What every musician should do before releasing an album

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Album release checklist for musiciansThe definitive album release checklist

[This article was written by recording artist Brian Hazard. It originally appeared on his Passive Promotion blog. I’ve made a few notes throughout, as certain items were directly related to CD Baby services.]

Your album is mixed and mastered, finally! You’ve got cover art and maybe even replication lined up. Now what?

This is the question I was hired to answer. Specifically, I was asked to create a to-do list for a band’s debut album. They were generous enough to allow me to share it with you.

Keep in mind that all this stuff comes before the actual promotion. We’re simply laying the groundwork here.

Register your .com domain

If yourbandname.com isn’t available, choose another band name. No joke! Owning your domain is HUGE.

[Editor’s note: or you can register yourbandname.rocks or .band or .net with HostBaby.]

Trademark your band name

I hired Gerben Law Firm, and the entire process was a breeze. Josh conducts a comprehensive search, which will turn up any competing marks.

Even if you’re not worried about others infringing on your mark, conducting a search will protect you from infringing on others, and potentially save you from having to change your band name in the future.

Create profiles on the major social networks

You must be on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and YouTube. Hopefully you can snag your band name as your username on all of them.

You might as well at least stake your claim on Instagram and Google+ while you’re at it.

Register with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO)

ASCAP or BMI, take your pick (if you’re in the US). If your song gets played on terrestrial radio or TV, they’ll collect performance royalties for you.

[Note: if you sign up with CD Baby Pro, you will automatically be affiliated with the performing rights organization of your choosing.]

Register with SoundExchange

They collect royalties for plays on digital services like satellite radio and Pandora.

License any cover songs

Unless you wrote every song on your release, you’ll need to pay the publishers of the songwriters who did. You can go direct through Harry Fox using their Songfile service, or through CD Baby’s new cover song licensing parter Loudr.

Choose an aggregator for digital distribution

I use CD Baby to get my music on iTunes and Spotify. [Note: and over 90 other digital download and streaming platforms.]

You can sell your music on Google Play directly, though I’m not convinced it’s worth the hassle.

Launch your website

I built my band site with WordPress, but maintaining it can be a time sink, with constant updates to plugins and WordPress itself. You’ll notice my band site is a mirror image of my promotion blog, to keep things simple.

[Note: if you need help creating a website for your music, check out HostBaby and try it FREE for 30 days.]

Set up Google Analytics

If you don’t, you won’t know if anyone is actually visiting the site you put so much effort into creating! Google Analytics provides more detail than you’ll ever want, including real-time tracking of site visitors. Creepy AND fun.

You’ll probably want to set up Google Webmaster Tools while you’re at it. Both are tedious, overly technical, and utterly necessary.

Start a mailing list

Until you’ve got 2000 subscribers, Mailchimp is the way to go. Unfortunately, it’s cost-prohibitive beyond that. I’ve got 5500 subscribers on my mailing list, which would be $65/month. I’m only paying about $170 for a full year with Fanbridge.

[Note: or if you host your website with HostBaby, you can use the ListBaby tool for free!]

Schedule a photo shoot

I’d prefer to remain anonymous, but there’s no way around it – you need professional photos. My last shoot was a few years back with the amazing Gabriel Goldberg. I’m totally overdue, and totally procrastinating.

Write your bio

Or better yet, hire a professional to do it. I keep four versions handy: long and short, in first person and third person varieties.

Get on Wikipedia, if you can

According to Next Big Sound, four thousand people have viewed my Wikipedia entry in the last 90 days. You’re not supposed to write your own, but luckily I’ve had multiple editors contribute to mine over the years.

The problem is, even if you get someone else to do it, it can be removed if you don’t meet their notability guidelines.

Set up direct-to-fan sales

iTunes takes 30% of sales. CDBaby.com only takes 9%. Bandcamp takes 15%. So referring my fans to those two options is an easy call.

[Note: CD Baby also offers order fulfillment for your CDs and vinyl. We’ll warehouse them and ship directly to your fans.]

Make your assets downloadable

For my last EP, I created a Dropbox folder that included all the tracks in .wav and mp3 format, plus instrumentals, album artwork, hi-res press photos, and remix kits for every track. Sharing with producers, publishers, and bloggers was as easy as emailing a link.

Figure out which songs to promote

I suggest getting a 100-listener report for every song on your release from Audiokite. In a few days you’ll know which songs best resonate with fans of your genre. Good to know, especially if you’re going to make a video!

Submit your release to Pandora

Here’s how. They will listen to one track, and one track only, so choose the one that scored highest on Audiokite. The bar is pretty high, and the process can take months, but it’s worth it. I make about $40/month from Pandora alone, via SoundExchange.

Get your music heard by key influencers

It’s worth paying a few bucks to get your music heard by people who can move your career forward. Fluence allows you to reach music bloggers, music directors, producers, other acts in your genre, and more.

You can even submit your stuff to me for mixing/mastering or promotional advice. If I like it, I’ll share it with my non-insubstantial following on Twitter.

And now that that’s all done, you’re ready to begin your promotion!

Did I miss anything?

I could write an entire post on any one of these items, so obviously I’ve kept the details sparse. Ask me anything, and I’ll do my best to clarify in the comments!

Planning Your Next Album 

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Photo by Daniel Kulinski

In this article

Join the Conversation

  • Great job on this article. Great tips, I started a blog called thinkingmusician.com which helps musicians evolve into a music’preneurs (if that’s a word). This is the breed of a new generation and slowly we’re evolving into thinking musicians. I’m referring this article to my subscribers. Thanks

  • Well Said!!

  • Bram Bessoff

    Here’s one to add to the list, set up your sales reporting and even start a presale campaign so your title charts on the first week of release. Any artist can report their sales to Soundscan and get on the billboard charts with http://www.indiehitmaker.com

  • Eki Abrams

    This is just what I needed. Incredible summary – thank you so much.

  • Absolutely awesome article. I’ve done most of this in sequential order. My group (hip hop group) has a single that’s mixed and mastered, we have a domain name for our independent label, we actually just had a photo shoot and waiting for the edited pictures, getting a professional to write up our bio, and were currently working on our email list ( currently as in as I’m writing this my 5 man team is sitting in McDonald’s reaching out to potential fans on the Internet and in the neighborhood to sign up to our email list). Anyway i say all that to say this article is right on and it feels good every now and again to have confirmation that your doing the right thing.

  • Faith

    What exactly does a remix kit consist of?

  • Hi Brian, thanks for the promotion advice. I have a new album coming out on June 1, so the timing of this article couldn’t be better. I sent you the Soundcloud files for my album, and would love your feedback. Great article!

  • john colmon

    Great job Chris. It’s a slew of info for managers and artist alike.

  • Terrance Jones

    That was a damn good article, very informative with new gems to add to my reportoire. Thanks a lot!!!!

  • I’ve used these things to my advantage. Thanks for posting this as a reminder for myself and brand.

  • Tiyana Payne

    Awesome! Very valuable information and with my new album dropping May 19th the timing couldn’t have been more perfect! Great job!

  • Excellent!

  • mothrafan

    1 correction: even with CD Baby Pro, you’ll only be automatically affiliated with the PRO of your choosing if you’re over 18. If you’re under, you have to pay the PRO and do it yourself. CD Baby doesn’t tell you that part.

  • Nice list. As Bram mentions below, only thing I’d suggest adding is if you plan on selling your CD, etc. at live shows, then you should register with Indiehitmaker.com so you can report all your live venue sales to Soundscan.

  • Excellent. Thank-you

  • Thanks! Good luck with your promo!

  • That’s up to you. I normally just include vocals in 24-bit .wav format, and an mp3 of the original track, zipped up with the filename SONGNAME_xxxBPM.zip.

  • Cara Ashbey

    Hire a publicist (says the publicist) Hahahah

    But in all seriousness, make sure you have a promotional plan in place or have someone that you are going to hire!

  • Marina V

    Great article, thanks!! I just learned of AudioKite!

  • ApathyNihilism

    What did the trademark search cost? Did it cover multiple markets and products (for example, doesn’t merchandise require its own trademark search)? Thank you.

  • Porangui

    Great article!! Curious if you have done this and your thoughts on it, but creating an artist profile on Spotify. Then sharing your curated playlists that include your music along with other artists you love. Fans/influencers share and the word spreads. Thoughts? worth adding to the list?

  • Josh LeBang

    This article is a blessing. I’ve released projects in the past and left out some of these keys steps. We live and we learn so thank you for the wise counsel and the knowledge I gained today

  • Stefanie Howlett

    GREAT article! Thanks!

  • Awesome! Thanks for being a part of that community. Glad the article was helpful, and wishing you much success with your new EP.

    Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisRobley

  • Robin Cook

    You also need to get a UPC/IRC code and register those with Nielson SoundScan BDS – this is super important if you are getting any radio play as Neilson BDS tracks those plays and reports that to Billboard (if you ever so happen to chart) 🙂

  • Sometimes yes. Particularly community radio stations (and some college stations), they’ll often want discs on the shelves.

  • Pricey, but if the music and the targeted stations/DJs are aligned, it CAN be worth it. Just do your research first and make sure you’re hiring a reputable radio promoter with a proven record in your genre.