The first mistake in the album release process I want to help you avoid is not having enough money to finish. I promised my album to my fans by a certain date. But I started several steps in the process too late to complete them. The first thing to budget is time. If you don't allocate enough of that, nothing else will matter.
Though you could release an album with zero costs theoretically, I don't recommend it. In this post of budgeting suggestions, I'll offer ways to help you not make the same mistakes as me.
Who Does What?
How many of the required “jobs” will you do yourself? If you're in a band, what are the strengths of each member that they can bring to the release process? At the same time, you have to ask yourself what will need to be hired out. No matter how good you are at the various tasks — unless you want to take a decade to release an album — it's likely that you'll want some help. If you want the help to be good, hire professionals. (That means you have to pay them.)
No matter what, do what works for you. You need to adapt your music cycle to you (either individually or as a band). That's why I'll offer more questions than advice.
Questions for Budgeting
Here are some of the areas you will probably need to ponder regarding hires and therefore budgeting. (There's more detail on several of these coming up in this series.)
- Marketing/PR: You should budget something for this unless you have a million or more engaged fans on social media plus lots of connections with music bloggers and radio DJs. If you decide to try to do much or all of the marketing yourself, budget as much time for that as for your practice and recording sessions.
- Another note about advertising: no matter how tempting, don't go for cheap ads, especially Facebook. If there's enough interest (please leave a comment), I'll write a detailed post about how those ads only work if you spend more and more on Facebook ads.
- Do you have a website? Have you registered your desired domain? Is your web design already created? Have you verified the SEO on your site? Again, if you answered “no”, you need to budget for these. If you need a free site to get started, try wordpress.com.
- Do you have a music player for your web site? (Beware Soundcloud due to company stability and too-easy downloading.) Are you on BandCamp? Do you need to upgrade to BandCamp Pro?
- Are you going to create music videos? Teaser videos? These are great for publicity of many kinds. Who will create, record, and edit these?
- Submissions/distribution: I don't know of any DIY artists/bands who are trying to distribute their own music. You will need to select and hire a distributor. I recommend DistroKid. After sub-optimal experiences with other distributors, I've never had any issues with DistroKid and their annual fee (vs. per-release fees). Other distributors include CDBaby and TuneCore. I recently heard about Music Kickup which has a free distribution tier. (I can't speak to their quality.)
- Arranging: Who will be doing the musical arrangements of your music/songs?
- If you’re doing your own arranging, recording, mixing and mastering, do you have all the software/plugins/sounds you need? Virtual instruments? Sound libraries? Effect plugins? If you don't already have these, do you know how to select the ones you'll need?
- Do you have a professional DAW (e.g., ProTools, Reaper, Cakewalk SONAR, Logic Pro)? I’ve watched friends use consumer software like GarageBand on release recordings, but I don’t recommend it if you want a professional sound. Obviously, you'll also need a professional audio interface, microphone(s), and instruments.
- Can you play all the musical parts yourself? Or do you need to hire session musicians? Remember, if you plan to make money from your recording, it's only right to pay the players.
- Engineering/mixing/mastering: Do you know the difference between mixing and mastering? How do you set a level and do you have experience doing it? Have you ever tuned a track with EQ? What will you need to do to separate a kick drum from the bass? If you aren't sure about any of those (which are just examples of 100s of recording techniques), you will need to either learn this trade or hire someone who already knows it.
- Now, you need to research how much each of the things you need will cost and put it into your accounting software or a spreadsheet.
- How much time will you need to budget if you do it all yourself?
- Where will the money come from? More on that in the next post…