Step-by-step plan making an album
What do you need to pay attention to when making your new album by yourself? Examples include copyright, a timetable, budget, putting together your team and preparing for the recording. If you have a contract with a label, you do these steps in consultation.
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1. Describe what you want to make
What kind of album do you want to make: digital or physical (CD or vinyl), with whom (musicians, producer, mixer, mastering engineer), for whom, which numbers, which sound, etc. You also determine what you need to achieve that on the basis thereof.
2. Divide the rights
If your album is a joint project, it is important to clearly divide the rights. Who wrote the lyrics and who did the composing? Which ratios pertain to that? The standard division is a third for the publisher, a third for the composer and a third for the lyricist.
3. Make a timetable and allocate tasks
In a good timetable, you make a distinction between phases: writing, rehearsing, pre-production, recording, mixing and mastering. Don’t forget that you have to prepare for later phases in an earlier phase. You should also allocate the tasks; who will be responsible for the financing, administration and bookkeeping?
4. Make enquiries about the studio, engineer and/or producer
As soon as the numbers have been written, rehearsed and the pre-production has started, you should determine the recording, mixing and mastering process, as the choices you make will have artistic, organisation and financial consequences. Which studios can offer what you need in terms of equipment and options? Ask for previous recordings and see if they have experience and an affinity with your style of music and working method.
Choose an engineer and/or producer who suits your budget recording ideas, and who is familiar with the studio in question. Make proper agreements about the fee and the extent of their involvement. If it becomes too expensive, you can also ask an experienced fellow musician for advice. Try to take care of all the steps that you can’t outsource within the band. Read about recording processes and music production too.
5. Make a budget
On the basis of your timetable, you should examine what the costs are per phase and how much money you have left for that. Examples include studio costs, mastering, pressing a certain number of CDs or records, artwork, renting (additional) equipment, travel expenses, catering, repairs, possible producer, guest musicians, a marketing campaign and promotion.
You should subsequently calculate how many albums you need to sell or stream in order to recoup your costs and investigate additional financing options, such as crowdfunding, subsidies (for example via the SENA Music Performers Production Fund), sponsoring, loans and presales. If you are playing for the production with your own money, make and lay down proper agreements about that. You should also determine the division of revenues and examine, for example, whether merchandise could generate additional revenue.
6. Prepare for the recording
Once the agreements have been laid down, you can start renting equipment and a space. Do as much preliminary work as possible outside the studio. In addition to pre-production, examples include arranging the mechanical reproduction rights with Buma/Stemra, thinking about which codes are necessary for the album (ISRC, AV code) and the cover (barcode), as well as applying for these codes. Decide on the order of the music before you have your album mastered.
7. Record, edit, mix and master the music
Make sure that there is enough time between the studio sessions to listen back to what you have recorded and to prepare for the next sessions. Make photos, videos and audio recordings of the recording process so that you can use this as publicity material. Let people hear something online in advance and send the latest versions of the mix to your network via a protected SoundCloud link.
8. Create artwork
Make sure that the artwork is also ready after the recording process. Create it yourself or hire somebody to do it. This includes the album and single artwork. Make sure that you have the files in various formats, such as thumbnails for YouTube, banners on Facebook, and stories and posts on Instagram. In addition, it is very useful to have additional content related to your artwork for your marketing campaign. Examples may include, sketches, the design process, sources of inspiration and/or moving images.
9. Evaluate, plan the release and distribution
At the end of the process, you should evaluate how things went with all the parties involved, in order to learn from it and develop professional relationships. You will also continue to collaborate with some of these people for the following steps: the release, distribution, shows.