Monday, April 30, 2012

Are Art and Money Mutually Exclusive?

Have you been forced to choose art and creative expression over cash?  Can you have the best of both worlds? 

Seattle's KUOW had a fascinating discussion regarding the Intersection Of Art And Money.   Take a listen to a panel of artists and arts advocates talk about the intersection of art and money, along with a little live music. Very interesting.

Audio for this program is available here:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

7 Tips for Building a More User-Friendly Music Website

[Thanks to Diskmakers for this great articles - originally appears at]

Your website should be a place where visitors can easily listen to your music, buy your album, and check up on news and concert dates. Your site usability will influence whether a website visit ends in an album sale or the loss of a potential fan. Is your musician website user-friendly?

1. Put the Important Stuff on Your Homepage
Decide what you want your fans to do first. Should they sign up to your email list? Listen to your music? Read your blog? Buy your album? Make sure that your highest priority actions are represented on your homepage. Also, make sure that your homepage is not cluttered with too many options.

2. Make it Easy to Buy Your Music and Merch
Give your fans purchase options. Not everybody wants to use PayPal. Not everybody wants to use iTunes. Give your visitors 2 or 3 common purchase options so they can buy your music the way they are most comfortable doing.

3. Make it Easy to Read
No fancy fonts. No tiny text. No dark colored text on a dark background or light text on a light background.
Be mindful of grammar and spelling.
Try to avoid large blocks of text. Readers tend to skim website content. Short paragraphs separated by a space will be easier for most readers.

4. Use Simple Navigation
You’re a musician not a department store. You don’t need 100 links in your navigation bar. Keep things simple and focus on your goals. Use simple wording that people understand. Use “Store” not “Tunes Shop” and “Contact” rather than “”Hollar at Us.”

5. Keep it Updated
A website with out-of-date content can be confusing. If the last time you updated your concert calendar was 2003, some people will assume you are no longer playing music. If your last blog post was over 2 years ago, people will be hesitant to enter their credit card info on your site–because who knows if there’s anyone on the other end to ship out the CD.

6. No Auto-play
Let your fans hit the play button. Music that automatically plays can be startling and annoying. Often people are already listening to music on their computer (there’s almost nothing worse than two songs playing at once). Give auto-play a rest and let your website visitors control the remote.

7. No Flash Animation
Flash animations are not supported by all computers and mobile devices and they can function poorly on slow internet connections. Animations can take a while to load and many folks would rather point their browser elsewhere then wait 20 seconds for a band website to load. Don’t risk losing sales just because you have a programmer buddy that knows how to make your logo spin around and catch fire. Keep it simple.

Read more: 7 Tips for Building a More User-Friendly Music Website — Echoes - Insight for Independent Artists

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lessons from the Media: Trying to Fit a New Song in a Square Hole

There are several journalists that I LOVE to follow, not only for their good work and wonderful writing but I always know that I will LEARN something from them and in the end be better at what I do.

My latest find...

Taryn Haight's Music Blog on the Huffington Post and her recent piece Trying to Fit a New Song in a Square Hole, which is excerpted below. She touches on a subject that comes up a lot in my work with recording artists - the need to just be who you are, don't over classify ("I'm the next Jay Z") or under classify ("you can't define me, nobody's ever heard music like mine before) and let us help, this is what we do.

Trying to Fit a New Song in a Square Hole

I am hugely critical, and hypocritical, of the way people categorize musicians. It's not that I'm some omniscient music guru or even fully immersed in the industry; I just hate how everyone (myself included) tries to squish some artist into a premade mold in order to make sense of his or her art -- although as humans, it's really only natural.

I'm immediately turned off by a press release boasting some scruffy-chinned boy in a flannel as the next Bob Dylan and I have to consciously stop myself from rolling my eyes when someone plays me a song with any thumping beat and asks, "Would you consider this house or tech-house?"

Honestly, I don't give a shit. And neither do most people listening to it on their en-route-to-work playlists or while dancing through a sea of sweaty people at Webster Hall on a Friday night. Everyone just wants good music -- the kind that moves you and intrigues you and makes you want more. And if it's good, that typically means it's not some square peg we can just plop into a square hole.

Although I know I'm a hater and I try my best not to categorize, there are certain things I can't help (i.e. blurting, "This sounds like Placebo" the first time I ever heard a Silversun Pickups song). There are also those certain few artists who, no matter how hard my head googles for a comparison, can't be traced back to anything that's previously been done.

The interesting phenomenon is that as we create more genres and sub-categories to try to fit these new artists into, we are actually chopping them away until we are so confused and so annoyed that we are left with only two types of music: the good and the bad.

From the time I was just a little peanut in my mom's belly, my parents played the connector role between my brain, my heart and the good kind of music. I was exposed to everything from the Fleetwood Macs to the Michael Jacksons to the stuff my dad wrote and played on guitar during the lull between school and dinner. I was stretching my feet to piano pedals at the age of four and squeaking horse hair against cello strings for hours a day. I was told that music theory was a necessary subject just like math or history and I was told to make up ditties and write out notes when I had no other assignments to practice.

Although my parents are now divorced, living states away from myself and one another, I can credit them for feeding me the musical nutrients necessary to grow into an appreciator of good music, despite its particular species. Like learning anything at such a young age, music became second nature and I became accustomed to needing as much of it as I could get my hands (ears?) on... the more unique, the more exciting.

It's a quality that is easily taken for granted and one that so many other people haven't had the privilege of attaining. For those with similar childhoods, thank your mom and dad, and for those who want to expand their palettes, I challenge you to abandon the categories and ignore what the radio or the songs your friends tell you are hot. Try new genres, or try ignoring genres altogether. Stop putting songs in square holes and start putting them on your iPod to experience rather than categorize.

What I'm listening to now...listen to the rest at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quincy Jones: Tools For Success

There's not really more of an expert than Qunicy Jones (a Seattle-native and producer of many of the hits you know all the words to), so why not take a lesson from the best....

Quincy Jones: Tools For Success
(thanks to

Excerpted from Q on Producing by Quincy Jones (with Bill Gibson), published by Hal Leonard.

My daddy used to say to my brother, Lloyd, and me, “Once a task is just begun, never leave it ’til it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” Every day he said that. That has stuck with me through everything I’ve done.

Preparation and Luck
There’s nothing in the world worse than having an opportunity that you’re not prepared for. Good luck usually follows the collision of opportunity and preparation – it’s a result of that collision. You’ve got to be prepared. So, make your mistakes now and make them quickly. If you’ve made the mistakes, you know what to expect the next time. That’s how you become valuable.

One day, when I was working in Paris for Eddie Barclay’s record company, Barclay Disques, Eddie’s secretary walked in the room and said, “Grace Kelly’s office called today and said Mr. Sinatra would like you to bring 55 musicians to the Sporting Club in Monaco for a charity fundraiser.” He wanted me to bring my house band, which included Kenny Clarke, Don Byas, and Stephan Grappelli along with the Blue Stars, who later became the Double-Six (Mimi Perrin, Christiann LeGrand, and Wards Swingle). Obviously, I said, “Hell yes!”

We played with Frank that night. I think maybe six or eight words were exchanged between Frank and me the whole night. I’d never seen anything like him before – he was like something from another planet. It was so magical. That was 1958, and I didn’t hear from him until 1962; he called me from Kauai, where he was directing None But the Brave. He says, “Q!” – nobody had ever called me that before – “I just heard the record that you arranged for Basie. I’ve always wanted to do Bart Howard’s ‘In Other Words’ ['Fly Me to the Moon'] the way you arranged it, instead of like the original 3/4 version. Would you consider working with Basie and me and our band?” I couldn’t have said yes fast enough! Especially since I had come up with that arrangement in my hotel room, without a piano, when I couldn’t get the notes on the page fast enough.

It all just came together. After Basie practically adopted me when I was 13 years old and we became so very close, who would ever have guessed that I’d be writing hits for him later and working with Frank Sinatra and all that? You can’t control it, you know, you can’t pick it, that’s for sure. It’s not in your hands. You’re judged on the last thing you do, and you need to just keep on doing your thing, developing your skill, and then let what happens happen. I was just fortunate that I was able to work with, I think, the greatest artists from the last 60 years of American his- tory. All of them: Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Basie, Duke, Ella, Michael, and everybody else, all the way up to the rappers today!

It would have never happened if I wasn’t ready – if I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. If I wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t have lasted 20 minutes with Frank. Trust me! Frank would either love you or he’d run over you with a Mack truck. There was no in between. And if you ask Frank Sinatra to jump without a net, you’d better have your stuff together!

Core Skills of a Musician
On one of my first compositions/arrangements, entitled “The Four Winds,” which got me in the door with both Hampton and Basie, I printed an asterisk with a little note on the Bs throughout the chart that said, “Attention! Play all of these a half-step lower because they sound funny if you play them natural.” The guys in the band said, “You just put a flat on the third line at the beginning and then you don’t have to write all that stuff all day.” But you know, I was 13 years old – I didn’t know what I was doing. Passion for something is just not enough. You need to put your time in on the core skills – there’s no way around it.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he talks about knowing something instinctively about a person or a situation. He calls them slices of insight. He followed that book up with Outliers, in which he makes the important point that the secret to making those instinctive determinations resides in 10,000 hours of study – 10,000 hours of practice. So, your insight is guided by your experience. I believe it! I don’t care what you do, whether you’re a doctor or a carpenter or a musician, if you don’t have the science together (practice), your soul (passion) just doesn’t have a clue how to get where it wants to go!

If you want to be great, put your time in on the fundamentals. Learn the basics of music and build on that. Learn how to read music. Learn about harmony, counterpoint, leitmotifs, constructing a melody, and definitely orchestration. If it has to do with music, learn it! Learn everything about the kind of music you’re into and about every other kind of music. Master your craft. Put your time in!

Some of the rappers are coming to me for help. They’re already making money at music, but they’re not totally satisfied artistically. I tell them the same things: Learn the fundamentals! Great musicians put a lot of energy into what they do. They put their 10,000 hours in, and more, practicing scales and developing their skills.

They learn about music and songwriting and arranging. They study the thing they want to be great at. Then, all of a sudden their soul is released to express itself. Music engages the left and right brain simultaneously without fail. It’s an absolute, right along with mathematics. Music affects the emotions and the intellect; always, it pulls at each side. That’s why music has a healing effect. Music can positively affect people with Down’s syndrome, autism, dyslexia, and more, because it stimulates both right and left sides of the brain, simultaneously.

Core Skills of a Producer
The producer has to be able to take charge of virtually every phase of the creative process. He or she must be able to find and recognize a good song, get the right instrumentalists and background singers, and find the right engineer and studio. You have to be the conductor of everything from the bottom to the top of the project. And, you have to be able to help the artist realize their musical vision and personality while you do everything else. You have to learn about marketing, covers, liner notes, and you have to know enough about all of the instruments to be able to communicate effectively with the players. On top of everything, you need to be a psychiatrist in the studio so you know when to tell the artist to take a break or to keep pushing through. You have to push them, but you can never let them fall. If you have studied and know what you’re doing, you can be confident that you can handle whatever comes up.

As a music producer you have got to be extremely proficient with music. If you expect to have the kind of confidence you’ll need as a producer in the studio, you must be proficient in your core musical skills in addition to being able to handle all of the organizational and relational demands placed on the producer.

Whether it was Michael or Frank or Ray Charles, I had no insecurities – I was ready because I had worked so hard. When Frank would say, “That’s just a little too dense up front in the first eight, Q,” in five minutes I’d fix it. That’s what I was born for, man. I’d go to flugelhorns so the high end would mellow out and get out of the way of the vocal or go straight to one of my favorite sounds: four flugelhorns, three alto horns, double bass, four French horns, four trombones, and a tuba. I’d have them all play soft, with no vibrato. That’s sexy, man. It’s the warmest sound on the planet. It’s like painting, man, and you have to be able to respond on a dime.

The people in China wouldn’t like a painting of a bowl of fruit, even if Rembrandt or van Gogh painted it. I find that fascinating. I noticed that the longer I looked at many of their paintings, the more things I’d see. For example, what seemed at first to be an organized pattern of small oblong shapes, could turn into a rabbit, or a little girl’s face, or any number of things. Everything was intertwining to form one piece of art, but it was built from connected individual pieces.
I knew there had to be some science involved, so I asked Nate Giorgio, an artist that I deeply admire. He told me that it’s called monoprint and that it is indeed produced using a scientific process. The Chinese think art should come from the abstraction of the artist’s mind, which I love because that’s the same way I think about musical voicing and color.

Charcoal, Watercolors, and Oil
I used to do cartoons and sketches – I was really a junkie and I was actually into art before music. Producing music always reminds me of painting. I would always start with charcoal sketches, then I’d add watercolors, and finally oil. The charcoal sketch defines the basic shapes and proportion in broad terms – that’s the way I like to start a production. The trick is to not get locked in right away – that mind-set draws from the jazz mentality. Go with what you feel, but then give everyone else the same canvas. Benefit from the creativity that they bring to the palette. Find the structure on the canvas by defining dynamics, colors, density, and so on.

Sometimes people have a hard time getting started. Steer clear of “paralysis from analysis.” Just get started. A lot of times, you just need to stop thinking about it and get started with a contour or a shape or something like that. Start with an image in your soul, and let it out. As the sketch takes shape, we can lay on the watercolors. Charcoal and watercolors can always be changed, but as the structure becomes more established, when the background lines and other basic components are nailed down, it’s time to commit and put it in oil. When you get to the oils, that means you’ve got the background nailed, you’ve got the melody nailed, you’ve got countermelodies in place, and you’re able to commit. Once it’s in oil, it’s final – you’re closing in on it because you know where you’re going. It’s just a psychological trick, but it works.

If you take your music from charcoal to watercolors to oil, you leave room for creativity. One of my favorite sayings is “Let’s always leave some space for God to walk through the room.” I believe in that. The studio is a sacred place, which is why I never wanted a studio in my home.

You’re looking for something very special to happen in that studio, very mystical and special – something spiritual. That special thing has to happen for the music to be really powerful – for it to have a powerful effect on the listener.

I can’t think about what the listener is going to say or about focus groups and all that nonsense. I don’t want to hear about what 40 people who are not even involved in music think. Can you really tell me you’re going to go against what you feel in your soul and make changes based on that? I don’t think so. Go with what you feel in your gut. Listen to the whispers from God. I just go by the goose bumps I get when I hear the music. If the music moves me, it’ll move somebody else, too. If it doesn’t move you but you think it might move someone else, that just doesn’t work. On every project I’ve produced, from the biggest-selling to the least, I just started out saying, “Let’s do the best we can.” Nobody knows what’s gonna happen, ever. All we can do is use everything at our disposal, all of our resources, to make the best music possible – music that touches our soul and our mind.

Get 25% off and free shipping when you buy Q on Producing by Quincy Jones (with Bill Gibson) from Just use the code DM9 when checking out!

Echoes readers get 25% off and free shipping for selected titles from Hal Leonard Books purchased at Click here to see a list of all eligible titles, and use code DM9 at check out.

Read more: Quincy Jones: Tools For Success — Echoes - Insight for Independent Artists

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Art of Music Photography

I am always encouraging artists to really pay attention to the photos they're using and most of the time I ask them to "get new photos." It's not a dig or meant to hurt anyone's feelings, it's just that I understand that there is an ART to music photography and that a single image should not only communicate your brand, it should compliment your artistry.

While it starts with conceptualizing and setting up a photo shoot, then relaxing enough to help the photographer capture the image, it ends with that photographer cropping, cleaning and color correcting the final photos BEFORE they go public.

I've had the pleasure of meeting some incredible music (and other) photographers and am pleased to recommend the following:

Diana Levine (New York City)

Rayon Richards (New York City)

Jim Bennett (Seattle)

Terry Creighton (Seattle)

The Fabb Group (Los Angeles)

Spencer Leamer (Seattle)

Check out this great article The Art of Music Photography from

Jason Gardner is a professional photographer who primarily shoots musicians. He has photographed artists like Manu Chao, Gogol Bordello and Antibalas and captured live performances by Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson and Neil Young. His photos have appeared in periodicals like Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Magazine and Time Out among many others.

Ever since someone forwarded me a link from Rock and Roll Confidential’s Hall of Douchebags that features some of the most uninspired band photos ever I knew I had to locate a music photographer to discuss how the pros do it. Please note that no band or photographer mentioned or with a photo credit here has anything to do with such Douchebaggery…

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

10 things to do for your next release

10 things to do for your next release

Originally published in the July issue of Electronic Musician and thanks to

It’s easier than ever to release your music to the world. And there is now a wealth of online services that will help you promote, distribute, and share your music. But even though musicians can release material whenever they want – and many fans are happy with the idea that they can download singles – the press, fans, radio stations, podcasts, and even digital distribution stores still ask the same question: “When’s your next album coming out?”

Of course, an album in today’s music world is more than just a physical object. It’s a concept that helps promote your music; it gives everyone something to focus on. Having an album enables events such as a record-release party, gives you a story to tell to help get you reviewed or mentioned in the media, provides you with a group of songs for sale in a digital music store, and gives you something tangible to sell fans after a live show.

No matter what you plan to do with your album, you want to put out the strongest product you can. While many articles in EM delve into the recording and mixing aspects, here we’ll focus on what happens after the mixing is done, but before you actually release your project. We’ve put together a list of steps – presented roughly in the order you’re likely to deal with them during the process – that will help make your album release successful.

10. Put Your Best Song on Track 1
There’s more music out in the world than ever, which means that musicians have to fight even harder for the 30 seconds of consideration that they get from any media outlet, radio programming director, or reviewer that gets their album. In a recent interview in EM, Bob Boilen, the music reviewer for NPR’s All Songs Considered, said that the show receives 200 to 300 CDs per week. Their review method: toss the press release in the recycle bin, slot the disc in the player, and listen to track one. If that doesn’t grab them, they put it on the giveaway pile and move on to the next disc.

Don’t lose the opportunity to reach far more people by leading with a weak track. The rest of the music on the CD won’t matter if no one hears it. Although the actual sequencing of the song order for your CD will likely happen during mastering (see step 8), it’s something you want to decide on before that point.

9. Get ISRCs for Each of Your Tracks
Your songs may make it onto webcasts, ringtones, and all kinds of other electronic distribution methods. Because of this, before you distribute your music to anyone, get an International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) for each of your tracks. This is an international serial number that will uniquely identify each song and can be digitally embedded in the disc subcode (you can do this with many 2-track editors and some CD-burning applications, or your mastering engineer can do this for you) or even into the ID3 tag of an MP3 file. The ISRC code is widely used in digital commerce sites and by collecting societies, so it may affect the royalties that you get for your music.

Note that you need an ISRC for each track separately. In fact, if you have multiple versions of the same song, each of those tracks should get its own ISRC code, as well.

8. Get the Album Mastered
Many musicians are tempted to save money by skipping the critical mastering process before sending their music off to be reviewed, played on the radio, or replicated 1,000 times. Don’t make that mistake. Mastering is a critical and very specialized process, and it is best done by an experienced engineer with the right gear in an acoustically treated studio. Evening out volume between tracks, smoothing out EQ, adding compression and limiting, and getting the benefit of an experienced pair of ears with a fresh perspective on your project is key. It will add that critical polish to your album and help it stand out from the crowd. Listeners and reviewers will look negatively on problems such as jarring volume changes between songs, too much bass, or overly bright or dull mixes, and these problems can’t easily (or cheaply) be fixed once the CD is made and the songs have been put up for sale at digital music stores.

7. Legally Protect the Music
Although U.S. copyright law doesn’t require that a work must be registered with the government to get copyright protection, you can get statutory benefits, such as the ability to recover your legal costs if you prevail in a lawsuit, if you register it within a few months of publication. For musicians, that publish date is usually when a CD is released. Take a little time before the album is released to register both the music (form PA) and the recording itself (form SR) with the U.S. Copyright Office as a collection so you get the full benefit of registration as it is more cost-effective to register them as a whole than each song separately.

Also, before the album release, register the songs with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) and the sound recording with SoundExchange so that if it’s played and picked up in their surveys, you can get paid for it. If you wait until after it’s been released, you might miss out on their surveys if it’s played.

6. Obtain a Barcode
Although getting a barcode sounds like a trivial commercial step, it’s more important than some musicians think. Music sales are tracked within the United States through Nielsen Soundscan, which uses the barcode as the unique identifier for the album. Without it, the album sales won’t be counted. Also, some musicians forget that barcodes are also part of the album art. They usually need to be obtained ahead of time or it slows the entire process down while waiting for it.

5. Choose an Appropriate Method for Making Your CDs
When you’re ready to make CDs, there are lots of options for manufacturing them. To choose the right one, estimate how many CDs you’ll need for each of these categories: CD sales at live shows, physical CD sales online, PR campaigns, free CD giveaways, college or commercial radio campaigns, and CD review campaigns. Each of these can affect the size of your run, as well as help you determine the quality of disc that you’ll want. If you need a rough guide, just assume that you’ll need at least 100 for each of the aforementioned uses.

Once you know how many and what you’re going to do with them, you can choose the best method for you. Consider one of these options:

- Make It Yourself. You can always use your own computer to burn CDs and print covers and liner notes. This method is certainly easy for demos but very time-consuming. (Think of using scissors to cut perfectly square fold-outs for the CD case 20 times in a row.) Also, it usually results in a low-quality product that is not appropriate for PR campaigns, radio, and CD reviews. It costs approximately $2 per disc if you buy in bulk, use color ink for your cover, and buy empty jewel cases. These prices get closer to $3 to $3.50 if you get a printer that can print on the CD itself and you use higher-quality paper for the insert.

- Buy a Duplication Machine. If you need to be able to make a large number of CDs on demand, bulk-duplication machines may be an option. These machines will usually both duplicate CDs and print reasonable-quality images on the CD face itself. On average, a decent machine costs approximately $1,200; the lower-priced ones aren’t worth buying as they don’t last as long. Figuring in the insert, the toner, CDs, CD case, etc., your cost is around $1.80 per CD once you’ve paid for the machine. This option is probably best if you need to be able to handle a lot of different CD runs on short notice. If you have just a few albums, you’re usually better off going with one of the other methods.

- Duplicate It. There are two major methods that are often confused for making a large number of CD copies: replication and duplication. The latter is for short runs between 100 and 500 CDs. It creates CD-Rs that don’t last as long as replicated CDs do (although they’ll usually last a couple of years or so), and they don’t play in some of the very oldest CD players. The final product looks just as good as a replicated disc, however, because it’s usually made using the same printer for the insert and on-disc images. The result is perfectly good for publicity, music reviews, and submitting to radio stations. The cost per CD is typically between $4 and $5 if you add in the shipping costs to get the discs delivered to you.

- Replicate It. Replicating CDs involves making copies from a glass master disc, and creates the highest-quality product. Most CD manufacturers don’t even offer replication unless you’re going to make 1,000 copies or more (Disc Makers offers replication at quantities of 300). Although this method has the highest up-front costs, it also has the lowest cost per CD with the best result. The prices are usually around $1 to $2.50 for each disc after shipping costs are figured in.

4. Clear the Rights
When you hire a CD manufacturer to duplicate or replicate your CD, the company will ask you to sign a form that you’ve cleared the rights to the music on the disc and the art on the disc and inserts. As always with copyright law, this is more complicated than it seems. If you want to do it right, you need to spend a little time tracking down the info and clearing the rights.

For cover songs, you are required to pay a mechanical royalty for every single copy of the music that you make. This royalty is due when you make a copy, regardless of what you do with the music: sell it, give it away, or even just leave it in your basement. This is why CD houses are required to ask about clearance when they make your discs rather than when you sell them. To clear the rights, start by going to Limelight or Harry Fox. Otherwise, you’ll have to contact the copyright owner directly.

There are only two pieces of good news about this process. First of all, the maximum rate is capped by law, currently at 9.1¢ per copy. Second, cover songs usually are a great way to get people interested in your music as people search for them in popular online music stores. A purchase of a cover that you recorded can turn into a purchase of your entire album.

For any art that you don’t create yourself, you’ll have to negotiate separately with the owner. Often forgotten is that photographers own any photographs they take unless you hired them under a “work for hire” contract. If you don’t have such a contract, it might be necessary to pay the photographer for the use of his/her work in your album.

3. Proof Your Discs
It’s embarrassing if you have discs made that have text mistakes on them. There is no reason for such errors to get through. The best way to avoid such a problem is to get a proof copy from the CD manufacturer and hand it to as many people as possible. Although it’s tempting to skip this step because it usually costs extra, it’s worth it.

No matter how much checking you do on your computer screen before you submit it, there’s something about having a physical proof that forces you to truly look at every word. You will also get a chance to see the alignment of all of your images and the overall effect of the art. These types of mistakes are the kind that can lead to the music being ignored, no matter how good it is.

2. Make Sure Track Names Automatically Come Up In Music Players
When you pop a CD into iTunes or other computer-based music players, the track and artist names usually come up. This makes it easy for listeners to know what they’re hearing, and it is used for the titles in MP3 files when people rip the CD. But for new CDs, all that comes up are generic titles such as Track 1 and no artist name. Fortunately, this is something that you can fix yourself before you send it out to anyone.

The track information is stored in two services: Gracenote MusicID and FreeDB. Both do the same thing: They get a fingerprint of the CD (based on the combination of length and order of the songs) and compare it to their databases. If they have an entry, the track names come up. If they don’t, you will need to fill the track information out yourself, and then use the Submit button in your player. For example, in iTunes, choose Advanced/ Submit CD Track Names after typing in the names, which submits the information to the services. [Note: Disc Makers' Mega Distribution Bundle includes registry with Gracenote and]

1. Build In Appropriate Lead Time for Publicity and Promotion
Although some musicians like to release their album the instant that they get it in their hands, that can sometimes interfere with a coordinated media campaign. If you are planning to promote your disc through traditional media (newspapers, magazines, and radio), new media (blogs, podcasts, and websites), and social media (MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter), you need to build in the right lead time to coordinate these campaigns.

Traditional media outlets typically need lead times of three months to schedule their articles. They expect press releases and sometimes require a lot of callbacks to get their attention, which can be time-consuming. If you plan a traditional media campaign to have articles coming out around the same time you release the album, have your discs in hand and ready to go before you even start the campaign.

For social media, it’s best to make it an ongoing communication through the entire process. New media needs just a week or so of lead time for news about a release show. And for the album release itself, you should approach them just before or just after release to announce the news.

As for social media, it’s best to make it an ongoing communication through the entire process – including during the album’s recording – so that your fans feel connected to you and your latest work. By the time the album comes out, they’ll be excited to see the final product. Putting together a street team and finding ways to get them involved is a great way to keep the excitement going while you build up to a release party.

Fade Out
Imagine you’re a music reviewer holding two CDs in your hand: One is a burned CD in a sleeve with magic marker written all over it, and the other is a professional-looking replicated CD. Better still, once the professional-looking CD is played, it’s mastered and the band’s name and song titles automatically pop up in your music player. Which would you pay attention to? Which artist do you think put in the time to want to be reviewed? Considering that most artists only put out a handful of albums, it’s worth the effort to follow through on all of these steps. After all, your music is worth it.

Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are quite experienced in the art of putting out CDs, having released 18 of them with their band, Beatnik Turtle.

Check out more features, hear great podcasts, get gear reviews, and more at Electronic Musician online.

Read more: Countdown to Your Album — Echoes - Insight for Independent Artists

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great Advice from a Music Journalist: Three Things Every Artist Needs

Adam Bernard is a music journalist whose blog Adam's World was voted the #1 music blog by Billboard/Nielsen. He's a pro and often gives great advice as well as editorial. I encourage all artists to read his latest post: Three Forgotton Things Every Artist Needs.

In his words:

"Writing about indie artists can be incredibly rewarding, especially when I see artists I’ve written about rise to new levels of fame, but there are also a few frustrating aspects to it. Recently, certain frustrations have become the norm and they’re frustrations that can easily be fixed. From a journalist’s, or editor’s, perspective the following is common sense, but what we feel is common sense may be something the next person has no idea about, so if you’re an indie artist looking for press, here are three things you really need to have (in addition to talent) that oftentimes get overlooked."

READ about all three essential items at