MUSIC RELEASE GUIDE
Congrats on recording your song! Now what's next?
Before you upload your song to any online distribution service (Distrokid, Tunecore):
Make sure you have copyrights to all of your songs. You can file your copyright at Copyright my songs, as well as upload album copyrights by following these directions Album Copyright Submission.
PROs are responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast or performed. Public performances can include play on television or radio, in clubs and restaurants, on websites, or on other broadcasting systems. PROs collect license fees for this usage which they pay to their registered songwriters after taking a small fee.
Become a music publisher to gain access to more royalties and more licensing potential: Register as a Publisher.
Should you release as an album or multiple singles spread out over the course of a year?
Depending on where you are in your career, most of the time singles are a stronger option to keep early fans interested in your work. You can always re-release as an album once all of your singles have been released. In general, recording albums and EPs are financially more effective due to musician costs and building a large project out in phases (rhythm section, guitars, vocals etc) is easier than starting from scratch song by song. That doesn't stop you from taking your time mixing the songs one by one and learning from your market on what sound is effective with your audience. Releasing Singles vs Albums.
Be smart about release timing. Watch Spotify playlists, Apple Music releases to see when other projects of the same genre are releasing to gauge when your competition is strongest. More insights on upload times.
This may be the most important step... get your music on a playlist with similar artists.
Playlist curator names are easily found on Spotify and reaching out to them may make the difference between your song getting 5000 plays and 5 million plays. Reach out to these curators and be professional about how you present your work. Visual content is often the most underestimated leverage power to prove to a "higher-up" player in the industry of your talent. Music videos, lyric videos, anything that looks and sounds professional will increase your chances of pitching successfully. Don't use live videos with shitty sound!!
Make sure to credit those involved in your project. We are all in this together! Crediting Musicians and Producers.
COPYWRITING MY SONGS
To gain the basic protections of Copyright Law, you need to copyright your music. Luckily, this is really easy to do! In fact, music is automatically copyrighted the moment you create it in a tangible medium; like on paper or on an audio recording. That's right! All you have to do is write your original song down on paper or record it, and you own the copyright. Then, you are protected by law and others cannot use your song without your permission.
One common misconception is that you copyright your music with the United States Copyright Office. The truth is, your music is automatically copyrighted the moment you record it on a tangible medium. What the Copyright Office provides is not the copyright itself, but a Certificate of Registration of your copyright. This is a formal document issued directly from the Copyright Office to you that certifies that you are the owner of a work and that they have a record of your ownership on file at the Library of Congress.
We recommend you register your works with the U.S. Copyright Office. If you do, you will have "Prima Facie" evidence that you were the first to create the work. "Prima facie" is a legal term. It means that the other side bears the burden of proof to prove that the work is not yours. Once your copyright is registered, you are able legally protect your work in court. Without registration, you are not able to seek compensation for any cases of infringement. You can also secure yourself additional benefits depending on how quickly you register your copyright.
TIPS FOR PLAYLISTING (SPOTIFY)
1. Release your music online
It might sound obvious, but you can’t start pitching your music for playlists until you, you know… release it!
Making your music readily available on as many big DSPs and online stores as possible, is only going to maximise your chances of getting it picked up by a playlist curator.
Plus, the more platforms you release on, the more income you can make in the form of streaming royalties.
So before you do anything else, release your music online.
2. Get verified on DSPs
Being a verified artist on streaming platforms like Apple Music & Spotify, is like getting a badge that shows playlisters and curators you’re a legitimate artist who’s serious about the music they make.
Spotify verification can be accessed through Spotify’s artist services, Spotify for Artists. Simply head to the website, and click “Get Access” where you’ll be able to fill out a simple, verification request form.
Similarly, you can apply for verification on Apple Music via Apple Music for Artists. All you have to do is claim your iTunes account and once again, fill out a verification submission form to secure your verification badge of honour.
3. Submit your music to Spotify playlists directly
Spotify is like the central hub of the playlisting world.
The platform’s entire premise is based on algorithmic playlist picks and personalised recommendations. And with over 400m active users, after you upload music to Spotify, getting listed on one of their highly followed playlists could be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting your music discovered.
Good news is, Spotify has its own playlist submission portal that lets you submit your unreleased music to Spotify’s editorial team for playlist consideration.
When you’re submitting, make sure you include details and info about the track you’re releasing, for example the genre it belongs to, the mood it evokes, or influences it’s based on.
4. Pitch to independent curators
But that’s not to say it starts and ends with Spotify.
In fact, independently curated lists are some of the most highly followed playlists on the internet, and there's thousands of them - each with a different style, genre, mood, feeling, activity - you name it.
When it comes to finding independently curated playlists and requesting placements, here’s what you need to do.
Source the right playlists to pitch to
Identify keywords that you would use to describe your music, for example, the genre, influences, similar artists etc. Then use these words to start hunting down the right kinds of playlists to pitch to, either through Spotify & other streaming platforms, or online playlist sites like SubmitHub.
Find the curator’s contact information
You’d be surprised how much information you can find from a quick Google search, or copying and pasting the playlist URL into an online search engine. Try to locate the name and email address of the playlist curator so you can approach them directly.
Draft and send your pitch
In your pitch, make sure you’re polite and clearly addressing why you believe your track would be a suitable addition to their playlist. You don’t have to write a huge spiel either. Playlist curators’ inboxes are usually flooded with pitch emails, so it’s better to be straightforward and to the point in your pitch, otherwise they’re likely to drop off.
TIP: Make sure you include the link to your track on the same streaming platform that the playlist lives on. This will make it easier for the curator to listen to it and potentially add to their list if they dig it.
5. Build your own playlists
Aside from platforms and other people’s playlists, remember you can still get playlisted by adding your own tracks to your playlists.
This might sound like a cheat, but it’s really not!
If you’re creating great music, chances are you’ve also got great music taste. And one that other listeners will really appreciate. Self-curated playlists are a great way to show off your musical knowledge, liken your music to other artists you’d like to be compared with, and give fans an insight into what beats get you going!
If you’re making your own playlists, the no.1 rule is - don’t be spammy with your music.
A playlist of your own shouldn’t be a homage to all your life works so far, it should be a list with a variety of artists and tracks, and about 2 - 3 of your own tracks subtly included throughout.
You could approach your list in a few different ways;
Make it activity based - i.e. music for working out to, music for singing in the car - whatever it is that you’d imagine yourself doing while listening to this selection of tracks.
Base it on musical influences - i.e. if there’s a handful of artists that you love or that you get inspiration from for your own music, align your sound with these artists in one extended portfolio.
Tell a story or narrative - i.e. select the songs in your list based on what sort of feeling you want to evoke from the playlist’s listeners.
6. Complete all your streaming profiles
Taking the time to kit out each of your streaming platform profiles won’t go unnoticed by curators who’re sourcing new music to feature on their playlists. And it’s one of the first things that’ll set you apart from an artist who takes their music seriously, vs one who sits on the backburner.
Make sure you’ve got all the necessary information included, such as:
An artist bio: a brief summary of who you are, where you’re from, your music influences and background.
Links to your social media: make it easy for listeners and curators to find your social media profiles by supplying them with your handles.
Upcoming diary dates: if you’ve got an upcoming gig, tour or show, make sure you include dates and a link to where people can buy tickets or find out more.
7. Grow your online following and presence
A big part of getting playlisted is getting your name out there.
Think about it. The more you can grow your fans and listener-base via your online presence, the more streams your tracks are likely to get and the more chance a platform or curator will sit up and take notice.
Friends and family are definitely an obvious place to start. Make sure they’re following you on all your platforms and social media, and ask them if they can share your music from time-to-time amongst their own followers.
Include links to your music on streaming platforms in all of your social media bios, so users who find you online can easily go and stream your latest release.
Lastly, make sure you’ve got a really well-crafted social media marketing plan that includes things like regular live streams, Q&As, news and updates about your music, recent promo pics - and anything else that’ll help engage your fans and attract new followers.
8. Don’t give up!
Getting playlisted can be a challenge - especially if you’re still finding your feet or just emerging in your field.
Like we said at the beginning, playlist placements are a big deal. So it’s hardly surprising that every new artist will be competing for one of those spots.
But keep your head up, don’t get off-put by rejections and keep pushing forward! Before you know it, it’ll only be a matter of time before you get a great playlist placement that you can be proud knowing you worked hard to get.
HOW MUSIC ROYALTIES WORK
The music industry relies on royalties generated by the licensing of copyrighted songs and recordings as a primary form of payment for musicians. A “royalty” is a payment made to an asset owner for the right to use that asset. A “royalty interest” is the right to collect a share of future royalty payments. Royalties are a “cut off the top” of revenue earned for the use of the asset. The owner of a royalty gets paid before stockholders, company executives, and so on. Royalty payments are typically made at specified intervals, such as monthly or quarterly.
Music royalties are derived from copyrights, which are a type of intellectual property. “Copyright” is a legal term that describes specific rights held by artists and other creative types over their original works.
U.S. copyright laws give exclusive rights to the creators of original works, and no one can use another's copyrighted works without a license. In the music industry, the licensing of copyrights are the basis on which royalty payments are made.
Music Copyrights & Royalties
Music created today is protected by copyright laws when the work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Any work produced after January 1, 1978 is protected for the lifetime of the last surviving author plus an additional 70 years.
The music business generates multiple types of royalties, and each royalty stream is dependent on the kind of copyright it is associated with.
Every song has two copyrights:
The Composition: For the song as it is written (think: lyrics & melody)
The Sound Recording: For the song as it is recorded (what you actually hear)
Take for instance the song “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” The Composition copyright covers the song as written, and it is held by the songwriter. This is the person who wrote the melody, notes, lyrics, etc.
Once that song is recorded, another copyright is generated, called the Sound Recording. The person or band who records the song owns the recording copyright.
Types of Licenses
The royalties generated by the Sound Recording Copyright are called “Recording Rights” (sometimes “Master Rights”). Royalties stemming from the Composition Copyright are referred to as “Publishing Rights (sometimes “Songwriter Rights”).
Both copyrights generate royalties based on different uses of the composition or recording.
Sales/Streaming: These are called “reproduction” royalties for sound recording, and “mechanical” royalties for the composition. In either case, any time a song is sold in any format, or streamed, a royalty is due.
Public Performances: Whenever music is played publicly, someone is likely paying a performance royalty. This includes over the radio, in restaurants/bars, live performances, and even through streaming services like Spotify. Recording and Publishing royalties work slightly differently with this use, which we’ll get into more later.
Licensing: Music is often licensed for placement in TV shows, films, ads, videogames, and so on. These licenses generate Synchronization (or “synch”) royalties and are a one-time payment negotiated between the copyright holder and the company licensing the music.
In both the Recording and the Composition, multiple stakeholders collect a percentage of the royalties the music they work on generate.
Sound Recording: Bands often sign recording contracts with labels. The label then owns and exploits the copyright and pays the band members according to their contract. This can include multiple band members, as well as producers, session musicians, and others who all are due their cut for their work on the recording.
Composition: Songwriters often sign with publishers in what’s called a publishing deal. The publisher takes ownership of the copyright and in return has the task of licensing the composition and collecting royalties. Royalties generated are typically split 50/50 between songwriter and publisher. There are often multiple songwriters attached to a song, each of whom may be owed a different percentage of the royalties collected, and each may work with different publishers to collect.
Producer royalties are a very important part of the music industry. Indeed, almost every music producer these days will ask for a percentage of your record royalties. This percentage of record sales is known as “points”.
What Is the Norm For Producer Royalties?
Once you’ve decided that your producer is entitled to producer royalties, the next question is: how much? The industry norm is between 2 and 5% of record sales. In the golden age of recorded music (after Elvis, before Napster), this could results in a lot of money. Think about 3% of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which sold 30 million copies in the US alone (30 million times $10 per record times 3% = $9 million). And most of those records sold for far more than $10. While records don’t quite sell like this any more, some do. Adele’s last record sold 25 million copies, for example. So producer royalties are still a very important consideration when entering the studio.
How Should Producer Royalties Be Calculated? PPD or SRLP
Once you determine what percentage of record sales your producer is entitled to, the next question is: which amount does that percentage apply to? The key to answering this question is understanding the acronyms SRLP and PPD, and their differences.
SRLP is the “suggested retail list price”, which is the approximate price charged by the retailer (Wal-Mart, your local record store, or one of the few retailers left). PPD is the “published price to dealers”, which is the approximate price that distributors charge their dealers, or the “wholesale price”.
How Do You Agree On Producer Royalties?
Whichever royalty base is used, it must be clearly stated in a Producer Agreement. The Producer Agreement is a crucial agreement for any musician recording songs, as it clarifies and confirms the mutual expectations of both parties. I large part of my legal practice deals with Artist/Producer disputes.
A Producer Agreement covers many issues, including:
What is the Producer Royalty?
Is the Producer also a songwriter?
Who owns the masters? (typically the artist, but not always)
What credit is to be given to the Producer?
Is the Producer entitled to a percentage of SoundExchange revenue?
Record Points vs. Songwriting Points
Rather than give their producer songwriting points, recording artists would traditionally give their producer 2 to 4 points on the record. In simplified terms, this means that 2 to 4% of revenues generated from the sale of these records would go to the producer. So for each $0.99 iTunes sale for example, two to four cents would go to the producer. Only the sound recording copyright is involved here.
Many producers are suddenly calling themselves songwriters. In some cases, it’s justified: I know a lot of producers that are also talented writers, and who sit down with the artists they record and help them take the songwriting to the next level. They might help write lyrics, add entire parts to the song, suggest structural changes, or change the chords and melodies.
If the producer is indeed a co-writer, they would be entitled to portion of the songwriting copyright, for the length of the copyright.
Five Points Recording is not the author of any of this information, we are merely presenting trusted music source information in a clean, easy to navigate single location.