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.