Is Your Music Product Good Enough?

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Yesterday I discussed how the idea of a record label is dead and how more and more artists see the self-released option as a chance to jumpstart their careers. You may be an musician or band contemplating releasing an album or an EP to the masses, be it in digital or physical format. Before you do this there are a number of things to consider before you do this, the first of which is the quality of the product that you re releasing.

Let’s be honest here, if your product is of a poor standard, you’re not likely to have much success with it. But like Art, Music is subjective and there are bound to be many people around the world who like what you do.

Even though you are the artist, the creator and the boss, you need to make sure that your music is a fair reflection of your talents and accessible enough to musicians and non-musicians alike. Whilst this book certainly doesn’t pertain to the principles of music production, there are a few things you need to consider before you release your music to the world:

Is your music interesting?
Interesting music doesn’t mean complicated or fancy, it just has to appeal to people who listen to your particular genre of music. It doesn’t even have to be original sounding in order to sell, although it would probably help if your music stood out amongst the massive catalogue of music that already exists.

Is it well produced?
Music recordings you’ve made at home are absolutely acceptable. You don’t have to spend a bucket load of money to achieve the sound that you want. What you must do however is listen to it in many different places and get other people’s opinions on it. Does your albums sound good on an iPod, car stereo or home hi-fi system? What do your friends think of it? Show it to people who listen to the type of music you create. Show it to other musicians, producers or other industry people out there. It’s your chance to network!

Is your artwork professional?
Just like music, judging whether or not an album cover is ‘professional’ is open to massive interpretation. Just compare the artwork for Damien Rice’s ‘O’ album and Pendulum’s ‘Immersion’ album. As you can see, there’s a pretty big difference.

Your artwork has to inspire, give the audience an idea of what you’re about and communicate the key details about the album clearly i.e. The artist/band name and the album title. Now I know there are many albums that don’t even have this basic information on it (see Metallica’s ‘St. Anger’ album artwork for an example of this) but these are done by very well established musicians who have no need to include their product information on it. As an unsigned band/musician however, I’d highly recommend you do this.

Here is a list of things for you to consider when putting together your artwork:

  1. Don’t rip anyone off!
    Thinking of putting an apple as your artwork? Make sure it isn’t too similar to that of Apple, Inc or you could find yourself facing a lawsuit. Make sure your design doesn’t infringe on any trademarks.
  2. Make sure you have clearance to use a particular font
    Font’s such as ‘Arial’ and ‘Times New Roman’ are pretty standard fare and won’t require you to pay to use these – but if you’ve download a font from the internet somewhere, make sure you’ve bought a commercial license to use it!
  3. Clear branding that doesn’t suck!
    This is very, very important to bear in mind. Whatever you choose to have as your artwork, you’ll need to use as branding for all sorts of things e.g. your website, social networking websites, posters, business cards, flyers etc. You need to make sure that your imagery is suitable for all of these needs.
  4. Size matters!
    You’re 1500×1500 pixel artwork may look great on your nice computer monitor, but bear in mind that many digital retailers display it very differently. Just have a search through Amazon and iTunes to see just how small the artwork shows up on a search result. What does this mean for you? Well if your logo and album title are tiny and displayed off in a corner somewhere, you can forget about potential customers being able to read it.
  5. Be creative!
    As cliche as this may sound, your artwork is meant to engage with your audience and make you stand out amongst the rest. If it’s too similar to someone else’s design, people may assume you’re a cover band. If it looks cheap and nasty, people will assume that the music will be the same.

Your artwork is vital and worth spending time on. Even if you’re not the artistic type or have no idea how to create artwork on a computer, get someone else to do it! Once again, get opinions or friends and compare your work to that of other musicians in your genre.

The product will define your marketing campaign for your music, so it’s important to get it right before you do anything else.

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