Being independent in the music industry has always been seen as being either for small bands who can't get a record deal or artists who fall out with their major label partners. In these cases the small bands were just seen to be making excuses and the large band either being greedy or righteous, depending on the public's perspective of them.
Nowadays, with the decline in major label dominance, it has become important for an emerging artist to know how to run their own show. Labels no longer sign artists to development deals like they did in the 50's and 60's, but instead wait to see if they come to fruition on their own or within a smaller label, then either buy them out or envelope the label they are signed to within their own company. But do not despair. With a decline in huge label contracts comes the decline in price for, well, pretty much everything you need to release your own record on your own label.
I say your own label, but I use the term loosely. I am not signed to a record label, even one I have created myself, by name. However, to date I have released 3 studio albums and number of EPs and have plans for a further two albums this year. I record, produce and mix the albums myself, complete all the artwork and send them off to a duplication company to have them pressed and when they are finished they come back to me and I sell them at gigs and on my online store. I could make up a label name and stick it on there, but the fact is it's just me making the arrangements, so I don't see the need for it. I could pretend to be a label when sending the album out to radio or promoters, but that just involves making yourself some interesting looking letter-headed paper, which is easy to do.
So what did I do? Who did I use? I get a lot of people asking we where I got my CDs made or how I got my music on the fabled iTunes. It's actually a lot easier than you might think.
I'll start with iTunes. The thing that people don't understand about iTunes is that it has no quality control. None. Anyone could record three minutes of garbled gibberish and put it up on iTunes through an aggregator if they had £20 to waste. All you need is an aggregator, or a company that provides the service of getting your music to online stores. There are hundreds out there, all offering slightly different deals in terms of what percentages you get from your sales and what you get back for your money. I;ll tell you about 2 in this blog, the one I use, and another I have heard good reports about.
The company I use is called Zimbalam. Their deal is simple. You pay £30 for an album (£20 for a single) and for one year it goes EVERYWHERE. That means all the online stores, from the famous ones like iTunes , Spotify and Amazon downloads right through to some I've never heard of, in every territory in the world. That's right Burkina Faso, you can buy my album online! At the end of the year you either pay £30 to renew the subscription for another year, or you pay £30 to take it down. The take-down charge is a drawback, but it's a good deal if you want something that's all encompassing and no hassle, and the statistics they give back to you on where and when your tracks were bought or streamed are quite insightful and thorough.
The other company I have often pointed people towards is called Ditto Music. They have a range of bespoke packages depending on what you want, from a comparatively cheap 'get a single on iTunes and Spotify' packages, to a full works with everything including starting a label for you, getting your songs chart registered and using a sister company to collect performance royalties on your behalf (I'd advise against this, I'll talk about collecting your own PRS royalties in another post). The benefit of this is that if you have done your research about where and on what platform you want to release in order to have the most impact (so you have decided Burkina Faso isn't for you!) you can save yourself some money. Another main benefit is that, to my knowledge, they don't have a take down fee, so that's something to consider.
As I said, there are hundreds of other companies offering hundreds of other deals, so shop around. The perfect deal for you could be out there. Leave some links as a comment at the bottom of this blog if you like, I'd be interested to see some more deals.
I'm going to sign off now. Thanks for reading my blog, and for those of you who aren't musicians like me and are not interested in all this, I promise to rotate my content as much as possible, so the next blog either tomorrow or at the weekend will be about something different. Maybe a competition, if I come up with something cool for you to do before then!