TuneCore: How to self-release your music

Indie distributors TuneCore give us their ultimate guide to self-releasing music...


Self-releasing music is a path increasingly chosen by indie artists in 2018. 

With so much technology at your finger tips, songwriters and music creators can now record and release music without any external support. We caught up with Kevin Cornell from distributor TuneCore to find out his essential advice for anyone looking to take the DIY path... 

What are the main considerations indie artists need to think about when planning to self-release their music?

There’s a lot to keep in mind. First and foremost: who’s distributing it? Choosing an independent distributor like TuneCore means you will be given the opportunity to see your music live on streaming and download platforms like Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, Amazon Music, Deezer and more. It also allows you to manage your revenue from those stores - with a single upload.

While some artists like to limit themselves to free platforms like Soundcloud, and Bandcamp, others just don’t realise that services like TuneCore can help you reach a much wider audience at a reasonable cost, all while keeping 100 percent of their revenue.

Release dates, a marketing plan, and creative assets are next. Is the music ready and of the quality you want it to be? Do you know when this is dropping and how much time you might need to prepare around that date? How do you plan to market the music to fans, press, and playlist curators both ahead of and after the release date? Is your properly-formatted cover art ready? Are you dropping a video to help promote it further?

Artists need to research where they plan to market and promote their next release once it’s live in stores/on platforms. With so much music uploaded each week, you’ve got to make an effort to stand out and get people excited."

As an indie artist, at what point should you contact streaming services to ensure you get your music on their platform?

A distributor like TuneCore can help you get your music online in a relatively short window of time - but don’t leave it to the last minute. Just because your music isn’t on a big label doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be preparing for your big release like it is.

Giving yourself three weeks ahead of your desired release date is a safe bet. This essentially gives you breathing room should an error or unexpected issue arise with your release.

For instance, as mentioned above, perhaps you failed to follow a formatting guideline in regard to your cover art or audio file. These things can be fixed and our teams will work with you to make sure it gets done, but if you’re promoting a certain release date and you suddenly need more time to get it out to the world, it could be problematic.

Of course, this is entirely up to the artist - we know inspiration strikes at any time and sometimes you just need to get it out there!

What promotional assets do you need to have when releasing music?

If an artist is self-releasing music, they may very well be taking charge when it comes to pitching to blogs/media outlets, social media promotion, playlist pitching to tastemakers, and radio promotion. And guess what? All of that is totally doable in 2018!

Key promotional assets any artist should have lined up ahead of their release date include:

  • a well-written bio
  • high quality photos (these don’t need to be professional or ultra expensive)
  • social media channels 
  • a well-researched list of press, radio, and/or playlisting contacts (it’s okay if you’re introducing yourself for the first time!)
  • links to stream or download the music (consider setting up a private stream ahead of the release date on Soundcloud so writers and editors can hear it ahead of time) 
  • and any other creative content you planned to include in your promotions, such as a music video or release announcement graphic.

All of this is important and can live in your Electronic Press Kit (EPK).

Your EPK can act as a central hub to everything a talent buyer or member of the press/radio might want to know about you. Don’t make them do the hard work of finding your assets and music."

What aspects of the release do you need to have budget for?

Every artist will have a different set of items to budget for given their access to various resources and how much of their release will be truly DIY (Do It Yourself).

For instance, if an artist has specialisation in engineering/mastering, that’s a service they won’t need to outsource. Or perhaps the artist has a strong design skill set, so cover art and promotional materials won’t be a cost to them.

But in general, these are some things that artists should consider having a budget for depending on the extent of their release plans:

  • Recording studio hours
  • Mixing/mastering fees
  • Creative/design assistance
  • Digital distribution fees
  • Merch
  • Website hosting
  • PR/promotional campaign assistance
  • Social media ads

Again, artists’ release plans will vary based on what they want to focus on and what they can specialise in themselves or rely on friends for. Hopefully the above gets artists thinking.

What are the biggest do's and biggest don'ts when it comes to self-releasing your music?

DO: Be prepared. Give yourself lead time and wiggle room when working with your digital distributor to make sure your release is properly formatted and gets released on time.

DON’T: Wing it. Putting stuff like digital distribution off until the last minute could result in messed up timelines and a delayed release.

DO: Your promotional research. 2018 is a fantastic time to be an independent artist! You’ve got tons of tools at your disposal and plenty of opportunity to target the types of listeners who are sure to love your new music.

DON’T: Get discouraged. 2018 can also feel like a difficult time to be an independent artist. After all, it’s a saturated market and other artists have the same tools and resources as you. Not getting the response you hoped for? Don’t give up! Just learn from it.

DO: Go global. It’s been mentioned already, but you cannot discount the potential in offering your music worldwide. TuneCore delivers your music to 150+ stores/platforms, each with their own base of music lovers.

DON’T: Spam people. While it’s important to craft your voice on social media and build a good pitch to bloggers and the like, nobody likes a spammer. That means not following up every other day or using all caps to scream your point across the social media sphere.

DO: Have patience. If building a career in music was a cinch, you wouldn’t be reading this. And guess what? That’s fine! Treat your experiences in self-releasing your music as a labour of love, and treat every step (and misstep) you take along the way as a lesson to learn from.

Visit tunecore.co.uk to find out more. 

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by Jim Ottewill
October 31, 2018
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