[Overview | Mastering | Distro | Bandcamp | Publishing, Licensing, Copyrights]

| Overview

With a budget of a few hundred dollars...

you can get your digital album professionally Mastered and make it available on all the popular stores and streaming services. A ballpark budget starts at around $40 per song for Mastering, plus $50 to Digitally Distribute your album and you should allow yourself a few months to complete these processes.

If you're trying to get your music out without spending anything, do your best to "master" the tracks yourself, set up your free Paypal and Bandcamp accounts, upload your album to Bandcamp and voilà! - you've officially released your music digitally.

Be sure to check out the PROMO section for advice on letting the World know about your release!

Get Up-to-Spec!

Audio File Formats: You should save your final mixes as high-quality (24 bit is standard) stereo WAV or AIFF files bounced at the same sample rate you've been mixing in. These WAV or AIFF files are what you will submit to the Mastering Engineer, what you will get back from the Mastering Engineer, and what you will then upload to digital stores and services (they will not accept MP3's!).

Artwork: To be safe, save your Digital album cover artwork as a 2400 x 2400 pixel .JPG or .PNG file, at at least 72 dpi and in RGB color mode. (2400 x 2400 pixels is the largest dimension recommended - many stores accept a smaller version, but if you start with the 2400 x 2400 version, you can always downsize.)

UPC and ISRC codes: To sell your music on iTunes or any of the other major services, you will need to go through a Digital Distributor and they will provide you with both a UPC code for your album (this identifies your album and monitors your sales) and ISRC codes for each of your tracks (same idea, but for individual songs).

Here is a useful rundown on the applicability of UPC and ISRC codes for indie artists.

If you prefer to license your own personal UPC and ISRC codes, you can find single UPC's for as low as $7.00 and ISRC’s are a one-time $80 fee for a company/brand prefix.

| Mastering

To have your final mixes professionally Mastered you will need to have a starting budget of roughly $40 per song and should plan on waiting 4-8 weeks from the day you submit your files to the day you download your finished masters.

If you're looking for a quick answer to the question "Should I get my digital files mastered?", the answer is "YES!"

Why?

Because mastering dependably makes your mixes sound better. 😎

Mastering engineers specialize in standardizing and refining the dynamics, loudness, consistency and timing of your tracks. They're experts at applying complimentary levels of EQ and Compression, helping each element of your music sound clearer and smoother (they use the kind of Hi-Fi equipment most of us can only dream of putting our mixes through!) For more on the history and effects of mastering, I recommend this podcast interview with one of my favorite engineers, Carl Saff.

If you're not budgeted to Master professionally or if you aren't convinced that it's worth it, please at least do your audience the favor of trying your best to "master" the tracks yourself!

Mastering Engineers

Here are some recommendations for affordable Mastering Engineers with great reputations (price per song approximate):

Carl Saff ($40/song), The Boiler Room ($40/song), Lucky Lacquers ($40/song), Eureka (Mike Nolte) ($50/song), Focus (Doug Van Sloun) ($55/song), SAE (Roger Seibel) ($60/song), Salt (Paul Gold) ($75/song), Josh Bonati ($75/song), Golden Mastering ($75/song).

| Distribution

To make your music available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Tidal etc., you'll need to sign up with - and pay! - a Digital Distributor.

Note: Turnaround times for Digital Distribution are pretty fast these days - from a few days to a few weeks - though you can specify your release date when you go through the set-up process. Be sure to give yourself enough time - at least a month (industry standard is 3 months) before your release date to get your EPK together, send out press releases, service radio and push your data.

The two Digital Distributors I'm most familiar with are Tunecore and CD Baby. Both have easy-to-use dashboards that guide you through the set-up process, both offer clear and thorough reports on your sales, and both allow you to easily withdraw any money you've made by Check, Direct Deposit or Paypal.

Tunecore vs. CD Baby

Tunecore charges $29.99 to distribute your album for the first year and then raises it to an annual charge of $49.99, for continued distribution, every year after that - but they don't take any percentage of your music sales.

CD Baby, on the other hand, only charges a one-time fee of $59 per album for distribution, but they take a 9% cut of everything you sell, for the duration of their service.

Other options

There are a number of other Digital Distributors worth checking out, including Music Kickup, Aded.us, Ditto Music, iMusician, DistroKid and Catapult. Here's a comparison chart, with some additional stores included.

AWAL

AWAL is a cool Distro company you may want to try submitting to. It's curated, so they don't accept everything, but if you manage to perk their ears, they offer good terms for digital distribution (a straight 15% sales commission on a rolling 30-day contract) and they are known for actively pitching your record for store placement and features. To submit your music to AWAL, you'll first need to fill out a "Join Us" form, which you can find at the bottom of their homepage.

| Bandcamp

Bandcamp is a dynamic, free service that provides you a customizable profile, full control over setting prices, and some really useful (free) services for selling merch, generating download codes and creating an embeddable player for Facebook.

(They also have some valuable features for fans, like being able to "follow" the bands you like, being notified when the bands you follow release new music, a free mobile app for streaming your purchases, and options for wish-listing and gifting music.)

Bandcamp has no set-up fees and no annual charges. They do, however, take a 15% commission on all of your music sales and a 10% fee on all merch (compare that to iTunes, which takes a 30% commission on all sales.)

If you're an indie artist and you're trying to put your music out, I encourage you to get set up on Bandcamp regardless of whether you're also doing Digital Distribution!

Heads Up!

A common frustration with being new to Bandcamp is that in order to collect the money you make on Bandcamp, you must not only have a Paypal account, but your Paypal account must be a "Premier" or "Business" Account, which means once you've set up a Paypal account you'll need to go through an additional process of (free) upgrading on Paypal before you can actually start collecting everything you've earned. So if you plan to use Bandcamp as a platform for selling your music, get your Paypal account in order first!

| Publishing, Licensing & Copyrights

As long as you haven't explicitly signed away any rights, your Publishing and Master Recording copyrights default to you.

It is recommended, however, that you do everything you can to professionally establish the rights to your music. This involves registering your "music compositions" and "sound recordings" with the United States Copyright Office (this can be done together, in one application, for $35), registering with a Performance Rights Organization (or "PRO") as both a Writer and a Publisher ($100 - $150) and registering as an Artist with SoundExchange (free). Once these tasks are complete, you'll be covered in case anyone ever records, performs, plagiarizes or wants to pay big bucks to license your songs.

Performance Rights Organizations

The three major Performance Rights Organizations - ASCAP, BMI and SESAC - collect and distriubte royalties for the "public performance" of your songs.

For indie artists, your best bet is to choose either ASCAP or BMI (SESAC is pretty exclusive and requires a review by their Writer/Publisher relations staff to join). Both ASCAP and BMI allow you to register as either a "Writer", a "Publisher", or both, but since the royalties they collect go 50/50 to "Writer" and "Publisher", you'll want to register as both a "Writer" and "Publisher" to collect the entirety of your potential earnings.

The catch: there are fees associated with registering. If you go with ASCAP, you'll need to pay $50 to register as a "Writer" plus another $50 to register as a "Publisher". At BMI you'll be able to register as a "Writer" for free but then they charge $150 to register as a "Publisher".

SoundExchange

After registering with ASCAP or BMI, be sure to sign up as an Artist with SoundExchange. This is a free registration that covers royalties for "non-interactive" streaming of musical content (such as Pandora and SiriusXM).

Licensing

The good news is that if anyone ever wants to license any of your music for Film, TV or Commercials, since you control your Publishing and Master Recording rights, you (or you and your lawyer) can negotiate and get paid directly.

The bad news is that the competition for Licensing dollars is super intense.

While it's always worth sending an email and listen-link to cool Licensing Agencies like Bank Robber, Musicbed, The Music Playground and Zync, your best bet in terms of getting a Licensing Agency interested in your music is to succeed on other fronts like publicity and radio. If you generate some buzz, your licensing opportunities - as well as other opportunities like touring and merch sales - are sure to increase.

Songtradr

Songtradr is a free service that allows you to upload your music, set licensing fee prices, submit to various projects, and make licensing transactions all through their platform. If you wind up licensing anything through them, they take a 17.5% brokerage fee (compare that to Tunecore's 20%). It's a new service and I don't know their success rate, but I've worked with some of their team before and I would definitely recommend giving Songtradr a shot.

Publishing & Licensing through your Digital Distributor

If you're using Tunecore or CD Baby as your Digital Distributor, you may be interested in their options for consolidating your rights management with them. The benefit would be that you may score some licensing opportunities that you'd otherwise be missing out on. The drawback is that you have to give them contractual permission to place your music anywhere they can, and you may not be happy with where your song gets placed, regardless of the payout.

Tunecore offers a "Tunecore Publishing Deal" for a one-time set-up fee of $75 (plus 10% of royalties and 20% commission on any Licensing they secure). There's a decent chance you won't make that $75 back from it, but it will definitely offer you a glimpse into online revenue streams and put your music out there for licensing opportunities.

And CD Baby has two options: a free opt-in feature for "Sync Licensing" where they will make your music available (and collect the royalties) for Film, TV, commercial and YouTube licensing; and a service called CD Baby Pro ($99/Album or $59/Upgrade), through which CD Baby will handle your PRO registration and collect and distribute your royalties (taking a 15% admin fee).

[Overview | Mastering | Manufacturing | Samples | Distro]

| Overview

It's 2016. Should you still make CDs?

Sure, if:
you're playing a lot of shows or going on tour (CDs are still a great impulse-buy at the merch table)
you have a good relationship with your local record store and enough of a local presence that you can most likely move some product
you plan to do a big publicity and/or college radio push and want to mail out CDs for consideration
you want your music added to the Allmusic.com/Rovi database, which supplies the bio, image and metadata for sites like Spotify
you have money in the budget (approximately $800 for 500 CDs)

No, if:
❌ you hardly ever play live
❌ the majority of your focus is online/digital
❌ you expect to get your CD in record stores across the land (this takes a physical distribution deal, which first requires getting signed to an established record label!)
❌ your budget is tight... If you only have a few hundred bucks and you're debating between professional Mastering and making CDs, I encourage you to Master!

| Mastering

CD Mastering is the same process as Digital mastering, with the additional consideration of how best to deliver your CD master to the CD manufacturer. Traditionally, your Mastering Engineer would burn a CD "production master" which you would then mail in to the manufacturer, and while this is still a viable option (and typically an additional $25 or so charge for the disc), the current standard is to deliver your CD master electronically as a DDP image.

Be sure to let your Mastering Engineer know upfront about the different formats you plan to release your music in.

If you're looking for advice on who to use for professional CD Mastering, please check out the DIGITAL Mastering section!

| Manufacturing

There are 2 ways to manufacture CDs:

1) "Replication" (the high-quality professional way)
2) "Duplication" (for low quantities - basically the same as burning CDs from your computer).

300 CDs is the typical quantity threshold for professional Replication. For smaller runs, you can either go through a Duplicator, or CD Baby and Amazon CreateSpace have options to duplicate-as-needed.

Price Breakdowns for Professional CD Replication

Note the various packaging options and that prices do not include shipping (prices effective Summer 2016 - always double-check!):

From Discmakers:
300 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $597 ($1.99 per unit)
300 CDs in full color Digipaks = $795 ($2.65 per unit)
500 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $785 ($1.57 per unit)
500 CDs in full color Digipaks = $935 ($1.87 per unit)
1000 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $999 ($0.99 per unit)
1000 CDs in full color Digipaks = $1049 ($1.05 per unit)

From Groovehouse:
500 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $795 ($1.59 per unit)
500 CDs in full color Digipaks = $1270 ($2.54 per unit)
1000 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $890 ($0.89 per unit)
1000 CDs in full color Digipaks = $1490 ($1.49 per unit)

From Nationwide Disc:
300 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $734 ($2.45 per unit)
300 CDs in full color Digipaks = $856 ($2.85 per unit)
500 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $747 ($1.50 per unit)
500 CDs in full color Digipaks = $956 ($1.91 per unit)
1000 CDs in jewel cases with full color cover = $799 ($0.79 per unit)
1000 CDs in full color Digipaks = $1008 ($1.01 per unit)

The Math

As you can see, the more CDs you manufacture, the cheaper the cost is "per-unit" - as low as $0.79 per CD if you make 1000.

This "per unit" cost is useful because it allows you to gauge what your profit margin will be when you actually sell a CD. If CDs are costing you $1/unit to produce, but you're selling them at your merch table for $10 each, you're profiting $9 on each CD. If you make 1000 CDs at a cost of $900 and you manage to sell all 1000 CDs at $10 a pop (that's $10,000!), your total profit is $9100, which is why CDs, in theory, can be a great investment. (To actually sell 1000 CDs, however, you'd probably have to be doing brisk business online and at at least a few record stores, in which case your profit margin would be a bit lower because you'd need to factor in the shipping and packaging costs for mail orders, the commissions for webstores, and the wholesale price for record shops.)

But hold up. Do you really need 1000 CDs? I can assure you it is extraordinarily difficult to sell 1000 - or 500 - or even 100 CDs these days, and the most likely result of making all those CDs is that they will end up taking up closet space for years to come.

I think the wisest advice is to try generating interest in your music online and/or in your community first and if you sense that there's real demand, that's when you start thinking about manufacturing.

| Samples

Beware: if you have any uncleared samples anywhere in your tracks, there is a high likelihood they'll be detected by the manufacturer!

In order to avoid copyright lawsuits, manufacturing companies make sure to clear themselves of liability in the paperwork they have you sign as well as protect themselves by running every project through sample detecting software before going to press.

If they detect the samples you've expertly chopped and woven into your songs, they will pull your project from production, notify you of the detected samples and insist upon appropriate clearance for whatever it is you're using before your project can proceed.

Getting clearance

Is it worth contacting record labels and publishers about getting clearance to use samples? Not unless you've got the kind of money that can get their attention!

If you're interested in trying anyway, here is some free, thorough, legal advice.

Solutions

Since you won't get in any actual trouble for submitting music with samples (and who knows, your timing could be just right to slip by!), you can always gamble with the manufacturing plants. Just be sure you're approved for production before you pay them anything!

You can also Do It Yourself by printing inserts, purchasing cases and having the CD faces printed on and then burning the CDs on your computer...

| Distribution

If you're hoping to have your CD in record stores across the country, your best bet is to get signed by a record label with a national distribution deal - and even then, in such a competitive market, it requires press, radio play and critical acclaim to be in full effect the week your CD is released to avoid being just another band lost in the store-shelf shuffle.

If this is your dream, and you want to reach out to your favorite record labels in the hopes that they will offer you a deal and work tirelessly to get your CD into every store still standing, simply:

Compose an email to the label's contact email address
Write a paragraph about who you are and what kind of help you're looking for
Paste in the appropriate links to stream your music, and...
Sign off

Chances are you won't hear back. But it's your dream. Perhaps you will! ⚡

So what's the best way to sell CDs, beyond your merch table at shows and from your local record store?

Online Retail

Making your CD available online is as easy as signing up with an online retailer like Storenvy (free) or Big Cartel (free for up to 5 items or $9.99/mo) - or DIY by creating a CASH Music account and using their free tools for creating a store. Once you're set up, you can link to your storefront from your website and your social media.

If you've set up your profile on Bandcamp, they will host a free merch-store for you (they take a 10% commission on all merch sales), from which you can price, sell and link-to your CDs.

And if you're using CD Baby as your Digital Distributor, they offer a free customizable store widget you can embed on your site. (CD Baby also offers what they call "Worldwide CD Distribution" for $49 + $4/CD, allowing you to sell CD's via their online store, on Amazon and through various distribution partners).

[Overview | Mastering | Manufacturing | Samples | Distro]

| Overview

Nothing's sweeter than the day UPS shows up with a box full of your very own hot-off-the-press LP's!

Getting there can be a journey, though.

Be prepared to wait

Making actual records takes time. Not only are there multiple steps required before production but the whole vinyl industry is notorious for delays.

$$$

And it takes $$$. You'll need to be prepared to pay for Mastering, lacquer-cutting, test presses, album-jacket printing and shipping along with the vinyl manufacturing costs.

$4 per unit, with a minimum of 500 units, is a good rough cost estimate ("unit" = the finished packaged product).

In other words, 500 12" LP's in custom-printed Jackets will cost you $2000. (7" records are about half that.)

| Mastering

The same Mastering Engineer you use to master your digital files can create a secondary digital master specifically tailored to pressing vinyl - it typically takes a little more time so there's an additional cost, but engineers and audiophiles will encourage you to do it. (Yes, of course you can just use the digital master for your vinyl but vinyl manufacturing introduces a different set of quirks and dynamics, so if you want your record to sound its best, Master for vinyl!)

For a list of recommended Mastering Engineers, check out the DIGITAL Mastering section.

Cutting Lacquers

After you have your Mastered files there is a second step involved in creating a vinyl master, known as cutting lacquer. This is the process by which the audio from your Master is transferred by a mastering lathe onto the lacquer, cutting the grooves into it. Here's a fly-on-the-wall video demo:

There are 2 ways to cut lacquers:

1) Send it to a lacquer-cutting specialist (who will then send it on to the manufacturing plant for production).
2) Have the manufacturing plant you're using cut the lacquer.

Both options cost about the same amount of money (approximately $350 for standard 12" or $150 for 7").

The benefit of having a specialist do it is that they are really focusing on you and making your vinyl sound as true to the Master as possible. The negative: the extra time it takes to schedule them.

The benefit of having the record plant do it is efficiency - it'll save time and, as long as you're happy with your digital Masters, it should sound fine. But a record plant is cutting a huge amount of lacquer and they're not really promising the service of a "close" listening.

Some lacquer-cutting specialists with sterling reputations (they also all happen to be popular Mastering Engineers) (prices per standard 12" approximate):

Carl Saff ($350), Lucky Lacquers ($350), Bonati Mastering ($350), Salt Mastering ($380), SAE ($400) and Golden Mastering ($440).

| Manufacturing

Vinyl Manufacturers typically make a distinction between the services they offer: "Vinyl Manufacturing" is one service, while "Album Art/Jacket/Insert printing" is another (and may require its own separate order.)

Some people prefer to have their Album Jackets and any insert material printed by companies that specialize in custom printing (such as Imprint or Dorado). *Note: 500 is the standard minimum order for 12" jackets (and 300 for 7" jackets) regardless of whether you use a specialist or the vinyl manufacturer. If you need fewer than the minimum, you'll simply be left with a stack of extra jackets...

As with lacquer cutting, the costs are about the same whether you have the Vinyl Manufacturer print your packaging or send it to a specialist. One advantage of having the Vinyl Manufacturer print the Jackets is that they will typically insert the records into the jackets for you at no extra charge (as opposed to having to do them all yourself in your studio apartment.)

Either way, if you want to keep your LP costs down, stick with the standard or default options and consider limiting the number of colors on your artwork and labels!

Price Breakdowns for Professional 12" LP Vinyl Manufacturing

Prices include lacquer cutting + *standard 12" Jacket printing* but do not include shipping (prices are effective Summer '16 - always double-check!):

From United Record Pressing:
300 records with b/w labels in paper sleeves = $1306 ($4.35 per unit)
500 records with b/w labels in paper sleeves = $1445 ($2.89 per unit)
500 4 color LP Jackets = $695 ($1.39 per unit)
* Best package deal: 500 records with b/w labels and 500 4 color jackets = $2140 ($4.28 per unit)
+ Digital Download coupons and hosting package (1000 coupons) = $275

From Erika Records:
100 records with b/w labels in paper sleeves = $989 ($9.89 per unit)
300 records with b/w labels in paper sleeves = $1154 ($3.85 per unit)
500 records with b/w labels in paper sleeves = $1429 ($2.86 per unit)
500 4 color LP Jackets = $595 ($1.19 per unit)
* Best package deal: 500 records with b/w labels and 500 4 color jackets = $2024 ($4.05 per unit)

From Groovehouse:
300 records with one color labels in paper sleeves = $1038 ($3.46 per unit)
500 records with one color labels in paper sleeves = $1275 ($2.55 per unit)
300 records with one color labels and 4 color Jackets = $1743 ($5.81 per unit)
500 records with one color labels and 4 color Jackets = $2025 ($4.05 per unit)
* Best package deal: 500 records with one color labels and 500 4 color Jackets = $2025 ($4.05 per unit)
+ Digital Download cards and hosting package (500 cards) = $300


There are a number of other Vinyl Manufacturers both in the U.S. and abroad. Here is a good reference list.

Vinyl On Demand

The prices are premium, but if all you're looking for is a limited number of copies of your album on vinyl, there are services that will lathe cut each record one-by-one, allowing you to make as few as 1 copy(!) Keep in mind that lathe-cut vinyl is done by hand and not by the precisely-calibrated machinery of a record plant, so it is susceptible to volume and fidelity fluctuations, but still... pretty cool.

Here is some sample pricing from Vinyl On Demand (prices are effective Summer '16 and do not include shipping):
1 7" record in a blank jacket = $25 ($25 per unit)
20 7" records in blank jackets = $280 ($14 per unit)
1 12" record in a blank jacket = $48 ($48 per unit)
20 12" records in blank jackets = $480 ($24 per unit)

Other lathe-cut vinyl specialists to check out: Austin Signal, Cut and Groove, Lathecuts, One Groove Vinyl, Tangible Formats and Audio Geography.

Qrates

Along with being a (fairly premium-priced) professional manufacturing option, Qrates offers a "Fund and Press" business model, where you can create what-will-be your product and then crowdfund it through them. Once your project is funded, Qrates handles all the manufacturing, takes a 15% cut of sales, and either ships your orders (for an additional 20%) or ships you the product (you are then responsible shipping out the orders yourself).

| Samples

Yep. Just as with CD Manufacturers, Vinyl Manufacturers are on the look-out for unlicensed samples and will waste no time pulling your project from the production line if they locate any unlicensed samples in your music. (The Manufacturing plants are always the one's that will call you out, by the way -- the Mastering Engineer and the Lacquer-cutter won't care.)

How have others bypassed the problem? They've taken their chances, and by taking their chances, I mean avoiding the cheaper, high-volume Manufacturers and trying to find smaller Manufacturers who may not have the manpower to run everything through detection software. But unlicensed samples are always a gamble when having your music manufactured, so consider yourself warned!

| Distribution

To get your LP in record stores across the land you will need a Distribution Deal, which is typically only an option if you are signed to an established record label. For more details, see CD Distribution.

Without a Distribution Deal, your best bets for selling vinyl are:
from your merch table at shows
at your local record store, where you can establish a relationship with the buyer and clerks
from your band website and from online stores and services such as Storenvy, Big Cartel, CD Baby, Bandcamp and CASH Music (and by linking to whichever stores/services you're using from your social media)

[Overview | Mastering | Manufacturing | Distro]

| Overview

It's 2016. Should you be making tapes?

Cassette culture, like vinyl culture, is passionate about the warmth and imperfections of analog sound and the human, tactile pleasure of a physical product.

Is this you?

If it is, there's a pretty vibrant market for tapes and a manufacturing industry there to support it. Tapes can be professionally produced for about half the cost of vinyl (roughly $2/unit) or even done at home for $1/unit or less.

| Mastering

You can use your Digitally Mastered files for cassette manufacturing, though some people recommend a Mastering treatment closer to what you'd get Mastering for Vinyl to make the best-sounding tapes. Either way, your Mastering Engineer will be able to make whatever adjustments needed if you plan to manufacture cassettes.

Cassette Duplication companies accept masters in the following formats: audio-cassette, CD-DA, data CD/DVD and 44.1kHz 16-bit .WAVs (you can send higher quality but they will most likely downgrade them to 16-bit).

| Manufacturing

There are two ways to go about making Tapes:

1) place an order through one of the handful of large manufacturing plants that will professionally duplicate, print and package them for you
2) order blank tapes, cases, labels and j-cards in bulk and do the duping and printing yourself

To get a sense of the cost difference between D.I.Y. and professional manufacturing, you can get 100 blank 30-minute tapes, cases, labels and j-cards from National Audio for $92 (or $0.92 per unit - but then you have to do the duping, printing and packaging at home).

To have National Audio do the complete manufacturing for 100 30-minute tapes and deliver the finished product to your doorstep costs about $200 (or $2 per unit).

(If you plan to order supplies in bulk, Delta Media also has great prices on blank Tapes, a variety of cases, Labels and J-cards.)

Price breakdowns for Professional Cassette Duplication

Quotes include printing and packaging but do not include shipping (prices effective Summer '16 - always double-check!):

From National Audio Company/Cassetro:
100 up-to-60-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $201 ($2.01 per unit)
250 up-to-60-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $402.50 ($1.61 per unit)
500 up-to-60-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $710 ($1.42 per unit)
1000 up-to-60-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $1280 ($1.28 per unit)

From Cassette Works:
250 up-to-60-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $325 ($1.30 per unit)
500 up-to-60-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $595 ($1.19 per unit)
1000 up-to-60-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $1140 ($1.14 per unit)

From Rainbo Records:
500 up-to-44-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $659 ($1.31 per unit)
1000 up-to-44-minute tapes + printing and packaging = $1075 ($1.07 per unit)

Are you a Wiener?

The awesome record label/record store Burger Records has a full-service subsidiary label called Wiener Records which offers tape manufacturing, promotion and distribution for your tape release on the Wiener Records imprint. All you have to do is place your cassette order with them. More info here.

| Distribution

As with selling CDs and Vinyl, your most dependable options for selling Cassettes are from your merch table at shows, from your local record store, and from your online storefront, website, Distributor and/or Bandcamp.

There are a few holy grail names in tape shops, like Mississippi Records in Portland and Burger Records in Fullerton but I have no inside scoop on how to get them to carry your tape other than to send them a copy and hope someone takes an interest (manufacturing with Burger subsidiary Wiener Records might increase your chances of getting into the Burger store...)

Here are a few recommended tape-centric sites to send a copy of your finished tape for review (along with sending links to the digital versions of your music to your favorite music blogs):
Tabs Out, Animal Psi, Cassette Gods, Ad Hoc and Decoder.

Tabs Out also has a pretty awesome list of Cassette Labels (down the right column of the site) if you're looking to interest a like-minded label in putting out your cassette.

[Overview | EPK | Publicity | Radio | SEO & Social Media]

| Overview

The Professional Way to Promote Your Music...

is to hire a Publicist and a Radio Agent. The catch is that you can't just "hire" these professionals - they have to want to be hired by you! And they can be expensive. Ballpark "indie" rates range from $1000-$4000 for a publicity campaign and $1000-$3000 for a radio campaign.

So what do you do if you can't afford to professionally promote your record (or can't interest any Publicists or Radio Agents because they've never heard of you and don't want to have to create interest in you out of thin air)?

Do It Yourself! 👍

Yes, it takes having to come up with a gameplan. And yes it takes a lot of mundane legwork. And, sure, you're probably not going to be quite as effective at promoting your music as a professional would be, since you don't have their reputations or connections. But it's totally doable. And if you've successfully made a record in the first place, you're definitely capable of successfully promoting your record!

Step 1: Set a Release Date

Once you have your Digital Masters and/or finished product(s), take a look at the calendar and find a Friday (Fridays are the industry-standard day for new releases) roughly 3 months away (3 months is a long-standing industry standard that allows you enough time to get set up, send press releases, service radio, make videos, etc -- though things can happen a lot faster now, if you want them to). This is now your Release Date!

If you're planning to release your record Digitally, and you plan to go through a Digital Distributor, and your Album Artwork is complete, now is a good time to start the Digital set-up process (it typically takes an hour or two to get signed up with a Digital Distributor and to upload your mastered .WAV or .AIFF files).

Your next task will be to assemble your assets, get your Electronic Press Kit together and begin letting publicity outlets know you have a new record coming out!

| Electronic Press Kit

Electronic Press Kits, or "EPK's", consist of all the standard tools you'll use to promote your record. Your Album Artwork, Liner Notes, Bio, Publicity Photos, Music Video(s) and Remixes will all go into your EPK. The best way to keep your Kit organized is to make a folder on your desktop, title it “EPK”, and anytime you create something that you plan to use promotionally, make sure it gets in that folder!

Album Artwork

For Digital Distribution, you’ll need to make your Album Cover a 2400 x 2400 pixel .JPG or .PNG file, at at least 72 dpi and in RGB color mode (for physical printing, your file will need to be saved in CMYK). From here you can downsize the file to whatever dimensions you need for promotional purposes. If you plan to post an image of your Album Cover on your website, in your social media, or in your press release, a best practice is to “Save for Web” in Photoshop to optimize the file size. If you need help designing your artwork, try an inexpensive indie designer like Fiverr ($5-$40), a crowdsourcing site like 99 designs, or Tunecore offers an Album design service for $129.

Liner Notes

They typically include who played on the record, what they played, who wrote the songs, who recorded it, where it was recorded, who mixed it, who mastered it and any shout-outs and thank you's. You'll have options to input your liner notes when you set up your album with a Digital Distributor, Bandcamp and/or Soundcloud. Liner notes are also pretty standard to have in your artwork if you’re making any physical products.

Bio

Here’s a secret: whatever you write in your Bio and/or Press Release will be used, oftentimes verbatim, in any review or publicity you receive. So write your Bio exactly the way you want your audience to read it. In general, your Bio should be a paragraph or two that quickly covers who you are, where you’re from, any pertinent accolades or press quotes you’ve received and then your best attempt at making the record you’re promoting sound, in words, like something someone would want to take time out of their life to listen to. Be honest! Be thoughtful! Be concise! Let your bio serve as a time capsule of where your band is at - and leave it there, no reason to ramble on! P.S. I recommend that you write your Bio to be pretty interchangeable with your first Press Release.

Publicity Photos

If you’re fortunate enough to get any press, they’ll want a high-res (300 dpi at a standard photo size like 4x6 or 5x7) publicity photo or two, so try to be prepared. Nothing fancy - have someone take a few shots with a digital camera or smartphone and upload them to your computer. If you have a photo editing application like Photoshop (even iPhoto or Picasso will do), maybe crop it a bit, and adjust it to look its best. Be sure to save a few high-res options for press and then “Save For Web” copies of the photos to use in your social media and in your press releases.

Video

Music videos, however amateur, are a huge asset to your EPK and my advice is to either dedicate yourself to making one before your release date or find someone skilled and dependable in your social world to help make a video for you. Once it’s done, upload it to YouTube and/or Vimeo and then link to it in a press release and embed it on your website, and in your social media. (Even uploading a "music video" that simply shows your album art while the song plays is useful, since it allows your music to be discoverable (and monetizable) on YouTube.)

Remixes

If you know someone whose remix skills you admire, hit them up! A good remix of one of your songs is a great way to cross-pollinate audiences, deepen the interest in your album and is another excuse to drum up some social media and publicity buzz. Most people capable of doing remixes prefer to have “stems” of your songs. You can save everyone time by making sure, when you’re mixing, to bounce stems for anything and everything you think might be worth remixing. My advice is to move on getting any remixes going as soon as you’ve got your final mixes - it’s impossible to get them finished and into your EPK folder too soon!

| Publicity

If you think you'd like to try hiring a Publicist, keep in mind that they are extremely picky about who they choose to work with (which is good, since they have to believe they can get you some publicity if they’re going to take your money!) And they are not cheap - expect to pay at least a few thousand dollars for a publicity campaign, and that’s for “Indie Music” publicists.

If you have the confidence in your record and the money in your budget, here’s a good list of cool Publicists to send an introductory email and listen-link to: Solid Gold, Chromatic, Force Field, Terrorbird, Toolshed, Press Here, Motormouth, Stunt Company, Grandstand and Tell All Your Friends.

For the majority of bands, who are not able to afford or retain a Publicist, getting word out about your music depends on you.

⚡ Here is how to do it: ⚡

Creating Your Own Press Release

1. Research and make a thorough list of email contacts for all the Music Blogs, Magazines and local press outlets you want to send a press release to.
2. Make sure either the entirety of your album or whatever select songs you want to share are properly hosted at a linkable source (such as Bandcamp or Soundcloud).
3. Compose a paragraph or two announcing, describing and tastefully hyping your upcoming Album.
4. Compose an email to yourself that looks something like this:

To: Your Email
Subject: "Your Album Title" by Your Band Name out Your Release Date

"Your Album Title" by Your Band Name
Your 250px x 250px "Saved For Web" Album Cover Your 250px x 250px "Saved For Web" Publicity Photo

A paragraph or two describing and tastefully hyping your new album. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Be concise! What are the handful of most important and most original things you can say about it? Where’s your band from? Where was your album recorded? What makes this album of yours special? The things you say in this section of your press release will often be used verbatim by people writing about your release, so one approach is to write this section as though you were the music writer! Not a great writer? Ask a friend who knows your music to help!

Your Release Date (on Your Release Format(s)) on Your Record Label/Imprint/or "Self Released"

Stream "Your Album Title/Song Title": your stream link here
Download "Your Album Title/Song Title": your download link here (optional)

Your Website/Social Media Link 1
Your Website/Social Media Link 2 (optional)
Your Website/Social Media Link 3 (optional)

Thanks!

Your Name/Band Name

Your Contact Info

If you have rich-text-editing capabilities in your email service (like Gmail, Yahoo or Mac mail), be sure to give the layout some Pop! If you need help inserting images into your email, here are instructions for Gmail, Yahoo, Mac mail, and Outlook.

5. Test it by sending it yourself. Make sure your links are working! Once you’re happy with it, create another email to yourself, copy/paste your content into the body of the new email, make sure the Subject line has all the right info, enter the email addresses you've researched into the BCC field and send it out! (Using the BCC field on an email addressed to yourself is recommended for bulk email send-outs. If you have specific blogs that you want to connect with, it's a good idea to send an email addressed exclusively to each one, personalizing it however you see fit.)

Congratulations - you've sent out your first Press Release! 👏

Now What?

Should you follow up? Absolutely, if you can do it tastefully and without expecting too much. Publicity outlets are under no obligation to be - or stay - in touch. It's safe to assume that if someone wants to write about your music, they'll let you know. The best follow up is another Press Release (or two), in the weeks and months leading up to and through your release date, letting them know about a Video or Remix or Tour Dates!

Newsletter Services

Some people prefer to use email/newsletter services like MailChimp (free), Mad Mimi (free) or Campaign Monitor (about $10 per campaign) for Press Releases. The benefits are the custom formatting they offer, as well as, if you're into it, the detailed analytics they provide you about who is checking out your email and what they're clicking on. One potential disadvantage is that these services make it easy for the bloggers you're sending it to to "unsubscribe", and many will...

SubmitHub

SubmitHub is a service that attempts to connect your goal of getting your music heard by music bloggers to the music bloggers interest in being financially rewarded for taking the time to listen to your music.

There are two tiers: a free "Standard" option, and a "Premium" tier that starts at $1 per credit (a credit allows you to send one song to one blog in the network and ensures that you will, at the very least, receive listening notes back from them). Credits get cheaper the more you buy.

Either way, with SubmitHub you get the statistical satisfaction of seeing if and when your song has been at least listened to by any of the blogs in their network.

StoryAmp

StoryAmp is a free service that helps tailor your press release(s) and tour date info to Music Journalists and media outlets. Promoting your music through a service like StoryAmp - especially if you're touring - can be a nice compliment to your own DIY music blog send outs.

| Radio

To professionally service Radio, you need to hire a Radio Agent - but Radio Agents, just like Publicists, Booking Agents, Licesning Agents and Record Labels, are super picky about who they choose to work with. Simply being able to afford one is oftentimes not enough. They have to want to work with you. And if they've never heard of you, and you have no inside conncections, they probably won't be interested.

Is it worth a shot? Sure! Try sending an introductory email with listen-links to any of the Radio Agencies you'd like to hire. Typical Radio campaigns are a few thousand dollars (sometimes less, depending on duration and whether or not you're sending out physical copies).

Here's a list of cool indie Radio Agencies you can try reaching out to: Terrorbird, AAM, Vitriol, Distiller, Fanatic, Pirate!, Crowd Control, Planetary Group, Tinderbox, A man A plan A canal and Team Claremont.

If you're one of the majority of bands who can not afford, or can not pique the interest of, a Radio Agent, getting your music considered by radio stations depends on you.

⚡ Here is how to do it: ⚡

Submitting Your Music to Radio Stations

*You should submit your album to radio stations 4-6 weeks before your release date

1. Submit your music to Pandora.
2. Upload a few of your tracks to the always-influential L.A. radio station KCRW via their "Malcolm" Digital Submission program.
3. Research and make a thorough list of email addresses for all the College Radio and Internet Radio stations you'd like to contact.
4. Make sure a stream of your album is properly hosted at a linkable source such as Bandcamp or Soundcloud. (If you want to keep your album private, you can do so on Bandcamp with Bandcamp Pro and on SoundCloud via their "Secret Links".)
5. Upload a .zip file of your album in Mp3 format to your web server or to a fileshare platform like Dropbox, Hightail, Mediafire or Google Drive - or create a Secret Download Link to your Album on Soundcloud.
6. Compose a paragraph or two announcing, describing and tastefully hyping your Album (can be the same as your Press Release).
7. Create an email to yourself that looks something like this:

To: Your Email
Subject: DIGITAL DELIVERY: "Your Album Title" by Your Band Name out Your Release Date

"Your Album Title" by Your Band Name
Your 250px x 250px "Saved For Web" Album Cover Your 250px x 250px "Saved For Web" Publicity Photo

Please Consider for Airplay "Your Album Title" by Your Band Name out Your Release Date on Your Record Label/Imprint/or "Self Released"

A paragraph or two describing and tastefully hyping your new album. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Be concise! What are the handful of most important and most original things you can say about it? Where’s your band from? Where was your album recorded? What makes this album of yours special? The things you say in this section of your press release will often be used verbatim by people writing about your release, so one approach is to write this section as though you were the music writer! Not a great writer? Ask a friend who knows your music to help!

Stream "Your Album Title/Song Title": your stream link here
Download "Your Album Title/Song Title": your download link here

"Your Album Title's" Tracklist:
1. Name of Track 1 (Track 1 duration - for example: 4:01)
2. Name of Track 2 (Track 2 duration)
3. Name of Track 3 (Track 3 duration) *EXPLICIT (Be sure to mark as "EXPLICIT" any tracks with explicit language!)
4. Name of Track 4 (duration) *Recommended (Be sure to mark as "Recommended" 2 or 3 tracks that you recommend!)
5. Name of Track 5 (duration) *Recommended
etc.

Your Website/Social Media Link 1
Your Website/Social Media Link 2 (optional)
Your Website/Social Media Link 3 (optional)

Thanks!

Your Name/Band Name

Your Contact Info

8. Test it by sending it yourself. Make sure your links are working! Once you’re happy with it, create another email to yourself, copy/paste your content into the body of the new email, make sure the Subject line starts with "DIGITAL DELIVERY", enter the email addresses you've researched into the BCC field and send it out! (Using the BCC field on an email addressed to yourself is recommended for bulk email send-outs. If you have specific stations that you want to connect with, send an email addressed specifically to them.)

Congratulations! You've successfully delivered your album to Radio. 👊

Follow Up

If there are specific stations you want to follow up with - in particular your local and/or favorite station(s) - check into the Station Manager's office hours (Station Manager office hours are usually listed on the station's website) or call in and talk to one of the DJ's you like. ("Hey, I really love this station. I recently submitted some music to you guys and was wondering whether you'd had a chance to listen to it...")

*Also worth considering: both Tunecore and CD Baby have easy and free options for servicing Internet radio, available to members and subscribers.

| SEO & Social Media

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The "Search Engine Optimization for Music" theory is that your music is not something people discover on the web through random searches ("indie rock", "chill electronica") - rather, that people discover your music first (through friends, playlists, shows, blogs etc) and then take to search engines to search specifically for you. So it's your goal to ensure that when you're being searched for, you can be found.

Here is a bare bones strategy for optimizing your searchability (for more elaborate ideas, check out Dan Shure's fantastic "Music SEO - 7 Lessons in Brand Optimization for 2015" article):

1. Create Your Own Website

Having your own Website, dedicated to your music, full of all of your keywords that the bots can crawl and index, is the fundamental way you can create and control your presence on the web. There are many options for how to do this, but here are 3 blueprints:

A) Wordpress: Sign up for free, pick a theme, customize it with their customization tools and start putting your content in. Easy. Quick. Free -- or, for $18/yr, add your own custom domain name (recommended -- it would otherwise have ".wordpress.com" in your url). You can also buy more advanced templates for Wordpress on their site or on ThemeForest. Be sure to tag your posts!

B) Squarespace ($12-$16/month) or Bandzoogle ($9.95-$14.95/month), give you all the hosting and quick-start template features of the Wordpress option, with the additional features of free custom domain name registration, built-in eCommerce platforms and more advanced customization.

C) DIY: The basic costs of setting up your own site are your domain name registration fee ($10-$25/yr) and your hosting costs ($10/mo). Best practice is to select your host first and then register your domain through them - it's usually the best deal. And then either use your web-skills to get everything designed and set up or get a friend's help or Crowdsource a design or pay a professional (probably anywhere from $500-$1500). You can always get in touch with me - I'm a web designer and am happy to work with indie budgets - and I'll see if I can help ;)

2. Push Your Data

There are a number of things you can do to make sure your music is indexed and optimized for search. Here's a checklist:

Contribute your music data to Music Brainz (free)
Create a free account and submit your release info to Discogs
If you've made CD's, submit your CD and bio to the All Music Guide
Create a Google+ brand page
Add Google's Structured Data to your website, specifying your logo/band image and social profiles
Add Google's Music Actions to your site, enabling your music to be played directly from a Google search
Submit your lyrics to Musixmatch
Link your content! In the "About" sections of your Facebook and Twitter accounts, link to your Website, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, webstore and YouTube pages -- and vice versa!
Tag your content! SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Tumblr, Wordpress etc all allow to tag your content on their services with keywords, so be sure to do it!
If you have an old MySpace account that keeps popping up in your searches - and you're not actively using it - do us all a favor and send it packing!

3. Social Media

In promoting your music, you should use any and all Social Media services that speak to you -- there are no rules!

Three services, however, are particularly vital for musicians:

SoundCloud

SoundCloud makes your music searchable, accessible, linkable and embeddable. If you look at sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum, the vast majority of the music they promote is being hosted by SoundCloud. It's free, easy to sign up, provides basic analytics, allows you to make your music streamable and/or downloadable, provides you with custom and easy-to-share links to your music, and works seamlessly with Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media outlets. SoundCloud is also a cool forum for connecting - it has all the follow, re-post, like and comment features of a social network, plus you can send tracks to music media outlets and other artists on SoundCloud via SoundCloud Messaging.

Note: when putting your music on SoundCloud, be sure to put links to buy the song/album, links to your website/other social media, and any other relevant info about the song/album in the about entry field, so that the info appears as additional content. Here is an example.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp provides you with a free, customizable storefront for selling your music and merchandise. Like SoundCloud, it's another way of ensuring that your music is searchable, streamable, linkable and embeddable. You can use Bandcamp as your exclusive storefront for downloads and merch or use it as a complimentary service to your Digital Distribution. Links to your music on Bandcamp can be shared throughout your social media, in your press releases, and on your SoundCloud and YouTube pages. (You should also link out, from Bandcamp, to your website and other social media profiles.)

YouTube

Posting to YouTube allows the visual component of your music to be searchable, shareable and potentially monetizable. It's even useful (in terms of "search") to make "videos" for your music that simply show your album art while a song plays! Yes, Vimeo is also cool, but having a YouTube Channel for your band is fundamental. Be sure to take advantage of YouTube's Analytics, and follow the advice from their Creator Academy. And definitely link to your website, storefront(s), Bandcamp and SoundCloud from your YouTube profile and in the descriptions for each video! (Here's a good example.)

With these bases covered, you're ready to rock.

🏆 Good Luck!!!

| How To Release A Record

I'm Zach Hangauer and I've run the indie label Range Life Records since 2005.

I designed this site to serve as a quick, candid and hopefully empowering guide through the maze of the release process.

If you have any questions, success stories, tips, or want to reach me for web, promo or strategic services, please get in touch: howtoreleasearecord(@)gmail.com

How To Release A Record on Twitter