So you finally finished working weeks, months, maybe even years on your album and you are ready to share it with the world. But you may be wondering, how do I properly release it? Here’s our Digital Music Distribution Checklist.
Below in this guide, you will see all the necessary steps you should check off when gearing up for an album/ EP and or single release.
10 Step Digital Music Distribution Checklist
- Cover Art Requirements
- Unique Artist Name
- Titles and Content Style
- Audio File Format
- Use of Samples
- Metadata and Crediting
- Genres and Subgenres
- Release Date Window
Cover Art Requirements
Your album artwork is KEY in visually separating your musical works from the crowd.
Your artwork should also follow these guidelines:
FOR BEST RESULTS
- Format : JPG, JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIF, TIFF or GIF
- Dimensions : 1400×1400 px – 4000×4000 px
- Size : Minimum 100KB, Maximum 10MB Per Image
- No blurry or pixelated images
- No URLs
- No logos or branding that you do not have rights to use
- No references to physical packaging or pricing
- No pornographic imagery
Your Artist Name
One of the most important steps you can take to ensure your album is released under your own artist name is to have a really unique name.
Making sure your name is unique will not only not delay your album release but will also lessen the chance of it being released under another artist with a similar name. Doing a quick search on google and whatever streaming platform you mainly use is a good way to check to see if your name is taken or not.
If it is taken, you may want to try changing it since this can cause conflicts in the channels and your albums may be combined under the catalog of the other artist with a similar artist or band name, or vice-versa.
Title and Content Style
Here are some do’s and don’ts to avoid track title headaches later on:
- Don’t include the release date
- Don’t include the release format—like album or EP—in your track title
- Don’t Include search terms in your track titles like ‘pop punk’ or ‘lo-fi house’
- Don’t include an asterisk if the title contains explicit words
- Don’t use generic titles for the tracks. Titles such as “Track 01”, and “Track 02”, will not be accepted unless they are really the original track titles.
- Do spell everything correctly and spellcheck!
- Do enter the track title exactly how you want it to appear in the stores
- Do stick to the same formatting across an entire release
- Do ensure the title matches how it represented on the cover art
Audio File Requirements
You want to make sure your music sounds great on all music platforms, so ensure it is a minimum 44.1khz 16 Bit stereo WAV or FLAC file when exporting it from your DAW.
- Mastering: In order to ensure a good audio quality and meet the standards of today’s music industry, all audio files must have undergone a professional mastering before their distribution.
- Audios and titles: Audio files and track titles must always match. Audio uploaded to non-corresponding tracks are not acceptable on most distribution platforms.
- Silences, pauses and cuts: Silence, cuts, pauses or extended silences are not allowed. If a song ends with a final silence it should last no longer than ten seconds.
- Silent and hidden tracks: The silent tracks, hidden tracks and ghost tracks should be indicated in the “Version” field. If there is a division between tracks it must follow the silence requirements mentioned above.
Use Of Samples
Stores are very strict in terms of uncleared and unlicensed samples. It is best practice to make sure your music does not obviously contain well-known samples. In any case, If you are using a sample of someone else’s music without their consent it’s illegal.
Royalty-free samples are fine in this case.
You’ll often hear that it’s ok to use samples because no one will hear it but if the song were to blow up (which we all would like) then a copyright claim can occur and you could end up losing up to all of your rights to the record.
If your song does contain samples, most distributors will contact you about it so it is best to try and avoid them if you can or be able to provide proof that you have the right to use the sample.
Metadata and Crediting
Don’t you just hate when you are not credited for your work? Well in this section we will go over how to properly add metadata for your musical works and ensure everyone is credited correctly so it shows up on streaming platforms.
When including the metadata information for you release. It is recommended to be as thorough and detailed as possible.
In the album, field include: Primary Artist, Features, Writers/Lyricists, Producers, Composers, Arranger.
Make sure the same information and album credits are listed under the respective track that is attached to the album or EP if you are releasing multiple tracks.
Below is an example of a very well-detailed album release by Cizzurp215 for his single“Rings” produced by Cardiak. Each participant is properly credited and percentage splits of the sales are given directly to those you choose. The percentage must equal 100%
Click the add lyrics button and paste your lyrics into the box. Your lyrics will be distributed to all major lyrics providers including lyrics find and lyrics.com. Additionally, you should sign up for an account at Genius.com using the following links:
- Genius Account – https://genius.com/signup
- Genius Verification – https://genius.com/Genius-how-to-get-verified-on-genius-annotated
If you would like to get your lyrics on Instagram stories and other sites that display visual lyrics, you will need to sign up with Musixmatch.
Genres and Subgenres
In the streaming age, categorizing your music into a genre is very important. Genres make your music findable and subgenres make it even easier to find.
Digital music stores use your genre metadata to put your record in the right category so that listeners and the algorithms (the powers that be) are able to locate it using different criteria.
Genere tagging also plays a major role in playlisting.
There’s a huge amount of genres and subgenres across all the big digital music stores. Spotify alone acknowledges almost 1,000 genres. So be sure to be clear but also specific as possible.
Release Date Window
Your music is sacred and it is your art. It should be handled with respect and confidence. The last thing you want to happen is to rush a release and have it end up being released with issues.
So be sure you are giving yourself a minimum of three weeks to have your music uploaded on your distribution platform. It will allow the multiple stores your music is going to be streamed on to check every aspect of your release for anything that may lead to your music being rejected and gives you and your distributor enough time to address and correct any issues.
It will also allow you to submit for playlisting, and set up a marketing plan including organic and paid advertising, social media posts, and more.
Digital Service Providers have their own artist-specific programs that give you control over your content on their platform. A few of the notable ones are:
- Spotify for Artists – https://artists.spotify.com/
- Apple Music for Artists – https://artists.apple.com/
- Amazon Music for Artists – https://artists.amazon.com/
- Tidal for Artists – https://tidal.com/forartists
- Deezer for Creators – https://creators.deezer.com/user/login
- Pandora AMP – https://www.ampplaybook.com/
- Boomplay for Artists – https://www.boomplay.com/ForArtist/#/guild?status=0
- Audiomack – https://audiomack.com/world/for-artists
Stores and Territories
When you pick a store to sell your release in, you’re also choosing to release your album in all the countries that the store distributes to.
You should always have a good idea of where your music is live. This will help you later on when you’re looking into your streaming stats and growing your fan base at home and abroad.
If you don’t want your music in a certain country, don’t select stores that distribute to that country before you release it.
Once you figure out which store distributes to which country, just opt-out of stores that distribute to that country while you’re building your release.
We provide the ISRC and UPC/EAN codes. An ISRC code is a unique identifier that each song has and the UPC/EAN is the barcode or purchase code associated with your project. (single, EP, or album)
In conclusion, your release is a big deal, whether single, EP, or album. You should plan accordingly and give yourself some time to build anticipation and ensure your music reaches the most people possible. Following this guide will definitely help accomplish those goals.