• Andrew Graham

How do I release more music?

Updated: Jun 21, 2019

Playing and writing music is fun. Recording and releasing your music can be fun too! But, like all your goals, a good plan can help it come together. Whether you are recording a single, an EP or an album and whether it’s destined for personal enjoyment or release to the wide world, it’s a project that needs managed. In this blog we’ll take a look at what it takes to manage any project, the risks of poor project planning, then relate that back to the process of releasing music.

Image credit: Chris Ho, Michael McGill

Principles of project management

Project management is a multidimensional discipline made up of many different activities. It is more than just planning and often includes a large dose of leadership and shouldering the responsibility. For a project to be a success, one person should take on the role of Project Leader and become responsible for ensuring the project’s success. Turning a goal into an accomplishment requires restrictions, and one of the most important steps a Project Leader should take is defining the end point. Follow this up with other questions that help define the scope of the project. What does a successful project look like? How long will it take? How much are we willing to spend on it? All these questions should have answers before you start.

Next, the different phases of the project should be set out with unambiguous goals for each phase. Be clear about where you are in the project, accept that certain things can and probably will go wrong and allocate time to deal with these problems. Keep everyone with a stake in the project in the loop - this could mean listeners or bandmates or anyone who may have funded the project. Recognising and communicating these diversions from the plan will help keep everyone on board, focussed on getting to the finish line.

Finally, after defining the whole project, make sure that everyone is committed to seeing it through to the end date. No one wants to start an album and have their drummer move to a different city half way through tracking.

Project management in music

In most commercial records that you’ve heard on the radio or Spotify, the project management will be undertaken by the Producer, someone who takes on the responsibility of the recording from arrangement all the way up to release. On the local level, where most music is self-released, the project management side of the process is often neglected, resulting in longer, costly production phases, a less enjoyable experience and many finished records never being released. Making sure that one person has responsibility for the whole project will ensure it’s the best it can be.

Lack of clarity from the beginning can strain personal and professional relationships. Without deadlines and a plan, recording can and often will take longer than planned, driving the cost of the project up. Costs can spiral out of control and lack of funding pushes the release further and further from completion, resulting in records never being released. This can cause bands to break up without recouping their money, or simply having the satisfaction of releasing music .

Working towards a release

Let’s step through some good practice for releasing your next music project:

1. Set boundaries

First, begin with the end in mind by setting a release date. Whether your music is a passion project or a commercial release, you need to know when it’s going to be out.

2. Define scope

Decide if this project is for your own enjoyment, to make money, or something different entirely. Decide if you will release your finished project on streaming platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud, or on physical formats like CD or vinyl. Having a clear end goal helps everyone understand their role in the project

3. Set goals

You’re going to need to write songs, record them, mix them and then master them. Work back the way from your release date and allocate enough time for each phase and set clearly defined criteria for when each phase is complete. Decide how many songs you will record before starting and when recording, have a progress chart so you can tick off when you’ve recorded drums, bass, finished a song, etc. Don't forget to leave enough time to deliver your finished mixes to whatever platform you’re releasing them on. You could encounter problems and different services may take longer than others. CDs can take up to 4 weeks and vinyl up to 8 weeks while online streaming platforms may not display your upload for up to 3 weeks.

4. Feedback

Use that progress chart so everyone in the band knows how far through your project you are. Feed this back to your listeners so they know you’re making progress.

5. Build in risks

Will the vocalist come down with a cold and have to reschedule, will your first mixes need some revisions and take an extra week or will it all just simply take longer than you thought? Build an extra 20% into your project timeline to allow for these unexpected turns and be prepared for them.

6. Set a budget

Step through your fully formed plan, complete with extra time, and put a cost to everything. Find out how much a day in a studio costs, how much mixing and mastering cost and how much pressing vinyl or distributing to Spotify costs.

So remember that every good project, including music projects, starts with a good plan and a good plan starts by setting a defined end. Don’t worry if you don’t feel up to the task of project management. As explored in our previous blog on creative communities, you can meet someone at More Than Sound who thrives as a project leader and can help you to make more music, more often.

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