Releasing Independent Music in Australia in 2019
So you’ve spent countless hours writing, rehearsing, producing, recording, mixing and mastering your music and it’s finally ready to be released. What now?
Here’s a little guide/checklist to make sure that your music gets heard by as many people as possible. Some of this information will be obvious and many of you are probably already aware of some or even all of these channels but hopefully there might be a couple of useful ideas here that can be applied to your next music release.
Just a little note before we start. I’ve used the word ‘band’ throughout for ease of writing but obviously this applies to solo artists, duos and even orchestras.
Scheduling Your Release
Once you have that final master in your hands (or on your hard drive) you need to pick a release date. There’s a lot of debate about when you should and shouldn’t release new music. Friday is the most popular day to release new music for established artists but perhaps you should take advantage of the fact that there’s less music released on other days to stand out from the noise.
I’m not too sure that the day of the week matters all that much when talking about independent releases but one thing that is critical is to plan a release date sufficiently far into the future to give yourself time to organise artwork, promotion etc. I would say that a month is a reasonable amount of time, although you may need more if you plan to make a music video to accompany the release.
Another consideration is the format in which you go about releasing the songs you have recorded. If you have only recorded a single, then it’s easy, you release the single, but perhaps you have an EP of five songs. It might be worth considering releasing one of those songs as a single first and then following up with the other four songs a month later. This can have the effect of creating a bit of buzz for the single, meaning that you have more fans/followers when the EP drops.
There are some schools of thought that suggest that releasing singles regularly, rather than longer formats such as EP’s or albums, is the way to go. The argument is that it is a way to capture the public’s attention more often and keep you top of mind. For example, if you have 12 songs, you could release one per month for an entire year. This means that every month fans are hearing new music from you rather than getting all 12 songs at once and potentially moving onto the next big thing in a month’s time.
Anyway, once you have your release schedule sorted, it’s time to move onto promotion.
Electronic Press Kit
An Electronic Press Kit (EPK) is essentially your professional resume as a band or musical artist. It should contain links to your music (use
private stream link if unreleased), band photos and album art, a band biography, links to your social media and website, and contact details. You’ll use the EPK to present your band to radio stations and media outlets so make sure it’s up to date and looks professional.
When you have all the elements together, place them in a single folder on your computer. Zip that folder and upload it to a file sharing service such as Dropbox. You can then create a link to share this file with anyone you like.
Here are a couple of links that go into more detail about creating an EPK:
Obviously you should already be promoting your band on social media and it’s no exception when you’re releasing music. Ideally you should be engaging with your fans on a regular basis and you should begin teasing the release of new music at least a couple of weeks before it comes out. You can tease the artwork or perhaps publish some photos of the recording process to build anticipation for the release. You should encourage your followers to ‘pre-save’ the release on Spotify (more on that in the Streaming section).
This should go without saying but when you release you need to link to a stream of the new music that you are promoting. On Facebook this is easy as you can create a post that is a direct link to a stream of the release. On Instagram however, you will have to put the link in your Bio and mention this in your post.
If you are releasing on multiple platforms (which you definitely should be), you should consider using a service like Linktree that allows you to group multiple links in one place. The advantage of this is that it allows users to use their platform of choice to hear your new music. There’s no point linking just to Spotify if a certain user only uses Apple Music, for example.
If your band has a website (something I highly recommend) you could also link to that and from there link to the various streaming platforms.
You should also consider doing some paid promotion on both Instagram and Facebook. Make sure to use Facebook’s Audience feature to target your promotion to people who are likely to be interested in your music. Here is a great resource about advertising your music on Instagram/Facebook.
Continue to promote your release after the initial release day. Some followers may not see the initial post so I would recommend posting a follow up every day for at least a week.
It could also be worth promoting your release on other Facebook pages that allow public posts, such as pages relating to your genre of music or bands in your city. I’m not sure how effective this is, honestly, as I think a lot of bands post but I’m not sure how many actually listen to others’ music. Still, a couple more streams can’t hurt and you might even find similar bands in your city who might like to share a gig line-up with you.
Everyone knows that streaming is now the way most people consume music so obviously you need to release your music on these platforms. The most popular of these are Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited.
To release music as an independent band on these platforms you must go through a third party distribution service. There are a few available such as CD Baby, TuneCore and Distrokid. They all have their pros and cons but probably the best overall is Distrokid as they charge a flat yearly fee which gives you an unlimited number of releases. The others charge a fee per release.
Once you have signed up for one of these distribution platforms, it will step you though creating a new release and allow you to set a date for the release. Make sure to do this well in advance of your anticipated release date. This will allow you to take advantage of what is called a Spotify Pre-Save Campaign. Simply put, this is a way for fans (or potential fans) to save a release to their account before it is released. The advantage of this is that during your pre-release promotional campaign, fans can actually take an action that means that they will definitely see your song when it is released.
Fans being able to save your song prior to release is a good thing because, given the algorithmic nature of social media, not all of your followers will see all your promotional posts. There’s a chance that they might see a few of your teaser posts but then never see your post on the actual day of the release. So if they miss that one post and you don’t have a pre-save link, they might miss out on hearing your new music.
Another advantage of creating a pre-save campaign is that it will hopefully mean more people listen to your music on the first day of release, which is good news for getting onto Spotify-curated playlists as it shows Spotify that you already have at least some audience for your music. It should also mean that it shows up on the Release Radar playlist of anyone that has pre-saved it.
You should also sign up for Spotify For Artists and claim your band’s profile. This service also allows you to submit music directly for consideration on Spotify playlists. Here’s a link to a resource explaining the playlist submission process in more detail.
Spotify now also has a section to link to your social media accounts so make sure you have enabled that option so people that might find you through streaming can connect with you.
Although Bandcamp is online, it’s not really a streaming service as such. You create a page for your band and upload your release. You can then choose if potential listeners can stream the entire release or just a few songs. Users can then choose to download songs as an mp3 or high-quality wave file. You can set the price for each release or make them available to download for free. Users are also free to pay more than the suggested price for each release if they really want to support their favourite band.
Bandcamp also gives you the option to sell physical product such as CD’s, vinyl or merchandise. Bandcamp takes a 15% cut on digital downloads and 10% on merchandise sales.
In my opinion it’s well worth having a Bandcamp page as it’s free to set up and it is another avenue for fans to find you.
Reverbnation is a very similar platform to Bandcamp. I don’t have any hard numbers but Bandcamp seems to be the more popular option amongst musicians. However, Reverbnation is also free for there’s definitely no harm in setting up your profile and uploading your music.
Tripe J Unearthed
Obviously everyone has heard of Triple J radio and most know of the Unearthed platform. It’s both a place to put a couple of your songs and a way to potentially get your music played either on Triple J or Unearthed Radio, which is its digital-only offshoot.
You should definitely create a profile for your band and upload your latest releases. Users can also leave reviews on your music. I have a feeling that the number of reviews left by users probably has something to do with how likely it is that anyone with any influence at Triple J will listen to it, so if you have an army of loyal fans, encourage them all to leave a review on your music.
Even though Youtube isn’t strictly a music streaming service it actually IS the most popular music streaming service in the world! A study from 2018 found that around 47% of all music streams are actually on Youtube’s video platform. So even if you’re not planning to actually film a music video you should still release it to Youtube even if the ‘video’ is just a still shot of the album artwork. Most music distribution services offer this as an option so don’t forget to take advantage of it.
If you’d like to make something a little more elaborate but still not a video per se, Adobe has a cool online video creator that you can take advantage of.
If you are planning to create an actual music video to accompany your song release, don’t release it on the same day as the music. Hold off a week or so as it gives you another chance to announce something new to your fans.
While you’re at it, you might as well upload to the other video platforms out there like Vimeo and Dailymotion. I don’t think it’s really possible to have your music in too many places.
Soundcloud is another very popular platform for sharing music… and I have no idea why! It sounds terrible! I don’t know how they do it as ostensibly it should be just the same as other platforms that stream mp3 audio but somehow Soundcloud’s encoder just seems to ruin the top end of anything you put through it. That is definitely the audio engineer in me talking though; I’m sure the casual listener won’t notice too much.
Anyway, it’s never seemed to me like a place to actually release music. To me it’s more for sharing demos. Although I did just say that you couldn’t have your music in too many places, so go for it!
With the prevalence of streaming these days it’s easy to forget about radio but a lot of people still discover new music on the radio so you should definitely be trying to get your release played on as many stations as you can.
For better or worse (hint: it’s worse) there is only one radio station broadcast nationally that plays independently released music, and that’s Triple J. Submitting your music to Triple J can either be done via their Unearthed platform (see above) or directly by using their contact form here.
Make sure to address your email to the Music Director or Assistant Music Director.
Luckily, getting played on Triple J isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of radio airplay. There are many community radio stations around Australia that are much more supportive of up and coming bands. Around 6 million Australians over the age of 15 listen to a community radio station each week so it’s definitely worth submitting your release.
Most have a process in place for bands to submit their new release to the music director. The music director will listen to your release and decide if it fits the format of any of the programs on their schedule. They will then distribute your release to the presenters of those programs.
The great thing about most community radio is that their playlists are curated by the presenters themselves. This means they are likely to play a much wider variety of music than certain national ‘youth’ broadcasters! It also means that you can try to cultivate a relationship with the presenters of programs that play the genre of your band and send them your release directly as well as to the music director.
Here is a list of the best Australian independent radio stations. Some have an email address to submit your music and others have a dedicated page on their website.
FBI Radio (Sydney) - https://fbiradio.com/faq/#DIGITAL
2SER (Sydney) - email@example.com
3RRR (Melbourne) - firstname.lastname@example.org
PBS FM (Melbourne) - https://www.pbsfm.org.au/submitmusic
RTR FM (Perth) - https://rtrfm.com.au/submit-your-music/
4ZZZ (Brisbane) - http://4zzz.org.au/music-submissions
3D Radio (Adelaide) - https://www.threedradio.com/for-musicians/get-played/
Radio Adelaide - http://radioadelaide.org.au/submit-your-music/
Edge Radio (Hobart) - https://www.edgeradio.org.au/submit-your-music.html
When you submit your release, make sure that you include a copy of your Electronic Press Kit, a link to a stream of your release and a link to download a high quality wave file version of your release. DO NOT send your release as an email attachment!
FBI Radio in Sydney also have what they call a Music Open Day. It happens on the first Monday of every month from 4-6pm. You can take in a physical copy of your release and speak in person to the music director who may be able to give you feedback or advice. It’s a good networking opportunity too.
There is also another way to distribute your music to independent and community radio stations around Australia, which is a free government sponsored service called Amrap Airit. Airit is an online platform that allows you to upload your new music release to their service. Radio stations around Australia then have access to search by genres and download new music for their programs. This is a link to the music submission form.
I would highly recommend both uploading your release to Airit and sending it directly to all the radio stations listed above.
Of course, there’s no reason to stop at just Australian radio stations. There is a whole world of independent radio stations playing music in every genre you can imagine and it’s just as easy to send your music to a station in Vancouver as a station in Melbourne. There are obviously hundreds of thousands of radio stations around the world so you could go a little crazy trying to service too many of them but you could perhaps pick a few that you feel might be interested in your music.
Another slightly left of centre avenue is a service called Sounds Like Cafe. It’s a paid service that puts your music on a digital compilation that is then distributed to cafes around Australia. This one is very genre-dependent as I can’t imagine that they are putting too many noise-rock bands on their compilations (for example). But if you can imagine your music being played in a cafe, it could be worth exploring.
Blogs & Online Media
The idea of a blog might seem a bit old fashioned but to a certain extent they have replaced music street press. In fact, many of those street press publishers have evolved into online media companies. In any case, these sites have a lot of readers and Facebook fans so they should definitely be part of your release strategy.
Many blogs accept unsolicited music submissions for reviews. Others will premier your release. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
This is a list of just a few of the Australian blogs that cover a spectrum of independently released music:
Happy Magazine - email@example.com
The AU Review - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laundry Echo - email@example.com
Weirdo Wasteland – firstname.lastname@example.org
Baked Goods - email@example.com
Lunchbox - http://lunchboxtv.com.au/contact-us/
Purple Sneakers - firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t limit yourself just to Australia though! That’s one of the upsides of the globalisation of music; as an independent Australian musician you can easily put your music in the ears of someone running a blog in New York, London, Rome or wherever!
There are many blogs that cover ‘niche’ genres. So if your band makes music that could be called ‘post-rock’, for example, do a search for ‘post-rock blog’ and make a list of the contact details of all the blogs you can find that service that genre. When you release your music, send them your EPK and a download link. They may feature you on the blog or in a Spotify playlist curated by them.
Here is a nice little resource about how to pitch your music to bloggers, what to include in your email and what not to do: http://bit.ly/2PGnuvy
Many of these sites receive a large volume of music per week so they may not have time to get back to you if they don’t feel your music fits with their audience. Don’t hassle them but you could gently follow up a couple of weeks later to see if they have any feedback for you.
There is also a service called Submithub that is a paid music blog aggregator. It allows you to search around 800 blogs from around the world by genre (and micro-genre) and submit your release to the blogs you think would be the best fit for your music. The blogs you choose do not have to feature your music but if they decide not to they must explain why, so at least you get some feedback from it. It costs USD$10 to submit to 10 blogs so it won’t exactly break the bank.
If you don’t already have a website for your band I would highly encourage you to consider setting one up. At first glance, it might seem pointless when you already have your Facebook page, your Instagram account, your Bancamp profile and your Youtube channel, but there is something about having a dedicated website that adds a sense of legitimacy to your band. It makes your band seem just a little more professional than others that don’t have their website sorted.
You don’t need an elaborate website with multiple pages. It can be as simple as some photos, a band bio and an audio player with your latest releases. Essentially it should be an online version of your Electronic Press Kit. You should also consider putting an email sign-up form on your page. This will allow you to send an email directly to your fans announcing new releases, gigs and tours.
It’s really simple to setup a website now with the proliferation of online site design platforms like Squarespace and Wix. Using one of their templates it only takes a couple of hours to get it up and running. They are also relatively cheap, costing around USD$14 a month. For that price you also get a custom domain so you can be www.yourband.com rather than have the Wix or Squarespace branding in your URL.
A what? Yeah, it’s becoming less and less common for independent bands to release any kind of physical product. The majority of people consume music online and many people don’t own CD players anymore (myself included). Vinyl is still popular amongst collectors but it’s expensive to produce so it’s not something I’d recommend unless you think you have sufficient fans who would be interested in a vinyl release. You might like to press up a limited run of CD’s to sell at gigs to punters who might buy them in the heat of the (drunken) moment but it’s far from essential. Honestly, you’re probably better off putting that money towards others types of merch such as t-shirts or tote bags.
An interesting idea I saw once was a band that had made up some custom printed USB sticks with their EP on them. That could be an idea if you really want a physical product to sell.
Release The Flying Monkeys…
So, that’s it. That’s my take on the ingredients to successfully releasing and promoting music in today’s environment. I hope you’ll find some of it useful and relevant. Get in contact and let me know if I missed anything you think is important. And of course, if you’re looking for a studio to make that next single, EP or album, make a time to come past, check out the studio and have a chat.
· Plan release schedule and format
· Prepare artwork
· Update Electronic Press Kit
· Upload to streaming services and create pre-save campaign
· Social media pre-release promotion
· Post-release paid social media promotion
· Triple J Unearthed
· You Tube
· Submit to community radio stations
· Submit to Amrap Airit
· FBI Radio Open Day
· Send to as many blogs/online media outlets as possible
· Email to email list members
· Update band website with new release