The definitive album release checklist
[This article was written by recording artist Brian Hazard. It originally appeared on his Passive Promotion blog. I’ve made a few notes throughout, as certain items were directly related to CD Baby services.]
Your album is mixed and mastered, finally! You’ve got cover art and maybe even replication lined up. Now what?
This is the question I was hired to answer. Specifically, I was asked to create a to-do list for a band’s debut album. They were generous enough to allow me to share it with you.
Keep in mind that all this stuff comes before the actual promotion. We’re simply laying the groundwork here.
Register your .com domain
If yourbandname.com isn’t available, choose another band name. No joke! Owning your domain is HUGE.
[Editor’s note: or you can register yourbandname.rocks or .band or .net with HostBaby.]
Trademark your band name
I hired Gerben Law Firm, and the entire process was a breeze. Josh conducts a comprehensive search, which will turn up any competing marks.
Even if you’re not worried about others infringing on your mark, conducting a search will protect you from infringing on others, and potentially save you from having to change your band name in the future.
Create profiles on the major social networks
You must be on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and YouTube. Hopefully you can snag your band name as your username on all of them.
You might as well at least stake your claim on Instagram and Google+ while you’re at it.
Register with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO)
ASCAP or BMI, take your pick (if you’re in the US). If your song gets played on terrestrial radio or TV, they’ll collect performance royalties for you.
[Note: if you sign up with CD Baby Pro, you will automatically be affiliated with the performing rights organization of your choosing.]
Register with SoundExchange
They collect royalties for plays on digital services like satellite radio and Pandora.
License any cover songs
Unless you wrote every song on your release, you’ll need to pay the publishers of the songwriters who did. You can go direct through Harry Fox using their Songfile service, or through CD Baby’s new cover song licensing parter Loudr.
Choose an aggregator for digital distribution
I use CD Baby to get my music on iTunes and Spotify. [Note: and over 90 other digital download and streaming platforms.]
You can sell your music on Google Play directly, though I’m not convinced it’s worth the hassle.
Launch your website
I built my band site with WordPress, but maintaining it can be a time sink, with constant updates to plugins and WordPress itself. You’ll notice my band site is a mirror image of my promotion blog, to keep things simple.
[Note: if you need help creating a website for your music, check out HostBaby and try it FREE for 30 days.]
Set up Google Analytics
If you don’t, you won’t know if anyone is actually visiting the site you put so much effort into creating! Google Analytics provides more detail than you’ll ever want, including real-time tracking of site visitors. Creepy AND fun.
You’ll probably want to set up Google Webmaster Tools while you’re at it. Both are tedious, overly technical, and utterly necessary.
Start a mailing list
Until you’ve got 2000 subscribers, Mailchimp is the way to go. Unfortunately, it’s cost-prohibitive beyond that. I’ve got 5500 subscribers on my mailing list, which would be $65/month. I’m only paying about $170 for a full year with Fanbridge.
[Note: or if you host your website with HostBaby, you can use the ListBaby tool for free!]
Schedule a photo shoot
I’d prefer to remain anonymous, but there’s no way around it – you need professional photos. My last shoot was a few years back with the amazing Gabriel Goldberg. I’m totally overdue, and totally procrastinating.
Write your bio
Or better yet, hire a professional to do it. I keep four versions handy: long and short, in first person and third person varieties.
Get on Wikipedia, if you can
According to Next Big Sound, four thousand people have viewed my Wikipedia entry in the last 90 days. You’re not supposed to write your own, but luckily I’ve had multiple editors contribute to mine over the years.
The problem is, even if you get someone else to do it, it can be removed if you don’t meet their notability guidelines.
Set up direct-to-fan sales
iTunes takes 30% of sales. CDBaby.com only takes 9%. Bandcamp takes 15%. So referring my fans to those two options is an easy call.
[Note: CD Baby also offers order fulfillment for your CDs and vinyl. We’ll warehouse them and ship directly to your fans.]
Make your assets downloadable
For my last EP, I created a Dropbox folder that included all the tracks in .wav and mp3 format, plus instrumentals, album artwork, hi-res press photos, and remix kits for every track. Sharing with producers, publishers, and bloggers was as easy as emailing a link.
Figure out which songs to promote
I suggest getting a 100-listener report for every song on your release from Audiokite. In a few days you’ll know which songs best resonate with fans of your genre. Good to know, especially if you’re going to make a video!
Submit your release to Pandora
Here’s how. They will listen to one track, and one track only, so choose the one that scored highest on Audiokite. The bar is pretty high, and the process can take months, but it’s worth it. I make about $40/month from Pandora alone, via SoundExchange.
Get your music heard by key influencers
It’s worth paying a few bucks to get your music heard by people who can move your career forward. Fluence allows you to reach music bloggers, music directors, producers, other acts in your genre, and more.
And now that that’s all done, you’re ready to begin your promotion!
Did I miss anything?
I could write an entire post on any one of these items, so obviously I’ve kept the details sparse. Ask me anything, and I’ll do my best to clarify in the comments!