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How to be a self-releasing artist

Tip Published Thursday 10 May 2018
4 girls laying on the ground with their heads facing opposite ways
Bec Callander from indie-band Rackett shares her step by step guide for releasing a song in 6 weeks

Make sure to discuss credits, splits and band agreements before collaborating and releasing work

Understand budgeting and accounting to make sure you stay solvent

You can use flat-fee digital distributors like Ditto and Believe to release your music


Why go indie? As AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Association) GM and CFO Maria Amato said, "There is nothing more empowering to do what you love on your own terms."

We sat down with Maria, and Bec Callander from indie band Rackett, to discuss how to manage it all and sustain a fulfilling career. Here are some of the questions, answers and insights that really hit home.

Co-writing, your friendly reminder to talk about it before you start

Whether you're going into a studio with a producer or co-writers or something spontaneous happens in collaboration, all parties should agree on credits and splits before registering and releasing your work. It will save strained business talks further down the track.

Band agreements

It might take just a short consultation from a lawyer or researching contracts yourself, but get a band agreement in place.

What services or distributor should I use to release my music?

Maria suggests starting out with a flat fee digital distributor that gets your music to the essential outlets. Services that upload to ALL platforms can cost more, and you may not need that level of distribution when starting out. Check out Ditto, Believe as well as the Friends of AIR alignments.

Have a basic understanding of accounting

You have to be able to read a balance sheet and once you do you can talk assets and liabilities with the best of them. Maria's advice: stay solvent. Don't go into debt.

Goal-setting

Bec Callander from Rackett describes breaking down goals in different sizes: the five-year goal (touring the world), the one-year goal (getting onto a major festival), the next 3 months goal (releasing a single and setting up a tour).

How do I find a sync service?

Check out Level Two's Disco service, or look into distributors who might offer the service.

How to release a single in 6 weeks:

  • 6 weeks out have your final audio ready to upload to the distributor, so they can pitch to DSPs
  • artwork finalised - make sure it fits digital packshot specs
  • are you touring? More likely to get promo/press from a single if there is a tour involved.
  • prep your social media strategy - what content do you have?
  • creating a story - have 3-4 content pieces to offer to media: video, behind-the-scenes, great instagram image, new pics
  • on release - audio jingles on community radio - you support the station and you seed your music
  • Facebook campaign, what can you sponsor or put a bit of money behind?

Use analytics to know who your audience is

In the case of Rackett, you might think your fans are 18 year old females, but it turns out males 27-35 are the biggest audience. Use your socials analytics, collect email addresses whenever you can, and use Spotify for Artists to know where the fans are and what is connecting.

Build a fanbase face-to-face

Say hi to punters after a gig, hand them a sticker, get them to sign up to the newsletter, put some thought into how to display your merch.

Should I have a website?

"You want people to be able to find and follow you," says Maria. We think that's a yes to websites! List your socials, keep your bio current, and have promo photos there that can be accessed by media. Check out Squarespace and WordPress.

triple j unearthed and the promo services that come a-callin'

An audience member told us how they uploaded a track to unearthed and a few days later got an email from a company offering to take a single into triple j for $150. Too good to be true? It might be. Google the company, ask for a contract before doing anything.

Does all the time invested in the biz take away from the creative process?

That question is one to answer for yourself. Remember, when you get to a certain point with your music and you're getting busier, it's ok to outsource, think about what will help you the most with your goals.