Part 1: Things to think about when releasing your own music

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Releasing your music independently is becoming increasingly popular, even among established artists, and it’s not hard to see why. The financial prospects of a release have dwindled somewhat in the last decade, so holding on to all the income you can is essential.

So you’ve already finished the musical process, and created some artwork for your release, but where do you go from here?

There are a few really important steps to help make the most of your release, and I’ll go through a couple of them below.

Registering for Royalties

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In the UK, there are three main organisations to register your works with: PRS, PPL and MCPS. PRS pays the songwriter(s), PPL pays the performer(s), and MCPS pays the mechanical rightsholder(s). MCPS is only really applicable if you’re releasing music through a record label or with a publisher, so if you’re releasing independently – you needn’t worry about it.

If you’re a songwriter in general, it’s highly likely that PRS is well worth registering for. There’s an up front cost of £100 to join (a price that keeps rising – it was free not long ago!) In exchange for this fee, PRS will pay you royalties each time your release is played on the radio, or on the TV, or at a live concert. If you’re planning on playing your songs live, it’s probably a good idea to join PRS, as even a 20 minute set in a small venue could be worth around £8-£10. Obviously if your song is played on a primetime BBC1 slot, you’ll make slightly more!

PPL are an organisation who pay the performers on recorded material, rather than the songwriters, and pay them each time a song is played. PPL is free to register for – and if you’re releasing your own music, you’ll want to register as a rights holder as well as a performer, so PPL can collect both. PPL is also the place to get your ISRC codes registered, which is incredibly important, and will come in very handy in the future, so it’s well worth registering for.

Choosing an Aggregator

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An aggregator, or distributor, is a platform that will upload your music to streaming sites, and online stores. The vast majority of distributors will get your music on all of the main outlets, like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon, so the main factor to consider is the pricing options.

CD Baby and Tunecore are two of the most well known and popular aggregators, but they operate very different pricing schemes. CD Baby charges a one off up front payment of £50 per album, whereas Tunecore charges £30 up front, but then requires a yearly renewal fee. But just because they’re the most well known – doesn’t mean they’re the most affordable.

DistroKid is another great option, as they charge £19.99 for unlimited uploads in one year. They’re also really quick at getting your music online – so if you’ve left your release late, it could be in your interest to use them.

Another slightly different option is a platform called AWAL, run by Kobalt music – which stands for Artists Without A Label. AWAL is a curated platform, so you need to fill out an application form before they’ll represent you, but there’s no up front fee. Instead, AWAL take 15% of the revenue they collect for you. This might not sound ideal, but remember, if they make money from your plays on streaming services, it’s in their interest to get you as many plays as possible, and AWAL have been known to actively submit artists to Spotify playlists to maximise their exposure.

Head over to Part 2, where we cover promotion and advertising, as well as physical copies.

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Chris Milnes

Christopher Milnes is a Leeds-based musician and music producer. He’s received various awards and scholarships for his music production work, notably The David Thompson Scholarship, and the O2 Think Bigger award, as well as the conservatoire prize at Leeds College of Music. His work has been broadcast on BBC radio 1, BBC Radio 3, and many other radio and TV stations.

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