Let’s suppose you are an unsigned artist. You have the next “Hit” all-recorded and prepared for launch and all the enthusiasm to go with your first big release. You just want to get it out as soon as possible, and the whole world is waiting to hear from you. Yes! That’s the spirit! Keep it up – but first, let’s make sure you are in a position where you can protect yourself and your work, as well as get the necessary remuneration for all those hours spent rehearsing and writing! You know what they say – better safe than sorry. And ultimately, there are money to be made out of music if your material is good. You just need to be smart about it. Below is a relevant summary of the most important things you have to do – becoming, basically, your own legal and online marketing “departments”.
1. Register for copyright
First things first: It’s your work, and you should treat is as such. Before you give it out to the whole world, make sure you protect it, and if anyone else needs or uses it for commercial purposes, you will earn your fair share. While there are many “well-known” ways of doing this, amongst the most popular being posting a copy of your song/album through special post (dated and stamped) to your adress and leaving it unopened, safely stored, these “old” methods don’t have any value in court and are very unsafe. Usually each country has bodies for copyright, however many methods of subscribing to them, such as writing your music (on paper) and submitting might not be your most preferred way of dealing with this. However, there are also international bodies such as Songrite which enable you to submit your works digitally, paying a one-time fee which includes copyright for all elements of a single (for example), such as Art Cover, Lyrics, Melody, Band Name and so on. It is advisable to do this with at least two weeks before the launch date, to make sure you have time to complete all registration stages and all members that deserve copyright have the chance to do so too.
2. Register with a Royalties Collection Authority
You want the whole world to hear your music – but how will you know they did and evaluate your performance? And moreover, how will you get remunerated if, for example, your music becomes a real success, streamed all over the globe, on TV, radio and is being reproduced in covers or live performances? Unless you have a royalties collection authority to supervise this, chances are you won’t. Each country has an institution to look after this, however in the UK, PRS for Music is the biggest one. It is also one of the most well-known globally and it helps you collect royalties from audio, video, live performances and basically any kind and shape your music might appear anywhere in the world. No worries, if you go with them you don’t need to register with anything else even if your music is played on a different continent! They are really well connected to smaller bodies in each country, so are a safe bet. The joining fee is 100£ per artist, but if you’re committed to this path is a step you will have to make – it will surely pay off in the long run! For this, it is advisable to start the registration up to a month prior first release, as after online you will have to also sign and physically post a copy of the contract and depending on the amount of applicants, this can take longer. After you are approved to join the community, you will have to register your music there as well. Be patient – if you want to go “pro”, play the pro’s game!
Tip: Another organisation you can look up is MCPS, which is a PRS partner, but they act more focused on online.
3. Register with a Digital Music Aggregator
Ever entered Spotify and searched for the “Submit your music” button? What about iTunes? Yes, that’s true! There isn’t one! Unless you are signed with a label that can plan your launch on all distribution channels for a special date, all at once, you will have to submit your music through aggregators. These are platforms which offer you distribution support on all major online streaming and retail platforms, such as Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, iTunes, Tidal and many more. They can offer you digital mastering and promo support as well, and they can even collect royalties for you! It’s up to you the way you want to do the royalties collection, but we suggest to do it separately with an organisation such as the ones mentioned at point 2.
Among the most well-known companies that offer these services are CD Baby, Tunecore, EMU Bands or Record Union. Check them out, and see which fits your needs best! We recommend launching your single/album on these only after the above stages are finished. From the moment you submit your music, it will take 2-14 days for it to appear on all the distributor websites, mostly because it has to pass multiple checking stages. You will be able toy see it on Spotify (for example) in about 5 days, while iTunes can take up to two weeks. Check them continuously and see when they get through. On each of these platforms, you will either have to pay a submission fee or revenue-share.
Another interesting bit of these is the reporting – so you can see how your track is being distributed and streamed or bought on major platforms. Pretty cool, huh?
On the side, make sure you publish your songs on Soundcloud and platforms such as Bandcamp as well. The latter allows you to also choose giving the track out for free on a donation-based basis (up to 200 free downloads per month), so could get you good exposure for new potential fans just discovering you. Youtube is also a good monetisation platform and essential in music videos sharing. Before enabling monetisation though, it is advisable to complete the above registration steps and read through all the Youtube documentation. You can upload your music there then only with a cover photo. But obviously, the better produced the video, the more views you will get!
Tip: going back to Spotify, they will automatically create you an artist account. In order to retrieve it, the page will have to gain more than 250 followers, only then you will be able to claim the ownership. Make sure you get all your fans on board for it! More info on the Spotify Artist pages. A good guide can be found here.
4. Put together a “team”- and be ready to manage it!
You already know you won’t be doing all this by yourself! Apart from the recording team you have presumably already worked with, you will also need people to handle: Photography, Video, Promotional materials design, Printing services, Social media Marketing, PR, Concert bookings, Accounting, Rehearsal Bookings, Studio Bookings and so on. It’s almost like a mini-business you are running here. Do you know who is going to do what? Before even getting started, make sure you establish who within the band will take on specific responsibilities, and you have a team of people you know are going to be there for you when needed. It’s always hard in the beginning, but make sure you go for win-win situations in every case. If someone offers to help you with Photo and video, make sure you promote and credit them accordingly as well! The rule is this: No matter how small you start, if your work is good be prepared for the possibility of it going big. Ultimately, you never know which cards you will be playing right and your song gets in the charts. Then, you have to make sure you can handle!
One more point: Things will get messy at times, timelines will not always be respected and little inconveniences will always occur. Make sure, if you decide to take the lead, to be willing (and able) to deal with these when they come up. Problem solving and team management skills, make sure you’ve got them with you at all times!
5. Produce a media portfolio in advance
This is really important. Not only it is essential in branding and helping you position yourself as a respectable artist, but also shows devotement and helps you keep your engagement high as well as build a fan-base (in the beginning). You will need band pictures, album/single art pictures, maybe a lyric video and – why not (if possible) a videoclip. On the side, you can prepare all sorts of materials – pictures and videos from recordings, photo shootings, maybe even a short launch “documentary”. Limits are only defined here by your imagination! The key is to know exactly how you want to use all the material that you get, and how you want to brand the band and its members prior launch, so the “story” behind is being created before the actual release. You wouldn’t want your new fans to enter your pages and find only two posts on your page, consisting of low-quality media, would you?
6. Establish a cross-channel social media strategy
Ok, this might sound fancy but don’t lose your enthusiasm just yet! You probably already are present with your personal profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Google+. Perfect! now you have to make sure your band is as well! Create a Facebook band page, a new Twitter account, an Instagram (business) profile, maybe a new Snapchat profile and a Gmail address. You will need the latter for communication and setting up the remaining accounts anyway. Don’t forget to set up a new Paypal account as well – you will need it for monetary online transactions. At this stage, opening a new band bank account can also be a good option, depending on what you decide within the few of you would be best.
A quick and effective thing you can do is inter-link Facebook Instagram and Twitter through the “Linked Accounts” option on Instagram, so some of the posts can be shared on all three at once. However, don’t forget each of these platforms has a certain purpose, so make sure you have tailored posts as well. Use Twitter for short messages and news – maybe even directly engage with and respond to fans, media and labels. Facebook is more like your website. you HAVE to be there and mix pictures with text, call to actions and videos. Instagram is more for media, so put on here your best videos and photos, use hash tags intelligently and follow all the right people. tag, engage and be active. It will pay off!
Soundcloud, Google+ and Youtube, as well as many other platforms you can have an account on, are considered as part of social media as well. “Cross-channel” refers to the activity, presence and message you spread on all of them. Make sure you are consistent on important messages so you can stick to your branding, have scheduled post so you can build an audience and maintain engagement, and most importantly: be present where your fans are! You want to create a story even before your product is launched, so when it is, there are things that can educate and inform them about who you are and why they should like you (apart from your great music!). Also, if a label is interested in you – do they have enough reasons testifying your commitment to this path and why they should invest in you?
And…that was it! Congratulations, now you probably know more than 80% of independent unreleased artists out there! Obviously, each of these fields can go in much more depth, and going through point 6 there are numerous marketing and PR strategies that can be build. An article you might find interesting can also be found here. However, these are the main must-have points you have to tick in order to prepare yourself for an international online launch. Many times, the promotions will determine how far your tracks will reach, but nevertheless these will cover you for both worst and best-case scenarios. Good luck!