I’ve been working on a release checklist of my own, but when I came across Ari Herstand’s, I was quite impressed. His focus is certainly different than mine, so I wouldn’t have put together a checklist quite like this (though I still wish I had). More than likely, I will be adding a few of these items to my list too.

He shared the following 26 steps in an interview on the DIY Musician Podcast, and I knew that I wanted to take notes on them. So, what you’ll find below are my notes on this episode.

Credit for this content goes to Ari Herstand and the good folks at CD Baby. I’ve merely broken down what I thought were good points. Enjoy!

#1: Do Your Market Research

  • Find out what tracks your audience likes. This will tell you which songs to lead with, or which to record.
  • Utilize a tool like Audiokite to get people to listen to your songs, rate and comment on it. You can also use a tool like SoundOut to conduct the same kind of research.
  • Use Fluence to get your music reviewed by gatekeepers or music industry people.
  • You can also get feedback from industry people using Music Xray.
  • These sites can help you determine if you’re ready for primetime or not.

#2: Register Your Publishing

  • If you’re using CD Baby as your distributor, register for CD Baby Pro.
  • If you’re using other distributors, register with Songtrust.
  • If you’re releasing original music, by default, you’re not collecting all royalties owed to you even if you’re registered with a performance rights organization (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI, or SOCAN.

#3: Register Every Song with a PRO

  • If you’re registered with a service like Songtrust, they will automatically register your songs with a PRO.

#4: Register with SoundExchange

  • SoundExchange collects digital radio royalties for artists and labels for the master recording, not songwriters and publishers.

#5: Get on AllMusic & Discogs

  • AllMusic and Discogs are the most inclusive credit databases available for musicians. You can list who played what on which tracks on these sites.
  • If you want to get your bio and reviews on sites like iTunes and Spotify, you need to submit your information to AllMusic.

#6: Register the Copyrights

  • If you want to protect yourself from others copying your music and trying to profit off it, copyright your songs using a service like U.S. Copyright Office.
  • If you’re coming out with an album, you can copyright the entire release for $55.

#7: Register for YouTube & SoundCloud Revenue

  • Some distributors will collect YouTube revenue for you if you opt in for it.
  • If your distributor doesn’t do this for you, you can take advantage of a service like Audiam, Repost Network, or AdRev.

#8: Pick Your Distribution Company

  • You must pick a distribution company to get your music out to all major outlets.
  • Do this earlier rather than later, because you might end up having to solve issues with album artwork and other details. If you’re looking to release on or before a specific day, leave some extra time to get your music distributed.

#9: Get a Licensing Company

  • Licensing companies actively pitch your music to film, television, and commercials.
  • Music libraries are non-exclusive, and you can take advantage of as many as you want – Audiosocket, Musicbed, Rumblefish, and so on.
  • Music libraries are where wedding photographers, businesses, and other entities will go to pay for use of their music in their videos, and they are different from licensing companies.
  • You can make a very good income on just licensing deals.
  • If you want to learn about every licensing company that’s out there, you can purchase a guide from The Music Business Registry.
  • Find a licensing company that’s right for your style of music.

#10: Create a Folder of Assets

  • Create a folder on your desktop for your album and put everything in there – all your lyrics, WAVs and 320 kbps MP3s (include metadata) of every song including your instrumentals, track stems, high-res album cover (3000×3000 pixels), high-res album cover without the text, print-ready promo photos (300dpi), web versions of the promo photos, all your merch designs, text document with all your album credits by song, your bios (short and long), promo materials (flyer, poster, etc.), demos, music videos, behind-the-scene videos, and a text document containing login information for all sites, and links you’ll need to reference frequently.

#11: Get New Photos

  • You get to revamp yourself every time you release new music.
  • Get high-quality, professional photographs that accurately represent your music.
  • Have a conversation with your photographer about what the artistic direction of your project is and what your image is.
  • Take your top 10 edited photos and put them in your folder of assets.
  • Use your top three photos for promoting your release.

#12: Write a New Bio

  • Put together a new bio and elevator pitch based on your artistic direction.

#13: Write a New Press Release

  • A press release announces your latest music release to media outlets, blogs, newspapers, and so forth.

#14: Make a List of Blogs to Contact

  • Some of the biggest blogs out there are a part of Hype Machine, which is a blog aggregator. The most talked about songs begin to chart on Hype Machine.
  • Industry people go to Hype Machine to find what the latest trending songs are.
  • Hype Machine is not a place to submit your music. You’ll still need to find appropriate blogs to submit your music to (don’t forget to follow their submission guidelines).
  • Many blogs use SubmitHub to find music to write about, especially if they aren’t accepting submissions.

#15: Create Videos

  • Ari argues every song you create should have an accompanying video on YouTube.
  • When people have visual stimulation, they’re more likely to listen to your songs from start to end.

#16: Create a Bandcamp Page

  • Bandcamp is the top independent music store and community.
  • Some people will pay more for your music if you offer a pay-what-you-want release.

#17: Create or Update Your Website Design

  • A new album demands a new website design. You should update your site’s design every few years regardless.
  • You can take advantage of hosting solutions and website builder tools like Bandzoogle, HostBaby, and Squarespace. So, you don’t need to hire an expensive web developer every time you’re looking to reskin your site.
  • Official content should be representative of your album.

#18: Rebrand Your Social Media Profiles

  • Use your promo assets to re-brand your social media profiles and pages.

#19: Start a Mailing List

  • If you don’t have one, start one – it’s the most important fan engagement tool you have.
  • Email marketing is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined (!).
  • Send emails every two weeks and keep your fans updated.
  • Use MailChimp, FanBridge, iContact, Constant Contact, Benchmark Email, or any tool like that to build and manage your email list.

#20: Submit Your Music to Pandora

  • Pandora used to be an internet radio station, but they have plans to expand into streaming.
  • No matter what kind of music you make, you should be on Pandora. Go to submit.pandora.com to get started.

#21: Create New Merch

  • A new album or tour demands new merch.
  • Take advantage of a service like Merch.ly.

#22: Set Up Box and Dropbox

  • When you’re pitching to anyone, don’t attach music to your email unless it was specifically requested.
  • Music and photos can be sent and shared with Box and Dropbox.

#23: Set Up Your SoundCloud Profile

  • SoundCloud is popular, and it continues to grow. It’s also an active community for music lovers.
  • If you’d like to go in-depth with SoundCloud, you can check out The SoundCloud Bible.

#24: Set up smartURL Links

  • smartURL is one of the best link tracking services available.
  • Create smartURL links for everything, because it allows you to track clicks.
  • You can change where your smartURL links point to if need be.

#25: Register Your Trademark

  • Trademarking can be complicated, so find an attorney to help you.

#26: Form a Corporate Entity Like an LLC

  • This gives you legal protection, and the ability to open a bank account and do business as a corporate entity.

Final Thoughts

Ari’s list is awesome. It mixes the practical, technical, and promotional aspects of things you should do when releasing new music. When I put together my list (which I will likely share with you soon), I was primarily concerned with the promotional side of things (I’m a marketing guy – can’t you tell?) and some of the technical.

The great thing about this is that our lists are basically complementary. I can flesh mine out based on what I’ve learned from Ari’s hard-earned knowledge.

As for marketing, it’s a slightly different can of worms. The reason I say that is because you need to customize your marketing based on what your goals are, what kind of music you play, who your target audience is, and so on.

Either way, I hope you got lots out of this. Let me know what you learned from this in the comments below.

David Andrew Wiebe

David Andrew Wiebe

Founder & CEO at The Music Entrepreneur
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a performance schedule with Long Jon Lev and Adrenalize. If you'd like to be notified whenever the blog is updated, click here to subscribe.
David Andrew Wiebe

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