The first few parts or this series each looked at something that was a bit interesting, writing songs and recording them, finding your audience and creating artwork and packaging. In this chapter we’re going to look at the boring side of things-paper work.There is quite a bit of paperwork to do if you want to release your album “the right way,” but all that is for another article. Only a subset of those are required, or recommended for getting your song on the radio. You should have your songs registered with your performing right association (definition) and have ISRCs (definition) assigned, a one-sheet, your press kit and a cover letter.
Before you release your music you should register your recordings with your performing rights association (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, Sound Exchange) and with the RIAA to get an ISRC – International Standard Recording Code – for each of your songs.
Registering with your PRO gives you the opportunity to get paid royalties if your song get played on the radio-or in the case of Sound Exchange, the internet or other digital media. It’s their job to collect licensing fees, perfomance data and distribute those fees as royalties. If you aren’t already a member of a PRO you should do some research and see which one is best for you and sign up. Registering songs has gotten much easier with registration forms made available online, and in some cases electronic submission forms made available online.
The ISRC is a unique identifying code for sound recordings. The IRSC should be assigned before you master your CD and basically, every song on your album gets an ISRC. If you have different versions, or remixes of a song they each get an ISRC. Even music videos get an ISRC. There are a bunch of rules to follow that are outlined in the IRSC registration packet. It helps in identifying your songs for royalty collection and administration. Some broadcasters will ask that you provide them with the ISRC codes for the songs on your album.
The most popular form of one-sheet that we are all familiar with is the movie poster. In the music industry it’s not as cool looking, but provides much more information. A one-sheet is exactly as it’s name implies, one sheet of paper detailing your release. It can be a powerful marketing and promotional tool if done correctly. In its basic form your one-sheet will have your logo, album cover art, the track listing, a brief bio, the name of the tracks that you want to have played and your contact information. Be creative with the layout, but make sure you have this basic information. You can also include the ISRC codes, a list of similar artists, a list of songs that might be in violation of FCC rules. This is your one-page opportunity to sell the program director or music director on your music. You should include this in your press kit. In the eyes of some PDs and MDs, this is a requirement. Once again, it’s all part of giving the illusion that you are in the game, not just trying to get in. Kind of like you know the club’s secret handshake.
Every band or artist should have a press kit, and it should be sent along with your release. There are a million ways to do a press kit, and I’m not going to go into that here, but you do need have these basic elements; a bio, photo, articles and review tear sheets, etc. We all know how much DJs love to talk. Your press kit gives the DJs something to talk about before or after they play your song. Instead of just, “here’s the new one by Atomic Brother,” it’s, “here’s the new song from Atomic Brother. These guys from NYC went all the way to over to Switzerland to record their new album. Boy it musta been cold! Here’s See Me Comin’.”
Finally you need to have a cover letter. Consider your one-sheet a resume you are sending to an employer. You wouldn’t send a resume without a cover letter introducing yourself to a prospective employer, and you shouldn’t send your CD, press kit, or anything else for that matter, to anyone without it. Just as in a resume cover letter, introduce yourself, tell what you are sending and why. Since this is your music, let them know how it fits in with their format and why they should play it.
Well, that’s pretty much all you need to get started. Did I say “pretty much?” It’s quite a bit actually. In the next, and final installment, we’ll look at actually getting your song on the radio; whom to send your CD, whom to talk to about getting it played and more.