How to release music independently, the checklist:
- Get your artist profiles setup!
- Get set up with a music distributor that suits your needs. (we recommend Distrokid)
- Sign up to PRS to collect all your royalties from radio play etc.
- Make sure you're happy with your final mix & master.
- Devise a marketing plan that captivates and creates hype.
- Push to distribution with a release date!
Looking for information on how to release music independently?
Want to own all of the rights to your music?
That's cool. We were the same.
In the digital age it's getting more and more difficult to get picked up by a label and most labels require you to build a fanbase and profile before they'll show any interest. So how do you release your music independently & cultivate listens, fans and buzz?
You'll be pleased to hear it's a lot easier than most people think.
HOW TO RELEASE MUSIC INDEPENDENTLY: Getting Started
Setting Up Your Artist Profile
If you haven't already and didn't know that you could, all major streaming platforms actually allow you to set up a profile where you can put your music, pictures and information about who you are & what you make.
This is an absolute must in the process of self releasing your music and it's actually really easy to claim your profile.
You'll need to do this for both Spotify and Apple Music, but if you're lazy and don't want to spend the time setting up each profile, Ditto can do all the work for you!
If you want to do it the manual way and you like being able to have control over your profile, you can do it at the links below:
Making It Algorithm Friendly
Like with most things online nowadays, they're all controlled by a complex algorithm that favours certain things and dislikes others. Utilising and understanding the things that they favour is crucial to helping you get in playlists and getting more traction on your tracks.
Think of Spotify or Apple Music as Facebook or Instagram for music.
When endlessly scrolling through social media, things don't just pop up on your timeline because they're there, it's all controlled by what you've previously liked or commented on.
This is the same with Apple Music or Spotify.
These platforms will curate playlists for you based on your listening activity. So what you've previously listened to, liked and put into one of your playlists, they'll see as positive activity and start suggesting you similar artists.
It's the same with when you skip a song halfway through or press the dislike button – the application will know not to recommend that again or anything similar to it.
What do they use to determine which artists are similar?
Lots of things but, you guessed it, one of them is the information on your profile! Just like a social media platform, Spotify and Apple Music favour you if you've filled out the information on your profile.
That means you've got to do everything in your power to make your artist profile the cream of the crop. You can change your profile details on the relevant artist portals for any of the streaming services you're on.
Once you've got your profile set up, you can now release music on it. But it doesn't end there! Artist portals allow you to look at the analytics of your plays and also apply to be put into editorial playlists!
Check out the great video from Burstimo above that explains how you can hack the algorithm.
HOW TO RELEASE MUSIC INDEPENDENTLY: Getting Out There & Getting Paid
Funnily enough, getting your music out there and across all of the relevant platforms, is actually the easiest part of this whole process!
Once you've made sure your music is sounding good and your artist profile is ready, you'll need to use a distributor. A distributor is a someone or a company that is able to get your music on all of the different streaming platforms and digital stores like:
- Apple Music
- Google Play Music
- Amazon Music
- Instagram Music
- + Loads more!
There are loads, so sometimes it's difficult to choose the right one, but if you're having difficulty making the decision, we wrote about the best music distribution service in 2021.
From personal experience we recommend using Distrokid.
Your tracks get approved quickly and they don't charge commission which allows you to keep all of your revenue.
PRS is otherwise known as the Performing Rights Society and they collect royalties for your tracks. That means every time your track is played on the radio, in a barber shop or somewhere public, PRS will collect money because your music has been used for commercial purposes.
You can register on their website and get set up pretty quickly. It's definitely something worth doing as it can be quite a large chunk of money if your music is getting put in playlists and being played out a lot.
PRS also allows you to collect royalties on your music if it's used in YouTube videos. That means that if you've already got a pretty big YouTube channel, you could make videos with your music in the background.
This will collect you royalties over on PRS and you'll still be getting your AdSense money from the views!
HOW TO RELEASE MUSIC INDEPENDENTLY: Sounding Good!
Mix & Master
Getting your mix/master right is a lot more important than you think. It doesn't directly have an effect on whether your music can be released on streaming platforms or not, but is extremely important.
To put it short: Spotify & Apple Music can actually penalise your music's rankings or ability to get into playlists if it doesn't fit in with their volume specifications. If it's too loud they'll turn it down and all you'll be left with is a diet version.
If you've ever released a tune and you're now finding this out, it will probably click as the reason to why your track sounded entirely different on major streaming services when it was released.
It's been castrated.
You can easily avoid this by checking the levels of your track using a metering plugin. One of our favourites is Loudness Penalty because it tests your track against every platform.
If you want to release your music and gain a base of raving fans, which we're going to guess you are, you need to sound good.
You don't want people to turn your music off because it doesn't sound ‘full' enough or it's just not hitting the same way as other people's within your genre. Think of your music as a first impression or a first time customer.
Making a great first impression is key.
Getting the listener in a state where they're raving about a new track they heard, will make them want to share the experience with their friends. That means you'll get more people listening in!
More people = more fans!
So how do you get your master to sound the best it can be on Spotify or Apple Music? You could hire a mastering engineer, but this post is about DIY, so we're gonna give you the full shebang.
To avoid sounding bad, you really want to sit down and think about what people use to listen to music on. Think of the devices you've seen your friends or family listen to music on and when they've shown you something and you've cringed because of the horrible tinny speakers.
That kind of equipment is exactly what you need to be making your music sound good on! So make sure you check your mix on all systems before it's ready to go.
It's weird isn't it?
We spend all this money on fancy gear, plugins and synths, then spend all of our hard earned time making something sound great, just for it to be listened to through a pair of headphones you could find in a pound shop.
HOW TO RELEASE MUSIC INDEPENDENTLY: Creating Hype
Now you've got all the technical stuff out of the way your music is ready to be released to an audience of your Mum, Dad & Grandparents.
But seriously… if you want to start getting some real traction with your music and generating plays, new fans & some revenue, then you'll want to be creating a hype around your track.
A lot of people struggle when it comes to this section because of two common things we see all the time:
- They post once and never again
- They don't engage people in a fun way
Let's be honest…
Nobody wants to see a post about your track, with the same graphic or a picture in a different location, with the same caption: “____ is being released on ____ you can hear it ____”.
You want to have fun with this part and use your creative brain to come up with more than just melodies.
In our last project (Gelato – Flavours) we threw a huge, free summer themed party with loads of tropical inflatables, a 6ft unicorn inflatable, custom decal lighters (with QR codes) & gave out free lighters.
Now I know that not everyone has the capital to throw a huge party for their album launch, but there's so much you could be doing to promote your music in different ways.
You could release exclusive previews of your tracks to your fans by uploading short previews on your Soundcloud using a gate that asks for your listeners email for something in return, like a sample pack.
Then once you have your fans emails, you can notify them about the release and as a result get a load more plays on your track quicker.
Using a piece of software to do this and sending can send automated emails to your list can really help with this.
Another way you could engage your audience is by releasing behind the scenes videos on your Instagram, showing your fans how you made your song.
The opportunities are endless.
HOW TO RELEASE MUSIC INDEPENDENTLY: Push To Distribution
Once you're happy with the above, make sure to distribute your music through your favourite distributor 14 days before your set release date.
This way you'll be able to send your music to playlists and allow time to get pre-saves and build a hype.
That about wraps this whole thing up!
So thank you for reading this far, and remember to keep this page bookmarked for future releases if you need any pointers.
As always, if you do have any comments at all, leave them below and we'll do our best to help you out.
We're going to be posting a lot more about music marketing, so keep a close eye for new updates coming soon! In the meantime, have a browse round our other content.
With over 8 years of hands-on experience in the music industry, Harry has run successful raves, played alongside industry heavyweights such as Max Chapman, DJ EZ, DJ Zinc and more (pictured below), had music played on national radio, DJ'd on live radio, produced until he hated every song, mixed until his ears bled, created sample packs from scratch using just a Zoom H1n and some sound design skills… and pretty much anything related to music production – he's done it, tested it, tried it.