Posted: Oct 28, 2019
Category: The Musician Business
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**Guest post written by Ari Herstand. This is an excerpt from his book How to Make It in the New Music Business (second edition). This post was originally published on Music Connection.
"Before you even think about creating a release strategy that will give your album the recognition it deserves, you need to first figure out yourself.
We’re all artists. We create art. But to become an Artist with a capital A requires a helluva lot more than just “great music.” So how do you go from an artist to an Artist? Of course, creating exceptional music is step one. But every great artist can do this. You need to showcase that you are so much more than just someone who can make great music.
Society encourages conformity. Falling in line. Keeping your head down. But Artists are leaders. Artists help people connect with their souls. Artists not only tap into a higher consciousness, but guide their followers to explore states of existence outside the daily mundane. Artists inspire those who are willing to open up and challenge their states of being.
The greatest Artists can inspire a generation into action. Or a couple into love.
Before you release your next single or album, make sure you set it up for the best chance of success. Don’t forget to do these 26 things before the release:
How do you know if you suck or not? You’re biased. So is your mom and your boyfriend. Your friends aren’t going to tell you if they hate your music. They will come to your shows to support you. To make sure your music is ready for prime time, you need some unbiased opinions. You can submit to industry experts, influencers and curators on Fluence. Fluence allows you to pay people who are difficult to reach to listen to your song or watch your video. Most ‘curators’ (as they’re called on the platform) charge a few dollars a minute. If you’re asking for feedback, prepare for it to be brutally honest. When I was a curator on Fluence, I typically wrote five-to-ten paragraph critiques of songs submitted to me. Eighty percent of the stuff I received was not very good; 15% was decent, but not great; and 5% was so great that I had to share it (if it was released) and help the artist make connections.
But Fluence can get quite pricey. To hit the general public, you can use ReverbNation’s Crowd Review. You basically pay about $50 to get 100 people to listen and rate your song. This is a great way to help decide which demos should make the album or which master should be your single. You can filter by genre (so folk lovers aren’t rating your heavy metal song).
TuneCore has a similar program called Fan Reviews.
Use one of these platforms to test out your song before it’s released.
There are a ton of royalties out there. Kobalt estimates there are 900,000 distinct royalty payments for a single recording. So, to make sure you grab as many of those as possible, you have to register your music in all the appropriate places and sign up with an admin publishing company.
In America, the four PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) are ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR. In Canada the sole PRO is SOCAN. Most admin publishing companies will register your songs with the PRO of your choosing so you don’t have to worry about taking this step once you sign up for an admin pub company.
SoundExchange is how you get paid for SiriusXM (and all other digital radio) plays in the U.S. Other countries have their own neighboring rights organizations. Find the one in your country and register for it. Make sure to register an account and submit your catalog.
AllMusic is the most inclusive credits database in existence. Discogs is a close second. Why Spotify or Apple hasn’t integrated this info into their system is beyond me. Your music should be registered on AllMusic.com and Discogs so people can find out who played the violin on track 3 and who co-wrote track 7, because most people won’t ever see your physical liner notes. To get registered on AllMusic, you go HERE and follow the instructions. For Discogs, you can submit the info directly through the site.
You can do everything at Copyright.gov. Just be extra careful with this, because if you file the applications incorrectly and you later have to file a lawsuit against someone, the court may say that your registration is invalid. The safest bet is to hire an entertainment or copyright attorney to do this for you so you don’t screw it up!
To get your song in Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, Google Play and 80-plus other stores and streaming services worldwide, you need a distribution company. The top digital distribution companies (for indie artists) in the world are currently CD Baby, DistroKid, AWAL and TuneCore. I keep an updated comparison on a bunch of these companies HERE.
If you’re interested in getting your music in TV shows, commercials, movies, video games and trailers, you’ll want to get a licensing company.
Include PDF document with your bio, press images, MP3 files, cover art, logos, etc.
You should build up a network of photographers in your city. You can never have enough high-quality photos. Every release is a new begin- ning. It’s a time to update and enhance your image. To rebrand if necessary. Photos give your audience the first impression of the music. People will judge your project based on the artwork and photography before they choose to lis- ten to the music. So your photos should have the same vibe and energy of your release. Make sure your photographer listens to the new music. And make sure the photos you release alongside the new music make sense. You need to wear an outfit conducive to the new sound. John Mayer moved to Montana to write his albums Born and Raised and Paradise Valley. The photos were taken in Montana and were indicative of his new direction. Your new album needs a story. And those photos need to match the story. Pick your top 10 (edited) photos and include them in your Folder of Assets. Pick your top 3 and use these for all initial press and promo. You can roll out the other 7 in time with new videos, singles, tours and shows.
This is different from your bio and doesn’t need to be posted anywhere online. You will send this directly to media outlets.
Or hire a playlist plugging company.
Bandcamp is the #1 independent music store. It is self-managed by you. You don’t need to use a distributor to get on Bandcamp. You can go to Bandcamp.com and sign up for free. You can offer “name your price” downloads. A fan once paid me $200 for my album (set at $5 minimum). Bandcamp now offers subscriptions and a physical merch store as well.
A new album demands a new website. It’s a good idea to rebrand your website every couple years regardless if you have a new album or not. There are plenty of website builders that require no design or coding knowledge. They have beautiful templates to choose from and are very simple to use. I keep an updated comparison on ArisTake.com of some of the biggest website builders.
Now that you have new photos, album cover and bio, use these assets to rebrand all your social sites. You are bringing an entirely new package to the world. Make it shiny, sparkly and tasty. And put a bow on it!
If you don’t have a mailing list yet, start one. This is the most important fan engagement tool you have. A McKinsey & Company study recently concluded that email marketing is forty times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined. MailChimp, FanBridge, iContact, Constant Contact, Benchmark and SendinBlue are some of the best and most widely used email list services.
A new album or tour demands new merch. Get creative with your merch offerings. More on this later.
Music supervisors want a quick and easy way to listen or download your music. Most prefer receiving music via Disco because they can stream your song in the browser, add it to their Disco playlists or download it if they want to use it. Get all of your songs, metadata tagged mp3s and AIFFs, full versions and instrumentals, up on Disco, Box or Dropbox. Click the Share button and grab the link for every song. Put that in a text document in your Folder of Assets.
Google Drive with Docs, Sheets, Forms, My Maps and a suite of other helpful cloud-based apps can be shared with your team, keeping all info updated in a centralized (online) location. G Suite is also one of the easiest ways to create firstname.lastname@example.org. I highly recommend you get familiar with these tools and use them regularly to stay organized.
You’ll want to get all of your music up on SoundCloud. Not only is it an active community, like YouTube, it is the easiest way to send someone a streamable song. You can also put a SoundCloud playlist on your website and embed players around the Web.
SmartURL and ToneDen are two of the best link-tracking services out right now. Like Bitly, smartURL and ToneDen will let you know how many people clicked your link, but will also give you much more detailed analytics, like location, device used, referring domains and other stats. You can also use smartURL and ToneDen to create “PivotLinks” and “Fanlinks,” respectively, which is how you make landing pages where your fans can choose their preferred streaming or download outlet. Create trackable links for every link you save.
For your band name and your logo.
It gives you some legal protection and enables you to open a bank account (and get paid)."
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Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business (second edition), a Los Angeles based musician and the founder of the music business education company and blog Ari's Take. Follow him on Instagram @ariherstand.