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How To Distribute Your Own Music: Music Distribution Checklist – 60 tips

Now with all of the house keeping out of the way, it’s time to really dig into the real preparation for your upcoming release and learn how to distribute your own music.

Below we will guide you through some key considerations for the months and weeks leading up to your release.

Related Reading: How To Plan Your Music Release: Music Distribution Checklist – 43 Tips

Related Reading: What To Do After Your Music Release: Music Distribution Checklist – 31 Tips

How To distribute Your Own Music: Music Distribution Checklist - 60 tips


PR, Networking & Marketing Prep

1. Reach out and start collecting team members that you’re missing such as a publicist and/or radio tracker.

If you are outsourcing this to someone then they will be able to handle most of the tasks below on your behalf. If not, be prepared to start networking and doing some outreach on your own to help promote your release. 

2. Begin researching and preparing your hit lists for outreach to blogs, playlists, magazines, influencers, etc.

You can do this multiple ways. The free route is through a simple Google Sheet where you research and keep track of a list of contacts you want to reach out too.

The other option is to use tools like Ninja Outreach or Hunter.io which are more efficient tools that help cut down your research time and keep better track of the people you find.

Secret Sauce

Another important key is to start liking commenting and interacting with your “hit list” online. If you can meet with them in person even better. Also, don’t ask for something right away when it is your first interaction with someone you don’t even know. This reduces your chances of success significantly.

3. Brainstorm people or contacts in your current network who would be willing to help you with your upcoming projects

4. Think about your key marketing hook i.e. the unique selling points of your story, music etc. What makes you as an artist stand out?

5. Be more active in your music scene by going to shows, doing collaborations and networking

6. If you’re not able to hire a publicist, draft your press release. Click here for some great tips. 

7. If you are considering ordering any type of merchandise, vinyl or physical CDs; make sure that you start the process now

At the very least get your concepts together and know where you plan to order from. If your music isn’t ready yet, still put together a plan of what you want and consider your budget so that you are not scrambling at the last minute. 

It’s also important to know how much profit you’ll make from the sale of each merch item. Knowing this in advance can help you decide what to order. 

Merchandise can be a great money maker for an artist. Some questions to ask yourself are: What are other artists in your genre selling? What is your target audience buying? How much profit will I make off each item? 

Make sure you have items at various price points and some hand out and signable items, like postcards, as well. Check out these additional tips on merch creation to help you out.

A great company that can help simplify the task of ordering merch is Printful.

Printful For Music Merchandise

8. Start organizing dates into calendars for releases, deadlines, social media, promotions, etc.

Make sure that your calendar is very detailed, includes action steps and who is responsible for tasks. Your calendar should be considered your lifeline and where accountability will come into play. Everyone involved should know what’s going on and have access to the calendar to eliminate guesswork.

3-4 Months Before Release

9. Be sure to let your fans in on the action and the journey of what you are creating all the way up until your release.

10. Your calendar should be completed and action steps clearly defined

11. Music should be complete and submitted to your PROs, SoundExchange and SoundScan

12. Submit your music metadata to Discogs or All Music

13. Upload your songs to SoundCloud but list it as private so you can share the link with the blogs and playlists you are reaching out to

14. Register the new release for SoundScan

15. Consider sync licensing, this is where songs are placed in TV shows, movies, commercials etc. For more info click here. 

16. Make sure that your Bio and Presskit are all up to date so you can also share this with the people you are reaching out to

17. Deliver your music and other assets to your publicist and radio tracking team

18. You will now need to secure your Copyrights for the new release

19. Start collecting as many emails as you can from fans in preparation for your release

20. By now you should have been connecting with people on your outreach hit list. Start crafting and sending out your pitches to these people.

21. This is also a great time to start crafting your email strategy that will be sent to your list focused on your upcoming releases.

2 Months Before Release

22. Begin finalizing all of your assets

Everything from artwork, music videos, lyric videos, photos, mixing, mastering, etc. Make sure these are either done or close to being completed.

Another thing to consider is branded artwork for all your socials for the weeks leading up to your release and then new assets for when your music has been released. Don’t be scrambling day of trying to create the artwork. Canva is a great website for creating quick social media artwork measured for each platform. 

23. Continue to look for ways to grow your audience and email list

24. Reach out to niche music blogs. This is a chance to share the story of your release. The right blogs and webzines can help build hype and give you the credentials to take your music career up a level.

25. Revisit your goals and make sure that your plans on release day are geared towards reaching those goals

For example, if the main goal of this release was to grow your Spotify subscribers then knowing which pre-save campaign service you plan on using is key. If you want to grow your email list through your release then an email in exchange for a download of your song is the better choice. Think and prepare with your goals in mind.

26. Keep your calendar up to date and current

Secret Sauce

Shit happens, things may get delayed or you may need to adjust. Don’t get discouraged just resort back to your calendar and make adjustments as needed. Especially where social media is concerned, new ideas may arise so consistently update your calendar and make sure everyone is aware of the changes.

27. Make sure you have your events and shows current and listed on your website using tools like BandsInTown, Songkick, and Facebook Events

28. Make sure that all of your artist profiles and pages are clean and updated.

29. Continue to stay organized as you begin collecting new assets such as music videos, photos, etc.

30. Submit your music to your music distributor

31. Get Playlisted. You can’t afford to ignore playlisting.

Playlists across Spotify and other platforms reach hundreds of millions of listeners and are a great way for new artists to get noticed as well as royalty earnings in your pocket. For more information on how to get your track onto a Spotify playlist click here and here

1 Month Before Release

Please note that as you get this close to the release date, things will vary depending on a number of factors. For starters are you releasing an album? Are you planning to release a few singles beforehand? Are you just gearing up to roll out a number of singles? Do you have music videos? The list goes on…

In the past, building up anticipation by dropping a release date months in advance was very effective but with the microwave era and shortened attention spans of the average person, people want things now. If you string them along you need to have some valuable content to offer them in the meantime that keeps them excited and engaged. 

So here’s the thing, you can tell your fans that you are dropping something months in advance but make sure you have promo videos planned, you are doing live streams, running contests and promotions and giving fans an inside look to what’s going on. 

The other option is to do the surprise approach and simply ask your audience if you should drop something? To them this may seem totally out of the blue, but you will have a plan, your music will be ready for distribution according to the dates you planned in advance and you can still utilize all of your assets naturally from photoshoots to promo videos, etc.

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong choice here as long as you have a plan and are keeping your goals in mind.

32. Keeping the tip mentioned above in mind, know exactly when you will announce your releases

33. Continue reaching out to your hit list and following up. By now you should have hopefully secured some placements.

Secret Sauce

The follow up email is going to increase your chances of getting a response significantly. Remember that the people you are reaching out too are human, busy and may forget things at times. A friendly reminder is by no means an annoyance. If you get no response after the second or third follow up then it is safe to cut your losses. Also, be sure to space out the time between each follow up message.

34. Even if you didn’t secure placements, start reaching out to friends, family, other artists, etc. These are the people that you are close with and would be more than happy to spread the word about your music on release day.

35. If you’ve lined up any gigs, tours or release parties be sure to announce these as well.

36. Make sure to continue engaging on socials and growing your audience

37. You should now start your pre-sale campaign for your music if you are doing one

38. If you ordered merchandise hopefully it is done by now and you can even pre-sell your merch by advertising it on your socials and your website

39. Take some time to yourself, relax and blow off some steam

If you have been following all of our suggestions, guaranteed you’ve been busting your ass trying to steer this ship in the right direction. 

With anything that you plan, things will never go as perfectly as you envisioned and stress levels will certainly start to rise. I highly suggest you take a bit of time to decompress, relax and get away from it for a moment. 

If you have a team helping you or you’re in a band, go do something fun and totally unrelated to music. Take your mind off things for a bit, get recharged and rejuvenated and then jump back into things with a clear and engaged mind.

1-2 Weeks Before Release

40. Hopefully you had a strong automated email campaign set up to keep your fans engaged leading up to your release. Regardless, now is the time to really make sure you have your emails setup in coordination with your release date.

Secret Sauce

You want to keep your fans informed and engaged not just on the day of your release but the days leading up to and after the date as well.

41. Update your socials with your pre-release artwork

42. Update all artist pages, like Spotify & Apple Music, with your pre-release artwork

43. Upload your music video content to platforms like YouTube and set the publish date to your release date

44. Maintain high levels of engagement and interaction on your social platforms

45. Here is where you can get creative and implement promotional contests, giveaways, online scavenger hunts etc.

46. Review your calendar, make any changes as needed and make sure everything is going as planned

Day Before Release

47. Have all your assets and links ready for the next day so there are no issues posting them

48. Continue being active on socials and engaging

49. Send friendly reminders to whoever is going to help you promote your release the next day

50. Get some rest if you can as I’m sure the anticipation will have you with butterflies in your stomach

Release Day

51. Update all of your socials to show that your music is now available

52. Switch your SoundCloud link from private to public

53. If you are releasing video content, make sure that the content is live

54. Update all of your artist page branding as well to show that your music is now available

55. Make sure you have your social posts go out and you are engaging with fans nonstop

56. Repost the people who are sharing and promoting your music and thank them for their support

57. Utilize stories and live streams on socials

58. Coach and guide your fans on ways that they can help you, whether it is subscribing to your email list, following you on Spotify, etc.

59. Ensure that your emails have gone out

60. Promote other things like merch, upcoming shows, videos, etc while you have everyone’s attention

Final Thoughts on How To distribute Your Own Music

Congrats on the big day and here’s to many more! 

Releasing your music can feel like one hell of a rollercoaster ride, but you stuck it out. 

However, your work isn’t done just yet. You need to keep promoting your release so that you can carry your momentum into the next one. 

We’ll show you exactly what to do right after your releases in the next article here.

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