So you want to release a record without the help of any label? You want to be the captain of your ship where no one dictates what direction you should go or what “uniform” to wear. Every band is doing it nowadays so why can’t you, right? Of course! With determination and a hell lot of preparation, you can make it on your own. The first thing you need to do is know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Here are some things you need to know about self-releasing an album:
First of all, It’s totally not as easy as you think. Some folks romanticize “DIY” and “Indie” as if they’re the easier alternative. Some say it’s easy when in fact it’s one tough endeavor. But, don’t you ever wonder why, with the gazillion aspiring musicians in the world, only few artists are able to release a CD themselves? Releasing a CD without the help from the “big guys” and without years (if any at all) of experience means HARD WORK. It will drain your energy, it will eat up all your free time, it could hurt your pocketbook. Erase the idea that self-releasing an album is easy. You’re not ready if you’re not ready to welcome hard work. Once you’ve acknowledged that making a record is not easy, you’re on step one.
It’s a full time job. Making a record, promoting it online and offline, selling it, on top of the usual stuff you do can’t all be done during your “free time.” You have to treat it as a full-time job because it is. Yes, you have big responsibilities (like your day job) but you decided to commit yourself to this endeavor so there’s no turning back. I’m sorry. You want to release a record? You gotta do something. And that something takes a lot of time and effort. If you’re a band of five, then splitting tasks is the wisest thing to do. However, you have to make sure everyone’s giving their 200% all the time from the moment you decided to release an album. Having weekly meetings with the band is a must to make sure no one is procrastinating and to prevent band squabbles. You should also hire a manager and an assistant or two to help you with daily tasks.
You’re going to pay for every single thing. This is actually one of the main reasons many bands want a record deal. The expenses in recording, mastering, manufacturing, and marketing an album is not small money. It’s big enough money to hurt you. But don’t let this scare you. There are so many ways to come up with money. You can apply for a loan, use your savings, or play gigs like an energizer bunny to save enough cash for the initial expenses, start a Kickstarter campaign to solicit grants, ask donations from fans, pre-sell, look for a sponsor, and so on.
Also, since you don’t have an established label, expect to pay upfront. So you might think that it’s okay to foot the bill as long as there’s a painless payment scheme. However, most CD manufacturers and other services give discounts and good payment schemes to their past clients or to record labels only. The reason is very simple: they already established a good relationship. Or if it’s a first time client, they’re willing to gamble by offering bigger discounts and staggard payment scheme if there’s a very bright answer to their “what’s in it for me?” ( meaning, if their partnership could result more projects in the future. Meaning, record labels). When you’re still a newcomer, chances are you will be asked to pay upfront for your orders, and pay full price.
You’d be building your list of contacts from scratch. Labels have a very long list of contacts to help them promote their releases from media, event organizers,bloggers, to distributors. They’ve established connections with the ‘big guys with the big guns” years (or even decades) ago. Needless to say, it’s not an easy road for you because you have to do this from scratch. This is not easy nor fast so make sure you’re building this months before you start making your album. Always remember you’re dealing with people who get e-mails or calls from people like you every single day so you gotta stand out.
(Too much) Freedom! You decide everything from how your music is used to how much you sell your CD to how you dress up to how you act- everything. No bosses bossing around and getting cut for your every effort. But this is a double-edged sword. It could be a bad thing if you lack discipline. Not all people are self-starters and self-managers. But the good news is that, if there’s good teamwork, anything is possible. Assign the most organized person in the band to become the “manager”. If you think no one is qualified for that position, go get someone who can manage you.
So…do you really want this route? Are you really ready? Not to be negative about it, but self-releasing an album is HARD [WORK]. Deal with it or look for other options or postpone the dream. We recommend the first one.
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