Part 2: Things to think about when releasing your own music

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[Find Part 1 of the series here]

So now we’ve got the tracks recorded and mastered, registered for royalties, and signed up with an aggregator. In the second half of this blog, I’m going to look at ways to promote your release, and how to monetise it.

Bandcamp

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Bandcamp is an online platform which is used by bands as a better value alternative to distributing their music. Bandcamp is free to upload your music to, and allows you to charge whatever price you like – including a “pay as you feel” option. Bandcamp isn’t just used for digital downloads and streams though. It can also be used to sell physical copies and merchandise.

Bandcamp take 10% of download profits, and 15% of merchandise profits, up to £5000. Above £5000, their take drops to 10% across everything. There’s an option to upgrade to Bandcamp Pro for £10 a month too, which allows artists to send out discount codes, offer their fans private streaming, send batch messages and use a custom domain name. There’s also lots of useful in-depth analytics available to artists, if you really want to get stuck into your marketing strategies.

Physical Copies

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Another option to think about aside from digital distribution, is physical copies. Lots of bands find there’s still a huge market for Vinyl and CD, and sometimes even tape. The statistics say that CD sales are dwindling, and vinyl is growing, but buying a batch of CDs to sell at shows can still be a great idea. Depending on the size of your order, and the chosen packaging options, CD duplication can cost anywhere between 10p and £1 per unit.

Vinyl is a lot more expensive, particularly for small runs, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re really confident you’ll shift them. They tend to range from around £3 per unit to £6, again depending on the size of your run, and whether it’s a 7 or 12”. Most plants won’t be interested in a run of less than 100 though.

There are tons of CD duplication and vinyl pressing services around the country, so have a browse online and see what’s on offer. Opting for an online only release is almost always cheaper – but remember the amount you make per sale on a physical copy is often a lot larger than that of a download. Do some maths and see what works out best for you.

Merchandise

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Often forgotten, but one of the best ways to make money from a release. As well as physical copies, getting band t-shirts, stickers, badges, hats – you name it, can be a great way of making extra cash. They all require a bit of an investment to begin with, but making a profit on them doesn’t require many sales.

Look online and have a think about what sort of merchandise your fans would be interested in. If you’ve got a creative person in the band, making your own merchandise can save tons of money and still yield great results.

PR

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Getting your music featured on blogs and Spotify playlists is absolutely fundamental. PR is a really important part of a release, and it shouldn’t be neglected. Sending your music to blogs, radio stations and magazines is long and tedious, but it’s a great way of promoting your music and racking up your Spotify streams.

Fear not though, if you don’t feel like spending hours sending your Press release to blogs and magazines, there is another option.

Paid PR is a really common option for bands, but there are a few things to know before you should consider it. It’s not cheap. There’s no guarantee it’ll amount to any coverage at all. The most expensive PR company isn’t always the best – and often, it’s quite the opposite.

Do your research into PR companies, and get some quotes back from a few options. Don’t go with anyone who hasn’t asked to listen to the release – as it’s important that they’re as passionate about the music as you are.

Paid PR is likely going to yield better results than doing it yourself – but not always. If you’ve got money to spare then it could be a worthwhile investment, but it’s not worth putting yourself in any financial strain to afford.

Crowdfunding

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All these costs of releasing music can really add up, and not everyone (barely anyone) has a huge pot of money behind them. Crowdfunding can be a fantastic way of funding your release. Essentially, the concept is that you ask your fans to pay for your music in advance of it’s release. Crowdfunding can cover recording costs, distribution costs – whatever you like. Artists tend to offer an extra incentive to fans who are crowdfunding a release, anything from a limited edition vinyl to a concert in their front rooms, depending on how much they’re donating.

Sites like Pledge Music, Kickstarter or Indiegogo are fantastic for crowdfunding, and artists have come up with some really innovative ideas to bring in donations.

There are a couple of other ways to look for funding, such as the PRS for music funding schemes, which are given out in waves each year. They’re definitely worth looking at, but there can be quite a lot of competition for them.

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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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