You’re an indie artist and don’t have a record label backing you up?
Don’t worry. You can definitely release an album on your own.
But you have to do it wisely.
How, you might ask? Don’t worry, we got you.
In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you have to take to release your album without a record label.
I. PUTTING TOGETHER AN ALBUM
While there’s no right formula of how you prepare your album but there are must-do’s.
MUST-DO #1: DETERMINE THE THEME OR MESSAGE OF YOUR ALBUM
If you don’t want to be just like the other 1 million musicians who want to make it, this is the first thing that you might want to do.
Is your album all about heartache and moving on? Is it about your anger towards the world? Is it about peace?
A theme or message can be your starting point if you don’t have anything in mind yet.
MUST-DO #2: CHOOSE THE RIGHT SONGS YOU WANT TO INCLUDE IN THE ALBUM
With a theme, you get to go through your list of unreleased songs and pick the ones you think fits the theme or flow of your album.
MUST-DO #3: CREATE AN ALBUM COVER
After finalizing your album’s list of songs, you have to create an album cover that visually speaks for the album or communicates the message your album has.
If you want some inspiration, here are 25 music packaging designs that are true works of art.
MUST-DO #4: A PHOTOSHOOT FOR YOUR ALBUM
Aside from your album cover, you should also have a photoshoot for your release, one that coincides with your album’s theme.
You can use this for your website, press releases, and even posters and merch.
MUST-DO #5: DECIDE ON THE FORMAT/S YOU WANT TO RELEASE IN
Lastly, you have to decide on the formats you might want to release in.
If you’ve got the budget, then you might want to release in vinyl. But if you’re scared to take a big risk, you can just release it in the ole CD format or even cassette tapos.
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II. PREPARING THE AUDIO/MASTER
The next thing you have to do is to prepare your album’s audio. Go into your studio and record your songs as perfect as they can get.
Here’s something you have to remember: Even if you think you’re a pro in mixing and mastering, it’s much better to let a professional do it.
Espcially if you’re going to press vinyl because keep in mind that vinyl records would be needing a separate tracklist, mixing, and mastering. It’s the most tactile format which requires adjustments to not overstep its limitations.
III. ARRANGING THE LEGAL MATTERS
When releasing your art, you have to make sure that you got all the legalities sorted out.
Get them copyrighted and have both a master and public performance license for them. If you’ve got cover songs included in your album, then make sure to get a mechanical license for it.
Doing all these will help you protect your art and secure your royalties.
IV. LISTING DOWN HOW YOU’LL GO ABOUT YOUR RELEASE
Just releasing your album without some strategy would be a disservice to all the effort you will be spending in preparation of your album.
You must plan a release strategy.
This will help build up excitement for the big day.
The goal of having a strategy for your album release is to create hype so that you and your music can reach other people’s ears. So you have to think of ways to grab their attention, hold it, and make them curious for more!
Here are some methods to do just that:
#1: PRE-RELEASE SINGLES
Most musicians do this with their releases too so it’s not something new.
Both seasoned and new artists have proven time and time again that the strategy does work. To keep them engaged you have to make sure that the intervals of your pre-releases are not too far apart.
You have to tease them, but don’t tease them so much that they grow impatient of waiting for your actual release.
#2: RELEASE PHYSICAL FORMATS
Informing your fans and the general public that your album is to be released on physical formats would catch their attention more.
Unlike with digital formats, physicals give your audience something to look forward to.
#3: OFFER MERCHANDISE
Much like the physical format, merchandise also gives your fans something to look forward to.
So as long as you create beautifully-designed merch, then fans would be anticipating their arrival.
V. ORDERING PHYSICAL AUDIO FORMATS AND/OR MERCHANDISE
The next thing you have to do is to order your merch and physicals.
This needs to be done as soon as possible so that you won’t have to rush your manufacturers to meet deadlines.
This is a must, especially for vinyl records which have at least a 3-month turnaround time, to avoid delays and problems during the release date.
VI. FINDING A DISTRIBUTOR
This is the secret ingredient that many independent artists of today are using.
Distributors are the reason why you won’t need to sign to a record label. They will be the ones to help you put your music, digital and physical, out into the biggest retailers (e.g., Amazon) and online streaming sites (e.g., Spotify and Apple Music).
Aside from that, some of these distributors can also help you with your music licensing.
There are a lot more things a distributor can do for you so just search them up on the internet and look for the best one that you think would cater to all your needs.
VII. MARKETING YOUR ALBUM
Lastly, you have to market your album.
This is something to be done before, during, and after the release date.
As mentioned, you have to build hype, that’s marketing.
Aside from the above mentioned methods, you can also use social media to create that hype by posting teaser photos and videos as well as doing a countdown.
On the day of release, you can have a small showcase for your fans to enjoy or a press conference, though this might be a hard feat if you’re just starting your career.
Anyway, you can also reach out to bloggers and to the media and inform them of your upcoming album.
You can let them listen to your songs and have them post their reviews on the day of release.
The day after the release is not a rest day for you.
You’re not thinking of hitting the sack after finishing one hectic day, are you?
Promoting your album shouldn’t stop. Throughout this time, you have to go to schedules you have that would promote your music.
Before the release date you have to have contacted radio stations and television shows and ask them to have you. You also have to continue posting on your social media accounts, this keeps your fan’s fire burning.
Another more straightforward way of promotion would be to go on a tour.
This will keep your fans wanting to listen to you and have people from places you’ll be going on a tour to see and hear your recent and past albums.
Remember that you don’t have to necessarily do everything alone. Quite frankly, you can’t even if you try. You need help from others so don’t be afraid to ask for it.
You got this!
Just know that Unified will be right behind you if you need us.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD, custom vinyl records and merch company in LA.