You’re a musician just starting out, an artist passionately manipulating sound, energy and emotion. Having spent countless hours learning an instrument, writing songs and practicing in dingy rehearsal spaces with like-minded individuals, you possess a collection of newly-created songs that represent who you are and express your dynamic spirit in a truly unique way. The goal now is to get that music unleashed upon the world, so others can hear and enjoy the art you’ve crafted.
So what do you do next? What are some of the fussy little details you should have in place (or at least be aware of) before considering a radio promotion campaign or submitting tracks to Spotify or other digital services? Below is a bit of a check list of various things that will, quite possibly, come up during the process of getting your music out, so keep them in mind and be prepared if anybody asks about them.
— Mastered single. While MP3’s may sound good on your phone, broadcasters require a higher degree of fidelity, which typically means a WAV file at 16-bit / 44.1kHz. Allow for about 1/3 of a second of silence at the absolute beginning of the file prior to the music starting and one or two seconds of silence following the completion of the final note or signal fade out at the end. While there is not a single universally agreed-upon industry standard for loudness, there is a growing consensus that music-based audio files should target an average of -16 LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale). Anything beyond this level can potentially create distortion when the file is transcoded into whatever playout software the broadcaster or streamer is using, so if you deliver songs that land within these parameters, it’ll meet the expected level of technical quality they’re looking for.
Also, if your lyrics contain anything questionable, like swear words or objectionable language, you really need a clean edit for radio play. While the original version can live happily online via Spotify or YouTube, broadcasters need the option of having something that won’t result in a flurry of phone calls from irate listeners who have small children sitting beside them in their SUV. Yeah, it does sound petty, but if you want to improve your chances of securing airplay, that extra little bit of time spent creating an edit can pay dividends, as it shows that you’re being proactive and anticipating the needs of radio, that you understand the requirements many stations have in regards to playing material which complies to the community standards applicable in their area.
— Bio. Who are you and what journey have you traveled to get to this point with your music? A bio doesn’t need to read like a serious in-depth article from The New York Times, but it should give at least a few answers to the obvious questions people might ask, something that’ll provide a base of information that would allow for further exploration in an interview situation. Don’t give your entire life story in a bio, but tantalize with enough interesting detail that’ll make people want to find out more.
— Approved pictures. What image are you trying to present to the world? If you’ve invested time creating a specific visual style that truly represents you, you need to have great photos that can work across various mediums, ranging from large hi-res shots that’ll look fantastic splashed across a website or concert poster, to small thumbnails perfect for a playlist on a mobile app. Great images can be resized and repurposed countless times, so if you have a couple ‘perfect’ shots, they can be utilized for the duration of the project and beyond.
— Canadian Content breakdown. If you’re a Canadian artist vying for airplay, you need to be able to show broadcasters how your song qualifies according to the MAPL guidelines. Simply read this for a complete understanding: https://frontsidegroup.com/is-it-cancon/
— Writing credits. Who contributed to the creation of the song? This is one of those things you never want to back-burner to a far off future date, as relying on memory (and differing perspectives of who did what) can potentially lead to loads of legal problems down the road. Get into the habit of having all writers / creators signing off on what their contributions were post-session, while everything is still fresh in mind.
As a Canadian songwriter, are you a member of SOCAN? If your songs are getting exposure, either through airplay or public performance, that most likely means they’re generating royalties, so it’s essential to make sure you’re able to receive the income you’re entitled to. The sign-up process is simple and straightforward: https://www.socan.com/WriterApplicant/
A similar scenario applies for musicians who play on recordings, but that gets handled by Re:Sound, check out their site to see how that all works: https://www.resound.ca
— Samples and interpolations. Are they properly cleared and licensed? If not, uhhh, just Google “copyright infringement” to get a sense as to why it would be a bad idea for your career.
— ISRC. If you own the master rights to your songs, obtain your ISRC. International Standard Recording Codes are unique identifiers that are essential for tracking material through the digital world. If you want to submit your work for sale through online distributors, or get it onto streaming services, you need an associated ISRC. More info at: https://connectmusic.ca
— Video. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money to create highly watchable video content – with a camera in every phone, there’s no excuse for not having an excess of footage that can be transformed into a music video or vlog or TikTok clip. If you aren’t familiar with non-linear editing, get playing with iMovie on your Mac, or subscribe to Adobe Premiere Pro for a couple months and learn how to create elements that can be essential marketing tools – even a simple lyric video with a static image gives you something that can be shared on YouTube to help build awareness (and generate revenue).
Understand how to use, and utilize, the technology that surrounds you because you never know what type of request might be coming your way once your music starts connecting with people. Here are a few different scenarios: a radio station reaches out via text or social media, asking for a voice memo of you talking about your song that can be incorporated into their weekly ‘New Music’ show running tomorrow night. An online publication wants you to do a ‘meet-&-greet’ session with contest winners over Zoom, or a local journalist would like to do a profile piece that would include a self-shot video of an acoustic performance for a newspaper website. Are you capable and comfortable enough with your phone or laptop to fulfill what’s required? If not, get learning, and pronto.
— Social media. To help your fans cut through all the spammers, trolls and bots, spend the time and get your accounts verified – every platform has different requirements, so investigate and find out what you need to do in order to obtain those blue check marks on your profiles. Once verified, remember that job #1 is to be real, compelling and essential for those who follow. If you’re in a group, think about designating one person as your go-to for keeping all postings consistent to the style / image you’re trying to project. And since everything now lives forever online and is easily searchable, perhaps you might want to think twice before hitting ‘send’ on that crazy, drunken 3AM tweet or Instagram pic – even if it kinda fits within the scope of your ‘brand’, you just never know what might come back to haunt you. You want your career to last as long as possible, and not get derailed by a joke or silly statement that may not have been completely thought through.
Keeping the above in mind as you’re about to launch your songs can help make things go so much easier with everyone you’ll be working with, from promoters, radio stations, online retailers and streamers, to publicists and journalists. By being able to supply a more complete array of information and potential marketing tools, you’re working to set yourself up for success right from the start