Production - Releasing Music
Releasing your music to the world is now easier than it ever has been and one of the main reasons that you can take recording at home seriously. There are however some things to consider before jumping in at the deep end.
Imagine you write a killer song, upload it somewhere then hear another artist singing it or band performing it, and more importantly claiming it is theirs and making lots of money from it.
In this situation, they should have got permission from you (assuming that you are the writer) so you could sue them. But how do you prove that you wrote the song in the first place?
That's where copyright comes in. Unfortunately different countries deal with copyright in different ways and some legal processes in this area are rather sketchy.
In the U.S. your can register your works with the copyright office.
In the UK however, things aren't so straightforward. The official line taken is that copyright automatically comes into effect when you create the work! There is no official body there to register your work with. Hmmm sounds silly, right? I think so. The whole idea of copyrighting something is to be able to prove that you created it before somebody else claims it.
Obviously once you release your music it will have an associated time-stamp but I don't know if that would stand up in court. Besides, what if you wanted to send songs out for opinions and reviews before releasing them?
So, what I do is resort to what's called 'Poor man's copyright'. This means that you package up your songs, lyrics, artwork, and any other materials that you used and send them to yourself and a trusted third-party (friend or better-still solicitor if you know one). Wrap the packages up in a way that it would be easy to detect any tampering, and post them using recorded delivery and keep the reciept slip in a safe place. BUT DO NOT OPEN THEM. Instead put them on a shelf and hopefully you will never have to open them ever - unless you really need to.
I also include as much raw audio that I can fit and project directories. However, my project directories are usual far too big to fit on a couple of DVD disks or 64G pen drive so I tend to reduce some of the content - knowing that I will still have the matching full project when/if the time comes.
If your music is played (either in its original form or even covered by someone else) in nightclubs, shops, on TV, etc. you should get a royalty payment. It is therefore important that you register with a Performing Rights Organization. There are many to choose from and they will then become responsible for royalty collection - even from overseas.
Some organisations that release your music for you can automatically register with a performing rights organisation for you (often at extra cost).
Releasing your music to the world
There are a few organisations that take care of this for you. It involves them releasing your music to iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, etc. for you and taking a small percentage of any profit from sales.
I chose CD Baby as it was the best at the time I released my first album. You can, of course, release your music to each and every seller yourself but that can get rather complicated. CD Baby do it all for you and provide you with a back-end where you can monitor sales, build a music player, opt-in for website hosting (if required for extra), etc. You can even buy professional looking CD's and download cards from them for you to sell on or give away.
Of course how much you actually make is up to how you promote yourself but at least the infrastructure will be there for you.
You should be aware however that streaming services such as Spotify can pay you very little. I get lots of streaming plays (for some reason) and I can get as little as a fraction of a cent per play from some! Unfortunately many people no longer buy their music anymore - an unfortunate fact of today's world.
When you upload your songs they will be given their own unique barcode ID. To make the process cheaper, some people buy them in bulk and assign them at this step but I let the provider do it for me.
You don't have to upload an entire album, singles can be released too but uploading an album is usually cheaper overall. It depends what you want to do.
Relase Timeline - Buffalo Gone
Day 0 - Submitted to CD Baby Thursday 3rd November.
Day 1 - The album was ready on their site within 24 hours.
I could then create a player to add to my website. However, I wanted to wait until the album had been made available on iTunes and Amazon before I announced it to the world.
The album was then in a 'Being Inspected' mode. This is a frustrating time because you simply have no idea how long the process is going to take. As I have gone for a 'PRO' release (i.e. where CD Baby liase with your elected PRO organisation) this stage possibly took longer than if I had gone for the non-PRO option (like I did on my first album).
Day 5 morning - I was requested to give my final approval and inspection in order for them to submit for digital distribution to other providers. So I listened to each track, using their approval page - mainly to make sure they were all the correct length and that there were no audible glitches and checked the other details for spelling etc. I then approved the release.
They quote that it can take 1-8 weeks to complete the digital distribution to all parties (32 in total - although you can excluded certain ones if you wish to). I am most interested in iTune, Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Google Play. However, all of these were delivered within an hour and it was then up to iTunes, Amazon, and Google to publish them of their sites etc. so keep searching them until they show the album as available.
Day 5 afternoon - iTunes was the first to appear with the album only a couple of hours after my approval was submitted.
Day 5 afternoon - Next was Google Play only minutes after iTunes.
Day 6 morning - Amazon US and UK were in place.
Because I registered for a PRO release, I had to add Performing Rights Organization membership information for each songwriter (just me in my case). I also had to add my PRO details and select the songs that needed to be registered with them on my behalf. Finally, because I live outside of the US I also had to fill a form to ensure that I do not accidentally pay US tax on any proceeds.
Day 6 afternoon - Announced the release on Facebook.
The release of Demon in the Floor
Pretty much the same time periods occurred with this release except that there are now more digital partners to release the music to.
Amazon was one of the longest to update; Amazon US updated first at 10 days but Amazon UK didn't update! I waited several weeks before contacting CD Baby (Amazon are impossible to contact unless it's about a delivery or a return). CD Baby then took a wek to reply and said they had re-issued it to Amazon and it then appeared the next day.
It is also interesting that CD Baby are now sending to Tencent which distributes throughout China - potentially a new, and very large market.
Also, this time I didn't bother with the CD Baby embedded player (playing only snippets) because there are now embedded players available from other sources (namely Spotify and iTunes Music). However, it is true that if someone buys your songs from CD Baby then you will gain the maximum profit, I have found that this has never happened so I may as well embed a player that will at least earn me a little money.
Again, I went for a PRO release where your song information is automatically sent to your Performing Rights Organization, in my case it took around a week for all the songs from the album to appear in their database.
This is just an overview of how I released my music. If you decide to do the same, you will find much more detailed and up-to-date information on the site that you choose to use.
Some of the facilities and options will only be applicable to residents of certain countries so you must investigate for yourself. For example, when I first used CD Baby, only residents of the United States and Canada could use the 'PRO' option where such things as Performing Rights Organisation membership was taken care of for you. Since then, however, the UK has been added. So back then I had to do a little more leg-work than I would now setting up for the first time.