|About a year ago, I performed 3 cover songs at an ice cream shop in Clemson, SC for the first time ever. I had been playing cover songs at home by myself for 15 years, just for a break from working on the computer (various Internet businesses). But had just recently decided I was going to start playing at open mics. Since that first night I have played as many open mics as I can including a trip to several cities in the western US over a couple months (click here for pics/dates/venues).
Then last fall I decided to try to write some songs and was pleasantly surprised with what came out. I tweeked and reworked them over a couple months. Then had the opportunity to record my debut 7 song EP “Reflections of Reality” with my new friend (and producer) Jeffrey Joslin.
Now that I had the product, I needed to go through the necessary steps of setting up a music business correctly to ensure that my music/brand is adequately protected and then promoted as successfully as possible.
As I went through this process I decided to keep track of everything I did so that I could put together this How-To Article to help others. This post is the result of hours and hours of research I spent over a few months and at this point do not know what is going to come of my own music. But considering the fact that I am already an Internet Marketer, I now plan to get into the music business. The Internet has opened up so many opportunities that have never been there before for independent artists. The only thing that is absolutely necessary is that you are making music that at least “some” people are going to like.
So that being said, If you want to give your music a good chance of getting heard I suggest you go through this tutorial and just simply complete each step. Then when you’re done you will have the peace of mind that you covered all of the essential elements. Then you can get creative and figure out other ways to reach your fans. The sky is the limit. I just hope this helps speed your progress along a little quicker and smoother! Good luck on your journey!
1. Write, Record and Master your songs.
While a standard minimum EP length might be considered 4 songs (but I can’t seem to find any actual standard in my research). Many of the resources provided here can still be applied with as many as 1 original song if it is professionally “finished”.
The bottom line here is “You need a quality product to sell”
2. Copyright your songs.
I’ve read a lot about how once you create a song that there is some kind of inherent copyright. I talked to several musicians about this issue before I even needed to know so I would be ready if I wrote something. And from what I have come to understand, you need to have it a recording of it “officially” date stamped somehow. There used to be services (probably still are) built into songwriting softwares to upload new songs for essentially date stamp purposes because that’s really all you need.
So after looking at all of the options and what would make me feel comfortable, I decided that uploading the videos to YouTube was sufficient as a bare minimum of protection. YouTube gives you a third party verified date stamp and you can keep them private and in your account in case you need them for litigation (which is the only reason copyright’s would matter anyway).
However, in my opinion it is much better to take it one step further and actually obtain a US Government copyright for your entire work. Meaning that you end up sending in a packet of information that gets registered in the Library of Congress.
I researched this and decided on a legal service to make sure it was done correctly (no chances this first time around).
NOTE: When I first started this process I just went ahead and used the service above because I was trying to get a lot done fast and correct. I think you can save a few bucks if you have the time, skill and patience to navigate the governments registration protocols through their website so I have listed it below.
DIY – U.S. Copyright Office Forms
3. Register with CD Baby. They will fulfill physical orders, and distribute your MP3 to all of the major distributors online including iTunes, Amazon, MySpace, etc…
$39 One-time registration
NOTE: This site is one of the best resources on the web for Independent artists. They are constantly forming new partnerships with companies to expand your exposure at a minimum expense. Including making your physical CD available through Amazon which is necessary for even submitting to Pandora Radio. Be sure to thoroughly utilize this site.
4. Register with PROs
PRO is short for “Performance Royalty Organization” and there are many different PROs. They all serve essentially the same purpose, to collect and distribute royalties.
There are 2 types of PROs that need to be registered with to receive all the potential royalties. The first kind covers the traditional media outlets and have been around since music became a business. You can (and need) to register as both the songwriter and the publisher with one of these organizations. The 3 major PROs of this kind in the US are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
(I went with ASCAP because it is run by songwriters,
but do your research, there are subtle differences)
http://ASCAP.com $35 application fee x2
But times have changed with the advent of internet and satellite radio that are not covered by those organizations. So now there is another PRO that you will need to register with as well to make sure to cover all of your potential royalties.
Register with SoundExchange.
5. Have the physical CDs produced.
There are many companies out there that offer these services. Prices can range drastically depending on what you’re wanting to do. To have your physical album available through major online retailers like Amazon you will need to have a bar code and shrink wrapped.
If you have even basic digital graphic skills, these companies have templates for you to download and you just put your hi-res designs in the correct places and upload them to their site. What I found to be the biggest price factor was the inside cover. I ended up going with a 3-fold for the best price vs flexibility ratio.
100 CDs for aprox. $320
6. Register with Freedb. So that your track information shows up when a CD is put in a computer and is connected to the Internet.
Download Audiograbber for free online and use their submission process.
7. Submit to music review sites
All Media Guide is a review database that is responsible for feeding the detailed descriptions for iTunes among other sites. Follow their instructions at this link.
8. Submit to Internet Radio.
9. Create Social/Video Profiles
10. Submit to Press Release Sites.
$1 p/Premier Release if you want to be able to include a link, but you have to pay $20 for account, so you get 19 more releases. They do have a free option as well, but links help with SEO.
There are literally thousands of online music bloggers that will write about and post your music if they like it. This process can be neverending, but below are just a few that I submitted to.
Or you can start here and just keep digging. This is one of the largest music blog portals.
12. Submit guitar Chords/Tab
This is another way for you increase your exposure in the search engines and opens up the opportunity for people to learn your songs, increasing your chances of people hearing and liking your songs. There is a specific format that these sites use, so many smaller sites will only receive feeds from a certain sites where the songs are formatted appropriately.
This site uses that common format and feeds many other similar sites, so my research indicated this was where I wanted to post and get approved first. Then they have the potential to take on a life of their own.
IMPORTANT NOTE: During the course of completing these steps myself, I came across an ebook that contains most of the information in this article and so much more. Drawing on years of experience promoting indie musicians, Your Band Is A Virus covers everything you need to know for successfully self releasing an album. I had actually seen this for sale early on in my research, but figured I could find the information myself and knew that usually those ebooks are full of filler and very little actionable advice. But that is not the case here. I strongly advise you to order this ebook if you want to save yourself months of frustration and possibly missing the opportunity to effectively release and promote your music.
AND if you do not have a website or are looking for a new host then the best I’ve seen for cheap is Hostmonster with everything you would need. Like WordPress, opti-in mailing lists, unlimited domains, emails, forwards, etc… every kind of open source scripts out there to perform a function you need is included. That’s what this blog is on, while my homepage is hosted somewhere else. They have been a lifesaver on a limited budget : )