The recording business is relatively new compared to other sectors of the economy. And a lot has changed in the roughly 100-year history of recorded music sales. Particularly over the past five years, we have been exponentially propelled into the era of the independent artist.
Today, we’ll focus on one particular facet of digital asset creation: self-publishing, or more specifically, how to publish your own music and distribute it to the general public without a label. Build a following and a unique digit asset for a diversified financial portfolio.
How To Publish Your Own Music
1. Go PRO (Performing Rights Organization)
One of the first steps to take if you’re serious about publishing your own music and want to earn royalties from it is to connect with a performance rights organization (PRO). PROs essentially guarantee that you will be paid royalties for your music when it is performed or played in public spaces (such as bars, restaurants, and so on).
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and ASCAP are the two PRO mainstays in the United States and are frequently referred to as the Coke and Pepsi of PROs (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers). SESAC is another PRO that exists, however this one is a little more exclusive than BMI and ASCAP.
Both BMI and ASCAP have benefits, like workshops and meet-and-greets, and each has a long list of artists, from small-time songwriters to pop superstars. Either as a writer or a publisher, you can join BMI or ASCAP. As the song’s writer, you’ll get half of the royalties, and the publisher will get the other half. In other words, if you are your own publisher, you will get all the royalties.
Fees are different for each PRO and each status (writer or publisher). While this is an important step it isn’t essential right away if the goal is just to stream and start gaining traction.
2. Sign Up With a Publishing Administrator
If the intricacies of music publishing and distribution feel overwhelming, fear not! There’s a convenient solution: enlist the services of a publishing administrator. These professionals specialize in managing the intricacies of music publishing, marketing, and distribution on your behalf, allowing you to focus on your art.
What is a Publishing Administrator?
Publishing administrators are companies dedicated to simplifying the complex world of music distribution. They serve as intermediaries between you, the artist, and digital music platforms, ensuring your music reaches a wide audience while you receive fair compensation for your work.
Top Publishing Administrators
Several reputable publishing administrators can assist you in sharing your music across various digital platforms. Here are a few notable ones:
- TuneCore: TuneCore has established itself as a trusted name in the music distribution landscape. They offer comprehensive services to help artists publish their music on platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon Music, and more. With TuneCore, you can earn royalties from streams, downloads, YouTube plays, and even ringtone usage.
- DistroKid: DistroKid is known for its user-friendly approach to music distribution. They provide a straightforward platform for artists to upload and distribute their music quickly. DistroKid ensures your music gets the exposure it deserves on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, all while simplifying the revenue collection process.
- CD Baby: CD Baby has been supporting independent musicians for years. They offer a range of services, from distribution to marketing tools, to help artists succeed in the digital age. CD Baby can get your music on various platforms, ensuring you earn from your music’s performance.
How Publishing Administrators Can Help
When you collaborate with a publishing administrator, you can expect several benefits:
- Global Reach: They have partnerships with major digital platforms, giving your music a global audience.
- Streamlined Revenue Collection: Publishing administrators handle the complexities of royalty collection, ensuring you receive fair compensation for your music.
- Marketing Assistance: Some administrators offer promotional tools and guidance to help your music gain traction.
- Efficiency: Save time and effort by letting experts handle the technical aspects of distribution.
3. Set Up a Legal Business Entity
If you want to be your own publisher, you should set up a legal business entity to handle fees, taxes, and transactions. So, you can keep your personal money separate from your business money. Also, you might not be the only person in charge.
For example, there might be four people in a band. Each member may have a certain job to do when writing and recording, or everyone may do about the same amount of work. By keeping records, you can easily figure out who does what, how much they get paid, and who might join or leave the group.
Most people who want to publish their own music do so through a Limited Liability Company (LLC). You can set these up online yourself in a few simple steps.
4. Don’t forget to copyright
No matter how you plan to publish or sell your music, you should make sure you have the rights to it. If you put out your own music, you already have the copyright to it. If you want to be sure you own your music, you can go to the U.S. government’s copyright website (or the one for your country) and pay $35 to register (for U.S.).
Copyrighting your music is more of a precaution than anything else. Even though you technically own your own music when you make it, if you don’t claim a copyright, you can’t use certain legal rights. For example, someone might “steal” your melody or lyrics. Even though you wrote your song first, the other artist has the copyright to their song and you don’t. Most likely, you’ll lose that fight.
5. Set Up Your Artist Profiles
This step can feel a little tricky but be mindful that this happens after publishing music first. When you choose a distributor, they will create an artist profile for you.
Your job is to CLAIM the artist profiles after music is published.
The process is fairly simple but will require you to be prepared to fill in a profile avatar/picture, bio, social links, etc.
6. Create an Electronic Press Kit
An electronic press kit is pretty much a resume for musicians. Electronic press kits are usually sent out to industry insiders to let them know about your project along with any other musical achievements. Include streams, followers, and other vital metrics.
7. Submit Your Music to the Spotify Playlist Editors
Reaching new listeners is essential in growing as an artist, getting placement on playlists can greatly increase your chances of finding success as a musician. Submit your music to Spotify for consideration after it’s submitted for publishing but BEFORE it actually is released, this is usually a 3-5 day grace period.
Spotify pays a lot of attention to your musical journey and long-term strategy. This includes media coverage, your online activity , your release schedule and your release strategy.
How to Submit Independent Music to Radio Stations
Submitting your independent music to radio stations can be a great way to gain exposure and reach new audiences. While many people may think that radio play is becoming less important in the digital age, it can still be a valuable tool for promoting your music.
To start, research radio stations that play the type of music you make. Look for stations that have a similar sound or vibe to your music, and see if they have any submission guidelines posted on their website.
When submitting your music, make sure to follow any guidelines or instructions provided by the station. You may need to send a specific file format or include a certain type of information in your submission. It’s important to make a good first impression, so take the time to make your submission as professional and polished as possible.
Typically when you go to radio station websites, there will be a submission section with guidelines.
One benefit of radio play over online streams is that it can help you reach new audiences who may not have heard of you before. It can also lend credibility to your music and help you gain more visibility within the industry.
While it may take some time and effort to submit your music to radio stations, the potential benefits can make it well worth it. So don’t hesitate to put in the work and see if radio play can help take your music career to the next level.
The truth is that labels are going away. Like newspapers, infomercials, and talk radio, they will be around for awhile longer, but DIY musicians who make their own music are making them less important every day. Even though you’ll still have to pay to publish your own music, it won’t be nearly as much as what labels take from even the biggest artists. There’s nothing stopping you from putting out your music and making money from it. The gatekeepers can’t stop the crowds of eager people any longer.