chap-8

So you’ve listened to your album approximately 28,426 times since you got the master back, and it’s thrown up every emotion humanely possible: excitement, joy, fear, boredom, enthusiasm, weariness, anxiety…

That section in the fifth song, where you ever-so-slightly messed up that fill, now sounds so catastrophic to you that you’re considering destroying every physical copy and shutting down the internet forever.

It’s always a little nerve-jangling releasing an album. You’ve put so much time, effort and money watching your children (songs) grow from tiny oddities (basic ideas) into their first days at school (furious development of songs), right through the awkward early teen years (first performances at gigs) before finally packing and leaving for university (recording and releasing your efforts).

The last thing you want is criticism, or worse, universal disappointment in your children.

You might have only just recovered from that nervous breakdown you had actually recording the damn thing. You don’t need another brought on by the whole release going down like a sack full of wrong-sized allen keys.

So, what next? Firstly you need artwork, which then needs to be formatted into the templates. Once that’s done you can start advertising and selling pre-orders. Then it needs to be pressed in the formats you want, then uploaded to sites in order to be downloaded/streamed. Also, are you sending advanced copies for magazine/blog reviews? What about distribution for sale on website stores?

How is that second nervous breakdown coming along, mate?

This is where a record label who wants to release your album, complete with distribution, is the dream. The vast majority of hard work – once you’ve finished the creativity of the album – is out of your grubby hands.

So, artwork? Yeah, that’ll be piss easy! A nice sketched picture on the front with your band name neatly emblazoned in the left hand corner will be just great. And… PRINT.

If only it were that easy. There is zero chance that you’ll all agree on artwork just like that. Everybody has a different idea on what’ll suit your album, and one person’s favourite piece of art will quite possibly be laughable to the others.

We spent an age trying to agree on artwork, especially with Medium Bastard. More about that in a second.

We had some excellent artwork for Critical Meat which we had sourced online from a French illustrator and, quite unbelievably, we all approved of. After contacting him he appeared more than happy for us to use it. Result.

The last thing you want is criticism, or worse, universal disappointment in your children.

However, crossed wires and possible language barrier issues meant that we ended up being unable to use it for the UK release (it was only used for the very limited run we sold during the European tour of 2006 and Japanese release on XTAL Records). So after trying, and failing, to find anything we agreed on, it culminated in me having to get my pens and pencils out and sketch the robots design, which was eventually used. That ended up pretty straightforward by all accounts.

Medium Bastard, however, was a nightmare. We just couldn’t agree on anything. At all.

I remember losing the will to live when the fourth person we’d kindly asked to design an idea presented us with a polished image they’d spent their valuable time on, which we then predictably squabbled over, and inevitably decided against using.

Around this time, I seriously started to consider just using a clipart image of a grinning sun, badly pasted onto a severely pixelated jpeg of a barren wasteland, using only Microsoft Paint; and topping the whole thing off with a poorly centred, strikethrough comic sans logo, in lime green.

Luckily, I came close to, but didn’t end up doing that. We eventually got our artwork made by Sharkguts Design from the U.S., which looks grand. I’m pretty sure it was fifth-time lucky. My only tip here is to think about artwork long before you are ready to release your album into the big bad world. This will prevent delays and arguments. Ok, probably not arguments. But delays.

So once you’ve got that artwork sorted – front, back, spine and inside cover (if needed for your chosen format) – you then need to decide what packaging you’re using: Digipak, compact case, slip case etc. I highly recommend ACDSleeve, who do some absolutely awesome custom packaging and are very friendly indeed. They will be able to talk you through the options, how to make a template, and what formats are best to suit your design. Etc.

Have you considered vinyl? Quite honestly, I would definitely endorse getting some pressed – even if it’s just on a limited run. We released vinyl and it sold way more than our CD’s towards the end. Make sure you do a bit of research on getting the best sound quality. We crammed both our albums onto one fun-sized vinyl, and the quality was unfortunately compromised by that.

I’m not going to go into detail again about Bandcamp and Soundcloud. I covered all that in the earlier chapter ‘Promoting Your Math Rock Band’. But I do suggest getting it uploaded everywhere you possibly can. You are way more likely, in today’s market, to sell more downloads of your album than physical copies, which is obviously the cheaper option compared to the physical formats. Those that do buy physical copies can be given a download code.A Guide to Math Rock | Album Cover

Bandcamp do take a cut of your earnings, but it’s not extortionate. You can set it so that people will only be able to stream your songs a certain amount of times, though if Medium Bastard was anything to go by, then it’ll be all over the net in hours anyway.

It was on Pirate Bay before it was even released? And there were lots of YouTube videos for people to stream. You won’t be able to stop this. You’re not Lars Ulrich. Thank god.

Spotify is both the best and worst thing to happen to music. It allows you to listen to practically anything for free (which is brilliant), but they pay the artists about 0.0000001p per play. So you might just be able to afford a Curly Wurly to share amongst the band every four years or so.

Hopefully, you’ve done tonnes of promotion and garnered some real interest in your album in all the right places. And you’ve pushed the pre-order option as much as possible. Just make sure that those who have pre-ordered get their album before everyone else.

If you’re not sick to death of writing about, posting up, looking at and occasionally listening to your album, then you’re not promoting it enough I’m afraid.

So, now you’ve now got boxes upon boxes full of shrink-wrapped CD’s and/or vinyl, without any spelling errors I hope – (Yeah, ‘Shellsock’ was misprinted as ‘Shellshock’ on our Medium Bastard release, and none of us noticed until it was pointed out by a mate months later).

If you’ve got a record company involved, then hopefully they can send off the album to the right publications for reviews. This will certainly help it reach a far wider audience. We had the wonderful ‘Stressed Sumo Records’. Neil & Phil put in a lot of time and effort in getting us out to a wider audience, through great promotion. If you’re reading this, then thanks again guys.

If you don’t have a record deal, then it’s not guaranteed you’ll get reviews without proper representation. Be cautious that if you only have a limited run of albums, then sending out promo copies will obviously re-coup you no money at all, and may prove to be simply be just giving away your album for free to be used as an expensive coffee coaster for a twat.

KEEP PROMOTING! EVERYWHERE!

Now to tour the bugger.

If you don’t have PTSD yet, just wait for next time. Until then, You Slut! on bandcamp, and all that.