How-To Guide & Checklist

First things first, just make the album you want to make, within your means. Trickle Down won’t be meddling with the creative side. The only passing advice we’d give is to try to create something you’re both fulfilled with creatively and that you aren’t going to resent the cost of down the road, even if it never breaks even. Simply, before you have a predicatable and proven track record, don’t spend more money on it than you have/have to risk.

So…if you’ve got the songs, what’s next?

New to releasing an album?

If you’re new to this, the best way to use Trickle Down Music is to go through each and every one of the sections in The Beginner’s Guide To Releasing An Album, completing each of the steps below ahead of your release. This process carries you from before you record a single note to necessary follow-ups after your release is out in the wild. It covers the most basic things, like the difference between recording, mixing and mastering and how to get your music on Apple Music & Spotify, but also includes steps necessary to get the most out of your release including some lesser talked about revenue streams and real-world examples of successful grants and press pitches.

If you find the amount of material here overwhelming, or simply don’t have the time, then just pick a few areas you feel comfortable with for now. At the very least, I’d recommend learning how to register your songs with SOCAN and Sound Exchange, distributing your album digitally and sending it out to campus & community radio and a small number of local and national press outlets.

However, it needs to be said up front that ultimately, there’s no one “right” way to release your record. You will have to balance your goals with your capacity and skillset and ensure that whatever you are doing makes sense with your creative vision. Trickle Down Music offers up some insight that is yours to do with as you wish.

Have experience releasing an album?

Well, then a bunch of this might already be second nature to you or seem painfully obvious. If that’s the case, I’d suggest zeroing in on the specific sections in the Punching Up Your Release section. These are things that are commonly skimmed over or wrongly assumed to not be worth the effort. Maybe that’s the SOCAN registration piece (don’t assume you’ll be earning pennies!), maybe it’s the grant potential, maybe it’s just wanting to check your one sheets or press pitches against another real world example…or maybe you just want to skip straight to the Templates and download what you need.

Whatever it is, here’s hoping Trickle Down Music is still a great help to you.

Checklist: Releasing Your Album

Before Recording:

  • Check the Grant Writing section. There may be funding available for songwriting, pre-production, production, etc. that you’ll want to access before starting recording.
  • Discuss songwriting shares with your band and come to an explicit overall or per-song agreement of how songwriting credits should be divided.
  • Decide on your ideal plans for the record – digital only, physical copies (CDs, vinyl, cassettes, etc.). Price those things out and then re-evaluate based on what seems manageable.
  • Set a budget of what you are willing to spend on recording/mixing, mastering and production.

Photo: Hero Images

After Recording/Pre-Release:

  • Get your recording mixed and mastered, and, if feasible, ask your recording engineer for either vocal-less versions or stems (a breakdown of a complete track into individual mixes) for each song for potential licensing purposes.
  • Discuss with your engineer if you require a digital master, a vinyl master, and a DDP (Disc Description Protocol) for CD production.
  • Get your International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) sorted for each song on the album. ISRC codes are what allow plays of your songs to be tracked, and ultimately what enable you to get paid.
  • Register your songs with SOCAN, ensuring the previously agreed upon songwriting credits are honoured. SOCAN collects license fees on your behalf, paid out quarterly.
  • Register your songs with Sound Exchange, an organization that collects and distributes digital performance royalties for sound recordings, most notably from SiriusXM.
  • Sort out album artwork for each medium required (CD vs. vinyl vs. cassette layouts require different dimensions/bleeds, etc.).
  • Select your lead single and decide if you would like to/can make a music video for it.
  • Solidify release plans – booking a release show and/or tour well ahead of the release (4-6 months minimum), apply to festivals to support the release.
  • Upload your music to a digital distributor (CD Baby, Tune Core, LANDR, Distrokid, etc.) so that it will appear on streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) and appear for sale on digital music stores like Amazon.
  • Create a one-sheet and templates for press, campus & community radio mailouts, including all necessary assets.
  • Create tracking documents so that you can record the album’s reception.
  • Develop a social media/marketing plan with timelines for key dates (teasers, announcements, single releases, album releases and continued support).
  • Send the record and press materials out to local, national, and international media, community & campus radio station managers, playlist curators, DJs, etc.

After Release:

  • Follow-up with community & campus radio (Radio Tracking) for the album.
  • Continued social media promotion and support through live performances.
  • Tracking of interviews, reviews, quotes, chart placements, accomplishments.
  • Continual updating of one sheet, templates for press/radio mailouts, etc. to ensure you remain up to date.
  • Make an archive with a backup of your important files: the mastered WAVs, the DDP file, your one-sheet, any video or photo assets, press & radio tracking sheet, copies of successful and unsuccessful grants alike, etc. The next time you release an album, get asked for a write-up, write a grant, etc., having all of this info in one place will be invaluable and save you most of the time you spent the first time around.
  • Ideally…plan the next one!