How Should You Release Your Music as an Independent Musician?
An independent musician could loosely be defined as anyone who makes music and is not signed to a major record label. It could be the band who has played the local club scene for years or a kid recording songs in his parents’ basement. In any case, these unpublished or self-published musicians all have the same goal: to get their work heard and enjoyed by someone.
What is the best way for an indie musician to get their music heard: CDs or digital downloads? Let’s take a look at both formats to shed some light on this highly controversial issue.
Starting in the 1980s, the Compact Disc began to overtake the compact cassette tape and the vinyl record as the preferred method of distributing music. The CD grew in popularity in the mid-1990s thanks to the introduction of consumer-grade home recorders and recordable CD-R discs. An estimated 200 billion CDs have been sold worldwide since the format was introduced three decades ago.
In today’s increasingly digital world, the CD faces stiff competition from online music downloading services. The distribution of music over the Internet from Apple’s iTunes, Amazon MP3, and Napster 2.0 has revolutionized the industry. Apple single-handedly claims to have sold over 10 billion songs in their iTunes store alone.
At the same time, piracy of music on the Internet runs rampant. The scofflaws who run and use illegal file-sharing programs and sites always seem to stay a few steps ahead of the authorities. Musicians complain about lost revenue, while record companies generate heaps of bad press for themselves by handing out lawsuits to accused file-swappers, including children and the elderly.
Do musicians still need CDs in an iTunes world? Can the quality and convenience of a replicated CD ever be translated to a computer file? The debate over digital files versus compact discs could go on ad infinitum.
As an independent musician seeking to gain exposure, this is a highly polarizing issue. By choosing to release your music exclusively on disc or online, you run the risk of alienating your fans who consume music in different ways. So why not do both? With the combined power of both discs and Internet distribution, your music can reach more ears than ever before!
Releasing a new single or EP online can be a great way for independent musicians to get their name out there. Releasing music online opens your band up to the attention of music fans all over the world. If your singles or albums are sold through a major online music retailer, it could be a decent source of revenue.
However, one must not underestimate the ubiquity of the common CD player. Whether at home, in the car, or at the computer, CD players are everywhere in your fans’ lives. A complete custom CD package can easily be sold at a live show to your newest fans. It offers fans a high-quality version of your songs that is more permanent than a file on a hard drive or a portable music player that can get dropped, lost, or stolen.
In order to gain the appreciation of today’s music fans, I think that independent musicians need to embrace the fact that there is more than one way to enjoy music. For some it is online, and for others it is the feeling of holding a professionally produced CD in a jewel case package. Listen up, indie musicians: don’t let your fans down! Make sure you have something for everyone, or you might just miss connecting with your biggest fanbase altogether.