Self-Release Q&A, Chapter 1

Since the Guitar Nine site was established in June of 1996, I have received a huge amount of e-mail from guitarists, musicians and bands who have been inspired enough to begin making plans to release their own records. In the process of doing so, specific questions arise about how to accomplish certain tasks and where to get more information. I've decided to periodically share the most common questions we get here at Guitar Nine, and try to answer them as best I can.

Question: What can I do if all the songs I write are rejected by my band?

Answer: I recommend dumping (or leaving) your band. Maybe your music doesn't fit the style of your current band; maybe it's better than the material your band is currently producing. Whatever it is, it's your
personality coming through on the songs, and if you try to change them
to fit someone's conception of what 'country' or 'pop' or 'jazz' is, it
just may squeeze the life and the originality out of the songs.

Also, rejection of your material may be an attempt by the current songwriters in the band to maintain control and receive all songwriting credit and future royalties. This is not an easy situation to deal with, and if you fail in all attempts to get some of your songs accepted by the group, you need to seriously consider going out on your own, or forming a new group with musicians who see the same potential in your songs as you do.

Question: I am attempting to help a young band find a direction. Do you have any advice for us to help us when starting our own label?

Answer: I get this question a lot from people who don't realize the amount of resources that exist right here on the Guitar Nine site. Go to our Master Column Index to find articles to motivate you and columns that tell you how to start a record label and how to promote and publicize your music. If you need suggestions on some great books, check out our Label Resources page for reviews on the best books available for musicians who want to start their own record labels. The books can even be ordered right from the page!

Question: How important is the Internet for my new record label (or band)?

Answer: It's very important now, and will almost be a necessity in one or two years. At this point, the Internet is a very low-cost way to publicize, promote and sell your music, as well as provide your fans with endless amounts of information about your band, your music, your tour schedule, your future plans, etc. You can have pictures, sound clips of your music, lyrics, and fan club information. But probably the best feature is e-mail. Your growing fan base can connect with you directly and you can keep in touch with them. No longer is it necessary for a fan to get paper and pen, write to the group, find a stamp and envelope, mail a letter, and wait around wondering if you got it. Communication is instant and instantly gratifying, and if you spend the time to keep your fans happy, you'll be rewarded.

If you know absolutely nothing about how to get your own web site started, do whatever you have to do to find someone who can help you. A friend, acquaintance, or even a dedicated fan would be best, since commercial web site designers charge quite a bit for what they do. A friend can even show you how to maintain and update the site yourself, which is much easier than establishing it in the first place. Where do most bands get roadies when they have little money to pay for them? Usually fans of the band who want to be involved at some level are willing to haul amps for free (in the beginning!) You may have an interested fan who would love to be associated with the band, who also has the technical knowledge to help you get your web site up and running.

Remember, creating a buzz locally can be done by any of the tried and true methods. An Internet site allows you to begin thinking globally. Who knows, your best fans may be in Europe or Japan, and the buzz you are trying to create in Texas or Montana may never materialize. Get something going where all potential fans, all over the world, can be identified.

Question: I have a internet site on the Internet for my band (or label), but I can't seem to generate any traffic and/or sales of my records. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: I usually get e-mail like this from bands or musicians who attach their URLs so that I can check out their page. They generally assume that the design of their site may be poor. While that's true in a few cases, there are a lot of reasons why your site may continue to be unnoticed by the Internet music community.

  • What do you have besides publicity on your site? In other words, what are you giving to the Internet community in order to get attention and visits? The old saying, "You've got to give to get", really applies on the internet. If all you have is band information, sound bites, an ad for your record, a guest book, an equipment list and a bunch of links, are you really providing anything new or useful? Think of what you might publish regularly on the internet that some other musician or music fan can really use to better their life and you will get a lot more visitors. Not only that, but they'll come back. Every time they come back you have the opportunity to sell them your CD or get them to attend one of your live shows. Bottom line: put original, interesting content on your site using the same energy and creativity you've put into your records and live shows.
  • Make sure you have every individual page on your site indexed by the major search engines (Google, MSN and Yahoo!). Every one of these search engines has a button to click to add your URLs. Many musicians make the mistake of only submitting their home page under the assumption that the search engine will automatically index all the sub-pages. Don't take the chance; these companies are swamped with requests for indexing all the time. If these companies get too busy, their web spiders will not go to every link on your page. And if your pages are not indexed by search engines, baby, you don't exist on the Internet. Nobody is ever going to 'find' your page without work on your part to get it indexed.
  • Always have a link back to your home page on every sub-page on you site. If someone uses a search engine and gets to your sound clips page first, they need a way to get to your home page to get additional information. Also, it's a good idea to dedicate one page as a site map or index of all the pages available, so someone can see all of what you have available in one place.
  • Spend some time surfing the Internet trying to find bands and record labels who have similar web sites. You should try and see if it's possible to get a link to your site on their page. The more your name is out there, the better chance you will have of expanding your base of fans.
  • Make sure you have downloadable sound clips of your music. This gives potential music buyers a way to sample your music and decide if they like it enough to plunk down $10-15 bucks for the CD. Without samples, there's nothing much for a person to base a purchase decision on, and they'll opt for the latest Hootie and the Blowfish record instead.
  • Lastly, keep it current! Dedicate one day a month to reviewing the whole site. Nobody wants to see last November's tour schedule in March, and it gives fans the impression that you don't care. And guess what? They'll stop caring about you, too.

Question: Where the heck do I find information about pressing my own records? Nobody seems to do vinyl anymore.

Answer: There are still some companies around who still press vinyl records. One company that's on the web is Discmakers at, who press 12-inch vinyl singles. Get a copy of the latest EQ magazine and check the classifieds in the back for other companies such as A+R Record and Tape Manufacturing (1-800-527-3472) and MediaWorks (615-327-9114) who still do vinyl pressings.

Question: How receptive are college radio stations, reviewers, and distributors to material that is only available on cassette format? I plan to do a CD product sometime in the future, but I have a 6-song cassette that has been selling well at gigs. I wonder if this would be acceptable to use to promote myself until the CD is complete?

Answer: Everything else being equal, it might be better to wait until your CD is finished before doing a radio or distributor send out. Cassette-only releases are looked upon (perhaps unfairly) as second class by radio and distribution. Distributors absolutely will not carry a cassette only release. Radio gets so much product (many CDs never get listened to or played), that the cassette release naturally suffers by comparison.

Bottom line: the cassette is best suited for what you are using it for right
now -- selling to fans directly. You might consider selling cassettes directly
to fans on the Internet. Or, use cassettes to supplement a CD
release, so your fans can choose between a CD or cassette.

Question: I want to start a record label and begin releasing records with tracks contributed by some of the local bands. What is the best way to make a profit -- charge bands to be included on a compilation record or select the bands at no charge and try to sell the records?

Answer: I think the best way to do multi-band tapes is first, get each band to submit a master tape of one or two of their best songs. Then, let's say it will cost $700 to duplicate 500 cassettes for 12 bands. Each band contributes their song and $60. That gives you $720 to cover the duplication costs. Give each band 25-30 cassettes to sell themselves, and you keep 150-200 cassettes to sell and promote your label. You will be profitable instantly since the bands collectively 'paid' for the duplication. It's a win-win situation.

Question: I was wondering how my band could get signed to Guitar Nine?

Answer: Guitar Nine is currently only planning to release records by the owners of the company. That's one of the reasons we encourage so many others to start their own labels. For most bands it will be the only way they will ever be able to 'play the game'. You can start a label, it's not that hard. And every penny you'll make from your music will be yours to keep!

Dan McAvinchey is a guitarist and composer living in Raleigh, NC.

He believes every musician or composer has the power to write, record and release their own music.

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