Updated: Mar 10
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Do you have any idea how much work it takes to create and release an album on your own?
Well, I sure didn’t and let me tell you. It’s a lot of work.
Here’s my story to give you a sense of how much work I’m talking about.
Before I start please understand I do have a background in music and media production, so I just tend to do all my art on my own.
You may want to check out one of my early blog posts called “How much work does it take to create a song?” as it illustrates the process I take to create a song from start to finish.
It may give you a much better understanding of how much work I’m actually talking about in this blog.
But I’ll give a very, very brief description below.
Creating & Releasing an Album on your own.
So, first you gotta write the songs. For that you have to decide what tempo you want the song to be and what key the song will be in so you can come up with a decent chord progression. This can be on paper or on the computer, it doesn’t matter.
That’s when you start to hum a melody and begin to write words to go along with that melody in that said chord progression. Most people would call this process, the songwriting process but for me, I would say that the song is only partially written and I’ll explain why later but the main idea of the song is ready though.
Once you have the song at this stage, it’s time to record the instruments and vocals.
I use a couple of different digital workstation software to produce my music. I tend to use MIDI devices to help me write and record the instrumentals. As far as recording my vocals, since I’m very poor, I just use the closet as a vocal booth. It’s tight but it gets the job done.
So because I didn’t have any experience with writing all the parts to a song, I didn’t write my melodies the way most songwriters do.
Most songwriters pick a key, decide on a chord progression, write the words and melody and the song is ready to record. I wrote as I recorded. Nothing was pre-written or pre-planned and if something came out that was good on that take, I would keep it and stitch it together with the previous parts I liked. I still write this way. It creates very interesting melodies.
This is one reason why I said the writing process doesn’t end with songwriting.
Then, once all the instruments are set and you have all your vocals recorded, comes mixing.
During mixing, you may rearrange the song, remove or repeat parts, decide to add new harmonies and/or change things completely. This becomes the final part of songwriting in my process.
Also during mixing, is where you get to adjust the frequency volume of every single thing that is in the song. Every instrument, every vocal take, every effect, etc.
By adjusting the frequencies of each part you can make sure they don’t clash with each other. Creating a sound we call, “good” Obviously this takes years to learn and I still have a lot to learn after only doing it for over 5 years, but it only takes practice.
After the song is mixed, it may need to be mastered. This is a process that brings the volume level of your finished product to industry standards.
It is a must, if:
1: your mixing engineer didn’t provide a mix that is ready for distribution, and/or
2: you are serious about your music and wish for it to be broadcasted on TV and radio stations.
So success. You have completed your first song. Phew.
That was quite the journey right?
That’s a rushed version of how I do the songwriting process.
You should really go read that blog post to learn exactly how I do it. (Click here to read the blog about how much work it takes me to write a song)
But it doesn’t end here… oh no it doesn’t.
Now you need to register your song with a Performing Rights Organization so you can receive royalties. But the royalties will only come later once your music gets distributed through a distributor of your choice. We'll get there. There’s a ton of paperwork involved. I highly recommend all musicians getting very familiar with this part of the process. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!
In the past 4 years, I went through this process 27 other times, just with writing my own music.
Out of the 30 songs I have written, 27 got recorded but not all are finished, so far I have only registered 24 songs with BMI and out of those 24, I am only releasing 11 on my debut album.
It still doesn’t end here because now that the songs can be mastered and released you better have the artwork for the album done, your social media accounts and website updated with information about this new adventure and you’ll need to start thinking about marketing.
BREAK ALERT!!! In fact, marketing should be something you think of from the beginning of the journey. So don't follow my lead on that topic.
Now here I go hiring a photographer, creating song snippets, sharing songs through social media, redesigning my website and separating my business site from the artist site, rebranding myself, redesigning and reanimating a new logo, reinventing the album cover, setting up and creating designs for merchandise. I even created a 3d character of myself and animated it flying through a city to promote the album release. So much work.
Still not over. Now it is the last stretch of the journey; Distribution.
This is where you can take the result of all that hard work and make it available to the world.
Lots of artists don’t follow the PRO route of registering the songs with a performing rights organization and releasing through distribution.
There are many free ways of self publishing and distributing.
I chose the way it guarantees I’ll get paid when my music gets played or downloaded.
The not free way.
This meant I paid a distributor to make sure my music would be available in all main digital platforms. This process took longer than I thought. Over a month to fill out all paperwork, get everything confirmed and songs available for streaming. Keep that in mind when releasing your own album.
And this marks the last but not final step in this process.
Last because it is the last thing you do to your album, however long it takes, but not final because not only will you continue to promote the album after it is released but the process will start over once you begin the next album.
So after 15 years of playing drums in many bands, I decided I would just go solo and make my own music. I didn’t even know I could sing yet. I was 37 years old. Now here I am. Releasing an album that has a good mix of original pop songs that sound like the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, resembling Top 40s Hits.
Today, March 1st 2020, my debut album was released. It was a lot of work but worth every minute and every penny invested. My advice to you wanting to go through the same process on your own is: Don't rush it. It is way too much work to rush through things. Take it slow and make as many changes you need to feel happy with each song. Chances are there will always be ways of making the song better. Just know when to move forward.
Know that there is a website, blog, several social media accounts, graphic work, video work and marketing work that needs to be done, all on top of your regular work. My advice for anyone making music is:
* Do your own thing.
* Don't try to sound like anyone else.
* Don't listen to critics who don't even listen to or create the type of music you're creating. They don't matter to you. * Know your limitations. At some point you may need to invest on hiring a professional to do something you can't do yet. Do it with pride instead of shame. Professionals exist because of their knowledge. Take advantage of that. * It'll cost more than you'd think; so be ready to spend a couple thousand dollars in a full album.
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I gotta go now, but I'll see you later.