In a world saturated by different bands and artists, it can seem like a bit of an uphill battle to get your own album out into the mix.
This struggle is multiplied tenfold if you’re an unsigned band. Without a record label, you have to do all the legwork yourself to get your music out there.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, many self-released albums go on to be a huge hit; just look at the first mixtapes of A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd.
So, just how do you do it? Here, we’ve put together a quick guide containing everything you need to know about releasing your own album as an unsigned band.
Create a plan
One of the first things you need to do when releasing your album is to create an extensive release plan. Just like any other business venture, an album release needs to be well thought out and well focused.
Plan from your very first rehearsals right through to the promotional aspects and create a realistic timeframe in which to do each stage. Try to set a release date well in advance (around 3 months from when you get your final products made and preferably on a Friday) to give you something for aim for, whilst allowing you a bit of leeway for any unforeseen circumstances.
For an extensive example plan, check out this one by Indie Guide.
Make sure your music is high-quality
Once you’ve recorded your final mixes, it’s essential to make sure they’re saved in high-quality audio files, as this is what will be mastered and eventually produce your album.
For audio file formats, it’s recommended to have 24-bit stereo WAV or AIFF files at the same sample rate you’ve been mixing your music. Many digital stores and services don’t accept MP3 files so if you’re thinking of releasing digitally (which you should!) then you need to get the right format first time.
For a detailed guide to audio formats, check out this one by Freestock Music.
Establish your rights
Many unsigned bands forget to fully check out the legal rights to their music releases and to establish their royalties to their music.
Whilst in the UK you automatically receive copyright when you produce any original work, this doesn’t necessarily cover your work outside of the UK, so it’s important to research your legal rights with your music. Contact the IPO Information Centre for more information.
It’s also important to register with an organisation to license your music for external use and collect your royalty payments, with PPL, PRS, and MCPS being the most important ones in the UK. Registering with these organisations will also provide you with an ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) which will be required when mastering your music.
This guide has a more detailed breakdown of these organisations.
Have your mixes professionally mastered
Before you produce your physical copies, it’s important to have your music professionally mastered. This essentially makes your music sound as good as it can be and makes it all consistent.
You’ll need to provide your mastering engineer with your final mixes in the right format (as discussed earlier), the artist name, album title, track names and numbers, the year, genre, ISRCs and an album cover.
Once they’ve been mastered, you’ll receive a physical disc and multiple digital formats.
CD replication or CD duplication
The final stage before you release your album is the production of physical CDs, which can be done as either CD replication or duplication.
We spoke to one of our team here at VDC Group, to get the low-down of the different methods: “Duplication is the best option for bands who have a small budget and who only require a small number of units, such as 500 CDs or less. Duplication is similar to burning discs on your personal computer, but to a much more advanced degree.
“Replication, however, is best for those bands who want 500 or more CDs and have a bigger budget. It also produces a better sound, so it’s worth considering if it’s within your limit.”
Promote and distribute
Finally, your album has been released!
Now it’s up to you to promote it. This means uploading it onto digital platforms, sending out press releases to media and publicists, trying to score deals with local record shops, using social media, and basically doing everything you can to get your music out there.
This great guide, How To Release A Record, has a really extensive promotion and distribution strategy so it’s well worth a read, especially for its example press releases.
It might seem like an uphill battle and will certainly be a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it in the end!