If you’re sitting down to tackle making an album, there’s a lot to think about; from clearing the rights for your cover songs to converting the cover art to the right format. These issues can trip you up, or cause the album to take a lot longer than you’d expect. Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan, authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide, have revised our popular Planning Your Album From Beginning To End guide. The guide delivers on its title, providing a road map to help new musicians and seasoned veterans navigate the process of rehearsing, recording, and manufacturing an album; preparing and producing an album release event; and handling the post-release activities you’ll be engaging in to fully promote your new album.
When you get your manufactured CDs in hand, there are still a lot of things you need to do — namely, releasing the album for sale to the public. While your music is at the heart of what you do, your identity, image, brand, website, web presence, merchandise, and publicity is what you use to connect with your fans.
Submit your CD for online sales
You’ll want to give enough lead time so your CD can be available at stores and your music available for download at digital retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, etc. Unfortunately, timing is everything and the exact digital release date is not one of the things you have direct control over.
For instance, while it takes CDbaby only a few days to get your CDs available for sale on their store, it takes much longer to distribute your music to all the digital retailers taking anywhere from three weeks (at the minimum) to four months before it’s completely distributed and available.
Add your CD to Gracenote and AllMusic
If your fans are putting your CD into an Internet-enabled device (a computer using iTunes, for example), the computer is accessing an online database to match your information to your CD. The information they see does NOT come from your actual CD. There are a couple major databases online, and Gracenote is the largest.
To ensure that your CD song names will be visible on devices such as iTunes, WinAmp, Quintessential Media Player, and Finder (Mac OS), you need to register your album with Gracenote. Disc Makers does it for you when you purchase a Mega Distribution Bundle with your CD order.
Another major database is AllMusic, which provides album information to Windows Media Player, Rhapsody, and Real Music Player. AllMusic registration can be completed by following the steps outlined on the AllMusic website.
Legal (Part II)
Once your album is released, you’ll have all the information you need to register:
• Your song and sound recording copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Your songs and sound recordings are copyrighted at the time you transcribe or record them. However, you can always register them with the US Copyright Office. Doing so provides third party evidence that you claim you own the song or sound recording and establishes a date. It also gives you a few additional rights. Waiting to register after the release ensures you have all the information they’ll ask you to disclose in their forms (including the official publication date to the public — the release date).
• Your original songs with a Performance Rights Organization. Registering your songs at a PRO such as ASCAP or BMI will ensure that if your song generates performance royalties, they’ll know where to send the checks.
Billboard magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” They’ve written three books with major publishers (Macmillan, Random House), teach music business (including a 15-hour online course called “Making Money with Music”), and are regular contributors to Electronic Musician magazine.
For more details on publishers and more information on recording cover songs, loops, and music copyrights, see the chapter on “Your Rights” in The Indie Band Survival Guide, which covers rights, ownership, and licensing. You can also download Chertkow and Feehan’s “Song and Sound Recording Split Agreement” document and use it as a template to keep track of who owns what of your original songs and sound recordings.