There are a whole lot of tools and services out there that claim to help you with recording, releasing and promoting music and it might be a little overwhelming to figure out what’s actually useful. I’ll start off by telling you the things that I pay for when releasing a new piece of music and why I think it’s useful.
For a long time I didn’t even know what mastering was. In a nutshell, mastering will even out the volume levels on your songs and make everything more cohesive. Mastering just provides a polished and professional feel to your songs, and it’s also to your advantage to have a separate set of ears on your music making a few tweaks. I highly recommend paying for mastering before releasing your music.
I am a musician, not a graphic artist. And that’s fine! But I do want the cover of my album to look killer, and while my lame design skills might be sufficient for my websites and various other things, I want the cover to be done right. Making sure you’re working with someone who knows what they’re doing with design will go a long way to give your album that extra boost of professionalism and interest. You may not even have to pay for this; you might have a friend who would be happy to work with you for free. But as an artist myself, I always like to compensate other artists for their help with my work.
This is a pretty simple one, but the costs are relatively low to get your music onto iTunes, Amazon mp3 and a bunch of other online retailers. I use Tunecore for this, and they charge $50 for album distribution, but they frequently have discount codes to bring the price down.
Those are the big three things that I pay for when releasing a new piece of music, and I highly recommend you doing the same if you can afford it. Now I want to talk about things I DON’T pay for.
I record and mix all my music myself. The cost of studio time and mixing would be huge, and while it could make my music potentially sound better, I love the flexibility and control I have in doing it myself. If you can spend the time learning to record and mix your own music you will have a HUGE advantage in many ways. I’ve already talked a little about the basic tools you need to record yourself, and I hope to talk about recording and mixing a lot more in the near future.
There are tons of services that say they’ll work with you to help promote your music. They might actually be helpful, but I don’t think it’s worth it for a few reasons. The main one is that if you are completely behind the promotion of your music it will come across as infinitely more genuine, and people will enjoy interacting directly with you. Don’t be tempted to hand off this responsibility to someone else. Secondly, no agency really has any more powerful tools than you do for promotion. I believe with the tools available in this day you can do just as much for yourself as they could do for you. Check this post about three absolute necessities for promoting your music to get you started.
Hopefully you’ve noticed that everything I’m willing to pay for is something that’s kind of a “finishing touch” on the music. It’s that final step that will put you on to the same level as most “professional” artists. Just think about it… you’ve got an album that’s been mastered, so the levels are consistent and it sounds cohesive. You’ve got some killer artwork that gets people to say “wow, that looks professional!” and you’ve distributed it to the biggest online music retailers so your music is right alongside the big boys. I don’t know about you, but it makes me excited that I can accomplish that at a relatively small cost!
Question: What are you willing to pay for when releasing your music?