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The key things you MUST do when releasing an album independently

Guitar (image accompanying an article about the key things you must do when releasing an album independently)

Strange things do happen. Not very often. But sometimes they do – and on those rare occasions, when weird stuff with ley lines is going on and there’s a full moon up and a bunch of hippies are doing some sort of summer solstice dance around Stonehenge, a record that has been released independently can end up capturing a national radio DJ’s ears, and then some of his DJ mates’ ears, and ultimately the ears of the great unwashed...and before you know it, you have a hit of sorts on your hands.

I say ‘hit of sorts’ because at this point, you’ve got good airplay, but in my book a hit still constitutes a piece of music that generates cash as well as awareness.

The trick to turning airplay for an independently-released track into a real hit is to have built a very strong infrastructure that supports this independent release. You may end up surprising yourself by getting a truckload of spins on Radio 2, but if you are unprepared for this eventuality, then you are shooting yourself, your release, and quite probably any hope of a career in music, in the foot.

There are several important things that you simply have to do when releasing an album independently; these tasks ensure that you receive as much money as possible for airplay and sales:

  1. Join PRS for Music and register your tracks with them. The PRS is now an amalgamation of two societies, the PRS (Performing Rights Society) and the MCPS (the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society). For a full explanation of what PRS for Music do, I’d suggest you check out their website in depth, but in a nutshell they sort songwriters and publishers out with royalties any time their music is played or performed (Irish peeps: check out IMRO instead).
     
  2. Join PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd) and register your songs with them too. It’s a similar sort of organisation to PRS for Music, but it collects and distributes royalties for record companies and performers rather than songwriters and publishers. Now, as you are releasing your album independently, the chances are that you are both a performer on the album and the record company releasing it, so make sure that the PPL know about your music and are giving you due reward for it when Jeff Smith's golden ears finally decide that you are worthy of a spin on Radio 2.
     
  3. Encode ISRC (International Standard Recording Codes) on your CDs. ISRC codes ensure that when your music is played on the radio, PRS for Music and PPL know about it and are able to pay you accordingly. In an era of diminishing music sales, revenue from airplay is more important than ever, and without ISRC codes on your single or promo CD, even if you have a huge radio hit on your hands, you might not get all the airplay money owed to you. One spin on national radio in the UK can be worth around £60 - not to be sniffed at.
     
  4. This sounds incredibly obvious, but ensure that your music is available to stream and buy online on major sites (Spotify, iTunes, Amazon etc.) before approaching anyone at radio. Without your music available to stream or buy, you can't generate much cash from it.
     
  5. Consider some physical distribution options at the outset of the project. Despite the shift to digital, a lot of album sales are actually still CD shaped, so if you end up with a massive radio hit on your hands, physical distribution starts to make a lot of sense. So it's a good idea to have a physical distribution plan in place at the start of the project – talk to distributors early on and ideally have a partner ready to step in should you need to get your CDs into record shops.
     
  6. Make sure you are generally easy to find online. Create a good website and make sure you have strong, up-to-date presences on social media.
     
  7. Ensure that you have a decent data capture system set up on your website. (You can use a tool like Getresponse or Mailchimp to capture email addresses and send e-newsletters.) If you do get a huge amount of airplay for one of your songs – something that might only happen once in your entire career – you may end up with a huge number of people visiting your website...and you can future-proof your career a bit by ensuring that your site is optimised to capture as many of these visitors’ email addresses as possible. This is usually done by incentivising your data capture – offering a free download for an email address. A large database means that you can potentially generate a decent amount of income from selling music and gig tickets direct to fans in future, even if you never get played on the radio ever again.
     
  8. Ensure your song is on Youtube – even if you don't really have a video for it. Regardless of the popularity of Spotify, Apple Music et al.,Youtube is still effectively the world's de facto music database and if you have a radio hit, people will be looking for your song on there.
     
  9. Create a mailing list of influential music industry movers, shakers and shapers that you can get in touch with in the event that your music starts to become popular. This is always a handy thing to have lying about anyway, but if you suddently get a serious amount of airplay on a national radio station, you ideally want to be in a position where you can quickly and easily email a large bunch of A&Rs, managers, publishers and promoters notifying them of your overnight success and telling them why they should work with you.

Hopefully the above suggestions should act as a decent checklist for bands who are embarking on that most precarious of adventures, the independent album release. In fact, even if you don't have a monster hit on your hands, the above tips are worth following, because they'll help you maximise the income you do receive from any independent album release.

(At the very least, they should allow the PPL to procure 5p from your local radio station on your behalf and let your mum find your album on iTunes.)

Article by Chris Singleton

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How to make sure you receive the radio royalties you're owed

A radio - image accompanies article about radio royalties for bands

A radio - image accompanies article about radio royalties for bands

With touring so expensive and streaming royalties so low, it’s become harder than ever to make money out of music. One area where it is still possible to generate decent revenue however is through getting radio airplay; but often, bands concentrate so hard on getting this airplay that they forget to take the necessary steps to ensure are getting paid for it - thus missing out on income that can in some cases be quite significant. So in this post we’re going to share a few pointers on how to ensure you definitely get the dosh that is due to you from that long sought-after BBC Radio 1 (ok, Hospital Radio) spin.

But first, let’s start with a question that many bands ask: how much does each UK radio station pay you per play?

How much do UK radio stations pay per play?

Well actually, radio stations don’t pay YOU per play, they pay two royalty-collection organisations:

These two organisations then dish this income out to you (or your representatives) in various instalments. And it’s worth noting that the amount of money the radio stations pay per play isn’t static - it boils down to the size of each radio station’s listenership, which of course varies year by year.

PRS per-play payment examples

PRS members can log in to the PRS site and view a very detailed set of figures from the PRS regarding how much each station is currently paying per the PRS play - there’s a few PRS examples below for the big music stations (July 2016):

  • BBC Radio 1: £13.63 per minute
  • BBC Radio 2: £24.27 per minute
  • BBC 6 Music: £5.25 per minute

PPL per-play payment examples

Obtaining ‘per-play’ data from the PPL is a lot harder - despite several trawls of the PPL website, I can’t find a simple overview of royalty rates per station. (I’ve fired off an email to them however asking for data - I will update this post with relevant info when I hear back).

In the meantime the I’ve sourced some pay-per-play examples from publishing company Sentric Music’s blog:

  • BBC Radio 1: £37.76 per minute
  • BBC Radio 2: £82.07 per minute
  • BBC 6 Music: £8.06 per minute

(Note that this data is from 2013, so a little out of date).

The PRS and PPL also collect ‘per-play’ royalties from thousands of other radio stations across the country (not to mention TV stations too, and many other sources).

It’s easy to see why getting your hands on these royalties matter…

Even the top-line figures above give you a clear idea of why getting your ducks in a row when it comes to radio royalties matters.

For the sake of argument, suppose you are fortunate to get a 4 minute track playlisted on Radio 2, obtaining 15 plays over the space of a fortnight. Combining the PRS and PPL figures gives you a total-pay-per-play figure of £106.34 per minute. Multiply that by your total number of minutes played - 60 - and you'd end up generating £6830.40 in royalties in just two weeks. And that’s just from one station - getting playlisted on Radio 2 often leads to playlisting on many other stations across the country too, which will further increase your radio royalty revenues.

Of course, deductions will need to be made from any income generated by radio play - depending on your situation, managers, labels and publishers will all be taking their slice of pie, but it’s a sizeable sum to kick things off with.

How to ensure you don’t leave your radio money on the table

So, now that we’re all drooling at the prospect of Radio 2 playlisting and making nearly £7k in a fortnight, it’s time to look at how you avoid leaving that sort of money on the table. Thankfully, this is relatively straightforward (if a bit time-consuming).

  • First, ensure that you become a member of PPL and the PRS. Without this membership, it is next to impossible to get paid royalties for radio play.
  • Second, obtain ISRC codes from the PPL for the tracks you intend to send to radio. These allow radio stations to identify you as the owner of the track.
  • Third, encode these ISRC codes on your CDs and MP3. Generally a mastering engineer or CD manufacturer can help you with the former, and you can use software like KID3 to add them to MP3s.
  • Fourth, register the individual tracks with PPL and the PRS. (Where PPL is concerned, you’ll need to have a list of all the performers on the tracks to hand, along with their PPL numbers).

Finally, you may find it beneficial to involve a publisher or a publishing administrator in proceedings, as they will be familiar with the whole process and may be able to speed things up, highlight any errors or suggest ways that you can squeeze a bit more revenue out of proceedings. As a starting point though, the above steps will offer some important protection against missing out on radio royalties.

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