Distributing more than just the sound
For some artists, the idea of being able to get to releasing that new album can be exhilarating and full of excitement. After all those hours of writing, collaborating with the rest of the band, rehearsing, working out the little kinks, figuring out special effects and possibly performing it live for your audience to hear at a show... You finally get a chance to record exactly how you think it needs to be heard in the studio. But how much thought and detail are you putting into beyond that?
A few years ago I came across an upcoming artist in the rap genre who showed a lot of potential with some of the material she posted online. I asked if she had a CD to mail to me (she was in the UK) she very excitedly told me she would get something in the mail to me. As I collect autographed discs, I insisted the album had to be signed. A couple weeks later I received the package, but was quite disappointed in what was actually received: a blank disc with her signature as requested, with her album re-recorded onto the disc.
When you're looking to promote your song, you are actually promoting an entire package. And if you can't fill that package with EXACTLY what you want it to be inside and out, then you need to find yourself a team member who can do it for you. Failing to do so will only hurt yourself as an artist, and the compositions you put forth within it.
Whether you record the final product of your compositions in a home studio, or a top class big name recording studio that brags about who they've worked with, the choice is yours. Once that product has been successfully recorded, mixed, mastered, and considered ready for distribution, you most likely have put hundreds if not thousands of hours to get to this point. Do not spend three minutes in the packaging. Let the album cover compliment the story you want to tell, and tie it all into a nice package.
The most common format in today's music industry when it comes to distributing music is of course digitally. Whether you recorded your big hit in AIFF or MP3 format, you should keep the following parameters in mind:
- Sample Rate: The sample rate is how many samples, or measurements, of the sound are taken each second. Ideally, you would want this set to 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz and in stereo mode.
- Bit Rate: A bit rate is the number of bits (a bit is a zero or one, and is the basis of all computing) processed in a given amount of time. You will want this in 16 or 24-bit format if recording in AIFF or WAV formats, or if you're submitting mp3's (more popular) - I would recommend not going below 128 kb/s and avoid anything higher than 256 kb/s
Now of course, some of you may disagree with this, and feel better quality audio is what you need to send out, best quality sound is what matters the most, etc. But consider this: the speed of the one lane highway is determined by the slowest car. As well, the bigger the file your song is will most likely (but not always) create better quality recording. In some cases, you may not be able to submit your masterpiece because the file format is too big for where you're sending.
If you're like me (old school, I know) you'll want a physical copy of your compositions on vinyl, cassette or disc. In this situation, WAV formats are usually considered the best to use, and going higher than the recommended settings I mentioned before would be ideal to ensure the best quality sound you can create. If you're sending your master files out to a duplicator, contact them first to discuss your limitations.
Whether you sell your mp3 or disc, not only do you want it to SOUND as professional as possible, you want it to LOOK professional as well. When playing your song, it should not read on the screen "this is my song #47.wav" - Be sure your song title, your artist name, and all the corresponding details (album title, date, composed by, genre, etc) are all listed EXACTLY as they should. It would be a genuine shame if Nickelback ever distributed one of their releases with a typo and a chart topping hit was recorded by Nickeblack.
As well, you want an image to accommodate your release. There are free programs available online that will tie your album or song cover image to the song. This gives the overall appearance of the album a much more professional look to the listener when they see the song in their library. Match that to the image cover on your cd case and those who follow your social media will identify that picture to your branding.
Another thing to consider when branding a visual image to your album: Do NOT just go online and grab a picture you got from a Google search. Do NOT just grab a photo from the family library just because it looked cool. Memes are only as important as the post it's being displayed on. The image you use should be a representation of the songs within it, or at least accentuate the name of the album. As a result, you need to bring a visual side of creativity to make it all come together.
And finally, consider adding your team to the credits. Songs written by these individuals. Artwork created by such a person. Recorded at this 'n that studio. Special guest appearance by your grandmother on "this song" - Late nights runs to McDonald's provided by Dave's ex-girlfriend. Yes, this is YOUR album that displays YOUR talent, but it took THE TEAM to get to that point. You don't have to include the images of the companies like they endorsed the album or mention them fifteen thousand times because they worked on every portion of the album, but you should at least mention them in the credits, as they worked their magic to your benefit. Thanking them on the final product not only gives them a sense of gratitude in return, but might be in your favour when deciding who's on the next release!
Once everything is all said and done, you should have something truly special that you can look back on like a Summer vacation and think, "man that was a trip" or reminisce with your team mates that helped put that album together. Frame it, autographed with your bandmates, and hang it on the wall. Whether it wins awards, sells thousands of copies worldwide, or ends up being a giveaway disc at a flea market, those are only minor details compared to the journey you've put forward in making it happen.
If you feel inclined to do so, send me an autographed copy to add to my collection.