How to Release Music Properly
The best ways to put out new songs
Last Updated: December 2023 | 3867 words (19 – 21 minute read)
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So you’ve just written an incredible song – your best one yet – and you’re ready to put it out there in the world?
In this guide we’ll show you exactly how to release music in the best way to set you off on the right foot.
You’ll learn how to get the business-side in order, how to prepare your music, and how to execute the perfect album/single release plan.
Modern music consumption is essentially streaming-based, so make sure you read our step-by-step guide on how to upload your music to Spotify and Apple Music after you’re done this post.
So how do you properly release music in the 21st century?
Let’s break it down…
Article Table of Contents
- 2 Preparing Your Brand and Business
- 3 Preparing Your Music
- 4 Executing a Music Release Plan
Audio Version of Article
You’re the Record Label
As an independent music artist, you have to put your mind into the frame of a business – specifically as a record label.
You don’t need an outside record label to help you start a music career – you can do it all on your own.
But you have to think (and act) like a label if you want to grow your career as an artist.
That means handling the business side of things, just as much as you handle the artistic side of things.
Performance Rights Organization
The first thing you should do is make sure you are registered with a Performance Rights Organization.
These are orgs that can help you collect all the royalties owed to you through the public use of your music.
There are several different options, so be sure to check out our guide to PROs in the Music Business section.
They are regionally based (you’ll have to find one in your home country), and are usually free to join.
Distribution is how you get your music out there into the world – into all of the different streaming sites and stores on the internet.
Record labels often have direct relationships with these platforms, but you as an indie do not.
You can’t just directly upload your music onto Spotify, for example.
You have to work with a digital distribution company to do that on your behalf. These companies also collect your royalties/sales from these platforms and pass them on to you.
The best distributors charge a small yearly fee for unlimited releases, but some will still charge you per release.
Our preferred music distributor is TuneCore – they’re a great platform to work with and the largest/oldest in the game. Check out our full TuneCore review for more information on them. We also did a full Distrokid Review.
— Related Content: Tunecore VS. Distrokid —
Deviant Noise Top Pick Recommendation:
Preparing Your Brand & Business
Before we get to talking about your actual music, we need to make sure all your business assets are in place, ready to go.
There’s a lot that goes into a musical release, other than the music.
Here’s a breakdown of everything you want to have ready before you start your first release.
Artist Name and Bio/Story
This is pretty important – it’s literally who you are.
Make sure you choose your artist name wisely if you’re not going by your full “government” name. You want it to be something that is related to your overall “brand” or “identity.”
It should say something about you as an artist.
Also, take some time to develop a background story about yourself. This is what will eventually turn into your artist biography or “bio.”
It’s who you are, the type of music you make, and your journey as an artist – including any accolades or milestones you’ve hit.
This will be important for press and media relations in the future.
Your “brand identity” is basically your overall aesthetic look, feel, sound, and meaning as an artist. It’s a cohesive image of you as the artist.
This includes things like your artist logo, the color scheme of your social media posts and website, the font you use, the style of music you make (not just the genre, but the style) and everything else invovled with your “identity” as an artist.
You need to present everything you put out there in a way that’s instantly recognizable.
If I see your website, your social profiles, your Spotify profile or any other media – they should all encompass an overall aesthetic and vibe/feeling.
Copyright and Trademarks
Note: I’m not a lawyer, and none of this is legal advice.
Technically speaking, as soon as you publish a creative work publicly then you are automatically the copyright holder to that work.
But when it comes time to prove it in court, you’re gonna need actual proof (like a registered copyright).
That’s for your songs.
But you might also want to consider filing a trademark for your artist name, logo, etc. This ensures that you’re the only person that can make money from those assets.
Website + Newsletter
Having a website is a pretty big necessity that most independent artists completely ignore.
You want to be able to send your fans somewhere that you directly control – that’s why you need a website.
There are lots of options out there that make it super easy to setup, like Bandzoogle.
Just make sure you use a .com domain – ideally it would be YourArtistName.com. But if that’s unavailable, just add “music” to the end of your artist name.
Even if it’s just a one-pager with your latest music and an email sign-up form, a website is an essential thing to have as an artist.
And that brings us to the idea of a “newsletter.” Every chance you get, you want to be collecting email addresses of your real fans so you can communicate with them directly.
That is a crucial part to building a real fanbase.
So setup a website you can send people to, to hear your music and sign up for your newsletter.
Social Media Profiles
Next up, make sure you claim ALL of your social media profiles. Even if you hate social media, remember you’re a brand.
And the only way to grow a brand and a business is through attention. Where’s all the attention right now? On social media.
So setup your TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, X/Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Snapchat at the very least.
There are more (and even music based ones like SoundCloud, ReverbNation, PureVolume, etc.), but the 8 above are the most important ones.
You’ll also need to claim all of your streaming profiles. These are your artist pages on sites like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and others.
If you’ve never released any music before.you won’t be able to claim them until you have your first release out there.
But once you’ve got some music out there on Spotify, etc. then you should immediately claim them all and optimize/customize them.
These profiles (ex/ Spotify for Artists) will also let you see how many people are listening to your music, from where, etc. And you’ll also be able to enhance your releases with extra features and submit your songs to playlists for added exposure.
Electronic Press Kit
These aren’t really as useful as they used to be, but they’re essential for getting press/media coverage for your music.
We’re not delving into how to promote your music here, but it’s important to set one up before you release your music.
There are companies out there like SonicBids who provide a platform for you to create an EPK easily and distribute it as well.
You’ll need things like professional photos, a full bio, a tour schedule, press/awards you’ve gotten (if applicable) and, of course, your music.
Preparing Your Music
Now that you’ve got the business and brand stuff handled, it’s time to make sure the music you’re about to release is actually ready for release.
Let’s dig into it…
Choose The Right Song(s)
The first and most important thing you need to be sure of is that you’re releasing the right songs.
You don’t have to put EVERYTHING you make out there. You want to only put your best foot forward.
Don’t release a brand new song you just finished yesterday. I know it’s exciting and you can’t wait to get it out there.
But the truth is, the best music release strategy is based on your best music.
When the rapper Russ used the weekly single release strategy, he wasn’t doing it on the fly. He already had a catalog of music built up before he started releasing it.
By writing and producing a lot of songs, you can build up a solid catalog and then choose the very best stuff to put out.
That’s how professionals do it – they don’t release things that they make immediately. They write a lot and then put out the best songs from that archive of music.
Deviant Noise TOP PICK Recommendation:
Learn the Secrets to Writing and Producing HIT SONGS
Be “Radio Ready”
Once you are sure you’ve got a GREAT song (or album) to release to the world, you have to make sure it’s “radio ready.”
Essentially that means that your song(s) are at a professional “industry” standard of quality by being professionally recorded, mixed and mastered.
If you have the skills to do these things, then by all means you can do it yourself.
But if you don’t have those skills (and they take a while to build) then you should outsource it – pay someone else to do it for you.
Either way, your music has to be at a professional level of sonic quality, mastered specifically for streaming services if you’re going to have any chance of competing in the market.
Another thing many beginners overlook in being “radio ready” is their use of samples in music.
You have to be careful when using sample packs or samples of previously released music in your songs. There are legal ramifications to you using samples in an unauthorized way.
If you’re using sample packs, make sure you’re familiar with the pack’s specific “licensing agreement.”
If you’re using a sample of a previously released song, make sure you have explicit clearance from the copyright holder to use that sample in your music.
If you don’t have sample clearance, then it’s best not to release the song publicly. Because if it blows up, you’re going to be hearing from some angry lawyers who will take all your money – just ask Nick Mira (RIP JuiceWrld).
Artwork & Meta Data
When your song is ready to be released, you’ll need some artwork – specifically the album/single “cover art.”
This is an essential thing – don’t release music without cover art. and make sure your cover art is unique to the song/album, and not some generic pic you use for every release.
Further, make sure you collect all the necessary meta-data for your song(s). Meta data includes things like:
- Song title
- Artist name
- Featured artist name
- Release date + details
- Songwriter name
- Producer/Composer name
- Barcode/ISRC (if applicable – which it’s probably not)
It’s best to have all that stuff ready, so you’re not searching around for it when submitting a release to your distributor.
Register Song(s) With PRO
And since you’ve already got the meta data ready to go, you’ll also be able to quickly register your songs with your Performance Rights Organization(s).
By registering the music you’re planning to release with these organizations, you’re giving them a heads-up that you’re releasing this song.
They won’t know, unless you tell them. And if they don’t know, they’re not looking out for public uses of your music, that might result in royalties.
So register your work immediately when you know it’s ready to release.
Deviant Noise Top Pick Recommendation:
Gather Additional Content
There’s some additional content you’ll want to have ready to go before you release your song.
This stuff is all a part of the overall promotional campaign that you’ll want to undertake to promote your new music.
We’re not going to get into how to promote music here, but it’s important to mention the stuff you’ll need for it.
It might seem kinda cringe, especially if you’re a new music artist, but the truth is you need professional photography done.
Hire a photographer and take various shots of you in different locations. These are images you’ll be able to use all over the place, including social media and the press.
You don’t need a ton, but a solid couple hand fulls (maybe 10-12) per release should work fine.
Don’t skimp on this – you want the quality to be HIGH (enough to compete with the pros).
Not every song needs a music video, but it won’t hurt.
We are a visual species – we like to see things. Having a music video for your song is just another way to promote it and get eyes/ears on your brand.
It’s a new way for existing fans to interact with your music.
And they’re VERY effective and engaging.
This can be a bit more expensive than professional photos, but it doesn’t have to be. Find a videographer (or student) in your town that’s willing to work with you (or work for a modest fee).
Again, don’t skimp on this – you are competing with pros.
Social Media Content
Of course, a steady stream of social media content is an absolute must in today’s marketing landscape.
And if you don’t market your music, no one will hear it.
You will, no doubt, use your professional photos and clips of your music video as social posts during your release promotion.
But it may be useful to prepare other types of content before-hand that you know you’ll be able to use as social media posts to keep your viewers engaged.
That’s why a great strategy to employ is to “document” your music creation journey and share it during your release.
Take impromptu photos of you writing your music or in the studio. If you have a gig or an interview, take some behind the scenes footage.
The options are pretty limitless, but just know that a social media campaign will be a big part of your promotion. So get content for it together starting as soon as you can.
Executing a Music Release Plan
Now that you’ve got everything ready for your new music release, let’s talk about actually executing a plan.
The type of plan you need to put together will vary based on your specific release – your genre, your ability to tour and play live, etc.
But essentially your release plan will be a guide for you to follow to make sure you do everything you can to help support the song/album – both before and after it’s released.
Album vs. Single
If you’re releasing a new album/EP (several songs) you’re going to have a few extra things you can do as part of your release strategy.
For example, you can throw an album release party. It wouldn’t make sense to have a party every time you release a single, though.
Albums can also be better for gaining press coverage and reviews.
But in today’s music landscape, regularly releasing singles is an important part of maintaining relevance with your fans/audience.
So it’s a good idea to plan on releasing both types of music – singles, and albums/EPs
As you can tell, most of this article is about getting yourself ready for a proper music release.
If you want to make the most impact, it’s important to plan ahead and not just release music off the cuff, whenever you feel like it.
You need to treat it like a business – and that means having a plan or two.
Your music marketing plan is one of the most essential things you’ll come up with. But it doesn’t have to be formally written as if you were trying to get a business loan.
You just need to lay out a plan of attack for your new music release.
We have a separate guide on strategies/tactics for promoting your music, so we won’t go into details here.
But you want to have guide you can follow on the different things you’ll need to do before and after your song/album is available to the public.
Your plan should includes things like:
- the date your song will be live and what needs to be done before it’s made available
- when you need all your assets (song, artwork, photos, merch, etc) ready by
- a social media post schedule
- a timeline of releasing the single, the music video, additional BTS content, etc
- a list of all the websites you’ll share your new music on
- live shows you will play
- a list of interviews/media coverage you’ll try to get
- tactics to build hype/anticipation before the release date
- tactics for getting attention to your song after release
There are so many things you’ll need to handle for the release that planning it all out is really the most effective way to do it.
But remember this… a plan is only a document. What really matters is that you execute on that plan and actually do the things your plan says to do.
And don’t worry about sticking to it exactly as you first wrote it. The world is a fluid and dynamic place – things change. Be adaptable and just keep moving forward.
Schedule Your Music Release
Because there’s so much to handle here, it’s a good idea to first get your song and assets ready to go and then scheduling your music release some time in the future.
A good lead time is usually a couple of months (2-3). So when your music and assets are good to go, schedule your music release a few months out.
This will ensure that your music will be live on all the platforms at the same time. Plus it gives you 8-12 weeks to work on and start executing your release strategy before your music is even available.
And then you can spend a few more weeks hyping the music up before you do it all over again.
The “Waterfall” Release Strategy
In today’s world, there’s a lot of things competing for our attention. Your competition isn’t just other musicians – it’s TikTok, Netflix, YouTube, video games, etc.
That means it’s really easy to forget even about things we really like – like our favorite new music artist without a lot of buzz/media behind them (hint: that’s all of us).
And that’s where the “waterfall” release strategy comes in. I’m not sure who made up the strategy, but the rapper Russ has used it successfully and is now one of the biggest acts in the world.
He did it by releasing a new single every week for half a year, multiple times.
But you don’t even have to be that hardcore.
The strategy is basically this: consistently release and promote new music so you’re always top-of-mind with your fans.
A good average time between your releases is 3-4 weeks. That gives you enough time to keep promoting the current single after it’s released, without it becoming stale to your audience.
That’s why it’s also important to have a big catalog of unreleased music to work with – because trying to release a new song every 3-4 weeks on the fly (with planning and promo) would be a nightmare.
But if you’re sitting on 25 amazing, finished songs (and you’ve planned out your entire release strategy before hand), you’re good to go for a long ass time.
You can spend a full year releasing 1 new song every month and, at the same time, building up hype towards a 13 song album release at the end of it.
And during that year, while you’re promoting those singles/album you can work on writing/recording your next batch of 25 bangers.
And you do it all over again…
Sorry, but being a successful independent artist isn’t all fun and games. It’s a grind.
Hate to burst your bubble… but this really is a business.
Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.
Measuring the Success of Your Release Plan
Don’t focus on money as a way to determining the success of your music release strategy. Your whole entire goal – especially when you’re first starting out – is building up a fan base.
Get those listeners, followers and email addresses and continually feed these people new product.
Eventually, (if your music is good) you’ll build up those 1000 true fans it can take to really live comfortably off of your music career.
For now, just keep trying to get attention to your songs and music.
The real metrics that matter in the beginning are: legitimate followers, number of email addresses collected and daily/monthly streaming numbers.
Attention is the name of the game.
Deviant Noise TOP PICK Recommendation:
Learn the Secrets to Writing and Producing HIT SONGS
Frequently Asked Questions
You should release music whenever you’re sure you have great songs that need to be heard. In terms of time of year, it’s probably best not to release new music during the Christmas season.
Yes, you can release music entirely on your own, without a label. You can use a digital music distributor to get your music onto all of the various music platforms out there.
A music release plan is a formal document that lays out a roadmap of different tasks that need to be done to properly release music for an artist and then support that release with marketing, promotions and other business activities.
As you can see from this giant guide, releasing new music in the right way takes planning and work.
If you really want to give this whole independent artist thing a go, then the only way you have a chance of succeeding is through a dedicated, consistent work ethic.
You still aren’t guaranteed success, even if you do put in all the work. But if you don’t put in all the hard work, then you’re almost certainly guaranteed to fail.
For now, if you aren’t sitting on at least 10 finished songs, I’d recommend you keep building out your catalog.
Once you’ve got a solid amount of “product” to work with, start making a plan based on what you learned here and get all the different assets together.
Then, once everything is ready start executing your plan – with 10 songs, you could release a new song every month for 5-7 months, and then put out a 3-5 track EP at the end.
And just keep repeating that type of cycle.
If you have music that’s ready to be released, I highly recommend you use TuneCore to do it – they’re an affordable way to release unlimited music to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and more!
Thanks for reading this complete guide on how to release music! I hope it was helpful.
Resources and Tools (affiliate links)
- Release Unlimited Music to Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and More
- Uncover the Secrets of the Biggest Hit Songs in the World
- Get the Best Deals on Studio and Music Gear!
- Make Your Own Beats Easily With Beat Building Blocks
- Become a Better Singer in 30 Days!
- Learn to Play the Guitar Like a Pro
- Become a Master of the Piano
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