Let’s embrace the possibility that we can publish music ourselves! Self-publishing is often neglected, but it doesn’t have to be at all. Gone are the days when success was only defined by a record deal. Current examples are Alice Merton or Milky Chance, who even achieved success in the USA without the support of a large record company.
Especially in the young phase of a band’s history, the question of a record deal usually does not arise for the reasons mentioned above. But of course, you still want to go to the studio and sell CDs at concerts, to be found on the Internet at iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. And that is also possible!
What to do to publish your own music album?
1. Make a realistic schedule
Before you start the release or publish a specific date of the release, the record should be finished and mastered. Many brands make the mistake of euphoric announcing release dates that cannot be kept. When it comes to the release date, you should definitely allow for a lead time for photoshoot/artwork creation, pressing, and promo. In the best case, this should be 6 months.
2. Put the artwork in good professional hands
Once the photos are ready, the artwork is ready for pressing. When choosing CD packaging, ask yourself what you can and want to really afford. The more pages a booklet has, the more expensive it is. The same applies, for example, to the choice of a digipack vs. a simple pocket. So maybe when you press your first EP it doesn’t necessarily have to be the 1,000 editions with a 12-page booklet – ask yourself honestly whether you can get rid of the copies at a realistic rate or whether you should scale a little smaller.
You should then be careful when creating the print data. If you are a Photoshop beginner and have never heard of the word “bleed allowance”, you should definitely put the artwork in the hands of professionals: If you are unsure whether everything will look as it should in the end, you run the risk of spending a lot of money To be put in the sand for crooked covers, upside-down booklets or cut photos. The quality of the photos is also extremely important in order to be perceived as a professional band at all.
When pressing, consider a contingent of promo CDs (50-100 pieces) that you can send to the media!
3. Promo – do it yourself or delegate
The cost of a promo can quickly run up to thousands of euros. The big all-around hit for all media may not be necessary for the first publication. An online promo and regional support can still be a good thing, but of course, you have to take them into account in the budget. I do not want to give specific cost recommendations/estimates at this point, as these differ individually from the agency, promo package, etc. It is best to get several offers and compare them, talk to fellow musicians. If a promo agency rejects you, ask why, do not evaluate a “no” negatively, but see it as a quality feature of the promoter who does not want to rip you several thousand euros out of the cross, but gives you an honest assessment, whether he is the right contact person for you. And: Listen to your gut instinct, even fairytale promises usually do not correspond to the reality of what is feasible.
A promo agency should get your record three months before the release. If you want to sample print titles that appear monthly (including many city magazines), you must adhere to this lead time, because the editorial deadline for these titles is a while in advance. Radio, online and newspaper promotions can also be made at a shorter notice. If you want to save yourself the post of a promo for a first publication, you can still take a lot in hand. You can also write to online blogs and regional media (online and print) as a band with a professional EPC and good press release – many regional media are also happy to support the heroes of their city and take them into account thematically.
4. Deliver to sales
The sales department should receive the data for the plate six weeks before the intended release date. Nowadays, every band can easily initiate digital sales themselves – various distribution services offer to place your publications in shops around the world. You can select with a click of the mouse in which shops, streaming services, and countries you would like to be found.
Sell music on the internet
Depending on which target group your music appeals to, physical distribution may make sense, but in times of declining CD sales, it doesn’t really make much sense. Often the availability on the digital platforms is sufficient and the CD sale takes place directly at concerts. Finding a physical distributor is then again a hurdle, as this also wants to be certain that you are also delivering sales in retail. In the case of a smaller, young project, physical sales can initially be neglected. If you are beyond that, it is worth talking to a distribution service or friendly bands and their experiences.