Guide To Releasing An Album
Traditional Methods Of Financing Music
When it comes to releasing an album in the digital age, the internet brings with it a wide range of useful services and opportunities for musicians that allow freedom and independence aswell as cost-effective solutions to common music industry obstacles. Gone are the days of tens of thousands of artists sending demos to record companies and labels in the hope of striking up a deal, most unsigned artists would rather remain independent and do it for themselves. Not only do the artists retain their creative freedom this way but they also have a potentially higher profit margin and only need to sell a considerably lower amount of albums in order to see a return on investment. When a music album is commercially released by any of the five major record companies the album is usually financed by a recoupable advance/loan from the label worth anything from $100,000 to $1,000,000 or more. This money is then recouped by the record company not only via the album sales but also through sales of merchandise and live performances that the artist generates. The artist doesn't usually see any money until the loan has been paid back. Statistically, only one in between 10 - 20 artists that gets signed to a record company actually manage to generate a return on investment and go on to make profit. It's easy to see why many artists want to remain independent and with the rules being changed so that all official downloads are chart eligible many unsigned artists have received mass exposure as a result.
Alternative Methods of Financing Music
With the advent of the internet crowdsourcing and fan-funding are rapidly growing new ways of doing business, particularly in the music business. For the cost of less than a CD an entire album can be pre-ordered and not only do fans get a copy of the album, they also get extra rewards in return for their pre-order sometimes including a share of the income generated from album sales or publishing and access to exclusive songs or a private area of the artists website. Fans get far more for their money and can be involved with the artist on a personal level. If the artist is offering income share then the deal is also a small business opportunity. Modern music industry websites are now using the fan-funding concept selling pre-orders with exclusive benefits and potentially a return on investment as the new way of doing business in the music industry. The money raised is then used to finance the artists release which has been paid for before it's even been made, the cost has been covered by the fans. Sellaband, Slicethepie, My Major Company and Pledge Music are the big players in this movement. Alternatively, if you already have a large enough fanbase you can raise funds independently.
Artist & Repertoire (A&R) & Album Content
To produce a 10 -12 track album you need to have about 30 tracks to choose from. You should always 'choose the best and work on the rest' later. It's also important to determine the best order of the tracks on the album and to use the same sound engineer or producer to do the recording and mixing to ensure consistency. Once your album is recorded and mixed it then needs to be mastered by an engineer to remove any minor errors and to make it sound wider, smoother and more polished and to bring out the dynamics. The recording quality, mixing and mastering all affect each other dramatically. Of course, every note needs to be played with perfect precision and timing and any flaws in the tracks need to be ironed out before laying them down. The more money you put into production the higher quality you will attain. However, you should always spend more on promotion than you do on recording and production. Next you need to decide on the album sleeve and artwork which needs to reflect the feel of the album and the musical style of the artist.
Distribution & Promotion
Traditionally record labels have a deal with one of the main distributors often because of their proven track record. This makes it difficult for unsigned artists to get their music into the main music stores though it's certainly not impossible. However, once again the internet brings the perfect solution. Sites like Amazing Tunes allow artists to sell their music online and retain 100% of the revenue whereas most others charge a small fee. By using a service such as Tunecore artists can get their music on the major online music retailer's websites such as Amazon as iTune's. Tunecore charge a small fee but save a lot of time and effort.
Once you've got a well produced album of decent songs and a tidy sleeve, no-one's going to buy it if they don't know it's there. If you raised funds from fans and/or investors then you already built a bit of hype on the way, you need to consistently continue to build up that hype up until the release of the album. Ask your fans and investors to help you on the way, it's in their best interests. You should also release two or three carefully selected singles prior to the release of the album to give people a taste of what to look forward to and to keep them interested. Promote your music heavily both online and offline, plaster it everywhere you go. Keep a website and post regular blog entries, sign up with networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Reverb Nation (which lets you earn money), Soundclick, iSound, Bebo and build a network of potential new fans. Send out a press release to all the relevant websites and magazines and make yourself stand out. Get your music out to both online and offline radio stations. All it takes is to get people to notice you and remember you.