that results in a bit of revenue.
Make sure you never under any circumstance show up the headliner. Service and satiate your fans? Nope, terrible idea, that’s not what the industry is about! Suck the headliners cock and whatever you do, do not upstage them. Make sure to put on a mediocre performance and stroke the headliner and their crew, schmooze it up, just don’t actually put on a performance that might make them look bad. You can actually worry about putting on an A+ performance when after many many years or straight payment, you headline yourself.
Basically just look at everything I have done, and make sure not to do any of it!
11) never hire people who are supporting piracy
If they are stealing from artists they don’t deserve to work for them.
Amen to that.
She’s got some cool sounding music and she’s pretty cute, and shes in Nashville and went to school for it, so if she schmoozes right she will be as successful as she wants to be.
But a 4 song EP with 1 Cover? Ugh, I can’t stand covers.
What happened to Artists/Bands putting together a solid strong ever lasting body of work?
Those days are done.
Now artists/bands hit the stage and tour with 1 song, chasing dollars and sponsors and record deals. It’s all just posturing to try and land some deal or sponsorship, herding cattle to hopefully leverage to a label who’s in bed with KFC or whoever.
A shame, no artists sit down and put together a collection of works that will stand the test of time, they all chasing some deal or something.
Music and especially the Music Industry, just ain’t about the music anymore, if it ever was, but more so then ever. Sitting in a time of great technology and lower cost of production, and the whole thing is worse and uncreative as ever. What a terrible shame.
Anyways, put her on your radars, get a label or two pulling some strings and working behind the curtain, and so long as she puts her 10 years grinding in, she will be a superstar or whatever.
Yea! No bands from the 60s or 70s EVER put cover songs on their albums!!
haha is what it is!
Covers are good two fold.
1. For unknown artists/bands looking to gain notoriety, increase followers, make some buzz etc. Covers are one of the best ways to go about it. Someone searches in a little box for that other artist and depending on certain factors maybe that fledgling artists video comes up in the search and gets some plays which then gets it to the frontpage which then gets more plays and then some label comes swooping in or else their twitter and facebook pages blow up. See it happen all the time, it’s like the Idol of youtube,, and since there are so many cooks in the kitchen etc. it matters not if they can actually write or produce or compose or anything. Better if they have a pretty face and toned body, but hey, stats are stats and get enough they can be leveraged for money or paying opportunities.
2. It’s also a great stroke tool on labels and artists producers etc. As with every bit of revenue the owner will get their little slice, more to the pay it forward thing.
Better these days to put out a full album of covers, especially current trending hits etc. and then work those angles, herd some cattle, put some money into labels and owners pockets, and maybe round up a few deals or offers, or at worst herd a good little collection of cattle into their fenced off land to feed into the slaughterhouse.
Don’t worry about the covers, the producers and songwriters and labels goons will whip any cover artist into today’s latest original sensation.
All of the above is why I can’t stand covers, all good though, for each their own. Just costs so much more to break someone with original music that is unrecognizable to people, er, cattle! Better for labels and business people to do it that way, costs less and makes more, money money money right?
Look at MattyB for instance.
Look at the amount of views etc. it has gotten him.
It’s only a matter of time before he is cruising around in a Mazarati or Lambo with models hanging off both his arms, doing and saying anything he wants just pocketing million after million, and rightfully so, as with those many views it’s really an inevitability and not easy to get there.
I’m sure he will get some killer sponsorships and endorsements and probably leverage his career into some movies or television, basically a full on celebrity gracing and blessing us with all his talents, which have to be there since he has so many youtube views etc.
Well deserved and clearly what the world and people in general are craving for. Doing something right he is!
Ok, but this girl didn’t put out an album of covers; it was one. I get what you’re saying about YT stars getting big off covers, and I can agree those people tend to be a little lame, so we’re sort of on the same page a tad. But also, the songwriters are making a shitload of money off them, too, so shouldn’t we be happy for them?
Also, the concept of using covers has been around forever, and utilized by HUGE acts over the years. Covers were like half peoples repertoire until the late 60s. A lot of motown acts broke by singing covers. A few notable rock/folk acts broke (or had hits) by playing covers, hell I don’t know if Joe Cocker wrote a song in his life.
So again, I agree making your whole career a covers career can be a little silly, but putting a cover on a record, or singing one or two in your live set has been a pretty standard thing forever.
Absolutely man, covers have been around for a long time, no doubt. Hey it’s great for the songwriters etc. in a time when they are getting hurt, so in that sense it is good. I’d rather take the money they will get from others doing covers, just give it to them and make covers illegal!
Actually there are some good covers out there, Come On by Ian Gomm is real good, but he seemed to do his covers out of respect and to actually try and make them a bit different and better, not just banging his rattler on his crib rails screaming at the top of the lungs for mommy to come change his diaper, ya know! Chuck Berry and Lennon/Mcartney, now those are songs and writers worthy of being covered, and to try and top them, THAT is the cover game, if you can do it properly! Go listen to Come On by Chuck Berry and then check out Ian’s version, if you can’t come correct like that on a cover, don’t even bother, you don’t belong!
They are great for the business on a ton of levels.
For music though?
Mostly terrible shit.
I just run my game a certain way man, i don’t like covers, i don’t like seeing people blow up and get tons of money just by doing covers, its lame as shit and as uncool as you can get. For a stupid industry so set on people paying ridiculous dues, these here today gone tomorrow cover artists probably bring a bit of short term quarterly cash in, but overall its not the right way to be developing talent, it’s an injustice to music, but hey captaining the old fishing boat to deep waters and trawling a big net around trying to scoop up a school of tweener fish ain’t really music anyways is it?
I’m greasing this girl up and down because after listening, there is talent there, and i’m disappointed she only put out a stupid EP which has a cover on it, so 25% of her whipping 4 song public output is covers and she only had the balls or the money to step up on 3 originals, lame. It’s tough putting your music out there and i’m not trying to rip her heart out and hold it in my hand dangling it in front of her face or anything, just sayin!
I also think it’s not respectful to the art-form and the craft unless taking certain songs and really making them better and not just use to show up in searches to try and get some labels and tweeners attention, and i take offense to that. It can be a sign of respect to the original creators song, but mostly a lame marketing gimmick.
Is what it is.
-Roll Over Beethoven
-All Along the Watchtower
-Like a Rolling Stone
Yeah, 60’s bands didn’t cover anyone’s tunes…
yeah, and as you see above, aint no one claiming they didn’t. learn the language or kindly beat it!
The music business is a team game! Results matter not!
It’s about a team or tribe or posse or gang. No individual sporting here, no matter how good the results may be!
Results do not matter. What you do on your own does not matter.
You can attain far greater levels of success being a yes man team player handing towels out to the superstars then you can doing it yourself and getting better results.
Be a team player, yes sir no sir etc. Do not under any circumstance try and do anything yourself. Pay someone else, whatever you have to do, even if you feel the results are worse then you could, the music and the results do not matter.
Maybe she can bake a box of cookies for Taylor Swift and get a twitter shout out?
I dont know how much someone of her stature is charging for such a service, but maybe the nashiville thing with the box of cookies will work.
Thats a career maker these days.
12) need a sound engineer? Interview the candidates and hire the one who *buys* the most albums per year. That is a person who cares about music.
Search Ellery Bonham on Twitter and nothing comes up.
….which proves nothing about her business, licensing agreements, e.t.c.
One thing they might want to take into account before getting to big, the name!
There appears to be a music duo named Ellery and have been working under that name since 2005, that could cause some problems, especially considering you are in the same overall jurisdiction, different states but federally in the same one.
#11 – Do a good name search. You have to pay to do a corporate name search before opening a corporation, might be time to do the same with artists/bands.
“There appears to be a music duo named Ellery”
I agree that names, trademark searches ect. are extremely important. However, you usually don’t get in trouble if you use your given name (which seems to be the case here).
Another thing is that thousands of acts seem to get away with extremely and confusingly similar names today. Not sure if they’re just too small to get sued, though.
Looks like she took your advice….
It’s just poor branding, could result in a PITA legal battle. You have all these pages and design work that might need to be all changed up, I highly recommend doing it now, before you have a few million facebook followers etc. then getting a few years down the road and run up against that roadblock and have to try and change it all mid run.
It’s just a little frightening. A girl who went to a decent school for the music business and is working for a company in the industry in a major music market, all who are making money offering advice to artists on how to be successful, makes a major slip like that in her branding efforts, just looks a little bad.
It’s one thing if the other band is in Europe or something and you only have to tweak the name up when you go on a foreign tour, but in the same jurisdiction, risky!
But dreamer is a solid tune, well done!
Work hard and set your expectations appropriately.
Thanks for the info,i took all of that in for good use .I’m am a new Artice from Chicago and I know I have a different sound from what’s out there right now so I just have a few songs that I perform,Check me out on soundcloud.com,Big G G-Movement Ent
I could not disagree more with #1. If anyone thinks he knows what people will and won’t like (barring major-label promotion, of course – we’re talking independents) then he hasn’t been doing music for very long.
Nice article. Thanks and good luck!
As an industry veteran I gotta add… Hustle! There are 5 things you should be doing RIGHT NOW if you want to have a music career. Don’t you have a song to finish? Don’t you have some video to cut, or photos to curate, or gig contacts to hit up? Have you done your vocal exercises or instrument practice today?
Do everything you can to improve your gigs and your social prominence.
Be the one who doesn’t flake on going to your friend’s shows when you say you will be there.
And as far as playing or releasing covers. Search any great band’s catalog and you will find lots of covers. Learn to play them by ear and your musicianship can improve dramatically. Be ready to whip them out at your shows… New crowds will warm up to you much quicker if you play a song they know.
Work with lots of collaborators, and don’t be afraid to travel to the big city if you want better opportunities.
I find it fascinating that your list of “ten things” has no real “detail” or substance !…It appears that in each category/listing, you have only “gleamed” the surface and missed the most important details behind the point or reason why (why specific elements or actions were valid or necessary)…..I am always completely blown away by how little all these “experts” truly know or understand regarding the “why and how” so many things used to be done, and the importance of the “way” they had to be done in order to play a part in the successful release and chart life of a single……I once had a girlfriend who used to miss everything because she was “fluttering” her eye-lides! Either she was lying, stupid, or she really did miss everything! Perhaps everyone was too busy watching “Behind The Music” on VH! or txting, or watching “youtube” or their twitter account to learn what all those people who filled the floors of record companies did each day….Sometimes 7 days a week, and sometimes 24 hours a day…..It makes me sad to see all this knowledge lost of a bunch of arrogant entitled fucks who appear to still not have a clue, yet continue with their critical, opinionated and superior attitude, and still can’t back it up with “the goods” ! Maybe those labels and their choices as to who was signed, promoted and who was not, were not that far off???? Maybe some of those old record guys knew what they were doing…..And it is sad that so many of the “young’uns” missed the lessons that they taught !
Your comment reminded me of Frank Zappa. Especially this interview : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP4wsURn3rw
Great advice, thanks for the article!
thank you for sharing great advice like that
Wow. If you found this helpful you must be an idiot or living under a rock. Fluff and filler stating the elementary.
As an older person (I am retired and formed my first band when I was 11) it’s fun watching youth wasting time reinventing the wheel and giving advice that is common sense.
First off, most pursue a career in music for the wrong reason: fame and money (or Blow, Hoes and Automobiles). You pursue it because you have the talent (many of which do not) and you love to create music. It is inside you and drives you every day to where you write/compose almost every day.
If you are truly serious about it, you will save at least $2,000 and open a business checking account (check with your bank) after you have established yourself as a publisher. To do so, you do a DBA and pay for your IRS tax ID and call yourself a publisher. At this point you will be able to deduct your expenses. (Check with a CPA or IRS certified tax preparer.)
You better invest in Pro Tools (or an equivalent) and equipment needed to record your material. Learn how to use it (there are plenty of books out there). And learn the plug-ins. Either you will have a great demo or a product fit for public consumption.
Get a website where you can post your material for streaming and pursue licensing.
Reality check: Since 2011 I have released seven albums and one single and have sold very little. To rectify this issue I am in search of an attorney and publicist, as well any business connections.
This list of “10” things should be a must Read to each and every individual that wants to make any kind of revenue in this industry. Obviously we can not make them a “blanket” rule nonetheless they are valid points of interest and we’ve been preaching the same knowledge since our first “backsliding” contest we promoted at a Chuck E. Cheese in the early 80’s.
stay true, too be true..
TRULY Independent Records
4301 Brookfield Drive #232385
Sacramento, Ca 95823
This is a very refreshing read. I had to read it twice because I could not believe what I was reading. This individual, at such a very young age knows what she is talking about and we give her a standing ovations.
stay true, to be true…
TRULY Independent Records
4301 Brookfield Drive #232385
Sacramento, Ca 95823
Hey Ellery thank you for your free advice! I would love to hear some of your work I’m from a small red neck town in California and electronic music is not the most popular here but thanks to the beauty of the internet I have already been In contact with Japanese musicians who enjoy my music. If you want me to hear your work and maybe even do a collaboration get in touch with me through soundcloud…. https://m.soundcloud.com/odiakiller. There is a link to my music if anyone out there wants to hear it…. Lots of love everyone
Hi Annonymous If you spent more time polishing your own songs, and not telling everyone else what they are doing wrong, it would be better for all
You have either been burned badly, through your own bad judgement or naivity , or just someone who likes to mouth off because your ego rules your working days
Gve it a rest and see a pshycho please
Annonymous I have just listened to about one minute of your so called recordings, in your language
The bigest piece of Shite I have ever listened to, you are a sad victim of your race and the state of
the culture you inherit;
You can run down all the white acts you like if that gives you some sort
of pleasure, most of us are aware of the mind set of mass media recording companies and the
markets that are out there, but we dont have to buy or listen to anything so irritating as this so called
crap you and your kin folk seem so obsessed with;
Yes we all know Elvis was heavily influenced bu Black Gospel Singers and the likes Billy Eckstine and even White Man Johnnie Ray , Our Musical Influences come from all races and mainly from Black Singers most who have gone on so to speak to The Promised Land
No one in their right mind could call what you are writing music in the true sense of the word , it’s inflences
are Drugs, Hatred Of All Other Races except Black, I as a white man am ashamed of the so called Slave Trade of the past and even today some Blacks and White people are treated as Scum of the Earth ,but it’s not something solely aimed at Blacks
Many acts have found so called Stardom via You Tube, and we can get paid for being on You Tube so it cant all be bad
The Good News is Vinyl is coming back , for obvious reasons the poor quality of mp” downloads on digital sites like I Tunes is horrible to someone who has not lost their sense of hearing via the type of crap that you seem to love
What a sad old world you live in , and you dont need to stay in your own personal shit home whatever your colour,
Thanks for the advice I will be releasing my album soon, needed to make sure I’m doing all the right things!
I like that you said that planning an event takes a lot of effort. If I was in a band planning an event then I would want to make sure everything is right. You may want to ask a professional for tips if you don’t know how to plan one. https://www.airyjeanine.com/bio.html