As an independent musician, releasing one's own music requires a massive amount of work, and it can be easy to forget something or misstep along the way. One thing which can help an artist avoid screwing up is to compile a checklist which they can refer to along the way.
Guest Post from Fiona Z
One of many reasons why a client comes to me is helping them handle their next album release. Being independent, it’s up to them to handle artwork, distribution, registration, the works – on top of promoting it, performing and practicing – which is on top of normal life obligations. Doing it alone is not a light task.
While I hope it’s clear to you that you need to delegate on help with artwork, press, booking, music videos and promotion, sometimes the actual paperwork of getting the album release gets buried – but is essentially just as important when it earns you money for every stream, purchase and play of your upcoming album.
Some of you may find check lists boring, but I LOVE them. Why? Crossing off that item lets me know the next step was completed, and I can go to sleep at night without my head spinning and thinking, wait, did I do that? Should I do this?
I don’t use them for everything, but I definitely have one for album releases. There’s just too much to miss or get confused by with everything that needs to be done.
So, here it is, in no particular order.
__ Register Copyrights. You immediately own your copyright when the song is in fixed format (sheet music, recording, etc.). It’s very easy to do and I recommend handing it off to your VA right away. Just visit http://www.copyright.gov/ to get started. Note, you can register your album as a collection, so you aren’t paying the fee for each song.
__ Affiliate with a PRO if this is your first release, or add the track information to your PRO – ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. Some distributors that work with independent artists will do this part for you when setting up your album for an extra fee.
__ Add the album to SoundScan. Whether it’s a single or album, register the title at Nielsen Soundscan. Visit http://titlereg.soundscan.com/soundscantitlereg/ to fill out the form. If you have any questions while filling it out, I’ve found their phone support is always available and always helpful.
__ Set Up Distribution. Whoever you use, make sure to get started early on distribution. Some need at least 2 weeks in order to set up pre-orders, and delays can happen. So once you know the date of your release, go ahead and start on the distribution. If you need some guidance on how to find the best distributor, Ari Herstand has a great resource on his blog here.
__ License any cover songs. You’ll need to obtain a mechanical license in order to release a cover song on your album. I’ve only had to handle this with a Christmas album, but with covers being more and more popular, it’s becoming easier to license as well. Some distributors will help with this, but you can also do this by visiting http://www.easysonglicensing.com/.
__ Set up a Private Soundcloud playlist of the album. This will be key if you want to share the album with anyone before it drops. No one wants to download your mp3’s, give them easy listening access via Soundcloud. Plus, most blog submissions and press submissions request a streaming link!
__ Add the album to Soundexchange. If you’re the owner of the songs, primary artist or in the band, there are additional digital performance royalties you can collect on when music is played on internet/satellite radio. PROs don’t cover this, but Soundexchange does. Note, it can take months to get added so if you haven’t registered on their site, do it now.
__ Send the album to Pandora. Lots of people still use Pandora so you’ll want to make sure your album gets added. It takes all but 5 minutes to send it off and if you’re approved, you’ll know in a matter of weeks. I’ve seen it happen in a few days before, but the earlier, the better.
Once you have registered with all of these sites and gathered the album information (UPC, album cover, ISRCs, credits), all of these tasks above can be handed off to a VA to complete. That way, you can focus on the more important things, like practicing for your big release concert!
Hope you find this helpful – feel free to print it off for your next release!