I released two EPs by myself as an amateur musician
Last year, I decided to learn how to create music using my computer. I’m an amateur guitarist (sort of) and didn’t know anything about music production, so I set off to learn what I could in my spare time. There are two articles on Medium where I talk about how it was (here and here). I’m still learning stuff, and the process has been incredibly fun and fulfilling.
However, I don’t expect to become a celebrity or to live off of music, but it’s nice to know that something I created for myself is floating around the internet, with people occasionally listening to it. So, I decided to briefly talk about how I released my songs. My articles about learning to create lo-fi music got somewhat popular — for someone who doesn’t write for a living — so I figured this information might be useful for other aspiring bedroom musicians/composers/producers.
As an experiment, I decided to release 8 songs: 4 lo-fi and 4 ambient, each style on its own EP. I chose lo-fi and ambient because I wanted to create something that could be played in the background, while I worked, without causing distraction. I also believe they are some of the “easiest” electronic genres to “get it right” without too much experience, just like punk and garage rock are the “simplest” rock type of music to play and record. And please, don’t consider this a demerit to these genres: the degree of complexity to compose or record has nothing to do with the quality of the piece composed or recorded.
So, the first thing I did was to look into how to send songs to Spotify and similar services. I learned they only accept songs from distributors, so looking for reviews about said distributors, people seemed to really like two: CD Baby, which has been around for 22 years, and Distrokid, which seems to be one of the cheapest, but still reliable and popular, services. Here’s what I found about them:
- Reliable service and customer support;
- No yearly fees: pay once for every release and the artist keeps 91% of the royalties, CD Baby keeps 9%;
- Have to pay for a UPC code, which is somewhat expensive, but it allows you to release songs in physical media, such as CDs.
- Dubious customer support, but reliable service;
- 20USD/year to upload as many releases as you want. If you stop paying, the releases are taken down;
- The artist receives 100% of the royalties.
It’s important to note that there are free distributors, such as Soundrop and Amuse, and some let you keep 100% of royalties without charging anything. However, they distribute to fewer services compared to paid ones.
Since this is an experiment, I went with the cheaper option with the most reach, which is Distrokid. I liked CD Baby, but paying 30USD for a release and 20USD for a UPC code really adds up, and since I was releasing two EPs, it would end up costing me 100USD — a substantial sum, considering I don’t think I’ll make this much money from music anytime soon. That’s the same as paying Distrokid for 5 years.
After choosing a distributor, the process to upload songs is very simple: you have to have an album cover, upload it, upload the songs for that album, then fill a lot of mandatory fields that help identify your song, and it’s done. A few weeks later, your songs will be available worldwide!
On a side note, I think it’s also important to talk about Bandcamp. I really like their model of business: Bandcamp isn’t a distributor, but something more like an online store for musicians to sell their music. Their business is not predatory and gives a lot of freedom to artists, which is always a good thing. I created an artist page on their website.
Besides Bandcamp, every song I create is uploaded to my Soundcloud page, which I treat as a way to show some friends what I’m currently working on, or some ideas that are interesting, but not enough to be “officially released”. That means every song I now have on Bandcamp and streaming services is also on Soundcloud, but the ones on Soundcloud are not as polished — mixing and mastering-wise — as those released elsewhere.
It’s important to note that I’m doing everything on my own. For people looking to work professionally with music, it’s advisable to hire mixing and mastering engineers, if possible, so the songs can sound their best.
So far, I’m pretty satisfied with how things are panning out. The EPs were released on May 21 and 22, and it’s cool to see them being occasionally played on Spotify. In a few months, I’ll have the complete picture of how they are really performing — that is, if they are being played at all— since it’s the time it takes for Distrokid to receive the services’ reports.
Also, I have to say that one neat feature from Distrokid is the “hyperfollow page”, which is like a landing page for your albums with links for every major service they were released. You can check my lo-fi EP, Testing Grounds, here, and my ambient EP, Testing Sounds, here. I really like the page’s design. Keep in mind these songs are also on my Bandcamp page, Soundcloud, and YouTube.
Now I’m planning to release 3 “full-fledged” albums until the end of the year: one lo-fi, one ambient, and one chiptune (also known as “video game music from before the 90s”). Chiptune is something that always interested me, and I believe I have the know-how to be able to create some. There are already two chiptunes on my Soundcloud page, and I submitted one of them as a single through CD Baby to test their service. It should be released this week.
The next thing I want to try is to record my own guitar for some songs. I’m saving some money to buy an audio interface that would allow me to do it “professionally”. I expect some interesting results from this venture…
If you want to release your own music with Distrokid, you can use my referral code to get 7% off in the first year. Disclaimer: I received a small commission if you use my link. Click here to use the referral code.