Wednesday, November 18, 2015
With music equipment and software becoming cheaper and cheaper everyday, it’s becoming easier and easier to self-create a quality CD within the confines of your own home recording studio. So as creating and releasing your own CD becomes more and more accessible, more and more musicians are opting to do exactly that.
And why shouldn’t they? It’s a great way to spread your music (I don’t care if CD sales are plummeting, giving someone a physical product you can touch is always preferrable to a digital copy), as well as make some money off the music you’ve worked so hard on (if you’re selling the cds)
For those of you who follow me on youtube, you should know that me and my go-to singer / songwriter / business-partner Landon Reidy self-released underground albums earlier this year / decade. We sold a few hundred copies (not as much as we had planned, but other things came up for us so the albums was unfortunately put on the back-burner), and the whole experience, from idea to selling the final product, taught me a lot about marketing and how selling music works in general.
Today I've decided to put together a quick guide on how to put together your own cd or mixtape from the idea to releasing and selling it.
1.) Figure Out Your Market
This is key. Don’t just throw together a bunch of tracks you had on your computer and release it. Have a concept or idea and have a clear picture of who will be listening/buying your music.
You have to know your customers so you can create the music for them, because in the end they are the ones who will be listening and enjoying it. Now that doesn’t mean follow trends or change your creative vision to please everyone, but it does mean figure out exactly who your music appeals to and tailor your CD towards the listeners.
And definately don’t make one of those cds with ‘one of everything’ tracks where you try to please everyone.
Me and Landon went with a ""Electronic Rock" vibe with previous albums, and because we figured out the direction early, we ended up with a musically solid and consistent project at the end of it.
2.) Record The Music
This parts obvious, right? But a lot of people get into the marketing, and all the other areas of their project before even creating the product! I have to admit this is something that I did also, and while it’s good to have the steps laid out for you in the future, you have to remember that the music is the most important part, so don’t rush this step.
Put in the extra time to make QUALITY music. Fix up those tiny mixing flaws, re-record those shakey notes. Get everything as perfect as you can.
3.) Cover Design
Once you have the songs finished, mixed and mastered, you have to get the covers designed. I’d suggest you outsource a designer (you can find great graphic designers online for not too much $), and I'd definitely suggest getting professional photos done for the covers. When you’re trying to sell the product the cover is the very first thing people will see, and even though the music is the main focus, the cover is what they will initially buy.
A great cover verse a cheap looking cover will reflect (at least in the consumers eyes) on the quality of the music. Save up however much money you need and invest in quality pictures and quality cover art.
I know that when me and Landon were selling our cds, we had numerous people commenting on how professional it looked, and some even thought we were selling a CD by a major recording artist. It cost us a few hundred to get the quality we needed but it was definately worth the investment.
4.) Manufacturing / Pressing
Next you’ll need to get your CD manufactured. Do NOT burn and print the cds yourself! They will look cheap and tacky. This does mean you will have to invest MORE $ but in the end every little bit counts. Don’t skimp on any of these steps. Find a CD manufacturer who will do 1000 or less copies and get yourself a few hundred CDs at least.
It shouldn’t cost you too much if you buy in bulk, and if the professionals will leave you with a great quality pressed and printed CD. You don’t want your CD’s to look like you burnt them off your laptop.
5.) Sell It!
So you’ve figured out your market, recorded the CD, finished the covers, had your CD pressed up and ready to go, what to do now? SELL the product! OR if you wish, give it out for free as promo material! Either way, you have to get the music out there! Now, there are various ways to do this, and i’d advocate implementing as many as you possibly can.
Firstly you have to figure out WHERE your ‘demographic’ or basically, the people who will like your music, hang out. A great place to start is shows/events. The first time Marque and I started selling the ‘Back To Basics’ EP we wold it at an event that Marque performed at, where we knew much of the crowd would love our type of music. Because the people we wanted to sell our music to were there, plus Marque had some buzz due to the performance he had just given, we ended up selling over 50 copies in around 2 hours after the show. Not too bad.
Another great place is outside clubs when people are leaving. This actually isn’t as hard as it sounds, as long as you don’t approach people like a pushy salesperson and just be friendly and laidback. Just tell them you’re aspiring musicians, offer to show them some of your music through headphones on your ipod, and let them decide.
Don’t try force or beg people to buy it, cause if they feel awkward at any point they’ll most likely just leave. If you head to clubs that bring in a crowd that listen to your genre of music, you should be gold. This does require some effort and discipline, especially as you’ll be waiting in the cold till around 3 – 4 in the morning, but it’s all a part of the grind.
Lastly, you can sell physical copies online, as well as digital copies. CDbaby.com have a great service that allows you to send them your physical cds, and people can buy it from the cdbaby website, and they will handle the shipping and postage for you. As well as that they have an online retailers like itunes and amazon, which is great.
Anyways that’s it for today. Hope this brief guide gave you an outline of what it takes to self release an album/ep or mixtape! And remember, don’t do it for the money. Even though you’re selling your music the main motivation should be providing people with quality music that they will enjoy and be touched by, one way or another.
Also, as usual feel free to leave a comment! If you found the info in this article valuable don’t forget to sign up to the newsletter to get updates and more informative articles in your inbox!