When it comes to releasing your work as an unsigned band, it can feel like a bit of a tall order in an industry saturated with music artists and debut albums.
And, without a record label, this struggle is even greater, as you’ll have to do all of the legwork yourself to get your name and your work out there.
However, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, many self-released debut albums go on to be huge hits, including the first mixtapes of megastars A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd.
So, just how do you achieve this worldwide success and fame without a record label by your side? We’ve put together a quick guide to releasing a demo CD as an unsigned band, so you can get a head start.
Create a plan
Before you can start any of the logistics of producing your CD, it’s important to create an extensive release plan, mapping out every stage of the process. Just like any other business venture, an album release needs to be thought out and well executed.
Sit down with your bandmates and set a realistic release date, ideally around three months from when you get your physical CDs made, and work backwards from that.
You’ll need to factor in recording and mixing your music, creating the artwork and any photoshoots, registering your rights, mastering your CD, creating the physical disks and then promotion, so it’s important to set a release date that gives you a bit of leeway should anything take longer than you expected.
For a great example plan, check out this one by the founders of Indie Guide.
Make your music high quality
Once you’ve recorded your tracks and are happy with the results, it’s essential to make sure they’re saved in high-quality audio files, as these files are what will be mastered to eventually create your album.
In order to achieve the best quality sound, it’s recommended to use 24-bit stereo WAV or AIFF files at the same sample rate as your mixes. It’s also worth noting that many digital services don’t accept MP3 files, so it’s important to get the format right first time.
For a detailed guide to audio formats, check out this one by Freestock Music.
Copyright your work
Many unsigned bands are unaware of the legalities surrounding their work, but it’s important to copyright any material in order to establish your rights and royalties.
Although in the UK you automatically receive copyright on any original work, this doesn’t always cover your material outside of the UK, so it’s important to contact the IPO Information Centre to fully understand your legal rights.
It’s also important to register with the right organisation in order to collect your royalty payments from external use. This guide provides some more detail on the different organisations available.
Master your music
The final stage before producing your physical discs is to have your music professionally mastered, which essentially makes your music sound as good as it can be.
You’ll need to find a mastering engineer and provide them with your final mixes in the right format, as well as the artist name, album and track titles, the year, genre, ISRCs and an album cover.
Once they’ve been mastered, your engineer will provide you with a physical disc and multiple digital formats.
Release a physical CD
When you come to produce your CDs, you’ll have to choose a company to make the physical discs.
If you only want a few CDs and are looking for something cost-effective, duplication is the best choice, while replication is best for large quantities of discs.
Promote and distribute
The final step in a debut CD release is the distribution and promotion, which means uploading your music onto digital platforms, sending out press releases, trying to get deals with local record shops and using social media.
You need to do everything you can to get your music out there and this great guide has a fantastic promotion strategy to follow.
So, although releasing a CD as an unsigned band may seem like an uphill battle to begin with, it’s well worth the effort in the end!