What does it actually take to self release your music?
Well, lucky for us, one of our very own youbloom artists, CommonUnion59, released their second album, “Heartbeat Serenade” on February 11th of this year and were kind enough to share their experience with the youbloom community.
“The most important thing we learned is that the overall effort of putting an album out is probably half musical and half business. You have to come to terms with that fact when you plan your project,” Steve shared. And let’s face it; many musicians may be great at performing, but not so strong business-wise. That is why picking a solid team at the beginning of the project is vital to the quality of the finished album.
“It might help to think of yourself as kind of a general contractor who, when building a house, may do the carpentry but finds the plumber, the electrician, etc. because he just doesn’t have expertise (or the time) to do it all himself,” Steve said. Not only is it important to pick a qualified team of engineers, press agents, promoters, and musical contributors, it is also really important that you work well with these people and they understand your vision. “Go for quality over quantity and find the best studio you can afford.”
“We asked ourselves this simple question, how do the major labels do what they do?” Steve said. “First, they get the music created.” Steve advised to have as much of the music completed as possible when you get into the studio. This will save you time and money overall. On the same note, he suggested that you be flexible as well. There are always unforeseen surprises along the way, some of which may be beneficial to the outcome of your album, as CommonUnion59 experienced.
For example, Laura explained to us that the song, “Heartbeat Serenade” was one song that was unfinished when they got into the studio. They only had a few words written down as well as the basic melody. “We knew we wanted to have fun with it and give it a psychedelic vibe so it was almost like a side project that we kept coming back to as we recorded everything else.” Turns out, they loved what the song turned into so much, that it became the title track for the album.
Steve and Laura also learned the importance of being open to straying from the plan when they were recording their song, “It’s Alright.” Laura shared, “We did two versions… The first was a straight ahead rocking take which we liked a lot, but when we tried a more rock-a-billy feeling version, we really loved it, so it’s the one we ended up using. We hadn’t thought about doing that way in advance so it’s like a bit of unexpected studio magic that we embraced.” Though there may be some unforeseen hang-ups in the studio, there can also be some beautiful surprises along the way that might entirely transform the album.
After the music is created, Steve stressed the importance of making the final product relevant amongst the competition. One step in doing that is to have the music mastered after it is recorded and mixed. “It really does make a difference since you are being heard alongside so many other artists that do it too.”
Another step to meeting the competition is to gather reviews way before the release date. You want to have publicity growing for your album even before it is released. Sometimes doing this means hiring a publicity firm that has experience pushing albums to the people who need to hear them. Remember that there are tons of other musicians that will also be releasing albums the same month (and even the same day) as you.
The final step in matching your competition is to get airplay. The more you can be heard and in the more places, the better. “This part is not easy for sure since the majors have such a lock on most of radio, but it is still possible,” Steve shared. It is important to pull all of your resources and, once again, look into hiring someone that does this for a living. Also keep in mind non-traditional avenues of “airplay” such as social media, streaming radio, or YouTube to expose your audience to the new album.
It is also worthwhile to stress the importance of staying current with what is happening in the industry as well as being open to learning on a continual basis. One way that Steve and Laura did this was by attending youbloom@LA in November of last year. They shared with us that a lot of their experience at youbloom@LA helped them in their process with their album.
“If you’re anything like us, you’re writing songs, rehearsing, doing the business stuff, but you’re pretty much working in your own everyday environment. youbloom helps create a good sense of the big industry picture. To us, it seemed more about focus, inspiration, and motivation, reminding us that everything we do is important, good or bad. We take something positive from the lessons learned and keep moving forward.”
We hope that you find the experience of CommonUnion59 beneficial in your own album recording/releasing. Remember, it is important to plan from the beginning and get all of your pieces in place. “But, be relaxed and have fun with it too so that you love what you did later on,” Steve said. Recording an album is serious business, but let’s not forget that in order for the album to be a success, you must love the finished project. Steve adds, “It’s also important to play live as much as possible, it helps you remember why you’re doing it in the first place, and good things always happen along the way.”
“So get out there! Work hard, but have fun! We’d love to hear about your experiences as well!
Steve McKenzie and Laura Malasig make up the singing/songwriting duo of CommonUnion59, blending blues, folk, and alternative country to create music that many say is reminiscent of the 60s. They weave introspective lyrics of love and life through powerful melodies, creating an emotional experience that gives the illusion that the music and the voice are one fluid sound. Listen to some of their music.